Well, Brenda & I just celebrated our one year anniversary in the new suburban home, and back in April we got a barbecue grill & patio furniture, so by now we’re getting pretty used to the idea of sitting outside and watching the sun go down, listening to the wind rustle the trees, sipping a beverage of our choosing, munching burgers. It’s all so suburban. After seven years on the fifth floor of a walkup apartment in Hoboken, this is really quite nice.

However, while the police sirens and bass-booming cars have been eliminated, I am faced with a new and cunning enemy. Nature.

While raised in the suburbs of New York City and Philadelphia, I am a city boy at heart. I moved to the city immediately after college and lived in cities until I decided that easy access to a barbecue grill was more important than proximity to museums. Well, that and the fact that we were drawn to the idea of being able to afford to purchase a home with, say a roof and more than 500 square feet. Anyway, urban, rental existence means one is shielded from many things country folk are used to, such as swarms of mosquitoes which descend on my backyard and hover around my head each evening just as I’m settling in and thinking “gee, this is really quite nice”. We have these little flies that hone in on my ears and make this shrill buzzing sound, taunting me, saying “go back to the city, we don’t want your kind around these parts”.

So, as is my wont, I told Brenda that I was prepared to spray all manner of harmful chemicals into the air, pour gasoline into the grass, and purchase a flamethrower, to stave off the winged menace. Brenda, being Brenda, recently bought a couple of oil lanterns, and—bless her—citronella infused lamp oil. OK, I figure I can give that a shot, before resorting to more aggressive methods.

Well, last night we tried ‘em out. They work! So help me god, they work. Brenda filed a complaint about the”gassy” smell of the lamps, but the ecological impact of my aforementioned alternative caused her to recant. My usual skittishness had all but disappeared. The bugs were at bay.

And then there was a rustling in the bushes right next to our patio.

Perhaps I should tell you now that there are five baby skunks living in the woods that start about thirty feet from our patio. Now, even with the new oil lamps, it’s pretty dark behind our place. Especially in the bushes. Lacking a visual confirmation, we initially wrote off the rustling as just some rogue wind stirring the foliage. But still, those skunks were out there, somewhere. And aren’t they nocturnal creatures? Damned if I know. I went to get the flashlight.

Upon my return, Brenda was already creeping around the edge of our patio, our little piece of turf seemingly getting smaller by the second. Suddenly she jerked upright, eyes like saucers, and goes “it IS a skunk!”. “I told you we needed a flamethrower”, I said, which did nothing to help the situation. Lacking a suitable weapon, I shined my flashlight at the wretched beast, pretending it was a light saber that had magical skunk repellent properties. Eventually he slinked off down the lawn and into the woods. But the whole time he seemed to say, I’ll be back”. Ready to go out in search of an all-night guns & ammo store, it took considerable effort from Brenda to get me to remain Out There, in the nature’s arena. I once again felt like I have no business being out there.

About these damned skunks. It seems as though a mommy skunk spit out five baby skunks, and then was promptly killed by a car. The poor babies are left to their own devices, in the woods behind my house. (P.S. Lest you conjure up visions of a garden paradise, it should be known that these “woods” are a scant ten feet deep, and barely camouflage a Conrail cargo train line, which is the subject of a whole other series of posts.) This is all information that was relayed to me by Mercedes, the animal control TRAINEE from a neighboring town who was dispatched at the request of our neighbor a few doors down, who has taken quite a liking to these monsters. Seems as though the neighbor saw a big dead skunk on the road leading to our place, and ever since she’s seen five (count ‘em, five!) little babies scamping about in our common backyard. She’s also been leaving food out for these creatures, which I feel is a bad idea. I thought bringing Animal Control into the picture would be a good thing, but it wasn’t. First of all, the “town” I live in has no animal control division, so we have to settle for a trainee from a nearby town armed with a big net. Her plan was to wander straight into the small woods with said net, and try to capture the creatures. Well, this went on for all of ten minutes, in broad daylight, with no success. Mercedes left the net with my neighbor, and wished us all well, and got the hell out of there. As far as I can tell, my neighbor has abandoned all pretense about trying to capture these things and rehabilitate them; she keeps leaving food out for them so they can grow into big strong skunks with powerful stink juice glands, who will inevitably get lost one night on their food run and end up on my patio again.

Damned nature.

I’m off to the store today, to pick up an array of products aimed at removing this menace. Citronella ain’t gonna do it, this time.