While sitting in the dentist chair, my attention was suddenly drawn to an announcer on the softly playing radio.
“Doritos inventor Arch West, dead at 97… to be buried in his beloved chips,” the voice said.
It was apparently something the family wanted to do and they planned to toss handfuls of their loved one’s innovative 40-year legacy — fried and flavored corn chips into the grave before the urn containing his ashes was covered.
Initially upon hearing the report I wasn’t quite sure whether to scoff or laugh, but then a memory started to emerge.
Godzilla was a tough little bugger.
A designer breed of rat referred to as cinnamon, her dark coat had a glistening, reddish-brown hue.
At just over 3 years old, she had outlived her two sisters Pepe and Daria, both “blue” rats, with a soft, velvety gray-blue color.
Pepe went first, she was my favorite. One day she was just laying there. No explanation, no signs or symptoms, just gone.
I have gotten pretty tough from years of loving and loosing animals but I mourned for Pepe. She would come to the door of the cage when she saw me, waiting to be held. She’d sit on my shoulder contentedly and never bit or scrambled.
Daria was a little less personable, a little more cagey, a typical middle child. She went next, the same way. Quietly and with no warning.
Godzilla, the bully hung on. At first I was angry with her, not understanding how I got stuck with the nastiest one while the others, the nicer ones, had to die.
But as time passed, I kind of felt sorry for her — Living alone, no one to steal food from or push out of the cozy spots.
I made sure she had clean bedding and checked on her more often, dumping banana chips, assorted nuts and other goodies in her cage frequently.
She got a little fat and less active with no one to pick on, spending copious amounts of time in the corner under mounds of shredded newspaper.
I figured it was her battle with karma — all her good deeds coming back at her 10-fold with huge doses of loneliness and silence.
So I kept tossing in the goodies, feeding the beast.
Simultaneously, there was a smell in the garage where she lived.
As the days passed the smell increased. A mouse must have crawled in a crevice and died, I reasoned.
The unpleasant odor became more poignant.
Suddenly it dawned on me. When was the last time Godzilla moved?
“Oh God no,” I thought.
Sure enough, there was her lifeless body, covered in a mound of untouched banana chips, pretzels and peanut butter crackers.
I’m still not sure how many days I poured food on top of her dead body.
I wrestled with guilt, feeling like a callous heel, but no matter how I looked at it, I knew there was nothing I could have done. After all, it wasn’t like she was in the habit of coming out to thank me for the food, or, for that matter, engaging in any other level of activity that would have clued me in that something was wrong.
Looking back, I’ve come to terms with it and I tell myself it was a fitting ending for her, launching into eternity from her cozy spot, covered in her favorite foods. Who could ask for more?
But now that I think about it, I bet she would have returned from the afterlife for some Doritos… If only I’d thought of that.
So long and thanks for all the chips Mr. West, may you find a good queso on the other side!