A Very Raccoon Vacation
We went on vacation. For six days and five nights we were two adults and a dog staring at the Pacific, marvelling at its white froth and general power, occasionally making decisions about sandwiches. Two events stand out.
On nights one and two we camped on a friends’ lawn. This was deluxe camping; they made us meals, we slept on one of those pleated fold outs with our blankets from home, there was no weather to speak of either night.
Our dog, Ruthie, is part Heeler, part Corgi, and maybe part butterscotch candy. She’s a generally cowering creature who trusts only the two of us. We figured she’d be happy to stay curled up with us in the bed, but I slept with her leash wrapped around my ankle, to be safe.
We all three slept soundly for a while. But at 4 a.m. I woke to a violent jerk. I was half off the bed and Ruthie was dragging me onto the wet grass, barking at an unknown assailant.
I screamed and tried to leap up, but I couldn’t get to my feet because she was tugging on my leg, so I stumbled around the bed on my knees. T turned the flashlight on to reveal a chunky beast staring at us from the edge of the fence line. “It’s just a raccoon,” he said.
The chunky raccoon disappeared, but we kept the flashlight on the fence, and in a few seconds a different, smaller raccoon appeared. T got up and walked purposefully toward it, and it ran away. But just as we were falling back asleep, Ruthie barked again, in the other direction. We sat up and turned to see the first raccoon, the chunky one, peering around the back fence. “Those raccoons just executed a military-style flanking manuever,” T said. “Very impressive.”
“I’m scared,” I said. Ruthie was still attentive, but shaking a little, on the defensive rather than the offensive. We kept the light on the chunky raccoon until the malicious intent in its eyes turned to disappointment and it tottered off. Ruthie curled back up and sighed a few times, then fell asleep. We joined her. Hours later, Ruthie barked again, and we sat bolt upright, but it was just a cute little fox, jogging past the end of the driveway.
The next morning, we set out for yet another beautiful walk along the Pacific. As we started down the tree-lined path to the ocean, we heard someone call out, “Hello there!”
We turned around to see two women in their 70s wearing enormous hats, masks, and the general get-ups of people who do this every day: walking sticks, expensive walking shoes, sun-proof clothing. One wore blue, the other, white. The one in white, without preamble, inquired, “Do you own here, or are you renters?”
I thought about saying, “Go fuck yourself.” Instead we told them we were visiting our friends. They both really wanted to know who our friends were, and we pretended not to understand this was their goal.
“Their house used to belong to…” White Shirt said some name that sounded like “Julia Sideswipe-Van Twist.”
“Who is — that?” I asked. It seemed like I was supposed to know.
“Why, the former owner of your friends’ house!” White Shirt exclaimed. She gave a quick synopsis of the misfortunes that had befallen the Sideswipe-Van Twists with the ultimate result of their home passing out of their possession and into our friends’. “Our houses are right behind your friends’ house,” White Shirt explained, leaving out the part where she and Blue Shirt spied on them all day and, though they had walked together every morning for ten years, would have been more than happy to club the other to death in exchange for some tasty neighborhood intel.
“We really like it here,” we said. “How lucky you are to live here.”
“Well, it is a beautiful place!” White Shirt said. “We sure get our share of wildlife.”
We told them about the raccoons. Blue Shirt smiled, or rather I got the sense she did, since she was wearing a mask. I did not get the sense White Shirt was smiling. She said, “Raccoons are vicious. You have to watch out for them. Did you know a raccoon can jump on a dog’s back, reach all the way around its head and rip its face off?”
We said we did not know this. We said goodbye and went to walk along the Pacific.