Christmastime in Michigan
by P. James Trobaugh
I pulled down tightly on my Stormy Kromer, so the wool flaps covered my ears. I knew the wind was up and it was bitter cold. The car’s temperature read near zero. I turned on my flashers and opened the door of the Volvo, taking on last breath of warm air before getting out.
When it gets this cold, the air is very sharp and at first, exhilarating. But I knew within seconds I would be cursing it, that it would suck the warmth from me straight up into outer space. On clear nights like this, it’s as if there is nothing protecting you from the coldness of space itself. Aside from my hat, I wasn’t exactly dressed for the weather.
I crossed the two-lane quickly, dreading the scene in front of me. Just a few seconds before, I saw an oncoming car careen off the side of the snow swept road. What happened was obvious: the car struck a deer and lost control. The front end was perched up a few feet into the snow drift the plows make. The deer, a doe, had crashed through the windshield and was sitting looking dumbly at me from the backseat, like a drunk Arthur waiting for the chauffeur to open the door for it. The doe was probably dying. The driver was decapitated.
Just 30 minutes before, I was in the U.P.’s only strip club, in the middle of a forest twenty miles outside Gladstone, drinking cold cans of Bud Light with a crowd of deer hunters. Blaze orange suspenders, pot bellies, and three girls from Milwaukee doing their best to make sense of their alien surroundings. A wood stove put out an amazing amount of heat. One pole in the center of the room, and a $5 cover. Now, standing outside this car, this wreck without measure, I couldn’t stop yelling “ohno ohno ohno!”
I called 911 but did a piss poor job describing where I was, because I didn’t know the highway number or the name of the town. But the dispatcher knew where I was as soon as I mentioned the strip club.
I got back to the motel room in Gladstone just before the sun started to rise, before the kids were up, before my wife could ask me where I had been. Christmas with the in-laws in Leelanau County would be interesting this year.