We spent every waking moment together, shared intimate secrets. She protected me from storms and coyotes. We picked up hitchhikers and old friends. And now, she won’t start for the second time in as many weeks. Maybe it’s her way of rebelling against becoming a commuter car. I understand her frustration. I hate being a commuter. Regardless of Little Red’s rationale, I was beginning to have a conversation with myself: At one point do I say goodbye? When does the car become more trouble than it’s worth? How many parts can you replace before the machine becomes mutant? Is it suffering?
It’s a funny feeling to watch your car be towed away. It suddenly becomes other; it appears as it is, as an object. All sentimentality gets thrown out the window. Or does it? In the past year, I’ve replaced the starter, a strut, the fans, the radiator, and the thermostat. Most recently, I had all the rubber hosing replaced because biodiesel mercilessly had eaten away at the car’s veins. I knew I should have replaced those rubber tubes with synthetic materials like Viton, but sometimes, shoulds don’t become dids.
“No more biodiesel!” my mechanic, Mike, said.
I smiled coyly. I wouldn’t give up biodiesel or my car for the world.
One week later and my car was back at the shop.
“Now, it won’t even turn over. Seems like the alternator,” I said sadly.
“That’s about the only thing we haven’t replaced on this thing,” Mike replied.
I left the shop and went to work, expecting a repair with a big price tag later that day. But an hour later, I got an unexpected call. The alternator was fine…but the wire connecting it to the battery had been chewed through.
“Did you know you have a rat living in your car?” Mike asked.
I thought it had moved out, or if not, that we had at least worked out a friendly don't-ask-don’t-tell policy. But noooo, it had to chew threw my alternator wire. What was next—the brake lines? How was I to maintain my pacifist stance under such duress?
I set out determined to buy mousetraps, but when I got to the big box store containing the traps, I was put off by the sheer number of mouse torture devices. You could catch them with glue traps, snap traps, maze traps, shock traps...it seemed like some Middle Ages Million Ways to Die episode. I carefully read the instructions, looking for the most "humane" method, but at the end of the day, I just couldn't do it. Not only could I not let go of a friend, I also could not rid myself of an enemy.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
If ever there was a gruesome discovery, it was what I found under my hood that fateful day. My cat’s sudden obsession with my car began to alert me that something was afoot (literally) beneath my radar. Not gifted with supersonic ears sensitive to subterranean animals, I had no idea that I would find a nest under my hood. In my understanding of mice, I had made a few critical errors:
1) Mice live in fields, trees, bushes, and occasionally houses—not cars.
2) Mice are small.
3) Mice are not intelligent.
When I opened my hood, I discovered an intricate nest, crafted of twigs, papers, and the interior engine lining from my car. Most notably, the mouse had chosen to chew up a Charles Bukowski chapbook I had in storage in the shed, Betting on the Muse. “Now the telephone doesn’t ring, the young girls are gone, the party is over,” the shred of paper mourned.
Pele the cat followed me in my investigation, sniffing and then pulling away.
“What cat is afraid of a little mouse?” I teased.
I removed the nest, tossing the work of art into the bushes, hoping the mouse would pack up and move to a more appropriate home. Pele followed, sniffed, and ran into the house.
Next morning, it was still dark when I got in my car to go to work. Everything was quiet. Curiosity guided me to my hood again; this time, I slowly opened it and peeked in.
Prior to that morning, I had never screamed like a girl. It came out of me like a surprised drunken hurl. My hands went to my face and I did the little ballerina dance of a scared child.
This was no ordinary mouse. This was a supersized genetic oddity. A rodent on steroids. A squirrel mouse hybrid. This was the leader of the teenage mutant ninja turtles. Not Turtle Power—Rat Power!
Believing in the radical notion of non-harm, I decided to find a peaceful solution. Little did I know that my rat friend would declare war.
Little Red Vs. Big Mouse Part One: Pele's Message
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
In feline-human communication, there are often misunderstandings. Recently, Pele had begun taking great interest in my car, Little Red. I would look out the window and there she was...sitting on the hood. I'd go outside and she would be sniffing around the tires or trying to get inside.
Of course I'm not one to ascribe conversational characteristics to cats (OK, fine, I am), but it seemed she was trying to tell me something. I went with the obvious:
Me: Pele, you want to go for a ride? You're so cute!
Pele: There's a mouse in your car.
Me: You're so sweet. You want to go on a road trip!
Me: Oh, Pele. You don't want me to leave! Such a sweetheart!
Pele: There's a mouse in your car, you freakin idiot!
Me: Don't worry...I'll be home later.
I didn't question the strange squeak that came from the engine when I started the car. Little Red is an old lady, after all.
"That sound is new," I thought vaguely as I drove away.
Little Red Vs Big Mouse Part Two: I Smell a Rat