Thursday, August 31, 2006


There are precious few things in this old world that I truly despise, or dare I say it . . . hate. Prejudice, racism, greed, jealousy, envy and the like are obviously disturbing, but they are not the point of this missive. Miscommunication, misunderstanding and hormonal imbalance really mess with my psyche, but these natural wonders of matrimonial bliss are merely part of refining my male spirit. My primary complaint with the world and its various inhabitants, at this particular time, affects a more basic sense; the olfactory.

Navajo Folk Art

What brought this black and white topic of complaint to pungent light was a circumstance that occurred the other night. It was late in the evening as I wheeled the truck onto the concrete driveway of our home. A delightful mid-summer's eve was developing; deep dusk had settled in cool and comfortable. I was mentally preparing myself to drag out the over-sized plastic lounge chair and settle in for a relaxing stint on the refreshing lawn my wife has provided us. As I crested the hump in the driveway and came to a stop, my headlights revealed a disturbing scene.

Captured in the blue-white spotlights was my daughter Alyssa. The odd thing was that she seemed frozen in time. Her left hand covered her mouth and the right shielded her nose. It looked as if Alyssa was rooted in place like a blonde garden ornament; not a muscle twitched. As my mind searched out an explanation for this mysterious circumstance, my nose and, shortly thereafter, my eyes solved the riddle.

Gasping for breath, the musky stench overwhelmed me and I was nearly blinded by an almost instantaneous flush of tears. I grasped the shift lever to ram the truck in reverse, but quickly realized it was too late; the damage had already been done and I could not abandon Alyssa to her fragrant fate. I exited the truck and approached my stricken daughter. "SKUNK!", she stammered as she turned to face me. Tears ran freely from Alyssa's blue eyes, and a choking, gasping sound raggedly escaped her throat. Talk about overstating the obvious! "What the heck happened?", I coughed out. The answer was all too clear.

It seems Alyssa, along with her sister McKale and her brother Spenser, were spending the evening indoors, watching a made for television movie. My wife, Laurie, had left instructions to water the garden in her absence. The moment a commercial interrupted the show, Alyssa hopped up and sprinted out the back door to do her horticultural duty. It just so happened that the neighborhood bad boy had stopped in to dine on refreshments Laurie had left out for our local feral cat population. My wife has a soft spot for the homeless and malnourished critters that lurk about the region.

As Alyssa blew out the back door, the skunk, caught by surprise, turned on a dime and "high tailed" it out of there. The resulting expulsion permeated the entire area. Alyssa, miraculously, missed being thoroughly odorized by the beast, but was caught in the downdraft as, to my chagrin, was I. I had arrived just in time to miss the actual event, but still attract that most distinctive odorant. Alyssa pointed in the direction of Laurie's flower garden and said, "It went in there!" I narrowed my gaze and scowled in the direction she indicated, "Then back away slowly!" was my reply. "No!", said Alyssa, "I have to change the water and it may be in the garden."

Startled, I looked closely at my daughter and wondered if overpowering odor can adversely effect conscious mental function. I questioned her closely, "I thought you said it went into the flower garden, not the vegetable patch?" "Well it might be in there, I'm not sure!" she stammered. I walked back to the truck and pulled it forward to highlight the garden, got out and went with Alyssa to change the water. I was not sure whether a skunk can spray twice in such a short period, but I wanted to see it coming if possible. Just then Laurie walked up the driveway, saw us in the headlights, sniffed and said, "What is going on here?". "Skunk!" Alyssa and I said in tandem.

At this point McKale and Spenser came outside. McKale said, in her best Valley Girl imitation; "O' MaGosh! Everything smells really bad!" Spenser was rubbing his eyes and sputtering, trying to extricate the rank taste from his mouth. Stepping forward, I informed my family that I was going to get my shotgun and sweep the streets clean of these pungent pests. The skunk had thoughtlessly evacuated its scent glands upon our lives, thus initiating the need for aggressive action. "No!" said Laurie, "The only reason the skunk let loose is because it felt threatened and you are not going to endanger the entire populace, not to mention the children and me, by shooting up the neighborhood." That darned James Herriot attitude of honoring all creatures great and small is constantly getting in the way of my repercussive tendencies.

Spenser stood there smirking, he was enjoying my being dressed down and disarmed far too much, so I turned my frustration towards him. "This is a prime example of what I am always telling you son. Sharing the ozone with others is a responsibility one must take seriously; leaving behind volatile fumes when you exit the scene is not nice." That night we slept with Vicks VapoRub beneath our noses and I with a growing sense of hostility towards those black and white interlopers in my heart.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

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