Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Cardnivore

Because saying, "I got you a card but lost it," lacks style:
Dear Dad,

Lest you think I am arrogant and self-centered, or at best forgetful, I DID get you a birthday card! However, I didn’t manage to send it, because it got stolen. Sounds like a flimsy excuse, doesn’t it? Sounds like a cover-up for having never purchased a card at all. However, what I’m telling you is quite true!

It was a very clever card. The front of it talked about how you, as a father, had taught me all sorts of lessons in good, moral living and how to be a mature, respectable adult. Upon attempting to open the card, however, you find it GLUED SHUT! The back bears a message to the effect that, “I never was a very good student, you know!”

I picked up the card at a grocery store, and, along with several other items, it was bagged up and sitting in the back seat of my car. Since it has been unseasonably warm, I had left my windows down to keep the car cooler.

When I came out of C______ and D_______'s house, having paid them a visit, I noticed an onion lying on the ground next to the rear passenger-side tire, surrounded by a halo of some sort of white powder. The powder continued in a streak up the door of my car and in through the window, where a small amount was dusted across the back seat–right where my grocery bag had been! I plucked up the courage, finally, to taste the mysterious white substance. It was flour. Most likely the flour I had purchased that evening.

Fortunately, the dog, or racoon or whatever the thief was, was very messy. Little streaks of white sprinkled here and there across the blades of grass made tracking the thing easy enough. In the shadows of the back alley I cornered it, hiding amidst the rusting trash barrels. At first glance, I thought it was an exceptionally large skunk. It was dark in color, and had wide white stripes. I backed away slowly as it snuffled angrily at me. I didn’t want to be sprayed, after all.

But then, the animal poked its nose out into the dim light. “Nose”? I think the correct term might be “proboscis.” Imagine a long, black, slender hose like the trunk of an elephant or the nose of an anteater. Just above that was a spreading forehead from which jutted two knobby whips which were always oscillating and waving about. On either side of the expansive, bald cranium, stood ribbed elliptical shapes looking for all the world like child-sized footballs wrapped in black corduroy! Those were its eyes, I guess.

Sensing my dread at its appearance, it moved further into the light. The “stripes” were jagged streaks stretching over a broad, rounded back of some shiny material. Remember those bugs I told you about finding in the garden earlier this summer? The ones we thought was some sort of potato weevil? Imagine that, except that it was the size of a small dog!

I didn’t have a stick handy, and the only rocks I could find were bits of gravel. Those simply bounced off and didn’t faze it all. Naturally, I went to go find a shovel or hoe or something else to use as a weapon. Halfway to the shed in the back yard, an odd thrumming sound behind me caught my attention. I turned to see the “bug” lifting off the ground! The streaky shell had split along where its spine would be and had become wings. It pivoted to and fro in the air a few times, and then headed right for me! I dodged to my right, and the insect whirred past my head and into the darkness. I have not seen it since.

I went back to the alleyway to see what of my groceries I might salvage. Most of the produce lay dissolving into a brownish-green slurry which the flour bag was gradually soaking up. The birthday card, too had absorbed the smelly liquid, and was already beginning to break down. Barely a shred was able to be rescued.

The best explanation I can come up with is that the insect must have ingested some sort of growth hormone or steroid pitched into the garbage by the body-builders who share the alley. I’ll keep you posted if I encounter any others like that one, and I’ll try to get a picture or two.

Sorry about the card! Happy Birthday, anyway,


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