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In the grand scheme of things, and filed under Things You Do Not Want To Hear From The Mom, is that she has skunks in the backyard.

When she emailed me to share the exciting (terrifying?) news, I replied in ALL CAPS:

YOU DO NOT GO OUTSIDE NOW. YOU AND THE PARAKEET STAY INSIDE. YOU DO NOT GO AND LOOK FOR MR SKUNK. YOU DO NOT GET CURIOUS AND GO AND SEE. MR SKUNK IS DEAD TO YOU.

ALSO: PLEASE STOCK UP ON TOMATO JUICE BEFORE THE INEVITABLE HAPPENS.

Because it is 100% plausible, nay likely, that The Mom and Mr Skunk will meet under less than ideal circumstances.

Look, I know what she’s like, The Mom.

There she’ll be, in a flap about meeting someone, in a flap about being late, in a flap about any number of flap-inducing things, and she’ll think to herself: I’ll just go and feed the birds. And that’ll be her done.

She’ll shuffle out in inappropriate footwear that she keeps at the back door for this express purpose (and also, or so I tell myself, to keep from missing me as when I’m home, there’s a pile of shoes at the back door she is required to trip over – I like to think each time she trips on something at home, she thinks of me). And she’ll step out onto the deck. She will realise it’s dusk and thus prime time for Mr Skunk. She will tell herself she will be cautious and that All will be Well.

Which is plainly a lie.

There is literally no good whatsoever that can come from this.

Because soon as you know it, she’ll have dumped the contents of the seed bucket into the bird feeder, and will hear some kind of creature rustling about in the bushes. She will approach cautiously – which is where things will start to unravel. Apace.

Because she is approaching with caution she’ll think that Mr Skunk knows this and will also proceed with curious caution. Which is not at all true of Mr Skunk. He does not know The Mom, nor will he have to hear about the horrible tale of The Time She Got Sprayed ad nauseam for ever and ever. But, The Mom being herself, will think that somehow a cloak of caution envelops her and thus insulates her against any unpleasant smells derived from being sprayed by a skunk.

Inevitably, she will peek a foot too far, and Mr Skunk will see her and spray her, and then shuffle back into the bushes or under the neighbour’s shed – where, if Crazy D and The Mom are to be believed, is some kind of Watership Down megapolis , populated by all manner of creatures big and small. In some ways, this is entirely reasonable – they do live under the shed these critters, and what else is a shed but a place to put all of the random outside things? It’s as though it were calling to them.

Meantime, The Mom will be standing on the deck, stinking so badly not even the easy going American neighbours would have much to do with her, and she will be laughing. Hysterically. Because she is fairly au fait with skunk sprayings as her old dog was a frequent target, as was Crazy D. This would not be her first skunk bath, nor will it be her last.

She will go and free her tins of tomato juice from her various stashes scattered about the house – not unlike a squirrel in that way – and she will take the plunge. And in the morning, she will still smell the skunk, and quite possibly for another year or so there will be moments when the wind is blowing just right when she’ll sniff the air and say, “I smell skunk.”

Once she smells the echo of her skunk debacle, there will be no reasoning with her. It will infect every aspect of the day. The rest of us will know immediately that the day is ruined, and this will make it even harder to get through the day with her. the smart ones amongst us will beat a hasty retreat, staring intently at mobile phone screens, muttering about work, and having to call ‘A Guy’ back urgently.

Me, I shall be stuck with The Mom as together we sniff around the house in search of the tiny bit of skunk smell that remanis.

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