I started driving at 16 down in Houston. Learning to drive in Houston is akin to learning to drive on a video game. Lots of traffic. Lots of exit hoppers. You learn how to juke driving in Houston. As a result, I’ve gone my whole life without ever hitting a car, a person, or an animal while driving. And there have been plenty of opportunities. Kids chasing balls. Dogs. Even alligators when we lived in Florida.

Here in Charlotte we don’t have to worry about alligators, but we do live in an urban forest and have to navigate squirrels. They’re everywhere. Bold animals, squirrels. It’s impossible to drive in any neighborhood here without encountering them. I’ve even had them stop me in my tracks like that student stopped that tank in Tiananmen Square. Not everyone learned to drive in Houston, and so not all the squirrels make it.

And until today, I’d never once directly contributed to their demise.

But there he was about 50-yards out, in my lane, trying to decide whether he could make it across four lanes of traffic. He was undecided. “Come on man. Come on man.” I was doing about 40. I slowed to 30. He ran circles in my lane. I switched lanes. He ran in front of me. I closed my eyes for a second and didn’t feel a bump. Whew. Then I looked back and saw him in the road. Twitching. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. I nearly stopped. Do I go back and put him out of his misery? No, someone else would take care of that in no time – without even noticing. When I turned back to the road in front of me, I spied another fresh casualty.

That’s when I decided that the one I hit had lost his love earlier that morning, and simply couldn’t go on.


Jim Mitchem

Lassoing Passion
We The Idiots of the United States of America

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.