The Way Things Are



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I went for an early-morning slog
2005-09-01, 1:53 p.m.

I went for an early-morning slog (stumbling jog, y’all) and since I am an observer of urban wildlife, I have an idea of what kind of animals to expect out there at what time of day, foraging for food, skulking about, and just generally enjoying the great outdoors. Kind of like me.

First: the bats are gone. No more bats flitting about the streetlights, swooping down to about thisclose above my head. Where do they go? Mexico? Yes, I think they have all made a run for the border.

Second: skunks. Earlier this week, I woke up super-early and was outside doing my little slog a few minutes before 5:00. Yes, in the morning. I have become my mother, but anyway. That early in the morning, the neighborhood is awash in skunks. Down in the drainage ditches, hanging out by the river, you name it. Just generally stinking the place up, and making me very, very nervous. I don’t trust them, not one little bit.

Third: cats. Cats entertain me because there they all are, hanging out by the side of the road, running back and forth as I approach. But I especially enjoy them when they freeze, and just watch me go by with their heads lowered and eyes narrowed a little bit. It’s as if their thought balloons are saying “Stupid human. Pttooo! If I hold still enough, it won’t even notice I am here.” So when I see a cat doing this, I say out loud (because that makes it all the more entertaining for me), um, I say out loud “I see you.” This breaks the spell, and the cat runs off and resumes its catty business.

This morning, I was thrown a curve. I could see a cat crouching next to a tree, very still, very quiet. As I approached, I told it “I see you,” as is my wont, and then, something NOT A CAT ran out at me. TOWARD ME. CHALLENGING ME. Scared the shit out of me, and I kept squealing out loud to it. “What ARE you! AHHHH! What is that? Go away? Shit!”

Turns out it was a skunk. In the dark, it took me a moment to figure that out. In fact, a trick of the light made it look first like (1) a very large rabbit (2) a feral pig (O how I wish), and then (3) a skunk.

What if that had been a rabid skunk? What if I had simultaneously been sprayed and bitten by a rabid skunk? Of course, in my panic, I forgot that I was holding a canister of mace/pepper spray/ultra violet blue dye spray. Lot of good that’s going to do me when something really happens. In the skunk’s case, the mace and pepper spray would have disabled him, and the blue dye would have allowed the police (because they have nothing better to do) to identify him later in a little skunky lineup.

Where was I? Oh yeah. What if I had had to fight off the rabid skunk, beating it to death on the side of the road while the early-morning commuter traffic passed by me, and then limp stinkily home to tell DW that I needed to go to the hospital for a round of rabies shots? What if, y’all? What if?

That would have been a very sucky day, that’s what if.

But THAT would have been a good day compared to the days the folks in New Orleans are having. I’m just keeping it all in perspective. $3/gallon gas and potentially fierce, rabid skunks? At least that’s all I have to worry about.

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