A Family of City Skunks (Holds Strange Company)

I met a neighbor tonight. She inquired about a family of skunks that lives in and around the parking lot two doors down from our house as I was outside with my cat.

Seven years ago, on fourth of July weekend, her dog pulled her into that same parking lot, running away from fireworks. She broke her wrist and carries the scar of the dead dog with her still.

“There’s not just skunks around here,” she said. “There’s raccoons and possums — that’s what scares me.”

Years ago, “a hundred or so,” she was an art professor at Princeton, though she maintained a residence in the city. That changed when she required more room for her art studio. Still located a few doors down from us, she says the neighborhood has changed.

“Across the street, that used to be tenements, and a doctor owned your building….. I don’t trust doctors,” she continued. “My father was one at NYU, and when he died, a hundred or so years ago, he said he only trusted one doctor at the hospital,” she continued.

“I think most doctors these days only see through the eye of the needle. They’re not here to diagnose the whole body. They just isolate the problems.”

I tell her that I’ve spent more money on x-rays for the cat than I have for myself, and she inquires what the cats name is. “Goose,” I say, “after the Top Gun character.” She nods that she knows the movie, and then says that a hundred or so years ago, she once read that pets understand humans better if you speak in a falsetto voice.

Suddenly, a skunk appeared in the parking lot. Together, we attempted to call Goose out of the parking lot; her using a falsetto voice and me clapping, as Goose remained, staring puzzled at us both.

Sensing our presence, the skunk retreated back into the fenced area, and I grabbed Goose, picking him up and saying that it was time to go before we all got sprayed by a skunk.

“It was nice meeting you,” she said. And I replied with the same. We never even shook hands or introduced ourselves, but I won’t soon forget that our chance meeting essentially happened because of a family of skunks.