Sunday, 6 December 2015

Killing a pig

I think I killed a pig on Friday night. A jabalí, a wild boar, but only a little one, one of three or four crossing the old road just beyond Siétamo. Normally you're lucky if you see a wild boar at all, though there's lots of them about: they keep themselves well hidden in the daylight hours, and if you see them at all it's either alongside the road at dusk or later, or sometimes crossing the road, but at a distance, in the daytime. But these ones were unlucky: they crossed the road long after dark but too close to the car that was coming round the bend and up the hill. I saw them far too late - so late that by the time I realised I had seen them, we'd collided.

It wasn't the bend that did it so much as the hill, which rises unevenly, almost in a set of levels, so that what's in front of you is hidden intermittently. But you're not expecting to see anything, in the lane ahead of you, that you didn't know was there already, assuming nobody is recklessly overtaking in the downhill, opposite direction, in which case you'd have no chance. The road used to be a dangerous one, combining single carriageways with frequent, long and half-blind bends, and then, on top of that, being the main road from Huesca to Barcelona, an ideal combination for the accident waiting to happen, the driver going a long way, in too much of a hurry, and given too many chances to go wrong. But then they built the motorway alongside, taking away ninety per cent of the traffic and leaving just the locals, who know the road and the places that you have to watch. But not the local wild boar, who didn't know. It wasn't any of their fault. But it was them who had no chance.

I had just - just that instant - passed a car coming downhill and the piglets appeared in the beam immediately I switched it back to full. Although there must have been a sequence - light, pigs, collision - and though I spent much of the night trying to separate them, they might as well have been simultaneous for all the difference that it made, or, for that matter, for all that I can separate them in my mind. I spent much of the night that followed trying to remember exactly what had happened. Or that's what I thought that I was doing - more likely I was trying to remember it as one often "remembers" an event that one wishes had not happened, trying to picture it until it comes out differently. The ball that hit the post goes in, instead. The space appears between the pigs and the car goes neatly through it.

But the collision happened, a thud on the nearside front. Had they been full-grown boars it might have been the car which suffered most, or come to that the driver. It was a hard noise, like somebody had kicked the front, and I expected something to be dented. I've had a hare run manically into the headlight before now, killing itself instantly yet doing no apparent damage whatsoever to the car. (I was too surprised, at the time, to even take the dead hare home for somebody without an urban upbringing to skin and eat it.) But this was a bigger noise, a thump rather than a bang, but a thump nevertheless. I drove perhaps another hundred and fifty metres, maybe more than that, turning off the road at the first safe place, the opening to a path to one of the many fields and olive orchards alongside the road, down which the farmers take their tractors. In the old, busy days of the road, their emergence was another of the things you had to look out for. If you knew enough to do so.

 I stopped and took the torch from the glove compartment. I went round to the front of the car and there was no apparent dent, not at the first look. The car is white and any damage should have been easy to see. But I seemed to have got away with it, until I looked further downwards, at the ground, and saw that there was a trickle of liquid from the bottom of the car, running down the path. I know nothing about cars - aside from a few weeks when I had a job out of town, I never drove one at all between the age of twenty-two and forty - but I assumed that this was something serious and I should go no further. I called home and waited for R to arrive in our van. She was there in less than half an hour.

We put out triangles and put on fluorescent jackets, as the Spanish law requires. We called the Guardia Civil and the insurance: the former sent a patrol car and the latter sent a pick-up, which took the car away and back to Huesca ciudad. It's a very long weekend and the garage doesn't open until Wednesday morning. There did, on closer inspection, appear to be a little damage above the wheel. Our insurance isn't going to cover it.

The whole thing was stupid though. I could have got home without difficulty: the flow of liquid was only from the reservoir that holds the fluid for the windscreen wipers, which must have cracked. I didn't need it to get home. I didn't need us to call the police or the pick-up. I didn't even need R to come and pick me up.

But at least I got home all right. Nobody else saw anything of the jabalís. You couldn't hear the noise of braking, or of cars slowing in order to swerve. R turned round beyond the point where the collision happened and said she couldn't see a body. No blood, no evidence of anything.

But I know it must have been more than the pig could stand. I hope it didn't live too long with whatever pain I'd made it suffer. I remembered Inside Llewyn Davis, when he similarly hits the cat on the road, and though he sees it limp into the woods, he knows, and we know too, that it couldn't possibly survive. I know what happened. It was practically a baby, just crossing the road with its family, and had I not been coming it would have made it safely and been home that night as well. Loads of wild boar round here, one of the officers said at one point. No doubt there are. But one less now, and one that I kept thinking about, that night and the next day, trying to imagine it all over again so that I missed it this time, as if the only one who cares about the dead is the man who did the killing.

No comments:

Post a Comment