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You never really know how full your life has become until you watch a plastic duck take flight from your car roof as you speed down the highway. That's what did it for me, anyway. One glimpse of that bird tumbling under the bumper of the big, billowing Dodge 4x4 behind me and there was no more denying it; my world had begun to spiral out of control.
Not every man can identify a mallard hen doing back flips at 55 miles an hour, but I knew right away exactly what I was looking at when I glanced in the rearview mirror after feeling a "thud" on the roof of my Honda. Not only did I recognized the wayward waterfowl as it was going, but I suppose I should have seen a moment like this coming for quite some time.
For several years, now, I've had an occasional, but fleeting, notion that I should climb up into the "attic" of my garage and get rid of some of the vast collection of random stuff I have gathered over the years. You'll find fishing poles, car parts and a windshield for a 1979 Honda Custom 400 motorcycle that I sold in 1991. The naked frame of my very first bicycle lives there. Then there are the Christmas lights -- hundreds, possibly thousands of them. For years, when a single bulb would wink-off and knock out the whole string, I would bunch it into a ball, then toss it up into the rafters. (One day, when I am old and desperate for entertainment I'll sit for days replacing one bulb after another until they work again.)
Actually, it's a bit of a stretch to call the space an attic, as its only real claim to the moniker is that it is below the roof and above the normal usable space. Real attics have stairs, ladders or one of those fancy secret-trap-door staircases that unfold from the ceiling. This space has none of that. What it does have is dust, mouse turds and dog food bags full of feathers from geese I shot 20 years ago. I was saving the down to stuff a sleeping bag that has yet to be sewn.
Most significantly, there is no "floor," nor even a satisfactory shelf to ensure that what has been placed aloft stays aloft. Instead, all my treasures teeter on an assembly of quarter-inch-thick plywood strips spaced at random, almost nonsensical intervals across the truss work. I scavenged the wood from a factory Dumpster back when I was in college.
Through the years, various items have tried to escape their dusty internment by poking through the loosely woven lattice. I had seen that duck decoy poking her dull brown head down toward my windshield more than once, and I thought I had taken care of the issue by nudging her back up onto her cobwebbed perch with the business end of a broom. Her desire to fly free, however, was not so easily swept away. I surmise that she dropped to the top of my car in the middle of the night, quite possibly aided by a stray cat that occasionally climbs in through the eaves and knocks stuff around. There she remained, hidden beside my rooftop bike rack until making her leap for freedom once the car hit the speed limit.
Shattered though she was, I couldn't just leave her there to die. Instead, I turned around, scooped her up in pieces and returned her to the garage attic as an example to the other occupants.
"You go when I say you go," I growled. "And not a moment sooner!"
I think it's time to plan a garage sale.