The first day it was just a momentary annoyance. As I was going out the door, I reached for them. They weren’t there. The man bag I usually keep them attached to was there, but they weren’t.

Okay, I have to stop saying “they.” It’s an “it.” It’s the key to my lipstick-red Prius, and it doesn’t look like a regular car key. Okay, I have to stop saying “my lipstick-red Prius” because she who bought it and owns it free and clear now and lets me drive it will be annoyed. It’s “our” lipstick-red Prius.

Growing up, we knew what a car key was, and it was usually on a key chain with other keys. Hence, the “they.” You almost never misplaced it, not for long, because the other keys were on it, like to the front door, so you kept it with you always. You kept it on a silver ring with a rabbit foot or the lucky plastic shamrock your daughter gave you.

But a Prius key is different. In fact it doesn’t look like a key at all. It looks like a minipod that might contain an alien. Actually, it does contain an alien, a tiny computer, an appendage of the car. The key and the car talk to each other. It’s kind of like the computer Hal that was almost human in “2001: A Space Odyssey” that talked to Dave the pilot.

“I’m sorry, Dave,” it said at one point, “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

The Prius, as we all know, talks like that. You can’t leave the key in the car and walk away. It beeps. “Sorry, J.P., I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.”

The second day I went to grab it, it still wasn’t there. So I asked she, who is reluctant to let me borrow a Kleenex, to borrow her key. She asked where mine was.

“I can’t find it.”

“Well, look for it.”

After four days of borrowing her key and searching everywhere for mine, it got intense. Together we searched. It wasn’t in the car because the car knows it isn’t there. It won’t start without it. They’re inseparable, you see, the car and the key, like Angelina and Brad and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. I knew it had to be somewhere at home, because I couldn’t have gotten there without it.

But the search divulged zip. Maybe when we were out together and she had her key, I lost it, but I wouldn’t know it because the car talks to her key, too. I canvassed each stop we made together, checked each lost and found, looked under the seats at the movie house. Zip.

It was getting serious, so I called Toyota and said I would need to have a duplicate made. This is where the real horror of the piece bubbles up. It turns out that to duplicate a Prius key, it would involve bringing the one that belongs to she who is now very annoyed to the dealership, where it would undergo a transfer message with the new blank key, sort of like a gene transfer.

The cost? Total: $450.

My brother’s old Ford? He started it by kicking it.

$450. Her response? “SAY WHAT?”

I knew how that would go down. This is from she who took six weeks to consider Showtime for an extra nine bucks a month.

So it looked like the rest of my life would be lowering my head and eyes each time I asked to borrow her key. And with her retirement in permanent place, the future looked bleak.

On the seventh day, she looked up from her book and said, “Did you look in the couch?”

“Of course.”

“Way down deep?”

I knew she was right. I had tossed the pillows and had given up.

I gave in and made another try. This time, going way down deep, so deep I could touch the rug, so deep I could see Jimmy Hoffa. My fingers touched something cold, something part metal and part plastic.

Not only was it the key, but there was a ten dollar bill, a one dollar bill and 87 cents in change. I gave her the key and pocketed the cash. Now I wouldn’t have to ask her for Showtime. Yea!

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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