Poetry In Motion.
Consort, upon being informed of this inevitability, always shakes his head and says “Yes Quinn, if you were a normal female, you’d outlive me. But you’re you.” And then he brings up some really grotesque injury I inflicted upon myself. He might even mention the time I was eighteen and fencing competitively and I was running up a flight of stairs to a fencing lesson and I fell up the stairs and landed on my own foil, removing a chunk of shin bone in the process. I usually parry such anecdotes with a waved hand and an airy “I don’t do things like that anymore. I’ll outlive you and I’ll crack my neck in whatever room I want and you’ll just have to listen to it in the afterlife and suffer.”
Last week, I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of the dog being emotional. It went on long enough to rouse me from a sound sleep, which is usually longer than it takes to scare off dragons. Somewhere in my REM-haze, I thought he might need to go out. I staggered to the back door, only to be confronted with Consort coming in with the dog. They both looked pleased. I muttered, “Is the dog okay?” and Consort breezily answered, “Oh, yeah, he’s fine. It was tree raccoons.”
It’s a testimony to my ability to get up from a bed, walk the length of a house and talk without ever waking up that I nodded in agreement and went back to bed. The next day, I called him at work.
“I’m sorry, tree raccoons?”
Yes, tree raccoons. The night before, at 2:30, the dog suddenly grew very excited about the subject of out. He had to be out now. Out is the new black. OUT! Consort, working on something and being annoyingly nocturnal, was up and was about to let him out when he realized the excitement might be over a skunk, which might not want a new excitable friend lunging at him. Consort locked the dog in the house – which had led to the girlish hysteria I had heard – and headed outside to shoo away whatever was thrilling the dog. He saw no skunk, but he did see a huge cat waddling around the yard.
Consort went back in, got a flashlight, and determined the waddling cat was, in fact, a waddling raccoon, which then trundled over to the biggest tree in the yard and scampered up with surprising grace; Consort described it as watching Chris Farley rock-climb. Following the raccoon up the tree with his flashlight beam, Consort found no fewer than four raccoons, all of Samsonite heft, hanging out in the tree, staring at him. For reasons that I’m sure made sense when normal people would have been sleeping, he decided to shoo them away. He made noise; they blinked. He poked at the tree with a rake; they yawned and opened another bag of Funions. Finally, he determined that waving the rake back and forth either made a noise they found displeasing or their pity for him was cutting into their appetite, because they all hopped down and toddled away.
I was fascinated. Tree raccoons! Now that I thought about it, it made sense that raccoons would be up in trees, until such time as they raised enough money to come up with a down payment on a condo, but I had never actually thought about raccoons in my trees. I made Consort swear that if he ever found tree raccoons again, he’d wake me, even if I hit him when he tried to do it. Consort, weary and confused that someone in the house was even more excited about tree raccoons than the dog, agreed warily.
The next night, I was about to go to bed when I went to the back door to let the cat in. Usually, she’s hostile about domesticity until the last call of the night, when she comes flying to the door as if Cerberus the canine gatekeeper of Hell is breathing down her neck. She then stands in the doorway for a few minutes dithering about whether she really wants to come in or not until I remind her that Indoors=Kitty Stars by shaking the bowl. She shoots me a filthy look and rushes to her bowl. It’s wondrously predictable. But that night, I called for Her Grace several times without getting an answer. I looked out in the yard and saw no football-shaped object careening towards the door but, in the reflected glow from the house, I thought I saw eyes in the tree.
I squinted; tree raccoon or cat? Whatever it was, it was shadowy and coy. I stepped a little further out into the yard, but the shadow didn’t become either a cat or a raccoon. If it was a raccoon, I wanted to see it and if it was my cat, I wanted to shout impotently at it. I went back inside and got a small flashlight. I walked toward the tree, getting directly underneath it; its body was hidden behind a branch. I took a step sideways; still hidden. Another step sideways; still hidden. Another step sideways and my foot hooked under the wooden Adirondack chaise, one of only two objects in the entire back yard. The momentum of catching my foot caused me to arc sideways over the chaise, the leg of the chaise now enmeshed with my leg. I landed on the ground and a second later the chaise landed on top of me. A second’s pause and then the flashlight hit me as well.
I lay on the ground, staring at the night sky, or what I could see of it through the top half of the chaise which was pinning my head to the ground. Through the slats, I saw the animal look down at me. It was, I was disappointed to note, the cat; she appeared to be disgusted. Sighing, I righted the chaise and carefully folded up my pant leg so I could avoid bleeding on yet another piece of clothing. Automatically, I mentally checked my tetanus-shot status and was happy to note I was unlikely to develop lockjaw. I then went inside to tell Consort that I gave him permission to date after I was gone.