Swan

It shouldn’t be there, its white body soft against the tarmac. What a place to sit when there are fields all around.

Snow-bright in the sunshine, I can see it from a few hundred yards away. And, keep your eyes on the road, I start looking for her mate.

Slowly she stands, unbothered by the cars passing, inches away. She unfolds her wings, stretches, pushes down against the air and takes flight.

Beat, beat. Each stroke raises her higher.

Beat, beat. Higher, and closer to the traffic.

Beat, beat.

“No!”

The huge bird, wingspan seeming as wide as the car, is flying at the big green truck in front. She has to be high enough, she must. My stomach clenches and I grip the steering wheel.

Another beat, then another. Time slows even though we’re doing sixty, and my vision fills with white on green.

A gust of air, some slipstream surge, and she skims over the truck.

I release my grip, then tighten again as I see the low stone bridge. The truck, the swan, the stone, sandwich together, and all I can do is watch and wait for an explosion of feathers, a thud.

The swan is buffeted by curls of air, compressed and swirling under the arch of the bridge. She swerves, hits the trailer, and ricochets towards me. On the tarmac now, she falters, flapping again, no lift. I push my foot down hard on the brake, and wait for impact.

Somehow she rises. Wings power and she curves across both lanes of traffic. White light glows between the ribs of her feathers. She soars over the fence, circles the field, then she’s gone. Maybe she’s finding her mate, but I’m left, sweat damp between my hands and the faux leather wheel.

My heart thumps still as we pass Settle, and somewhere a feather touches the asphalt.

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