YANKEE CLASSIC: How in the World Do You Get a Skunk out of a Bottle?
By this time the skunk has reached the high grass at the edge of the road. And there he stops. His sides heave; the tight neck of the jar can hardly admit any air, and each breath is a struggle of seven or eight seconds’ duration. The skunk is shivering as well, slight tremors running through his whole body as he crouches, watching me. Clearly, the skunk is going to die and not of starvation. He is suffocating as I watch.”What do you want me to do?” I say. “You’ve got to come to me. I can’t come to you. ‘Who knows what mental state you’re in?” The skunk looks at me. “Look, I’d love to help you. But the covered end of you isn’t the end I’m worried about.” The skunk wags his head slightly, tries to breathe. “What were you looking for in there anyway, you dumbhead?” That jar’s been out here empty for years.”
By now I realize that this skunk is my responsibility. The police would probably kill him in order to save him. Getting someone from Fish and Game would take hours. I am the one here, now.
Maybe I can throw a big rock and break the jar. Not get close enough to be sprayed, but break the glass. Let the skunk breathe.
No. Any rock heavy enough to break the glass from a distance couldn’t be thrown accurately. It might hit the skunk and injure him. Even if the glass broke, the edges might slash the skunk’s face or get into his eyes. And with that kind of jar, the neck might not break with the bottle part, leaving the skunk with a jagged necklace of razor-edged glass that would sooner or later kill him. No, the rock idea is out.
Perhaps I can find something to throw over him— a coat or a blanket so he can’t spray me — and grab the jar. But all I have is this warm-up jacket — too small to cover him and too light to keep him from turning.
“I don’t know, old skunkoid,” I say, moving slightly closer to where he sits, motionless except for the shivering. “There’s no way that I’m just going to go over to you and pull that jar off.” One step closer. I have no idea what I am going to do. Hunkering down, I keep on talking. “You understand my position. I have to go teach college today. If you spray me, you will seriously undercut my efficiency.” He is still not moving. Stand up, move one step closer. Squat down again.
“I’m not going to hurt you. I present no threat. I’m scared to death of you, and you probably are of me.”
Stand up, one step closer, squat down. I can see the bloody scratches along the skunk’s neck where he tried with claws to free himself from the jar. I keep on talking, just to make noise, piling nonsense on nonsense.
Stand, step, squat, and I am three feet from the skunk. He regards me. Deep breath. Then, very slowly, I reach out with my right hand. “Don’t worry now, bubba. I’m not here to hurt you. This jar is the problem.” Slowly, slowly, reaching, the skunk still quiet, then got it! My hand clamps down on the warm rigidity of the jar.