THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MALCOLM
“Look to the rock from which you were cut and the quarry from which you were hewn.”
Malcolm was all of a few months old when I met him for the first time back in 1997 and he didn’t seem like much of a rock to me. More like a powdered cream pastry or a lump of Crabapple blossoms freshly blown from a tree. Or the thing that sat atop Albert Einstein’s head well after he was a genius. I didn’t know what to think of him.
Malcolm, though nameless to me then, had kind, curious and unexpected eyes that drew me in. But what I couldn’t see at the time was a stoic and ancient story behind those eyes and that the white and innocent fluffiness of the Great Pyrenees belies an intense and fierce nature.
While their exact origins are uncertain, it’s widely believed that Pyrenees date back to 1,000 BCE and is one of the oldest pure breeds still extant. They hail from the mountain range that bears their name and were born and bred by Basque farmers to protect their livestock from wolves, a job they performed then and now expertly.
I didn’t know any of this when I stared at him in the back of my Nissan Pathfinder, still ambivalent and wondering what in the hell I had gotten myself into. Picturing it now, the contrast was stark; his small, wobbly body all alone in the rear of my empty and capacious SUV. I wonder if he was as unsure as I was about the arrangement but what I did know, I had to eat and since I was in Austin that morning that meant Ruta Maya.
As I was ordering a café au lait and one of their righteous blueberry muffins I stopped mid-request and said, “No, make that two.” After all, the lil’ feller had to eat and who wouldn’t love a muffin in the morning? Feeling pretty damn pleased with myself and already owning up to my new role, I fed Malcolm his half and he graciously ate every last buttery, sugary crumb.
Yep, things we going just swell on my drive back to Castroville when I heard a gurgling, churning sound like something being dredged up from the bowels of hell. And then that cute little Crabapple spewed the Ruta Maya muffin all over my SUV. Oh, but he wasn’t done yet.
Somehow, blueberries triggered a chain reaction that went from his fore to his aft and he squirted poop like a Jackson Pollock painting. Only the canvas was the cloth interior of my Pathfinder.
I once read an article about senses having memory. How long after you hear a song can you recall the singer and album? When do you forget the name of the person you just met? What scientists found is smell has the longest and most eternal of memories.
Case in point. You’ll never forget the acrid, eye watering, migraine inducing smell of a skunk after your first introduction. And til the day I die, I’ll never lose the memory of what happens when you combine blueberries and feces. All I could think about while I was still trying not to swerve off of I-35 was the scene from Stephen King’s movie Stand By Me about blueberry pies and the state fair.
I pulled off the interstate at the nearest rest stop and, after cranking out every single paper towel from the dented, rusty, dispenser, cleaned up the mess Malcolm had made. Surprisingly, given my upbringing, I wasn’t mad or mean to him. I just went about it, cleaning the truck as best I could. But I couldn’t help wondering if I made the wrong choice not only for me but for Malcolm, too. After all, I had just fed him something that clearly was disagreeable to his digestive system and it had become apparent I had no idea what I was doing.
We were somewhere around New Braunfels and the Canyon Lake exit, about the halfway point to Castroville, and I was wrestling with myself. I should just take him back.
But I didn’t. I slid into the driver’s seat, put the gear into drive and headed down south on the freeway. All I could think was, “This is going to be a long trip home.”
Some fifteen years later, and we’re still so far away.
Next week, Chapter 2 continues