I thought I was going to die that night. That long, lonely stretch of highway between the airport and home seemed especially desolate in mid-winter’s chill; small white wooden crosses scattered roadside serving as silent sentinels, reminders that some didn’t make it home.
With freezing temperatures and the chance of black ice, I was completely focused on the road, traveling well below the speed limit, and watching for the deer that occasionally leapt out. On the left, just across the median, I could see the moon shining on Miller Lake’s icy surface. On the right, up the embankment, the silhouette of the trees against the inky sky.
I had just passed my exit sign, and was starting to relax, when I heard the first shot–an ear-splitting crack that ruptured the silence and ignited nerve endings. Before I had time to react, a rapid-fire pop, pop, popping. I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t figure out what was happening–who was shooting at me? And where from? Were they deer jackers? Was it some kind of sick joke? Jumbled thoughts flashed through my mind. I forced my attention back to the road, not daring to look to the side, just trying to get off the highway, white-knuckling the SUV’s steering wheel and feeling my shoulders pull together with tension. Turning off the highway, leaving the shots behind, I pulled on to the shoulder to take a deep breath. Prying my fingers from the wheel, feeling my heartbeat starting to slow, and then, again–another deafening bang, right beside me. I ducked down below the window level, covering my head as the volley continued. It seemed like hours, but was only seconds before the popping slowed, til finally, silence.
Again the thoughts filled my head so fast I could hardly process them, and finally a bit of reasoning and sense began to prevail. If someone had been shooting at me, they couldn’t have caught up and done it again, there’s no side road, and the shoulder where I pulled over was well lit. Whatever it was, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, surely.
By now my hands had stopped shaking and I slowly got out of the truck. I looked around, somewhat composed, and began to check: tires, okay. Windows, okay. Bumper, okay. I lifted up the truck’s rear gate and the dome light revealed the truth.
I had been terrorized by root beer. A case of pop, left in the back of the truck, had frozen and refrozen, and the “gunshots” were the tops of the cans blowing off. Now the barrage of “artillery” was slowly melting down the back seat, the sides, the cargo floor. I set about clearing most of the slush out before it melted too much, weak with relief and laughing at my own foolishness (oh come on, you would’ve thought the same!)
I was unloading groceries the other night, and brought everything inside except a case of root beer. As I unpacked the food and put it away, I thought that the pop would be fine til the next day–and then I remembered this story, and despite the fact it is summer, I went out and brought in the pop. No need to take unnecessary chances.
Aside from gastrointestinal issues, have you ever had cause to think your food was trying to kill you?