As soon as mom and I walked through the front door, I said, “I smell a skunk!”
Living in the country it wasn’t uncommon. But in the living room?
Searching for the culprit, I glanced around the large, dimly lit room and spotted Leonard and Kenny hiding something on the couch. My brothers were always bringing critters into the house: frogs, snakes, spiders, grasshoppers; anything they could capture to throw on me or chase me around the house just to hear me scream.
“Okay, you guys,” I said, as I walked toward them. “What’s under the blanket?”
Like two little imps, they lifted the blanket, revealing three white-streaked, bushy-tailed baby skunks.
I’ve always wanted a baby raccoon or squirrel to raise. But a skunk? The thought never crossed my mind till that warm, Summer night over five decades ago.
After mom and daddy’s half-hearted consent, we put the skunks in a cardboard box, gave them food and water and took them outside to watch them play.
Oh, the plans that we made. We’d name them, care for them, and show them off to our friends. We’d be the envy of the neighborhood. The talk of the town. The kids with the baby skunks.
The next day, however, the charm of owning a skunk soon wore off, so I decided to give mine to my best friend, Florence, three years my senior and more experienced with caring for animals. After all, she took in every stray dog in the neighborhood. And besides, It was her birthday.
Carefully, I scooped the bushy-tailed critter in my hands and walked the quarter something mile to Florence’s house. I couldn’t wait to give her my sweet-sixteen-one-of-a-kind birthday present.
When Florence entered the room, I smiled and said, “I brought you a birthday present.”
She stopped dead in her tracks, her face transforming from a smile to a frown to full-blown confusion.
Not the reaction I expected.
“Come on, Florence,”I coaxed. “See how cute he is?”
Just as she was about to take him from me, from out of nowhere her mother yelled, “Get that thing out of my house!”
Mrs. Morganstern served four years in the Waves, had tattoos on both of her muscular arms, and was as intimidating as a drill Sargent. Not even the Godfather would have questioned her authority.
“I just wanted to give him to Florence for her birthday. Besides, he doesn’t have a stink bag yet.”
“GET THAT THING OUT OF MY HOUSE!”
She must have scared the little guy cause on the way home, he bit me. Not real hard, sorta like a hamster nibble.
Then he bit me again.
This time, he wasn’t fooling. I jerked my hand away and plopping on all fours to the ground, he raised his bushy tail and fired!
Suddenly, I was saturated with an indescribable, eyewatering, breathtaking stench of awful that I never want to smell up close again.
A normal kid would have left him there.
But I wasn’t a normal kid.
Covering my mouth and nose with one hand and grabbing him by the back of his neck with the other, I ran home, my arm outstretched like a one-winged airplane.
Confused and nearly blinded by the ghastly fumes, I staggered through the back door to find daddy sitting at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal.
A Clint Eastwood kinda guy, my dad never flinched as I stood there smelling worse than a cesspool with a baby skunk dangling from my hand.
As if needing an explanation, I whimpered, “He sprayed me, daddy.”
His face as sullen as a corpse, he dipped his spoon into his cereal bowl and calmly said, “You need to get him out of here.”
Hurriedly, mom stripped me down and threw away my clothes. I climbed into a tub of hot, soapy water and kept scrubbing and sniffing till my skin was raw and burning.
Finally, the stench was less obvious, but it would be weeks before I smelled like a human again.
That evening I went to Florence’s birthday party smelling like a skunk.
Everyone kept their distance from me but were gracious enough not to tell me I smelled like a skunk.
I was back in Mrs. Morganstern’s graces and never took another skunk to her house again.
My brothers and I set the skunks free.
And if someone ever tells you baby skunks don’t have a stink bag . . . don’t believe it!