Guess Who Came To Live—In Our Car!?
By Beth Berube
As in years past, Larry and I arrived in Mexico for our winter retreat and enthusiastically hailed a cab at the airport. Sweat was collecting in the gully between my breasts. The driver had apparently removed the air conditioner and instead opted for a Virgin of Guadalupe air freshener that hung from the rear view mirror. Oh well, in less than ½ hour we would unfurl the cover from our stored Jeep, connect the battery cables and start up the engine. It would be only a matter of minutes separating me from my margarita.
The car cover lay across the hood, as disheveled as a prom girl’s dress after a drunken night of passion. Some of the paper-like fabric was stripped away, as if a seamstress had cut swaths of ribbon. The car’s black body peeked out from behind the nipped cloth. Larry frisked the underbelly of the hood with his finger looking for the latch. With a feeble creak, the bonnet sprang open and rose to the sky like a prayer. As I peered into the motor’s dark recesses, I felt my voice box close.
A feral, sausage-shaped mammal with tufts of toast-colored fur, sprang out of a make shift nest, hissing like a cornered cat. It snarled, revealing a gummy frown and a pronounced overbite. I was reminded of the scene in Rosemary’s Baby when Mia Farrow tentatively pulled back the pram blanket for a numero uno look-see at her new bundle of joy. “What have you done to its eyes?” laments Mia, wringing her hands and cowering over her offspring.
My brain commanded my lungs to scream and my feet to jump back five car lengths from the line of fire. Unfortunately, my nervous systems pistons seized up. When I was able to move again, my brain gave me limited function ability. Weak chirps escaped my throat, making a tragic sound akin to a hummingbird caught in a flycatcher. The frightened, pathetic creature must have reasoned flight a better option than fight, because it slithered through a web of cables and wires and hit the ground running.
The peal of Larry’s laughter curtailed my neurotic twirl like a stick poked through the spokes of a spinning bicycle tire. “Whoa, what just happened here?” snorted Larry. “It will take more than one session for your therapist to untangle this mess. Lord help me if I have a heart attack and you are the first responder. You will give me, what, Cardio Pirouette Resuscitation?”
I had to admit his observation was laden with possibility. “Listen, Buster, I’m the one whose heart is beating faster than a time bomb—so, it is more likely that between the two of us, I will need CPR, and quite frankly,” I stuttered, “I am not confident that you are a competent life saver.” I realized how tragically pathetic I sounded, sweeping away the remaining morsels of self-esteem scattered on the floor of my conscience.
I never identified the creature’s origins. Was it the elusive chupacabra of Mexican folklore? More likely, it was something benign like a woodchuck, a badger or a weasel? Observing its vacated mammal cave, I can tell you that it possessed architectural skill. It fashioned a wee hammock from strips of fabric chewed out of our car cover. Then it made a duvet cover by lining its bed with leaves and fur. I cannot even fold a fitted sheet. Yet, Rikki Tikki Tavi’s digs were very tidy. All it needed was a sofa, lamp and maybe curtains on the carburetor to give it a homey feeling.
We attached the battery cables, gathered up bits of leaves and cloth and threw them on the ground. “Let’s get home and make that margarita,” said Larry. I smiled and strangely enough, hoped I would see our itinerant friend again next year.