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 Skunk - The Worst Case Scenario
Michael Hillman

Being at sea for months at a time, submarine officers have plenty of time to think up scenarios about the worst calls they could make to the captain, such as:

Officer: "Captain, sorry to wake you but I just wanted to inform you that the fire is out."

Caption: "Fire! What Fire! What's the status of the reactor????"

Officer: "Well sir, as near as we can tell, it’s shut down."

Caption: "As near as you can tell?!!! What do your indications say?!!!"

Officer: "Um, um, I'm sorry sir, I can't get to them right now."

Caption: "Why not?"

Officer: "Because of the flooding sir."

Caption: "What Flooding?"

Officer: "The flooding that put out the fire sir."

Caption: "Is the flooding under control?!!!!"

Officer: "Well . . . we did get the flooding stopped, but not before the sub sank . . . "

Fortunately I never had to make such a call during my submarine days, however, my married days are another story . . .

It all began innocently enough. Audrey had recently begun a new series of horticulture classes and was fretting over having to drive home late at night, only to return the next day to school. To me the solution was obvious . . . stay with friends. After all, what could possibly go wrong in one night?

Having just returned from Government Senior Executive charm school, which is another story in itself, I eventually convinced Audrey that I could be trusted alone for one night. With a skeptical look on her face, she pulled out of the driveway and headed to school, praying that once, just once, she might not return home to a catastrophe.

As the dogs and cats had gathered around to listen to the debate, I figured this was a good opportunity to let them all know that this time I meant business. I had no sooner started to address them all when Charlie took off after the barn cat. The remaining cats scattered for the high hills, and PJ, my trusty Jack Russell, headed for the cat food bowls. Only Kess, who I affectionately describe as having only one synaptic nerve, which often misses, sat patiently waiting for instructions -- so much for my first five minutes in command.

Surprisingly, the evening went event free, that is of course, if you ignore the unscheduled cat chases, unauthorized climbing on furniture, and the wild tizzy fit that followed the crossing of the kitchen by an unfortunate mouse. But for the most part, things were fairly quiet.

Around 11:00 p.m. I headed out to the barn to check on the horses, which also served as the last opportunity for the dogs to get in one last good sniff. While in the barn, I heard Kess let out a bark. Hearing no more, I paid no attention and continued checking the stalls. As I returned to the house, I noted that Kess was stopping every few feet to rub her face. Figuring that she was just being silly, I paid no attention it. Having forgotten wood, I shushed Kess in and returned to the barn. It was then that I got my first whiff of the skunk.

In the short interval it took me to retrieve an armful of wood, Kess managed to rub against every piece of furniture in my study. The smell was so bad that, after depositing the wood, I had to rush back outside. Unfortunately, even this wasn’t much help, as the skunk, to show its displeasure with Kess, had begun to circle the house, spraying everything that crossed its path. Which unfortunately, now included me.

Returning to the house, I tried to coach Kess back outside, but as she had by now gone to bed, she would have none of this. As I reached the limit of my ability to hold my breath, I finally simply picked her up and headed to the barn. PJ thought this an excellent opportunity to eat the cat food.

Kess was none too pleased with my attempts to give her a bath. About all I accomplished was getting myself soaking wet and Kess royally pissed off. The water having made her smell even more pungent, I opted to lock her up in the barn for the night, much to the dismay of the horses.

Back in the house, I faced the daunting task of ridding the house of the odor. I quickly set about putting outside everything Kess had touched, even so the house still reeked. I then began to frantically search for an air freshener. Every closet, nook, and cranny was searched, but no air freshener was found. In desperation, I grabbed a can of lemon-scented Pledge and sprayed till it was empty. The house smelled like ‘lemon scented skunk furniture polish.’ I finally couldn’t stand it any more and ran back outside . . . and promptly tripped over the skunk.

Frustrated, fatigued, and hopeless, I climbed into bed. Squeak, one of our two indoor cats, thought this an appropriate time to cough up a hairball.

I rose early the next morning and surveyed the damage. The house looked like it had hosted the Russian army’s World War II 50th anniversary party. I showered till the hot water ran out and tried to find some clothes that wouldn’t reveal the night’s disaster. When I open the doors to the barn, I was greeted by four highly perturbed horses, all wearing gas masks. Kess, the perpetrator of it all, wiggled in joy at seeing me and, before I could stop her, she rubbed against me. I showered until the cold water ran out.

In order to breathe, I found it necessary to keep all the windows open on my drive to work. Needless to say, I arrived at work rather invigorated. Unsure if others could smell the skunk on me, I cautiously approached my secretary, whose back was turned. At fifteen feet, I saw no response. At ten, her nose began to twitch. As I closed to five, she put her hand over her mouth and turned to identity the source. My other secretary simply gagged and ran away. It was obviously going to be a long day.

Returning home early, much to the happiness of my co-workers, I once again turned my attention to ridding the house of the smell of the skunk. I toyed with the idea of lighting scented candles in every room, but the thought of potpourri-scented skunk gave me pause to think. Smoke! That’s the ticket I thought. Having fought for years with a smoky fireplace, I knew first hand just how pungent smoke was.

The wood-burning stove was quickly restocked and a fire lit. Once the fire was firmly established, I opened the door and closed down on the damper. The room soon began to smell like hickory, and I congratulated myself on my brilliant idea. As the aroma began to diffuse throughout the house, I turned my attention to restoring order.

I managed to work my way as far as the kitchen, when I heard the sound of a log hitting the floor. My first thought was that the cats were playing in the woodbin, but the puff of smoke that emerged from the study told me something else was the culprit. Ducking below the thick smoke layer, I searched frantically for the fireplace tongs while simultaneously stamping out the sparks shooting off the log that had rolled out of the stove.

By the time I had returned the log to its rightful place and extinguished the last of the smoldering spots on the couch, the house had filled with smoke. PJ thought this a good time to eat the cat food.

I was sitting outside, with a very bloated PJ, thinking of what could happen next, when Audrey returned.

"Hi, everything go all O.K.?"

"Just another typical day home alone on the farm. Um . . . do you remember that submarine officer joke I once told you . . ."

Read other Humor stories by Michael Hillman

Read other stories by Michael Hillman