One of Australia’s treasures, a relic from an earlier age, plods with measured tread across the country road ahead. One forefoot drags its opposite hindfoot, the second forefoot draws the hindermost, ungainly-stately steps from antiquity into the path of the rushing beast of noise and metal and plastic that is the motor car.
The echidna is a pachyderm*, related to olden things and oldest times. We do not meet as equals on the metalled road. The echidna waddles his slow way, oblivious, helpless, a mute witness to slow time.
The echidna survives. By the grace of remote places and broad emptiness the echidna reaches the other side.
So far I have never hit one.
On my pushbike I am the echidna. Ponderous, of another time, I travel with my unheeding back to the traffic. I too am a relic, not replaceable. My bike – heavy and old and unfashionable – carries two someones’ brother, three children’s father, the grandfather of seven tenderlings, the lover of one wife. My bike carries its freight of olden time awkwardly, a slow forewheel dragging a lagging, swaying rearwheel.
Last week an old friend called and asked – have you ever seen a road fatality close up?
Does it stay with you? How do you handle it?
It never goes away.
My friend saw a cyclist hit by one vehicle, fall into the path of a following truck. He saw the head removed from the trunk then pass beneath a rear wheel.
My friend does not sleep well. He cannot ride there, where he was wont to ride. He will not drive his own car in that road.
My friend lived the moment of witness when a vigorous human became extinct flesh.
I ride on, a human echidna.
*Is it a pachyderm? I’d like to think so, but I fear I am confusing the spiny anteater with the elephant and the woolly haired mammoth. An easy mistake to make.
It’s a monotreme. Scientific name Tachyglossus aculeatus. Tachy for short? I don’t think your car or bike tyres want to have a close encounter with one!