I was just standing there, minding my own—
Well, not standing, but I was minding my own business.
A cool front had migrated, meandered, and oozed out of the northern plains overnight, dropping the morning temperature down to 70 or so, with a humidity to match. I needed to walk, so I got up at 0530 and set off (after petting, watering, giving ice to, petting, tidying up after, and petting Athena T. Cat.) The birds were just starting their serenade, and no cars moved. I took a longer route through the area around RedQuarters, seeing what houses were for sale, which had sold, if there were any new flowers, how the house with the Cottage! Garden!!!* was doing, and so on.
Some scattered clouds added a bit of color to the dawn, but not too much. I listened to some brisk walking-pace music and trotted my rounds, working up a bit of a moisture layer. A few dogs barked, and the doves, western kingbirds (aka “intersection flycatchers”) and Mississippi kites were up and about. Two male kites were sparring and tail-chasing, and circled me a few times as I strode up the street. I didn’t smell anyone drying laundry, but several people had smokers going. One person had used far too much lighter fluid to get his/her/its fire started. I could smell it for the entire block.
A few cats moved, or just sat and observed the world rotating around them.
I turned onto the street that would lead me to the road to RedQuarters. One of the usual dogs went off, but otherwise it was birds and me. I stayed alert, looking left and right, because of dogs and drivers. I caught a glimpse of motion off to my right, in an alley. The motion crossed the alley on the diagonal and came toward me, trotting at a brisk pace. It proved to be a low, black shape. With two. White. Stripes. Mephitis mephitis.
There’s an intriguing time lag between when the analytical part of the brain quietly observes, “Oh, look, it’s a skunk,” and when the survival part of the brain yells, “SKUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNK!!!”
I did not run. I accelerated to a wogging pace is all. Really. For an entire block. Just in case.
*It is an amazing, riotous jumble of flowers that no one else seems to be able to grow, and it overflows the small fences around the place. No one minds. That garden, too, are easing into the summer lull that is July and early August. Lots of milkweed, though. That’s good.
You have to walk downhill to escape a skunk. It’s all in the de-scent.
My father and teenaged brother went camping in a local Missouri state park. They set up their tent in a quiet cul-de-sac at the back of the campground. As dusk descended, a truck hauling a camper pulled in on the other side of the campground. Two couples got out, and after loud discussion the two women retired to the camper, while the men drove off in pursuit of entertainment.
In the wee hours of the morning the truck came roaring into the campground. Lights blazed and loud and acrimonious discussion ensued. Then one of the men started shouting, “Here kitty, kitty! Here, kitty, kitty!”
My brother couldn’t resist temptation. He stuck his head out of the tent door.
“Here kitty, kitty! Here, kitty, kitty!”
“Dad! Dad! It’s a SKUNK!”
“Here kitty, kitty! Here, kitty, kitty…Oh MY Go…!”
But but… That poor little skunk just wanted to be your Familiar!!!! [Crazy Grin]
But Athena T. Cat has final approval on all Familiar and UnFamiliar beasts, any that dare disturb the world axis which revolves around her and her alone …
Hmm, does that mean 3 cats act as an auto-stabilizing gyro for space?
Since cats are the Masters of the Universe…
But how would they then play the game of Car and Dragon?
You may need to get all three as kittens. Cats are notoriously territorial, and once once of them has claimed all of the at least three axes required as part of their territory…
I imagine there are worse surprises than pulling the plug on gated pipe, and having a dead and decomposed skunk come flowing out the end.
But it’s certainly up there. The spray being released to air plus the waterlogged rot is overwhelming.
Luke, I think you’ve written the second most terrifying horror story I’ve read to date. Congrats.
To be fair, there was a good amount of comedy, too. I was standing a good ten feet away, so the wave had diluted a magnitude or three by the time it hit me.
I’d probably have laughed at the poor bastard who the plug.
If I could have.
In college my roomie and I lived in an old house that had been converted into four apartments. Several garbage cans lined the alley fence for pickup by the city. After dark, about 10 pm or so, roomie decides to take our trash out to the alley for disposal. Monsieur Le Pew was just scavenging for food and did not take kindly to having a can of trash dumped on top of him. Fortunately our trash can took the brunt of the assault although roomie’s new ski jacket took a hit as well. Much tomato juice later. the trash can was rescued (though I was willing to sacrifice it). Roomie got his jacket clean enough to wear and bring into the apartment. Though if you put your nose up to the affected sleeve you could still detect a faint eau de skunk. We never emptied the trash after dark from then on and also warned the other tenants of the malodorous neighbors.
I have heard of an amateur astronomer out with his ‘scope and this creature comes up and rubs around his legs… he figures the cat was out and gave it pets… and eventually packed up… went inside… and saw the sleeping cat.
Given the number of cats in my neighborhood, and how wrapped up I used to get when I could do back-yard astronomy . . . I can easily imagine that happening.