July 1, 2011 by Kat Richter
Ladies and gentleman, we have skunks. I should have known that an afternoon with my grandparents would provide me with more than enough material to tide me over until I finish reading all of your comments (and figure out how to continue writing about relationships without jeopardizing mine).
So we’re sitting in the Amish food court at Columbus Flea Market in New Jersey eating pretzel dogs—not because we ourselves are Amish but because the Amish make the best food at the flea market—when my grandfather casually drops into conversation the arrival of five new “creatures” in their back yard.
“What kind of creatures?” my mother demands.
My grandparents, you see, will “rescue” anything that comes within a 500-foot radius of their back porch. Most recently, it was a pair of feral cats and judging by the variety of wildlife on view in their back yard, I’m pretty sure they spend the majority of my grandfather’s pension on bird seed and peanuts.
He dodges the question but my mom’s just as stubborn as he (she is his daughter after all) and eventually the truth comes out: Skunks. Five of them.
“Five?” I exclaim. I’m fascinated. “Have they sprayed you?”
“They’re not fully… equipped yet,” my grandfather explains. He then proceeds to spend the next fifteen minutes telling us all about these new creatures: where they live (“In a hole that one of the ground hogs dug. Do you know how smart ground hogs are?”), how well they respond to cat food (“They come running right over when I put the chicken breasts out for them!”), how they’ll walk right up to you (“Not like the chipmunks. Chipmunks run away”), how they can’t possibly drink water from the stream (“Because there’s a ledge. They’d fall in and the turtles would eat them”) and finally how they came to be orphaned in the first place (“Road kill. You know how those crazy people drive around there… you see a lot of skunks end up as road kill.”)
Apparently he’s an expert on skunk fatalities all of the sudden.
I can tell my mom is starting to get concerned (“You feed the cats chicken breast? And now you’re feeding these skunks? Directly? Are skunks even supposed to eat chicken breast?”). My grandmother, for her part, keeps rolling her eyes as though she’s had nothing to do with the growing menagerie in the back yard.
It falls upon me to ask the obvious question: Have you named them?
If he has, it’s all over. They’ll be living under my grandfather’s bed within a week of their christening.
If he hasn’t, however, it’s okay. They’ll remain outdoors—albeit spoiled and unable to live on their own.
“Named them?” he asks in disbelief. “Of course not. You can’t tell them apart.”
But five minutes later I hear the word “Blacky.”
“Who’s ‘Blacky’?” I demand.
“One of the skunks. He looks a little bit different than the others. He has a big black stripe. Maybe when you go home you can look on that machine—the computer—and see what we should be feeding them?”
Before I know if, I’m googling “skunk food” on my Droid.
(And just in case you were wondering, baby skunks are called “kits” and you’re supposed to feed them dog food, not cat food.)