I don’t know what you call ‘em. But they’re everywhere. They burst across my peripheral vision from both directions about a mile an hour faster than whatever speed I’m driving. I’m pretty sure the survivors are doing high fives from the side of the road just like their maniacal cousins on that GEICO commercial. No, they’re not teenagers. Worse. They’re desert rats.
We moved east to a suburb of Queen Creek, now known against my will as San Tan Valley—blech, what a dumb name with embarrassing initials—four years ago this month. I never thought I’d live in Queen Creek. Ever. I gave up my pseudo-western identity years ago, which mostly means I quit listening to C&W music. I don’t own a horse. I can’t do the Electric Slide. I never wanted to live in the actual desert desert. You know, with the rattlesnakes and the scorpions and the cowboys and the dirt lawn and the scrubby palo verde trees and the unrelenting sunshine. But life is funny. Never say never. A beautiful, affordable neighborhood materialized here only thirteen minutes from my daughter, her husband, and the grandbabies and . . . poof! All my priorities changed, right along with my address.
Now whenever this city girl needs a dose of civilization—which is, at least, almost every day—there I am, driving the shortcut back road to the freeway, past the junk strewn mini-ranches bordering the state's neglected desert landscaping, and all the R.F.D. mailboxes that jut out thoughtlessly into my driving space. And suddenly, my very presence at fifty miles an hour signals some kind of Wii game for prairie dogs.
What is it with these little furry midgets? Do they have a death wish? Terminal ADHD? Rodent Turett’s? Don’t they get it? I don’t care if they want to play chicken on the asphalt – do it to somebody else’s truck. I don’t want their gooey bodies squished onto my tires! It’s just . . . disgusting . . . and icky . . . and unhygienic. Who’s gonna clean up that mess? I mean, seriously, do they have the IQ of a ground squirrel or something?
I used to fret about running over rattlesnakes when I drive that road. Hey, I watch TV. I know poisonous reptiles are rubbery. I heard they can fling up underneath your bumper, climb through the air conditioner vents and attack you from the steering wheel in your own car! I’ve had anxiety attacks just worrying about it. But not anymore. I’ve only seen one in all the time we’ve lived here . . . dead . . . in the middle of the road. There wasn’t a single tire track on his body, though. Just a lot of tiny little footprints. I think he was trampled to death by prairie dogs.
Maybe it was an omen. A warning. I know it’s going to happen one day. There I’ll be—late as usual—driving too fast on that scrawny shortcut through the desert when a dozen tiny terrorists shoot across my path, pointing and laughing at my panicked expression. Just like their Middle Eastern counterparts, they don’t need fancy gadgets to bring me down—they’re low-tech, all the way. Wielding the element of surprise with the expertise of a ninja, they are consummate professionals.
“Oh my gosh,” I’ll think to myself, “ I underestimated these little insurgents.”
Swerve to the right—no! now the left!—brake hard, speed up—good Lord. . . it’s an ambush! And the next thing you know, I’ll be upside down in a ditch, clean tires spinning aimlessly in the air while I search for my dignity.
That does it. I’m not gonna be taken out THAT easily. I have my pride, you know. My rights to the road. My two ton SUV.
Fair warning, my furry little friends. I’m not afraid of you and your band of assassins anymore. Go ahead, bring it! Give it your best shot, you dusty diminutive demons. Play hopscotch in my path like fleas on crack, you beastly bunch of bullies. My days of tire terror are finished.
Tomorrow I’m buying Michelins. Game Over.
(Photo courtesy of latinvera26's photostream at flickr.com)