The couple running this recently opened and amazingly isolated bed-and-breakfast in the foothills of the Rincons—a husband and wife, retired schoolteachers in their late fifties, white, gracious enough—have this January evening lit mesquite and creosote bush in an adobe fireplace alongside a wooden hot tub and made themselves scarce. We are their only guests, my wife and I. Brush sizzles, vapors bubble. On the edge of a nimbus cast by firelight and glowing tub water, five or six javelinas snuffle around prickly pear cacti, raising sweet stinky dust.
We lob wet swimsuits onto the deck. They steam, the tub 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the air just above freezing. Before long our exertions startle the band of feral pigs back into the dark.
Next morning, eight o’clock sharp, we wake to a crazy clattering coming from beneath our casita’s bedroom window. Rattlesnakes? No, the husband is trimming bushes with electric hedge clippers.
Do Not Disturb the Swine, I vow to write in the guestbook.
I remember reasoning the proprietors wouldn’t hear, much less see us luvin in their spa. Their own house seemed so distant behind us, their windows were dark. The nearest homesteads merely twinkled on an otherwise opaque horizon. I may have fantasized our rising vocal cordon kept ferocious carnivores at bay, wished to hear wolves, coyote, mountain lions howl back at us from far away. Yet it still seems excessively punitive to wake your vacation guests viciously for having yodeled delusions of primacy into the desert.
We certainly didn’t mean to startle the javelinas, who seemed habituated to humans, including for a time to our cries. And why wouldn’t we have assumed the owners themselves at least once had got off with each other in the luxurious rustic centerpiece of their backyard? Not to mention previous guests. I might have even fancied that we were amusing the herd a little, since humans and pigs are close in evolutionary sequence. It just so happens that javelina are pig-like, not true pigs, whose valves repair our hearts, whose flesh is said to taste a lot like ours—which is why, incidentally, you’re never supposed to feed your dog ham.
Another winter break, fifteen years later, revisiting Tucson, this time with our baby. An outdoor desert museum. Javelinas doze in an enclosure, a trio nestled together like housecats in sunlight. Signposts dot the exhibit.
This, that, and javelina are also known as musk hogs.
When in that frolic spirit we smelled that sweet stink, it was them. Turns out they rub their scent from a gland atop their rump on rocks and stumps to mark their territory and, inasmuch as they have poor eyesight, on each other for identification.
With apologies to Donald Schön, that’s javelina having conversations with the situation.
For our part, had we felt a need to refind the B&B, most likely we’d have made a daytime drive-by. As older parents, we’ve grown cautious of driving at night.
Glenn Deutsch‘s fiction and essays have appeared in The LiteraryReview, Post Road, Confrontation, Exposition Review, and Gargoyle.Visit him at glenndeutsch.com and @GlennDeutsch.