The Raccoon’s Sore Snoot (copyright 2005)

Get out of here. Out of here. God damn it, get out of here you goddamn pest. Something much larger than the raccoon’s head came down hard near her nose, something black and shiny with skinny flopping things flying around as the big thing went up and down, up and down, hitting the floor near her, making a racket louder than the other roar of sounds coming out of the mouth of the big guy clutching the black thing. The raccoon pulled her nose out of the small space and backed up a few paces, not too fast or too far because the big guy didn’t seem inclined to emerge from his thin shelter to threaten or chase her. All he did was make those roaring noises and lie down again,the din fading to a mutter, when the raccoon backed off.

The raccoon stood there for several minutes assessing the situation. She ought to just leave, find some other source of nourishment, but the aromas coming from that space, inside the smooth skinned shelter, were so abundant and so inviting that she figured one more try would be worth it. There were salty things and yellow, almost rancid little blocks of things and, oh best of all, oh heavens alive, fresh smelling fish maybe just brought in and cleaned, mmm, maybe perch, yes, her favorite, and there was the spongy white stuff that she loved, even when she had to spit out the crinkly stuff that surrounded it. And the thing was, there were these spaces at the foot of the shelter that were so inviting to the raccoon, spaces that all the other shelters didn’t have, they were all sealed tight, but this one wasn’t sealed all the way, only half of it was, the other half was only pinched at these intervals by some funny looking very thin things that shined in the needle of light coming from inside the shelter and by some bigger, strange looking things, much heavier but also shiny.

These bigger things had round heads and what appeared to be jaws clamped down and holding together the bottom and the see-through side of the shelter where the big guy entered and exited during the light hours just before the dark took over. These jaws wouldn’t yield even when the raccoon swiped at the long, hard, stiff tail that was attached to the head. Usually that bottom and the see-through side were held together by tightly closed little teeth that ran along the whole bottom, but with this one the teeth only held together half of the see-through side and the bottom, and these weird heavier, clunkier things and little skinny shiny things held the other half together. They were clamped tight, but they left these spaces big enough for the raccoon to get her muzzle through, and she just knew that if she worked hard enough she’d be able to thrust her way through that space, maybe forcing some of those jaw things off, which would help a lot. In any case, she recalled a few occasions of expelling some fairly big things through this little hole in her bottom, and even though it hurt, it went to prove that difficulties like big things punching their way through little openings could happen with a little perseverence and a little time. Maybe with some quieter breathing too.

She waited some more time and watched as the light dimmed within the shelter and finally disappeared. Except for some humming sounds coming from other shelters nearby and some distant whip-poor-will music, all was silent. She sniffed the aromas hanging in the still air — ah, that fish! — and followed her nose to the clunky things holding the bottom of the shelter to the see-through side. Using her multifaceted nose to feel an opening, she inserted it and carefully began to slide it forward until the firm barrier pressed against the bridge between her eyes. The idea of opening her mouth to see if the strength of her little jaws might make the thing yield a bit occurred to her, and when it worked she shot as much of her head through the expanded space as she could.

Unfortunately, she didn’t get it in very far before the rim of the opening tightened around her head like some tough sinew, and she found herself trapped. She tilted her head back and forth as though boring through an impediment when suddenly a ray of light shone directly into her eyes and she heard the roaring of the big guy within. God damn you, you little son of a bitch. Jesus Christ! Blinded, she knew she was in trouble and she began a desperate attempt to retreat. She heard a loud whomp and felt a vibration and a rush of air, and she knew that the shiny black thing with the skinny floppy things had just missed her snout, she panicked, her legs and all her weight pulling hard, she finally got her snout out just as the black thing, quite hard and heavy, grazed the tip of her little black nose.

Throughout the friendly blackness into which she sped she heard the big guy’s awful roaring. The cool evening air felt good on her nose. When she finally stopped, her heart still beating hard, she found herself safe on a low branch of a small scrub oak. She looked backward toward the campground and might have thought,

Well, that’s that.

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