The Buffalo Are Coming

 The blue cap rested atop the wispy pouf of brown hair she sprayed into wiry submission each morning. The hat settled into a cozy nest of hair while the loon depicted by the pin of molded silver nestled into a home of reeds. Glinting with metallic brightness in the sunlight, the brooch shone from a perch on the cap’s side, directly above the left corner of the small jean-colored visor. Wrinkles, a roadmap of a lifetime of worries, covered the elderly face. Lipstick highlighted lips set in a firm line. Beneath the rim of shadow cast by the hat, Edda C. Murphy’s blue eyes darted around the interior of the stationary VW Passat and eventually penetrated the passenger window with a mixture of fear and impatience.

Outside, the wilderness of Yellowstone National Park sprawled for miles in every direction. The venue made Edda uncomfortable. The lack of protection from environmental hazards beyond the confines of the vehicle was unsettling. Edda clutched her cell phone tightly, thumb poised over the nine. The appendage began to cramp painfully; being prepared for disaster, however, was more important than comfort.

“Call 9-1-1,” Edda thought. “Ask questions later.”

Edda’s finger crept towards the button. The digit hovered above the keypad until her husband silently whisked the phone from her grasping fingers. Edda did not know what else to do. Donkeys teemed in the road. The congregation of the unseemly little beasts halted traffic. Cars stopped in a line like multicolored elephants next to the small hoofed creatures. Edda craned her neck, observing the tourists in nearby cars.

“For Goodness sake!” exclaimed Edda, eyeing a couple in a black Ford pickup that leaned out the windows of their vehicle. The pair fed the beasts popcorn. “How unsanitary.” Edda’s aquiline nose wrinkled in disgust. Feeding the animals was surely a violation of a health code. The creatures massed around the truck, jostling one another to reach the food. One nasty little specimen stuck his head through the Ford’s open window, obstinately refusing to budge when the man’s supply of popcorn and interest dwindled. The man shooed the donkey away, yet the stubborn animal remained rooted to the spot.

Watching the man’s ineffective struggle, Edda quickly rolled up her own window before she became the target of such an attack. The loon winked wildly as the hat bobbed to the rhythm of Edda’s disgusted headshakes. In a sudden panic, Edda realized that two windows remained open. Her grandchildren sat in the back seat watching the scene with far too much enthusiasm for her taste. “Roll up those windows before a donkey sticks his head in here. We’d never be able to leave,” Edda ordered.

“Grandma,” the younger girl groaned. “It’s really hot in here. And we don’t have any food, so they’ll leave us alone. I’m sure they’re not attracted to bottled water.”

The elder chimed in, “Besides, you could just drive away slowly and it would move.” She snapped a quick photograph.

“Do you want to be stuck here all night?” Edda asked. Her back was incapable of handling the stress and ached as she imagined spending the night locked in a car. She shivered, the cap swaying on the quivering stiffness of her hair. After what seemed like a millennium, Edda heard the windows slide closed.

“Thank Goodness, we’re safe,” she said, and to her vast relief, the line of cars began moving forward slowly. Edda’s reassured heart stuttered. Her body seized rigidly for a moment as she contemplated the possibility that maybe such strenuous beating of the heart showed a tendency towards heart failure. Making a mental note, Edda decided to research the matter when she returned home. For the moment, she was safe.

The car sped down the road. Trees grew to either side of the single lane and shaded the vehicle at blotchy intervals. Edda disliked the trees; the foliage blocked her view of potential threats. A break in the trees revealed danger. Buffalo ran along a shallow ridge only several yards from the car. The herd thundered down the incline, and Edda realized that the giant beasts intended to cross the road. Gripped by fear, Edda clutched her seatbelt in a white-knuckled grip.

“Slow down,” she ordered her husband as he drove. Mr. Murphy kept the car’s speed steady. “That gigantic male bison over there is going to run right into the road with the rest of his herd. We’ll either hit him or anger him. Just look at his massive horns!” She paused for a moment, and then another thought struck her. “And our car is red. He’ll charge the car!”

“Grandma,” the eldest granddaughter said with exasperation. Edda did not comprehend the girl’s annoyance. “They are smart enough to stay away from moving cars. They won’t cross until we pass,” the older girl explained.

“But you can never be certain about these things. Speed up!” Edda instructed.

“Just stop your worrying,” Mr. Murphy said. “Do you know how many times we’ve driven through here and haven’t hit anything, let alone been hit by something? We’re fine.”

Edda wrung her hands. The VW Passat glided past the large buffalo, leaving them behind in a cloud of dust. In the rearview mirror, Edda watched the buffalo cross the road in a mass of shaggy, deep brown bodies.

“Oh, my stars and garters!” exclaimed Edda, adjusting her blue hat on top of her puffy hair. “That was close.”

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