A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004 :::
It's not that bad a smell, actually.

Skunk, that is.

That is, if you are a long way away. In fact, it is one of the things that confirms, for A Mind That Suits, that he is back in California. When the windows are open at night and that distinct odor, reminiscent of old typewriter ribbon, wafts through the windows, he smiles at the confirmation that he is back indeed in the Golden West, and that he was not the recipient of that particular blast.

Up close, you see, it is quite unbearable. In that concentration, it smells awwful, but what is much worse is what goes with it: something that makes it stick, and something that makes you unable to breathe.

He became intimately familiar with the distinctive odor when, as a lad, he briefly occupied a ranch in the then not-so-famous Napa Valley, along with a remarkable Labrador/Daschhund-mix named Dum-dum, because, well--to the extent that any of his neurons actually communicated with each other, they informed his mouth that a source of food was near at hand.

And he preferred it on-the-hoof. He was apparently impervious to pain--the only thing he learned from housetraining was to walk a few feet down the hall before doing his business, earning his eternal banishment to the great out doors, where food on-the-hoof was plentiful in the form of squirrels and, yes, Pepe Le Peu. In fact, his main value, aside from undying and unquestioning devotion, was that after a few years the ranch had no skunks, making life generally easier for the other inhabitants.

Except that before he eliminated them, he made sure we were familiar with their scent. As, for instance, when the paternal grandparents were visiting, and he decided to kill one of the striped beauties right outside the open sliding door of the guestroom at the exact moment that Granma Amelia decided to go to bed. Said Grandparents, who had probably not set foot outside the state of Connecticut except for two or three visits to their son's home in Florida, had been dubious of the advisability of a move to California, otherwise known as "the end of the earth." Dum-dum's efforts that night might have been the clincher, yet by that point they seemed reconciled to California because of the beauty of the place. The main effect of having her room filled with Eau de Pepe was to reduce Amelia and her younger grandson to giggles as he tried to blow the room out so she could get to sleep.

All of which is to say that a certain pudgy, balding English teacher knows skunks, and he knows that you rarely have to worry about them, as their main line of defense is to skeedaddle.

It's their second line of defense that you really gotta worry about.

And another thing that a certain pudgy, balding English teacher knows is what to expect on long walks on Stanford Campus, which is not much except the odd inconsiderate bicyclist. Reflecting on the Evening in Question, he realized that he had made some sort of long walk around the Farm 2000 times or more.

You see, On The Night in Question, after a productive night of reading and studying, he set out to relax as per usual with a 20 minute stroll around the dorm complex. He had barely set out when, in the trees between the sidewalk and the open lawn, he heard an animal start and freeze. Assuming it was a raccoon, which can be both bold and mildly dangerous, he turned to his left and saw...

Pepe's little cousin, tail raised and frozen, about 15 feet away. As it happens, A Mind That Suits was a few feet past the little tyke, who was not exactly sure where to aim and was pointing slightly in the wrong direction. So A Mind That Suits kept moving, reflecting that this was really strange skunk behavior. He must have been intent on his foraging or something, because they are usually long gone by the time any human shows up.

And so he made his way around the dorm, and was cutting along the path between a dilapidated volley ball court and yet another lawn when he heard the same distinctive sound of an animal starting and freezing. Yet again, a skunk, tail raised for the worst, perhaps 7 feet dead ahead.

And let us emphasize the words "dead ahead." For A Mind That Suits was getting the view that cats usually give you when they walk away upset. The skunk knew where to aim, and was ready to fire.

This is not the kind of situation you should wish on anyone except Howard Dean or Pat Buchanan. A few seconds of total motionlessness while a certain pudgy, balding English teacher contemplated what to do, and then slow deliberate steps backward until the Pierre--that's Pepe's cousin--felt safe and scurried off into the bushes, where he should have been long since.

It was almost certainly the same little guy, for a couple of reasons. Incident One actually took place 200 feet or so from Incident Two, as A Mind That Suits had assayed a short little walk around the block, not one of the epic, campus-wide ones that can take an hour or more.

And there was that odd bit of Pepe's little cousin's being startled. Skunks in open fields do NOT get startled. So it is hard not to think that the little guy was hard of hearing, which means, alas, that nature red in tooth and claw will take care of his hearing problem sometime soon, poor fellow.

But he will pass this world without causing A Mind That Suits to walk through the dorm smelling of Eau de Pepe.

And Dum-dum won't do him in, as the loyal little lunkhead went on to his final resting place many, many moon ago...only the memory of him with his food bowl in this mouth, trotting happily to where the fieldhands were eating lunch, always brings a little smile.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 11:20 PM



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What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

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