“SON OF A GUN my whole body aches!” Maria blurted out loudly as she was starting to regain consciousness. She rapidly batted her eyelids but she could not see a thing. Wherever she was, it was pitch black.
Then a muted voice, as if from a substantial distance away said, “Hello? Is someone there?”
Maria, still rubbing her eyes in an attempt to adjust her vision responded, “Who’s there? Where are we?”
“My name is Phil,” replied the voice.
“My name is Maria, Phil? Do you have any idea where we are?”
“Not one clue whatsoever. I’ve been here for several days I think – maybe weeks. I’m not really sure where we are. I haven’t been able to see a darn thing the entire time.”
“Well wherever we are, it sure as heck stinks! So where are you?”
“I’m working my way towards the sound of your voice. Keep talking. Hold out your hand.”
As Maria reached out her arm, she couldn’t help but to comment, “You know, I think that’s the first time in my life that anyone ever told me to keep talking. Usually I kinda get the impression that most people think I talk too much. I mean, they don’t always come right out and tell me I talk too much but you can tell if you watch their face - OH MY GOD! WHAT WAS THAT?”
Maria abruptly recoiled and pulled her arm back tightly against her body. “What the heck was that? What in the world just touched my hand?”
“That was my hand,” replied Phil. “I’m a groundhog. I have tiny little weird hands.”
“Well, it certainly scared me to death I’ll tell you that right now. I can’t see a danged thing in here, wherever we are, and I’m expecting to reach out and touch a human hand and then all of the sudden here’s this little freaky… Wait a minute – you said your name is Phil?”
“And you say you’re a groundhog?”
By this time, Phil had managed to crawl up beside Maria as she sat in the darkness of their unidentifiable confinement. Maria felt Phil brush up against the side of her outstretched leg and she reached over with her hand and felt the furriness of the back of his head. She continued, “You know, they just buried a groundhog out at the cemetery last week – a groundhog named Phil. Was he a friend or acquaintance of yours perhaps?”
“No. That’s kind of hard to believe. I’m the only groundhog named Phil that’s even around right now.”
“Well I don’t know about that but what I do know is, they definitely had a funeral out at the Resthaven cemetery a week ago and they buried what they said was a groundhog by the name of Phil. In fact, I got this friend who was telling me the story about how he was out bike riding and he had the groundhog on that back of his bicycle and a big ol’ alligator came running up and snatched it right off of his bike – the bag he was riding in and everything – nearly tore the rack off the bike too. I got chased by some dogs one time – vicious little creatures. There were about five of them – whaddya call ‘em – bull dogs. No – not bull dogs – uh – the other kinda bull dogs – I mean not bull dogs but bull something else – or something bull – don’t tell me. Fox! Fox bull – no that doesn’t sound right either. Let’s see… bull terrier, bull… bull… bull dane. Dane bull… doberbull… dogbull… Hang on – it’ll come to me – just give me a bit. Bit – that’s it. Bit. No, not bit – pit. Pit! It’s pit – pit bull. They were pit bulls. That’s what I do a lot of times when I can’t think of a word – I just start trying to sound out different things until it comes to me. I’ve always been real good at that. I may not think of a word right off the bat but if I just keep talking and say the words out loud as soon as they pop into my head, I can usually figure out what the right word is. My mom used to tell me I had a knack – that’s what she called it – a knack. She would say, “Maria, you just have a knack for conversation.” Although when she said that to me, it was usually in Spanish instead of English. We mostly spoke Spanish around my house when we were growing up but in school and everywhere else I would go, I would always try to speak English. Most people now can’t even tell that I have any kind of accent when I speak English. Maybe my Spanish has gotten a bit rusty over the last few years but I don’t really have too much problem trying to get my point across when I’m speaking Spanish. I guess I just have that knack. That reminds me of this one time, back when I was in high school – I was on the ping pong team and we had gone to nationals…”
While Maria carried on with her non-stop dissertation, Phil started feeling around in the blackness of their unknown confinement – searching for something he had stumbled across earlier – before he was blessed with this babbling idiot of a roommate. “Where is it?” he thought to himself. “I know it’s gotta be around here someplace.” Then suddenly, his weird little “freaky” hands bumped into it – the sponge that he had been using as a pillow before Maria showed up. With sponge in hand and with the skill of a master ninja, he leapt towards the sound of Maria’s continual banter – and shoved the sponge clear down her throat!
It was a sunny afternoon out at the lagoon in the Sam Houston Wild Life Preserve. The five resident alligators were stretched out comfortably on the cool, muddy banks of the lagoon under the shade of an umbrella of oak trees that lined the dirt road just to the south. Four of the alligators were sound asleep – enjoying their afternoon nap like all of them usually do in the early afternoon. But on this particular day, the biggest of the alligators, Ernest (as named by the Preserve Rangers), was having trouble getting any kind of rest at all. While everything else around the lagoon was peaceful and quiet, Ernest had this constant racket going on inside his head – a racket that resonated through every bone in his body. He’d had times before when his thoughts just kept rambling in his head and there was nothing he could do to shut them off – but this seemed different. Way different. It was like an actual voice completely foreign from anything he would normally hear. No matter which way he turned or laid to try and ease the sensation, it seemed to return with an even greater annoyance within only a few moments. He tried holding his front legs over his ears – that did nothing but cause the commotion to amplify in his brain.
Then all of the sudden – it stopped.
Neither the sponge nor the groundhog ever saw a shadow again.
The Groundhog Pentalogy
Or Maybe the Epilogue Went Like This...