The next morning I was sent off to the supermarket with explicit instructions as to exactly what kind of steak to buy – top round, lightly marbled, and when I squeezed it, it should stay squeezed.

“That means it’s tender,” Aunt Harriet said.

“Aunt Harriet, please. It’s a goddamn dog. It will wolf down anything that’s meat. Turkey franks would do. Perhaps with a little sauerkraut on top -”

She was scandalized. “Brutus,” she said huffily, “is a thoroughbred.” As if that explained anything. I gave up and headed for the store. Sort of.

I was not, of course, allowed to use her car for this trip. “It’s going to take a lot longer,” I warned.

“My car,” she thundered, “is NOT a toy. Besides, if you think I’m going to give you a chance to wrap it around a telephone pole so you can get out of stealing that trophy, you’re off your chump. That dumb I ain’t.”

As a matter of fact, I had been doing a lot of thinking since the night before and an untimely “accident” had occurred to me as one of my possible options, but I had dismissed it almost as soon as it poked its head above the covers. My Aunt Harriet’s inexplicable love for her Ferg Turdis ruled it out. If I survived the backlash of her anger and her certainty that I’d done it on purpose, it would likely be as a cyborg whose muscle and sinew had had to be replaced by wheels and pulleys. That dumb, I’m not.

I must confess I’ve never understood her deep affection for that machine. It isn’t particularly attractive, it doesn’t have much power or speed, it doesn’t handle very well, and it’s in the shop half its life for maintenance. It’s only a couple of years old but already the door handles don’t work, the buttons fall off if you look at them cross-eyed, and the seats feel as if they were stuffed with especially sharp rocks. The day it came off the showroom floor, it was already obsolete. Yet despite all this, my Aunt coos to it, purrs to it, pats it on its hood and strokes its tail, worships the very ground it rolls on. It’s spooky.

But my prolonged wrestling match with the Masked Avenger of my mind had not been entirely negative, and my remark about the length of time my errand was going to eat up wasn’t a casual one. I had formed a plan and I was laying the groundwork for a little side trip.

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