Contrary to the Broadway tune, “Maria” is not “the most beautiful sound I ever heard.” When I hear this name, I form an image of an unsightly and ill-tempered Chihuahua with multiple shiny patches of fur. Raised on expresso and sugar doughnuts, Maria was jumpy, nippy and exceedingly fat. Her black shiny piggy eyes bulged from a nervous mound of tan flab— like a canine Brando.
Maria belonged to our friends Johnnie and Julie Green. My wife, Diane and I would often visit them up North to play whist. They indulged this unseemly dog like a favored child. While we played cards, Julie held the mongrel on her lap removing its many fleas. Her technique was to dab the flea with Vasoline Petroleum Jelly, pinch it off, and deposit it in an ashtray. This unwholesome and possibly intentional distraction hampered our card playing and made us wonder why we were so pathetic that we had gone over there in the first place. Johnnie always kept score, writing down “Champs” for their score and “Chumps” for ours. They were card sharks and as they put it we were (s)not.
At the time, we drove a slightly used silver, AMC Concord — the deluxe edition with a plush maroon interior and plastic wood grain dashboard. The car was lousy but its worst feature was a perpetual motor oil hemorrhage. This oil leak was the source of constant embarrassment as it ruined our driveway and stained parking lots throughout town.
Whenever we visited Johnnie and Julie, I’d parked the car on the grass to avoid staining their driveway and to be spared a lecture on proper auto maintenance by Johnnie. Maria was in the front yard when we arrived one evening. She welcomed us with a loud bark and vicious snap and then dashed under our car. Then Julie came running out of the house calling for her. Suddenly Maria dashed out from under the car yelping. “Gee whiz, what’s this black stuff on her back? ” Julie asked Johnnie. Smirking Diane and I dummied up, knowing full well that the little monster had just been anointed with some really hot motor oil whilst loitering under the Concord. Feeling perkier, Diane kept score that night writing down “Starwarriors” for us and “Gangreens” for them. They were not amused.
We all tired of cards and Johnnie suggested that it would be very healthful if we took a long walk. Johnnie and Julie loved to lecture us on health and especially diet, as Judy took great pride in her nearly anorexic physique. Despite our objections they insisted on bringing Maria along, but refused to put her on a leash. Maria constantly ran ahead or straggled behind while Judy frantically screamed for her in a shrill voice. As we walked down the dark road this shrieking was beginning to unnerve Diane. “Don’t worry about that damn dog. She’ll be all right.”
Suddenly we heard the crescendoing roar of an engine as a sinister-looking black sedan came barreling down the road, drawing a bead on the unsightly dog. It looked like a demon car from some Stephen King novel. It must have been going ninety and Maria was frozen in its highbeams, looking like a fat brown piglet in a centerstage spotlight. The car from hell never slowed and with a blunted “thwunk” Maria was thrown three feet in the air into dog heaven. In shock, Johnnie and I retrieved our car and a Maria-sized cardboard box, while Diane and Julie waited beside the chubby still warm corpse.
When we got back to the house, Johnnie and Julie asked us if they should wake up their kids and tell them about Maria. We said, “No, absolutely not!” But they went ahead and did it anyway. Then they asked if they should call Julie’s elderly mother and father who were the dog’s godparents. Again, we said, “No! Absolutely not. But they went ahead and did it anyway.
Within minutes the whole house was thrown into high hysteria. Johnnie, Julie, her mother, and the kids were all hugging and crying, while Judy’s father described the elaborate wooden coffin he intended to built for the late great Marie, who by now had stiffened up considerably and had an eternal snarl frozen on her muzzle. Tommy had her laying in state in the garage ironically on top of a box of Quaker State Motor Oil.
Diane and I tried to appear supportive but when we saw an opening we grabbed our kids, expressed our regrets, and headed for Daylight. Feeling slightly guilty but immensely relieved in the tranquility of the incontinentConcord, off we went. It was the last time we ever played whist.
My apologies to all Chihuahua lovers everwhere, I look forward to your constructive comments and suggestions.