March, 2008


It's been a hot week on the Island, our hometown set on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, a beautiful jewel set within the turquoise of the many-storied Sea.

A massive heat wave came down with ferocity, virtually enforcing Spring like a strong-armed policeman with extra force. This happened even as report came to us of friends digging out from a sudden blizzard of some ten inches in Minnesota, which completely eradicated onset of Spring to all the weary Lutheran bachelor farmers on the plains. Almost all the freesias have been knocked down, and the crocuses have all croaked, while the early tulips remain standing in their insolent pride, glowing in the afternoon sun.

As the sun superheated the balmy air, Rachel and Beth ran barefoot through the sprinklers, laughing like little girls as they sprinkled waterdrops from the tips of their hairdos.

Large numbers of BBQ and similar events erupted all over the Bay Area, even as friends in Minnesota reported nearly a foot of snowfall that advanced on the yet tender Spring in a great blizzard, not like a German Panzer Division crushing the entire State.

Mr. Cribbage has strung an improbable net of webbing all about his property so as to keep out crows, or so he says, and all the neighbors are talking about it. Mr. Howitzer has taken to birding, but armed with a 12 gauge shotgun gotten from Big 5 Sporting Goods as complement to his binocs. Out for "corbids", he says. Nevermind.

Mrs. Blather has been seen strewing sunflower seeds laced with aspic near aviaries, and so has nearly gotten herself arrested. This all seems to be related to an unfortunate incident during the last bridge club meeting in which the cheeselog and the Madeira were utterly ruined. She did not run through the sprinklers, shod or barefoot, for she was a serious woman with Responsibilities and so she sat with Mrs. Pescatore and Medea from Harbor Bay, getting blotto on the verandah by means of mojitos served up regularly by Jason, Medea's footman.

Over at the clubhouse of the Native Sons of the Golden West, David Phipps and Javier have been setting up wire traps to catch raccoons, their intention being to transport the creatures out to the wilds of the East Bay Preserve. They had great joy setting these things all around the clubhouse, well baited with ears of corn, which raccoons are known to find irresistible. There may have been some kind of attachment to heritage in all their activity, for David's people hearkened back to the time of covered wagons crossing the Humboldt Sink during the early days before the Gold Rush. In any case, Miranda had a fit and cursed roundly them and the world for swiping vegetables meant for the Sunday Poetry Slam BBQ out of the crisper .

This, of course, being National Poetry Month, the Native Sons had decided to host a Slam right there on Sunday, complete with ribs and beer and Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Corso, and an open mike.

When they went by to check on their trapline the following day, they found no raccoons, but a powerful stench wafting from one of the traps where a furious black and white creature pounded his paws on the wire floor of his cage, enticing Heroditus Google -- a joyfully bounding black Labrador -- into running right up to greet this new friend.

"Heroditus! NOOOOOOOO!" said David.

Heroditus really loved people and animals of all kinds and dearly loved to socialize and hump the leg of anybody or anything that would remain stationary for it, but the skunk would have none of it, for the skunk found himself in a situation he did not like at all and he detested dogs in particular. So he lifted his tail and got Heroditus really good between the eyes.

Heroditus, in an agony of acrid eyeburn, came running right back to his master for a warm hug only to get a faceful of bloody mary, which really put the poor lab out of sorts as the lime went bouncing down the walk.

"You'll need a lot more tomato juice than that", said Javier. "Eewww!"

David got Heroditus on a leash by using one of Roberta's hankies dipped in vinegar as a breath mask. He then took Heroditus out to Wally's rowboat, got the dog between the thwarts and after a stern command of "Stay!", he pushed the boat off from shore. Holding the tow rope he walked the boat around to the point of the jetty and there he staked him down. "Stay!" repeated David, before walking back up to the clubhouse, leaving the perplexed dog in the rowboat, floating some yards from shore.

There remained the problem of how to handle the skunk. It being a weekend, Animal Control remained unavailable. The animal, being factually under control, outside human habitation, and in no danger to himself or to people proved not to be an emergency for the County Vector Abatement. "If he were a mosquito or a brown moth, things would be different," said the Operator.

Nevertheless, holding a BBQ anywhere in the vicinity of the creature remained impossible.

"You know what will happen when the Abodanza kids get here." Javier said.

David groaned, remembering the fiasco of the Easter Peeps and other disasters of equal proportion.

So something about the skunk needed to happen and right away.

That's how they glommed onto the idea of dragging the cage some distance from the clubhouse. Javier got a boathook from Pedro's fishing boat and this they tied to a rope which then got fastened to Javier's pickup truck towring. The business end they tossed several times at the cage, missing a couple, wacking the cage a few, entirely enraging the captured animal all the while just as it had begun to settle down to eat the corn so thoughtfully provided earlier.

The skunk screamed and hissed and made a fair amount of noise while a perfectly visible cloud of gas developed over the area.

Finally they got the thing set real good and with the skunk emitting all kinds of protest, Javier ran to start up his truck. Things went pretty smoothly with Javier motoring at about three miles per hour for about fifty yards when the next problem arose. Where exactly to take this skunk, for the truck was limited in its progress to the available roadway and they couldn't just leave a caged animal in the middle of the road. So David, being real good at math, being an architect and all, figured they would just architect that old skunk right over the curb into the green beyond.

He got out his slide rule, his calculator, his iPod, his Blackberry and his thumbdrive and so calculated the vaulted arch, the parabolic speed, the arc of the meridian and all the trajectories reall nice and everything before setting up a pole there on the curb. Javier backed up, then gunned the engine so that just when the line went taut, he hauled on the steering wheel left then right, which caused the cage to go airborne. The whiplashing line caught the pole and the cage, skunk inclusive, went sailing over the green there beside the Marina and everything went swimmingly except for one detail.

Neither one of them had factored in the hook's inability to let go unless at the most inopportune moment. That inopportune moment happened about fifty feet from the edge of Crown Drive. The cage sailed free and with a remarkable parabola up and, inevitably, down into the open convertible compartment of Mel Grumpus where it broke apart in the lap of the driver as he was extolling the luscious potential of fixed rate rents on the Island, only recently accomplished, to a bevy of blond Realtors and land speculators of a type that is peculiar and pernicious to Northern California.

The skunk howled, and did its thing, adding a bit of scared scat to the emissions. The Realtors howled and erupted from the car. Mel howled and flung the skunk from his torn and soiled lap.

We are happy to relate that no more harm came to the tormented skunk, who headed for the trees, never to be seen again.

That day, a contemplated 25 story high-rise on Ballena Isle was nipped effectively in the bud, and a number of Realtors went around after this event for some time accompanied by the odor that so effectively evokes rampant greed and corruption.

It was some time before anyone remembered Heroditus, who endured a series of bathings in tomato juice, vinegar, Febreeze and gasoline before anyone would let him come within ten feet of them. And it was he who suffered the most of all in all his innocence.

That is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.