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By View From Falling Downs
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The serpent and the menorah

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Remember the Chevette? 

One time I’m at a gas station and a wise-ass kid on a bicycle shouts out “nice ‘vette.” I didn’t come up with the right comeback till I was ten miles down the road.

“Nice Harley, kid.”

For a couple of years one of my ‘vettes drove my kids from my place in the country to their mom’s place in town. It was about an hour each way. One time, at the Teviotdale lights, before they put in the round about, I pulled up at the red in the right-turn lane, thinking I’d easily get a hole-shot on the tractor-trailer unit in the other lane.

My strategy might have worked, it not for the jerk making a right turn in front of me. He apparently hadn’t heard the news that you can make a right turn on a red. Then, when the light changed, he took another five seconds to get going.

By that time the transport truck was across the intersection, but not to worry. I’ll just stand on it and let those 88 horsepower work their magic in that 300 yards of merge lane ahead of me.

The abject humiliation of losing a drag race to a Freightliner haunts me to this day.

But by and large, those Chevettes were cheap to run, cheap to buy, and cheap to maintain. Those are the kind of cars the automakers kill, because there’s a certain segment of the consumer public that won’t buy a new car if the old one still works.

One of my Chevettes ferried me back and forth to Guelph every Wednesday night, where I would have dinner and spend a few hours with my children. After dropping them off at their mom’s, I’d meet up with my old pal Robert and his wife, “The Dean,” at the Albion for a couple pitchers of beer.

At the time, I was the welding instructor at a high school 100km up the road. I had a sideline of building metal artsy-facts; furniture, sculpture, bondage accessories. Robert and his wife loved my stuff and have a nice collection to this day. So I took them the hand-crafted menorah to admire.

But during my visit with my children, my dear daughter handed me a box.

“Take good care of it, Dad. It’s the biggest garter snake I’ve ever seen. Keep it till the weekend and I’ll set it free in the garden.”

Sure thing, kid.

So I had a jovial visit with my friends, menorah on our table at the Albion, and when we come out I gotta show them the snake.

I hand the snake box to The Dean, and the snake falls out the box and goes slithering down the street, at midnight, in downtown Guelph.

With my dear daughter’s admonition to take good care of the snake ringing in my ears, I chase the snake down the street…

I got the snake, but I should have noted right there that this would be a stressful evening…

I’m heading home with the menorah and the snake sharing the Chevette. Just as we’re passing the cemetery between Elora and Salem, the headlights go out!

Holy heck! I’ve got another hour to drive… without headlights?

Better to turn back.

I wheel around and take the back roads with the four-way flashers on. I’m half way back to Guelph, when, wonder of wonders, the lights come on!

I stop, say a prayer of gratitude, wheel the ‘vette around and head home again.

I shit you not; we’re heading north again on County Road 7, and just as we pass that same cemetery, THE LIGHTS GO OFF AGAIN!


Now I got a problem. There’s voodoo going on in my car.

I got the menorah back there.

I got the fucking snake back there.

I got bad mojo happening right here in my Chevette!?!?

I pulled in the lot at the the tractor place just past the gas station in Salem.

I’ve got the forces of Good and the forces of Evil wrestling in existential rage in the back of my car, and I just want to get home and go to sleep!

Obviously, the universe will not allow me to get home. I must decide. Do I ditch the snake?

Or do I ditch the menorah?

If I ditch the snake, I’ll never find it again, breaking my daughter’s heart.

But if I ditch the menorah… it ain’t going anywhere. I could easily retrieve it on my next trip!

But… do you toss the menorah and keep the snake? In the overall scheme of things, that doesn’t sound kosher to me.

I sat there pondering the possibilities for a good ten minutes.

Then I started the car, and… the lights came on!

Made it all the way home!

Next day I called a mechanic. He told me the ‘vettes were famous for a defective electrical relay that caused the lights to go out under certain conditions.

So I guess it wasn’t the epochal battle between Satan and the angels after all…


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