If I had died yesterday and gone to Heaven, I imagine my interview at the Pearly Gates would’ve gone something like this:

“Location and cause of death?”

“Costa Rica. And trampled to death by water buffalo.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Oh, excuse me. I meant Asian water buffalo.”

“That makes even less sense.”

“Oh, well, see, in recent years rural Costa Rica palm oil farmers have been transitioning over from oxen to Asian water buffalo. Turns out, they do better in mud.”

“No! I mean how…or rather, why…”

“Why was I crushed beneath the hooves of a large bovine far displaced from its country of origin?”

“Yeah, we haven’t gotten that in a while. It’s usually things like ‘cancer’ or ‘hit by car while texting.'”

“Well, while usually mild-tempered, water buffaloes are known to charge when suddenly wakened at night by knife-wielding strangers pouncing upon them.”

“We’re going to be here a while, aren’t we?”

“It’s something to do with the fight-or-flight instincts of a domesticated herd animal–”

“I’m gonna stop you right there. Why did you ambush the buffalo?”

“It was an accident! I didn’t even see the buffalo in the ditch. I slipped while I was trying to reach the termite nest hanging in the tree that just happened to be growing above the ditch.”

“And the sleeping water buffalo.”

“Which–swear to God–I didn’t even notice.”

“Careful invoking His name. Here, we literally can call Him as a witness. Anyway, I now have to ask–”

“Why was I trying to hack away at a termite nest in the middle of a palm plantation at night?”


“For the anteater.”

“I repeat: that makes less sense.”

“I know! They should be called ‘termite-eaters’—”

“Sir, I should let you know that even the ‘patience of a saint’ has its limits.”

“My coworkers are rehabilitating an orphaned anteater, and always need fresh food. I didn’t want to return home empty-handed.”

“I guess that’s as good an excuse as any for walking through the forest with a knife. But why at night?”

“Oh, the termites were never the original plan. I was walking back because the car died.”

“So you were driving through the forest at night.”


“And the battery died?”

“Nah. Overheated. We were stopped, but still had to keep the motor running to keep the lights on.”


“Peter—it is Peter, isn’t it?—I know you’re a busy man. So here’s the short version: kinkajou.”



“That sounds like a pokemon.”

“I hear that a lot. The original purpose of our night out was to release a baby kinkajou back into the wild.”

“That’s the first time you said something sensible. This is finally starting to come together.”

“The little guy was unable to climb higher, and too scared to climb back down. We waited for hours.”

“Why not climb up and get him yourself?”

“Tried that. There I was, trying to freeclimb a tree in fading daylight, when I felt them.”



“Oh no.”

“Yeah. All over me. I get the feeling we’re on the same page with this.”

“No kidding. I’ll be honest–All God’s Creatures and all that, but ants? That one came from Below.”

“Knew it.”

“So, distracted by ants, you failed to notice the car was overheating?”

“Well, as much as I’d like to blame the ants for that one—and believe me, I do—the real culprit is something else. And it’s by far the craziest part of this story.”

“I am truly scared of what you’re about to say now.”


“…That’s not what I was expecting.”

“Someone had been rinsing the car’s engine with Coca-cola.”


“They later defended themselves by saying it was a DIY way to de-rust an engine.”


“And maybe it did, but when left on a hot engine block, it evaporated and caramelized into a sugary crust, causing the motor to overheat.”

“Ok, that—wow. I’m gonna need a sec. That’s just nuts. I mean, kinkajous, ants, and machete-jumping buffaloes, that’s nothing compared to this. Coke on a car engine? Where do people get this stuff?”

“I was just as floored as you, Pete.”

“Man. Anyway, I think I got the whole story now. Bummer how it ended up. Anyway, what happened to the kinkajou?”

“Oh, we got him down eventually.”

“How? Bait?”

“Nah. My coworkers concluded that the only way to re-capture the kinkajou without climbing the tree was to try to coax it down with a giant pole.”

“And where did they get a giant pole?”

“We were in the middle of an oil palm plantation, and the farmers there use these things called ‘ganchos’ to cut down the fruit. Huge scythes on the ends of giant poles. I guess they found one lying there.”

“But it didn’t work?”

“I guess something about a giant scythe coming at you out of the darkness was frightening, and instead of climbing down he lashed out at it. Which wouldn’t have been bad, exactly, except by doing so he slipped, caught his claws on the gancho, and got pulled right off the branch he was on.”

“That’s awful!”

“I’m not even finished! The gancho was forty feet long. With the added weight of a squirming, screaming kinkajou…”

“Oh no.”

“Yeah. It started whipping around. The little guy whirled through the air over our heads, holding on for dear life, while we tried to get him down.”

“My God. I can’t deal with this.”

“Well, is there someone else I could talk to?”

“You people…what is wrong with you people? I know the Book and Word can be a little unclear and contradictory at times, but this? I’m pretty clear where we stand on traumatizing baby animals. Not to mention what you did to that poor buffalo.”

“Hey, I already said, it was an—”

“But you know what? I can’t send you Down Below. Honestly, I’d actually feel bad. I mean, Satan is literally the Devil and all, but you? You’re clearly under some kind of curse. And I just can’t inflict that on anyone.”

“So where does that leave us…?”

“Gah…I really can’t make a habit of this, but just this once? Resurrection. I’m putting you right back where you where before you died.”

“Directly in front of a charging buffalo?”

“Only this time I want you to charge right back, look it straight in the eyes, and recount to it exactly what you told me: the full story for you being there. Only yell it at the top of your lungs.”


And that, my friends, is the excuse I offered when I was seen venting my frustrations for a ruined evening at an alarmed but very confused water buffalo around 8pm in the middle of a palm forest. Sorry, Asian water buffalo.

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