The National Kidney Foundation came by today to pick up my Jeep. They’ve got a donation program where you give them your car and they give you a sack full of human kidneys in about thirty days, after they auction off the vehicle and convert its value to kidney currency. At the going street rate, I’m expecting one, maybe two pillow sacks full of kidneys. I probably won’t keep them. Probably.
We tried selling the Jeep, but people from the internet are too quick to low-ball you. That, and I’m a horrible salesman. I figure, if I’m up front and honest, they’ll find out what an upstanding person I am and that in and of itself should raise its net worth. Instead, they’re all like, “I’m not buying a Jeep with an engine that goes CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK when you turn it on. Is there something wrong with you?” And I tell them no, you read the ad; I was straight up, now give me some money. And they don’t. They try to haggle by asking me to cut the price in half, and instead, after I bid them farewell, I just raise the price on Craigslist. But even that doesn’t work. They just keep going lower. I don’t think they understand haggling.
What they truly don’t understand is that its sentimental value is through the roof. I got this Jeep when I got my wife, though at that time I had only duped her into dating me. It was on one of our first dates that I asked her to drive it home for me from the car shop. I trusted her even then.
I have always been disappointed in this Jeep. I only got it out of necessity after I spun out my old black Cherokee on the East Beltline and slammed into the side of a car three vehicles ahead of me while leaving the in-between cars unscathed and slack-jawed. Ta-da! The Grand Cherokee was a step down from the Cherokee. I seemed to have lots of problems with it. It got horrible pick-up and, when driving up slowly sloping inclines, it would often feel the need to jump down two or three gears at a time, sending the RPMs and your heart-rate sky-high. I had to get the transmission replaced after it started swapping spit with the radiator. The back hatch wouldn’t open for a few years. The cruise control and air conditioning went in and out regularly. My wife’s favorite was the windshield wipers which were tragically crippled and sporadic, and it was they who decided when the time was right to oscillate, not you. Three of the four electric windows’ mechanical arms failed and left the window flaccid in the down position. A few months ago, the water pump went out on the first snowy day and my toes were cold while I waited for a tow-truck. And then the engine started making its death knell, a loud clacking sound that signaled an imminent and potentially catastrophic explosion. On top of all that, I was regularly taunted about the fact that it looked more like a van than a Jeep; a fact which I could not argue. It was time to move on.
That’s not to say we haven’t had our good times as well. We drove that thing everywhere. It has seen both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. We’ve had it on countless trips up to northern Michigan where, during the twilight hours, you can build up a exterior shell of blackflies an inch thick. We drove it to Cape Cod with the engine coughing and sputtering, forcing us to get new spark plugs, and I’m pretty sure the guy ripped me off by replacing something else unnecessarily. We drove it to California loaded with everything we needed to keep us going for four months on the road and, on the way back, we had a brake caliper seize up somewhere east of Lake Tahoe and we drove back to Michigan with a horrible grinding sound that you could feel in your feet. Ah, the memories of me yelling at my wife on the highway not to use the brakes. You can’t put a price on that.
That Jeep had a wonderful aroma that will be hard to reproduce. Last night I just sat in it for a minute, trying to capture what remained of it, remembering all the good times. It’s got a hint of dirty mountain biking socks hidden under the seats for weeks, mixed with a broken bottle of Aftershock and two broken bottles of Guinness absorbed into the back seat carpet (we weren’t drinking, only transporting); the remnant aroma of a bag of weed which cooked in the hot summer sun for a weekend in the seat pockets, left by an unnamed acquaintance; it has absorbed the campfire smoke of trees in the Great Lakes, the Atlantic Coastline, as well as trees from the West Coast near Big Sur and Yosemite; it’s got a year’s worth of dog hair, mud, and saliva seeped into the carpet and seats without the slightest chance of ever coming out; and years of sand and sweat from biking, hiking, running, and beach excursions. I don’t think they make an air freshener powerful enough to take that aroma away, and that’s good, because I kind of like it.
But now it’s time to part. We’ve had some good times, but there comes a point when you painfully realize it’s time to move on. I’ve managed to avoid the catastrophic engine explosion so far, and I think that she’s holding out just long enough so I don’t have to see her die. I’ve made my peace, but it’s hard to watch her go. She left quietly today while no one was around. Some people came by in white suits and a long white truck, and silently loaded her up to take her away. You know, I don’t even need that sack of kidneys. There are other people who could probably use them way more than me. I’ll let the Kidney Foundation keep them and distribute them however they see fit. It’s what she would have wanted.
Piper spontaneously developed a new and unfounded fear this past week as Jen and I were watching The Time Traveler’s Wife. She wasn’t frightened by the complexity of the narrative, or by pondering the nature of the lead character’s debilitating temporal handicap, or even by the thought of knowing the time and place of your own death. No, it was the mundane explosion of an on-screen firework which startled her from her sleep, awakening her to an entirely terrifying world in which nothing would ever be the same; a world dominated by a big-screen TV and loud, unearthly noises emanating from the walls.
Her acknowledgement of the TV has changed her life forever. Up until this firework explosion, Piper never quite got the concept of TV. No matter what was showing or how loud the speakers became, she never paid it the least amount of attention. This goes for computer screens too. While Jen and I were away for a few months in California, we would Skype home occasionally, and Piper would be immune to our faces and barely register our voices. This has all now changed.
She has now become a quivering wreck of a canine whenever we watch a movie or play a video game on the big screen. She’ll spend the duration of the movie trying to force her face between your leg and the couch, often stretching her facial skin beyond what even Barbara Walters’ face could handle. She’ll hide under the end table with only her nose peeking out, wide-eyed and panicked at the large, moving images coming from across the room. Several times, she has sneaked up from the side and half-climbed up onto the back of the couch before we shooed her down, at which point she just runs to the front of the couch where you barely have enough time to snap your legs shut before she stabs her head into your crotch.
It doesn’t even matter what’s on the TV. The fireworks freaked her out, so we tried out a nature documentary showing whales and a bunch of fish. Who wouldn’t be soothed by the lush and calming voice of David Attenborough? My dog, apparently.
Instead, she finds comfort in unfathomable things. Like tonight, I see her happily sitting on the rug with both arms outstretched, merrily nuzzling the ground between her elbows; licking and peeking at the space between her arms over and over again, content as could be. I figure she’s got a disemboweled toy down there, void of stuffing, as she so often entertains. This goes on for a good fifteen minutes before curiosity overcomes my placidness, and I take a look at what she’s doing. I’m horrified to see a spider; really, half a spider, covered in saliva and mushed into the carpet. She’s so proud of her new friend that I just leave her to finish the dirty business. I mean, come on! A freaking spider?!? And a slow painful death for the thing? What, did my dog love the feel of those eight, then seven, then six legs scrambling against her tongue? What kind of monstrosity is this? I certainly didn’t teach her that.
It’s yet another one of those differences I’m finding between my dog and me. For example, if I were to be suddenly awoken by a gummy fruit snack hitting me in the head and landing on the ground, I would have a few questions; like, who the hell is throwing fruit snacks, why would you waste them like that, and where has this tainted gummy snack been prior to bumping into my head? Piper has been observed to take no more than one second to come out of a deep and sublime sleep to being alert enough that she eats the fruit snack without question, hesitation, or chewing. I think she gets that part from Jen. I’ll have to test that theory the next time Jen is napping.
Regardless, I’m coming to realize that there is a large distance between my dog and me that goes beyond our oft-attempted but always failed attempts at verbal communication. We may never cross that divide. She’s going to continue to be utterly freaked out by romantic dramas and nature documentaries while being hypnotically entranced by the possibility of a live arachnid on which to slowly feast, or by the occasional magic fruit snack falling from the sky like a sweet, chewy gift from above. Despite her wildly illogical idiosyncrasies, she’s a lot of fun, very entertaining, and keeps the house mostly spider-free.