A few weeks ago, I was walking back to my car after a not-fun errand at Walmart. I looked at the sky, which was grey, and then I looked at the pavement, which was grey. I walked faster as I approached my car, which is white.
But then I looked more closely at it. There was grey there too, around my bumper, just around the wheel well. I bent over and saw a long series of nicks — almost like a zipper — in the paint job, ones so deep they had removed the paint.
I looked around, wondering if this had just happened. But what kind of vehicle could have caused this kind of injury? It wasn’t a case of someone rubbing it as they pulled out, as that would have caused a dent and a scrape. But these were nicks, almost like cuts.
At that moment, I decided two things:
• Somehow, some way, I must have done this to my car, though I had no memory of it.
• I was going to wait until my stepdad Peter arrived for Christmas before I said anything to my husband about it.
Why did these seem like reasonable decisions?
Well, to address the first, blaming myself seemed likely. My driving career hasn’t exactly been scrape-free, starting at age 16 when I wonkily backed out of the garage and banged up my front fender (and the garage).
Then there was the time I backed into a parking pole when it was -30 out and it formed a perfect pole-shaped hole in my bumper.
Then there was the time I skidded on ice in my dad’s car and crashed into a guard rail, which made his car bleed fluid.
There was the time I didn’t pull up my parking brake on a hill and it crashed into the woods as I was dining with friends.
And there was the time I didn’t pull up my parking brake again and it rolled into a cement parking stop, but I didn’t realize it so when I backed out, the stop kind of pulled off my bumper.
Over 26 years of driving, I suppose these aren’t that many accidents. But ask my husband William how many “driving incidents” he’s had over his 35 years of driving?
One. And it was cosmetic.
Which led me to decision No. 2.
With the way life has been going for William for the past while, he hasn’t exactly been living a stress-free life. Telling him that my car was mysteriously cut up didn’t seem like it would ease his burden. So, I would wait until my savior Peter was here to assess the damage and, hopefully, figure out what the heck had happened.
After I told Peter about the car, he went outside to take a look. I think I was cooking or something at the time, because I’ll never forget the confused look on his face as he walked back into the kitchen.
“Now that is the damn-dest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s as if your car has been attacked by a wild animal.”
He got his iPad and went out to take pictures, “because I have got to document this.” When he came back inside, he magnified the pictures to show them to me.
“See that?” he said. “Those are nearly 2 mm deep. The only thing I can think that would make that kind of mark is … teeth.”
Right on cue, Fitz, who was slumbering in the sun, snorted in his sleep.
I stared at my perfect baby boy and remembered his frenemy Mr. Chipmunk, who has somehow continued to live these past three years despite constant terrorizing by Tilly and Fitz. Mr. Chipmunk has a tendency to run up underneath my car when being chased, a phenomenon that drives Fitz absolutely bonkers. He barks this ugly, high-pitched bark and tries desperately to get under the car. All the while, Tilly runs skittishly around, sometimes checking in with me, but mostly just jumping around like a cheerleader.
“But a little Boston terrier couldn’t make those kinds of deep marks,” Peter said.
“Not our Fitz,” my mom agreed.
It was two nights later before we had a chance to delicately bring this up with William. By then, my mom had convinced herself there was a rabid raccoon on the loose. Peter was more inclined to go with a coyote. I, unfortunately, mostly silently, knew it was my dog.
Incredibly, William sided with Peter after he saw the pictures. He, too, couldn’t possibly believe that our sweet doggies would do this kind of damage over a chipmunk. And so, we were on the lookout for a coyote or a rabid raccoon.
Then, a week later, after everyone had left for Canada and life was very lonely, I was outside taking down the Christmas decorations. Mr. Chipmunk was again playing games with Fitz, who was going nutzo around the car. Not able to listen to that crazy bark for long, I went over to try to bring Fitz into the house. And then I saw that there were more nicks on the bumper. And they were wet. And then I went to the other side of the car. And there were new nicks there too.
I blinked very hard, dear readers, but this time I told William immediately.
When he got home from work, he headed directly downstairs to watch footage from the outdoor video cameras. And there were our perfect little doggies. And there was one of them chewing.
But it wasn’t Fitz.
It was Tilly.
Apparently, she’d grown tired of being cheerleader and decided that if Fitz couldn’t get the ‘munk, she was going to eat through the car until she did.
It’s been an interesting few weeks, complete with two lessons:
First, if you’re age 42, I’d recommend telling your husband about damage to your car and not having your stepdad handle it for you.
Two, Boston terriers are bred to hunt rodents. And I’m here to tell you: they do.