I once came home to find a quail roaming around in my den.
I had no idea how it got in the house.
Nor did I know how it had managed to climb the stairs, open the door to the den and then shut the door behind itself.
It could not have flown into the room. The only windows to the room are covered by screens.
I didn’t know what to do with a quail in the den, so I did what any thinking woman would do – I left it there until Tim came home. He scooped up the quail and took it back to the grasslands behind the house from whence it likely came.
Tim had a pretty good idea how the quail ended up in the den: “The neighbor put him there.”
Oh. Yeah. Of course, I agreed.
The week prior to the quail in our den, I had confronted the neighbor about his speeding a four-wheeler in the fields behind the house. Such off-roading activity being illegal within city limits, which we clearly are, and because it was nesting season for the pheasants and quail that made their homes in the grasslands the neighbor was disrupting. All those babies just waiting to hatch.
By confronted, I mean I walked out into the field where my neighbor was off-roading and suggested in a nice mature woman sort of way that he ought to do that activity elsewhere, let the birds do their nesting peacefully.
I didn’t know this neighbor, but men around these parts don’t take keenly to anyone telling them where they can and can’t drive their rigs, and they particularly don’t like taking orders from women.
Not that I care, mind you.
I’m sure the neighbor thought he was being all cutesy when he scooped up that quail and entered my home (illegally) and deposited the very confused quail in my den.
I actually found having a quail in the den to be a charming thing. (If it wasn’t for the fact that someone entered my home illegally in order to put the quail in the den.)
My family has come to expect that if I see a wrongdoing I’m going to do something about it.
I once confronted a woman in the Atlanta-Jackson airport for being abusive to her boyfriend’s son.
I have called the police on more than one occasion to report erratic driving.
I have taken home the pants of a homeless man who fouled himself, washed them and taken them back to him.
I have rustled up panhandlers and taken them to grocery stores to buy whatever they needed to get them off the streets. At least for that afternoon.
I’ve given children and women rides to our local domestic shelter when they needed it.
I’m not telling you this for a pat on the back. My assumption is that you are doing all these sorts of things and likely even more, given I spend a great deal of time alone with a bunch of make-believe people. I just want to help you understand why it was when that fellow gunned his car in front of my home yesterday and blew through a stop sign, that my first reaction was to grab my car keys and hunt him down.
And by hunt, I mean with an iPhone, not a gun. I don’t own guns.
Prior to that moment, I was sitting on the couch, working my way through a self-imposed 1,000 word count goal, when I heard a car moving far too fast to stop. Not only did the driver not stop, the closer he got to the big red sign, the harder he stepped on the accelerator. When he arrived at the intersection, he gunned it.
A few years back, a little girl was struck and killed in the next block over when a driver failed to stop at the crosswalk. My daughter and I were in the living room. We could see the whole thing from our front room. It was awful. I think of that young girl all the time. She was just out riding her new bike. She wasn’t expecting to die that day.
I jumped in my car and followed the car that blew through the stop sign. When he pulled into a driveway about 10 houses away, I pulled up behind him, effectively blocking his car.
He got out of the car. I called out to him, kindly. “Hey sir,” I said. “Did you just blow through that stop sign?”
He waved me off and walked on into his home, uttering something unrepeatable along the way.
But his passenger ambled out of the car, moving as if he was under water or stoned, and said, “I told him I didn’t think that was a good idea.”
“What?” I asked. “You told him not to gun it through the stop sign?”
“What’s his name?”
He told me.
I took a picture of the license plate, and one of the home address.
“Guess I’m going to have to call the cops, then.”
When the cops came out they told me I’d have to go to the municipal court and file a report.
I assured them I would.
“Would you like for me to talk to the fellow and have him come apologize?” the cop asked.
“Sure,” I said. “But it’s not an apology I need. I need for him to not to kill a kid.”
A half-hour later the driver and his friend showed up at my door. He only came because the cop told him if he apologized, I might not file a complaint.
I stepped out on the porch and introduced myself. We shook hands. He was in his 30s. He was lean, with tats on his arms. He was wearing a sheepish grin.
“I’m here to apologize,” he said.
He listened as I explained to him I wasn’t trying to be mean. I told him the story of the little girl who was killed and how we had watched the accident from our living room window. A girl on a bike. A truck that didn’t stop. An ambulance. A crying father and mother. A memorial garden erected to honor the child.
“I have a little girl of my own,” he said. Truly aware that he might could have killed a child by his foolishness.
“Yes,” I said. “I saw a bike in your yard.”
Just be responsible. You don’t want to kill somebody. That’s all I am asking.
We parted on friendly terms.
I don’t think he’ll gun it through a stop sign again.
I’ll let you know if I happen upon a quail in my den next week.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY (Mercer Univ. Press) and a bunch of other books.