Sunday, August 17, 2008

Living With Tlaquaches

My husband and I hadn't been in San Pancho long when we came upon an opossum clinging to a tree on our property. It had very scruffy grey-brown fur, a naked tail, cruel beady eyes and a mouthful of little teeth which it showed with a grin and a hiss. This animal had no charm whatsoever. Our Mexican neighbor was with us when we made the discovery.

“Tlaquache,” he said, and before we knew what was happening he had rushed home and returned with a worn .22 caliber rifle which looked as if it had seen the revolution. Mexicans, I believe, cannot legally own firearms, but it appears real men have them hidden away somewhere. Point blank he shot it. The animal made no sound or protest; it simply dropped. He hauled it up by the tail.

“Do you want it?” he politely inquired. We graciously permitted him to take it home to his stew pot.

That wasn’t the end of the tlaquaches. A couple of times after our seasonal absences, I have found nests built under bedside tables. Now and again one saunters across the patio, but they are shy and careful. Apparently they don't like the looks of us either.

One year we returned from our summer sojourn in New Mexico to find our bathroom full of flies and a smell which we took to be a sewer issue. Investigation revealed the flies to be coming from under the bathtub which had an opening in the tiled surround in case the plumbing should go wrong. What had gone wrong was that a tlaquache had gone in there and died. Jonathan pulled out the remains with a hooked piece of rebar. Actually it's not entirely unfair that men rule the world.

Another year, another tlaquache. Night after night we awoke as it scrabbled across our bedroom; there was no door to prevent its entry since our bedroom is a thatched pavilion. We reluctantly listened as it climbed and shook the lime tree and proceeded to click, yes, click, about once a second. A mating call, I’ve since learned. Jonathan would locate the tlaquache with the flashlight and it would freeze. Awake, annoyed and finding nothing erotic in the clicks, he began to fantasize its demise. His plan was to immobilize it with the flashlight and do it in with a length of pipe which he procured and put under the bed. We were never to know if he would actually go through with this mayhem because, though an opportunity soon presented itself, a certain caution required that first he put on his pants. While he was hopping into his pants legs, trying to keep the flashlight steady and get a hold of the pipe, the tlaquache unfroze and disappeared. In fact, Jonathan’s terrifying display scared it away for the rest of the year.

Last month I came running when I heard Jonathan roar from the bathroom. A tlaquache had walked in while he was showering. He said it looked like it had a full pouch. I can only hope it is the one which learned last year that Jonathan is not to be trifled with.

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