(You may want to grab some popcorn. This ain't short. Go ahead. I'll wait.)
I was driving in Indiana--Brown County to be exact; the birthplace of Autumn and home to a million trees. It was ten o'clock at night and pitch black on the crazy-snake road I was blitzing down. Foliage was so thick overhead it was like driving in a tunnel, with finger-branches reaching out occasionally and scratching the windows. My eyes were tired and dry from roving to the sides looking for deer. Preferred not to hit one of those.
Louisville was an hour and forty behind me. My house in Bloomington, twenty minutes in front. I had passed through the tiny burg of Columbus (not Ohio), and was oh so close to home. After a long day talking computer-geek I just wanted to fall into my husband's arms and go to sleep.
Finally, I was five miles from rest. Just five. One curve around the next bend and I'd be out of the enchanted forest and a few streets from Heaven. Also known as Henderson.
Then I saw a light. Small. Orange. Waving up and down like a frantic firefly. I was doing sixty-five, so I barely had a chance to register it. Huh. Wonder what that wa . . . omigosh! That was a man! In a reflective vest! With a hard hat on! And the light was a signal light! He had been trying to get me to slow downnnnaaaaaaaaaagggghhhh!
My breaks squealed and kicked up huge clouds of dust. I slid sideways and rocked the car to a stop, heart pounding up my ribs, fingerprints etched on the steering wheel. When it all cleared I saw that I was a few bare feet from some seriously big road blocks. Could've died on those things. And beyond them, spread across the slim stretch of pavement, a scene of activity I would never have expected two hours before midnight.
Blocking my path was a teaming mass of dump trucks and cement trucks, back hoes and front-end loaders, all crissing and crossing and beeping as they backed. There wasn't room for it all, yet there it was, crunched into a space made for rabbits and raccoons, bushes and leaves. And on occasion, cars. Huge floodlights daylighted the place, silhouetting men with wheel barrows, shovels, and clipboards. They jumped into truck-beds and cabs, and onto huge piles of dirt. They talked on radios, waved flags, and hollered to each other. Something big was going down. And it didn't involve me.
A worker came over and said that if I wanted to go the five miles home I would have to take a detour one mile back. Then I'd drive several miles to this little duckspit road, take a left, and drive another twenty-six. It would take twenty-six-plus miles to go five. At winding road speeds. But at least I'd be in my bed afterward, right? Ohhhhh yeah.
So I turned around, and, too embarrassed to drive by my little flashlight waver, pulled into a dirt turn-out and waited for a bit, hoping he'd forget me. But I got fidgety. And my leg fell asleep. And my stomach growled. And I died of boredom. So I decided, remember me or not, I was leaving.
I wound back up the road toward Columbus, going slowly and peering into shadows so I wouldn't miss my turn. One mile passed. Two. I squinted. No little road. Three miles, five, ten. No road. I was halfway back to the other side of autumn and I hadn't seen the road to Duckspit. Weird. Must have missed it. Well I didn't want to go to Louisville again so back I went toward home, straining into trees, hoping, if it came to it, the workers would give me better directions.
I never found the turn-off. Not sure how I missed it. But I did find the bend where I had been light-signaled in the first place. I looked for my little firefly-construction-guy, but he was gone. Huh. That was odd. It hadn't been very long--fifteen minutes, tops. Felt a bit of relief, though. No humiliation.
Then I rounded the fateful corner.
And I wished I'd been humiliated.
There was nothing there. Nothing. No trucks. No lights, No men in hats carrying clipboards. No barricades. No dust. Not even so much as a tire-track. There was no sign that anyone had ever been there. It was as though some little construction-grandma had come along with a broom and put everything back the way it had been before that crew came. Right down to the last pebble.
I sat and gaped for a few minutes. Then I sort of felt the forest looming, and the darkness quieting. When I craned forward to look at the moon it was haggard and cracked by a few skiffy clouds, and seemed of a different world.
That last five miles? Took about two minutes.
I told my husband all about it when I got home. I was breathless, and felt sure he would be too. He said, "Huh. Interesting. They must have left."
Yeah. They cleaned up a day's work in fifteen minutes, and just left. I didn't believe it.
It took awhile for me to fall asleep in my husband's arms that night. And when I did, I dreamed of crop circles.