I can go for an awfully long time without seeing, first-hand, anything truly memorable. But over the past month or so, I've witnessed three things that run on loops in my brain-cinema. Tableau #1:

I was driving home at night. I live on a farm. It's rural. There are ditches alongside most roads, and no streetlamps. I drive at night using my brights. So the brights are what flashed on this scene, like a spotlight in the blackness:

A car in a ditch. Tipped lengthwise. Smoke coming from the hood, everything bleached of color. The rear door opening and closing, opening and closing, as someone inside struggled to get out.

I stopped to offer help. I got into an accident about a year ago, and every car that drove by stopped, and the person inside asked if I needed help. I think that rural America is ugly in a lot of ways that I'm more familiar with now than I was when I lived in California or New York, but I'll never forget that.

As it happens, I wasn't the first person to offer, my help was unnecessary, and the people in the ditched car were fine.

Tableau #2

I was driving down my own little country road in the morning. There was a lump on the asphalt. I got closer and realized it was a live raccoon, curled up into a little ball. It looked up at me as I drove up alongside it. We looked at one another. I have never seen a raccoon so still and quiet before, and I'm a sucker for critters. I thought we were having a moment.

Then it scrambled into a ditch, using only its two front paws. I couldn't see where it had been wounded, and I didn't see any blood, but it hadn't been sitting still on the road for fun. There was no moment; it had been terrified. I spent the rest of the day wondering when and where it would die.

Tableau #3

I was in town this time. The nice part of town, which is more quaint than anything. You know. Victorianish houses, lawns, trees. I turned the corner and saw black smoke billowing up in front of me. So much smoke. And huge flames.

I pulled over. There were one or two people on the street. No cops, no ambulance, no orange cones or tape. I called 911. "There's a car on fire, right in front of me." "Are you sure it's not a motorcycle?" "I'm still about a block away. It looks like a car." "Thanks for calling, we know."

When I heard motorcycle I thought: I just can't look anymore. I don't want to know what I am not seeing, and I am glad there's a car in front of the wreck. So I did a three point turn and left.

But then I arrived at my destination, which had a view of the corner where the flames had been from an upstairs window. By the time I arrived, ten minutes later, the firetruck was already pulling away. So I looked.

Just ashes. I think someone hit a parked motorcycle? That's what I'm going to believe, anyhow.