Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Familiars (1 of 3)

Most evenings, in the tiny sliver of time between supper and tub, I run out the back door to to check on the chicken ladies. I drop off any peelings or cucumber-end snack might be left from our meal, secure the coop, bring in an egg or two, etc. A little moment to myself before our bedtime routine/chaos. One night, for some reason, I waited until after the girls were both tucked in and quiet, so it was a bit later than usual. The sun was setting all pink and gorgeous. I had a glass of wine at the ready and some Parks and Rec on the Netflix queue. So, you know, it was gonna be a good night. As I approached, the chickens were bawk-bawk-bawking around their little enclosure and looked at me with some alarm. But they are ALWAYS alarmed, and ALWAYS bawking, so I thought nothing of it. I threw some spinach into the pen, and turned on the little flashlight app so I could poke around for eggs. And heard a rustling, crunching sound. I turned my light toward the sound. In the corner of the coop where the nest was that week, the light revealed a pile of really soft-looking glossy black fur. A cat in the coop? The fuck? I thought. And then the cat moved and showed me its equally soft looking glossy white-striped back because NOT CAT! SKUNK!!1!!!! SKUNK!!!!!11!1!11!11

Yes, ok. I live in Maine, but in the suburbs! Why are all the animals in my face all the time? Anyway, luckily, the skunk didn't register my presence, and continued crunching away at the egg pile.

I don't know if I have ever moved so quickly plus silently in my life, you guys. Without even knowing fully how I got there, I found myself in the middle of my back lawn, dialing Tim on the phone. I explained the situation and his words, his REAL ACTUAL WORDS were: Wow! Well, that's probably the worst thing that could happen, huh? Well...don't go back in, I guess? So...very...helpful. We agreed that he would block any potential entry points the following evening (we are doing a sort-of nesting deal, post forthcoming). I spent the next half hour googling "will skunks kill chickens." And finally realized the sheer force of my worry would not actually keep the skunk from killing my chickens, went inside and forced myself to have my relaxing evening. To brace myself against the possibility of returning to a coop full of headless birds the next day.

The skunk did not kill my chickens that night. Praise baby Jesus.

So. In the following weeks the skunk and I got into a routine. I would race out to the coop after bolting down my supper, collect any eggs, and race back inside. Every third night or so, I would leave the eggs there so the skunk enjoy a tasty snack that was not the blood of my flock. Sometimes the skunk would beat me to the coop and I would find nothing but empty shells. We even bumped into each other a couple of times but somehow I never got sprayed, and it never got spooked off.

And one night, while I was sitting on the back deck, I watched the skunk squeeze itself out from under the coop. You know how cats fit themselves into impossible spaces? It was like that, in reverse. Its narrow head stuck out of this teeny-tiny hole under the corner of the coop, and then the rest of its bulk shimmied out after. Twice the size of a housecat. Fluffy and silent. I watched the skunk squeeze itself into another tiny opening to get into the coop. The chickens didn't even raise an alarm. I stayed outside until the skunk went back into its basement apartment, and went in myself.

One evening not too long after that, our beloved Brooklyn friends were visiting. And suddenly there was a smell. A SMELL THAT YOU COULD TASTE. If you've never had the pleasure of experiencing REALLY fresh skunk spray -- well, it is...thick. And...oily. It clings to every part of the inside of your nose, pungent as fuck. It's otherwise indescribable. We had to close the windows. And the smell was still so strong that it kept me awake.

And the next morning, just up the street from my driveway, was the body of a skunk. Of course I can't confirm if it was "my" skunk. But. We have too many eggs, now.


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