Skunk Karma, Part Two
This episode of Skunk Karma brought to you courtesy of Jane’s obsession with rocks. Not just the sparkly ones in our ears or on our ring finger, but the rocks Zeus hurled around when he was ticked.
If it were not for my rock addiction monopolizing every family vacation since the start of family vacations, it never would have happened. My Skunk Karma would have remained negated, and our future secured. When we called a family meeting to decide vacation plans, I arrived with visual aids. I thought I was being easy: I like all rocks. I’m not picky.
I like puzzle rocks:
Our house is full of rocks. (I try not to think of what this says about my head.)
The family mutinied. No rocks! Could we just have a plain vacation? Like with sand and stuff? Sun? Like normal people? How many times can you go to Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, anyway?
(FYI: A million kazillion.)
I swallowed my desire to lobby for Death Valley (sand and sun). Or Las Vegas: I could do the Valley of Fire while everyone else lounged poolside.
I smacked myself. Shut. Up. Have I really been that selfish?
We decide to camp our way down the Pacific Coast Highway. Be spontaneous. Go as far (or not) as we like.
I cheer up. Silently. Big Sur is that-a-way. (Nice rock.)
For reasons none of us remember, but probably involve getting insanely lost, we end up in the town of Folsom on the first night. Luckily, the owner of a really good rib joint (at which we stop for dinner) knows a nearby campground. It’s late. He calls for us: it’s still open. We write down the directions. First a right, then a left, go 2 miles past the sign that says “Folsom Prison” and it’s the first dirt road on the left, at the end of the razor wire.
I thought the name of the town was familiar.
We check in. It’s ten p.m. We try to pitch the tent in a spot next to the bathroom, using headlights for illumination. The ground is so hard we can’t pound the tent stakes in, and we have to keep moving the tent, angling for softer ground. I make an executive decision, and we pitch it smack up against a dead tree, whose roots must have loosened the soil. We angle the opening so we won’t trip over the tree coming out of the tent.
It’s midnight by the time we crawl near our sleeping bags. (It was 100 degrees) At 2 a.m. the person farthest from the door has to use the facilities. We all wiggle and grumble and complain despite falling back asleep before the door zipper finishes it’s Zzzzzzzt.
I’m dreaming that Johnny Cash is telling me he can’t sign an autograph now, because of the jail break, when I hear the shriek. I’m standing up with the Magnalight (billy club) flashlight in my hand, banging my head on the tent pole before I fully understand I’m not really talking to Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash is not outside in the dark feebly calling Help! in Shaun’s voice.
I do not turn on the flashlight. Better if I’m not a visible target for whatever is out there. I step out of the tent door, and stop dead, confronted by the sight of Shaun midway between tent and bathroom, trapped between two skunks. One skunk is sitting up like a rabbit in the lit doorway of the bathroom. The other is pacing a horizontal line back and forth between the tent and Shaun. It looks…intentional? Nah.
My Shaun is a city girl. Tough, fearless, and direct with people. She worked with inner city kids in Detroit, where the police won’t go. She’s talked a kid down who was holding a gun to her ribs.
But this is completely not her element. She’d have it handled if those were two gang bangers, instead of striped stinky rodents.
“Don’t move”, I say, quietly. “Don’t talk.”
I slowly walk a half circle around the standoff line, until I’m standing directly in back of her. Despite a little tail waving by the pacing skunk, there is no spraying.
“I’m going to turn on the flashlight, okay?”, I say, “Don’t. Move.”
“No! What are you going to do?”, she hisses at me, trying not to panic. “Please don’t scare them.”
“Trust me. It’ll be okay”, I say, hoping I’m right.
I point the flashlight next to my shoe and turn it on. The skunks blink, but don’t react. Good. I slowly raise the beam of light so it rests on the ground between the tent and pacing skunk. Get rid of that one first. The skunk scowls at the light. I move the beam a little closer, until the skunk is forced to back away or be blinded. I herd the skunk with the flashlight beam until it runs off down the hill. Skunk #2 stands uncertainly in the doorway, looking after skunk #1. I begin to herd it with the light, until it too, runs down the hill. I check out the bathroom, to make sure it isn’t some sort of Skunk Disco. Weird. Nothing.
I’m not sure what wakes me up in the morning. Light is streaming into the tent through all the open window screens. Everyone is asleep. I close my eyes, roll over toward the window. Zzz’s are just starting behind my eyes when something rubs up against the tent, pressing the material into my forehead. I open my eyes, and I’m eyeball to eyeball with a skunk.
“Shoo?” I ask.
The skunk stares at me, unblinking, then walks away.
5 minutes later, I’m sure it was a dream.
Shaun wakes up, determined to be cheerful: she bangs around on the camp stove, frying up sausages and eggs while I beg the water to boil for coffee. The kids slept through the entire Skunk-A-Thon. They’re off racing around the empty campground.
Just as the maple sausages start to smell done, a buzzing black cloud of yellow jackets burst out of a slit in the hill, and descend on the camp stove, causing Shaun to yelp, jump back, and drop the pan back on the stove. The kids are safely away. We run and hide in the bathroom. I’m talking HUNDREDS of meat-eating bees. Not a few scavengers. We let 5 minutes go by. Poke our heads out. The bees are gone. So is every scrap of food, including the entire paper towel the raw sausages were set on, and their plastic packaging. The pan looks scrubbed. A few bees dart searchingly around the picnic table.
This is turning into the camping trip from Hades. It’s 110 degrees, we’re camping next to a prison, deranged skunks won’t let us use the bathroom, and meat eating bees just made off with half of our food supply.
We pile into the car, and head into Folsom for breakfast. We’ll come back, break camp, and get the heck out of Dodge.
When we pull into the campsite again, I have to restrain the kids from opening the doors.
Six skunks are lined up in front of the dead tree next to our tent, staring at our car. Two adults, four adolescents. They look cranky.
That’s when I notice a sliver of shadow on the ground under the tent, partially hidden by the dead tree. Oh. Crap. I dropped a house on their house. They couldn’t get in the front door. They were up all night, and most of the next day. That’s it. Skunk Karma for all eternity. I’m doomed.
They were definitely planning an eradication of the pests.