by Michael Alan
I think it all started when we took Skippy to the car dealer in Miami for a minor recall. It was just a quick airbag-bolt torque but, in retrospect, it marked a turning point in our relationship. Now I can see the signs that I failed to notice at the time. Skippy is of South Korean extraction and named after a town in Arizona (Tuscon, not Skippy). So it is natural that Skippy has issues. The trip to the dealer seemed to awaken long-suppressed memories. It also gave Skippy a chance to commune with his own kind and, apparently, to conspire against us, his now-hated overlords.
It took a few weeks for Skippy to bring his plan to fruition. Short jaunts around Key West to the grocery store and the post office went without a hitch. We never suspected what Skippy was up to until it was too late.
Christmas Eve dawned, or set, or something. Shepherds kept watch in their fields and angels prepared to sing “Hosanna” as we aimed Skippy north over the Cow Key Channel bridge: our destination Big Pine Key where we would join the heavenly choir for midnight Mass.
The Overseas Highway harbors many dark places. These are the places where you would not want to be stuck on Christmas Eve, halfway between Key West and Big Pine. It was miles from anywhere. It was Cudjoe Key. Did I mention that rain had just begun to pour down? We certainly noticed. We also noticed the horrid noises that the wipers made as they scraped the windshield. They sounded as if they were trying to wear their way right through to the interior. Skippy had decided to strike, and strike he did. After one of us remarked on the awful noise Skippy lost it. He shut down the power and disabled the accelerator. We coasted helplessly to a stop in the muddy marl alongside US 1.
Did I mention that it was pouring down rain?
Maddeningly, the engine still ran fine. Skippy was content to let us sit there. We were, as they say, all dressed up with no where to go, or at least no way to get there. Cursing on Christmas Eve was out of the question, at least as a first option. Begging, pleading and sniveling however were not.
“Please Skippy, it’s just a little farther” (I lied). “Let’s get going. You can do it Skippy. Get going”!
There was no response. Skippy’s engine just continued idling with that maddening drone.
“Come on Skippy. You have to get us there, that’s an order”.
Then, in my minds ear, I thought I heard Skippy’s voice: “I’m sorry, Mike, I’m afraid I can’t do that”.
I couldn’t believe it. Skippy had called me ‘Mike’. My grandmother never let anyone call me Mike. After all, Grandpa was Mike. Somehow that irked me worse than being stuck. I suddenly regretted naming him “Skippy”. I don’t know why.
We called a friend for help. In the confusion he lost his glasses in the mud. But that was not all. Somehow Skippy’s doors had locked with the keys still in the ignition. Skippy’s mad plan had taken another sinister step. Standing in the rain, I somehow kept myself from saying, “Open the driver’s side door, Skippy”.
I knew that would only have given him more satisfaction. Besides, Skippy had forgotten that he came with a roadside assistance plan. The tow truck driver could handle him. At least I hoped he could. I made a mental note to not tell the driver Skippy’s name.