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  • During a 2 week period in 2006 that can only be characterized as one of the weirdest stretches of coincidence in my life, I saw 3 lifeless bodies at 3 separate accident/crime scenes.
    The first was a man who was hit by a car as he crossed Saratoga Blvd., possibly on his way to one of the strip malls along the road. I got close enough to the yellow Caution tape to spot his foot, wearing only a sock, peeking from under a tarp. The body lay near the curb (he almost made it across!) next to a police cruiser and a car with a large hole in its windshield. His shoes were torn off by the impact, and were strewn in the road behind the vehicle that ended his life.

    The second body appeared to me just a few days after the first, on a stretch of highway 101 South, near Morgan Hill. A motorcycle, destroyed and in pieces along the center divider, marked the path to the lifeless body, which was only half covered with a tarp. Judging by the shape under the cover, the dead man was obviously still wearing the helmet that unfortunately did not save his life. A policeman stood next to the body, probably awaiting the coroner, who would usher his corpse to the morgue. If anyone else was involved in the accident, they had already exited the scene.

    Body Number Three was the most mysterious. On the road adjacent to a freeway exit (somewhere in Marin County), the body lay – again, covered by a tarp, the thinnest of veils from prying eyes like mine – on the road with no car, motorcycle, or bicycle nearby. All that marked the scene was the police sedan that sat, askew with both front doors open as if flung so, indicating that the occupants burst out of it quickly and onto this morbid scene. Was this an accident or something more sinister?

    These 3 corpses reminded me of the night some years ago when I was driving home from work and got into a terrible traffic jam on Interstate 80 near El Sobrante, my home town. I passed what remained of a burned out car, a mass of annihilated wreckage on the side of the road, the back seat covered by a blue tarp. I found out later that the father of the two children whose bodies were beneath the tarp, poured gasoline on them and caught the car on fire, burning them to death and nearly killing their mother. The imprint on my memory is indelible.

    All of these tarp-covered bodies are in the filing cabinet of my brain. Each one is a unique picture among the library of countless images in my head. Mostly, I don’t call them up. But once in a while, as I thumb through the drawers in search of something, I pull one out and look at it. I wonder too if my own body will be covered by a blue tarp when my time is done, and it makes me shutter and tuck the image away again.
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