[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was two in the morning on Highway 87 when mother totaled our car. We were bound for Altamahaw, North Carolina when I saw a buck wander into the road. A Conway Twitty song played on the radio, and Mother’s speedometer was clocking eighty-five when she hit him. I don’t remember much after that, but I do remember shouting, “Mother!”

That’s about all.

When I awoke, I was half-lying on the dashboard, covered in glass shards. My forehead was a mess. Mother’s face was against the steering wheel, and my sister cried in the backseat. There wasn’t a light around for miles and miles.

That’s when he came.

It was too dark to make out his face, but I remember he was black, dressed in a Tar Heels T-shirt. He muscled the doors open, then removed each of us, one by one. He carried my limp mother over his shoulder and propped her up against a tree. Then, he came to me and said, “Hey Mister Sean, you’re a strong little man aren’t you? Don’t be scared by your own blood, now. You be strong for your momma, Sean.”

He patted my shoulder.

And then he was gone.

It’s been twenty-six years since that night. I’ve replayed it in my mind until I’ve almost worn out the record. No one knew who that man was, where he came from, or where he went. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out how a perfect stranger, a Tar Heel, knew my first name.

But, I’ve always wanted to thank him.

Sometimes I do, before I fall asleep at night.

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