Black n White

Me cleaning the house and straightening the bedroom in particular, with new sheets and all, was not a wasted effort, no matter what. And doubly worth it, just in case. But I didn’t want to jinx things or get ahead of myself, because Erika said she’d not be one to rush stuff. 

She was cute, smart and certainly high end for me, teaching elementary school and German on Saturdays. Our two coffee convos clicked, never at a loss for laughs, similar movie and music disses and likes, gung-ho about some sports, hang-low about others, both a dash of artsy and outdoorsy. I felt optimism rise.

So we migrated to a first casual dinner at Georgia’s. She overdressed in a knee-length dress which was nice. I put myself out on a limb which I’d normally never do because it left me exposed and vulnerable. “Let’s go for a nightcap at my house,” I ventured.

“OK,” Erika smiled.

I pulled in the garage. “What was that?” she said over the rumble of the closing door behind us. Something snuck in…”

“Huh?” said I and got out. Vicious hissing reverberated from the walls. I was dead certain this was not an area for mountain lions.  I slammed my door shut and motioned her to stay in, as I stepped around the car, guardedly, and faced the most vile, hairy-faced monster, with darting eyes and a black and white, bushy, upright tail. Instant traces of the known evil bouquet began penetrating nostrils and more. Triple-holy-fuck! I vaguely surmised that they spray with their butts. Don’t let it turn around, don’t let it turn around. Hyperventilating I grabbed a rake from against the wall, employing it as my flawed shield, while retreating toward the mounted garage door button. Up, my trembling fingers asserted, and the door mercifully grumbled its way north.

Erika was not entirely aware of the peril and pressed her door open. “No!” I screamed and she immediately shut it.

Logic would have the foul invader scoot right out and I’d emerge a hero.

But I heard its claws scraping on the concrete floor by or underneath the car.

Should I just hop in, back the Kia out, like a white flag of surrender? We might even luck out, squash it, laugh it off and worry about the mess later.

I bent and swiped the rake as far as it went under the car when the first burst of assault struck all my senses all at once. I just about keeled over.

I dropped the rake, escaped to the door into the house smacking it shut behind me. I sniffed my hands, arms, pant legs, likely no direct hit but couldn’t be sure anymore. A trembling mess, I fingered my phone and called her. “Erika, just stay put, I’ll call… I don’t know… Pest Control.”

“Geez, I can’t…” She sounded just below livid.

“Please hang on,” I said.

“Your car… it’s putrid, I’m about to…”

“Cover your nose with… something,” I said. Not helpful, I knew it, but nothing came to mind. “I gotta call.” I disconnected. “Siri, find Emergency Pest Control.”

To have to leave an urgent message on a machine was the slow-burning equivalent of a gut punch.

Next, 911 to the rescue. “Rabies, for all I know,” I added ominously for some needed extra heft. They were full of questions. They’d get somebody over.

I flipped the porch light on and ran out the front door.

The garage was still lit, the reek overwhelming, a frenetic, delirious skunk quivering on its hind legs against her door confirming my rabies theory. “Blow the horn!” I yelled. And she did, the echo was maddening, the fracas enough to compel running off. The vermin scurried to the back in-between the array of unruly bins and boxes where we’d never find it.

She stopped the blaring. “I need to get out,” I heard her plead.

“The police are coming,” I shouted.

“And what?” she gasped, “shoot it?”

“Just wait it out a little is all I’m saying.” The critter surely stood nestled back out of sight probably reloading its aroma glands. I felt a headache mushrooming.

A cop car pulled in the driveway mere minutes later. A solo officer, heavyset, fifties, turned off the flashing lights, just the high beams on. Which was a good thing right as the garage light went dark.

Erika’s face looking back was a freakish white.

“Mr. Devin, Doug Devin?” the officer said, “What have we got here?”

“My friend, she’s stuck in my car. The skunk’s in hiding in the back.”

“Well, we left word with animal control. Not sure how soon they show. Did it foam at the mouth? Not sure if that’s what they do. Growly? Bitey attitude? That sort of thing?”

“Yeah,” I confirmed. “What do we do now?” I asked.

“I dunno. Wait it out or make a run,” he said. Totally useless. “Nobody got hurt?”

“Not yet,” I said.

“They don’t mean nothing by it, you know?” His nose was crinkled. “It’s just their ingenious, God-given defense.”

We got us a philosopher cop, I thought. What preachy bullshit. “You want to come out, Erika?” I shouted. It was going to be three against one.

She opened the door, took a first probing, tepid step. I wished she’d rush, but saying so would get her more agitated. She pushed herself up in the open frame right as we heard distinct accelerating rustling sounds from the back with all the impact of a dislodged avalanche about to barrel toward us. We did what one does at a moment of highest distress, we ran into the night. Ten feet past the cruiser we stopped, totally freaked. The gall of a batshit badger In the nighttime. I couldn’t be sure it had come out after us, never heard it escape.

Erika shook me off as I tried to hug. “Can you take me home?” she asked. Not of me, but the officer.

Technically, a blow-up date can clear the air or collapse in an ash heap of pixie dust.

Erika texted the next day. She was too upset to talk.

The shtinktier… is a bad omen I can never get out of my head. Goodbye Doug.

That was it. I was beyond pissed. Stink animal, was what it meant. She didn’t take my call. One try. The remnant puke smell from the two neat piles she’d left on the car floor dissipated in days. The Kia underbody was another story, an overpowering funk that would take several more runs through the carwash. Its sensory memory remained.

I forged a plan centering on a perfect single long-stem rose for twelve bucks. I was about to put myself out on a limb again which I’d normally never do. I took it over and rang the bell.

She opened with a vehemence that forecast an imminent slam. “I’m not…” she said in a shriek that turned startled by the lone flower I held up. …about to waste my time with you, was the sentiment I read on her stalled lips.

Flustered yet undeterred I said what I’d rehearsed, “We did what usually takes months.”

“What?” Her eyes did a squirmy, little squint. 

“We got the first big stink out of the way…”

“That’s’s not an accomplishment,” she countered.

“It usually takes months of fun and comfort together till a first fart rips — and everybody lives. Now all we need is catch up on the fun part.”

She shook her head as in how lame was that. Her nose got distracted. There were the powers of the rose.