October 12, 2009

The Mondays: Sometimes the Muse Is In the Bushes

Wednesday night I was typing up a storm, trying to retrace my steps through a short story. The most recent draft got overwritten, which is a blunder I haven't committed in ages, so I had to go back and try to make lightening strike the same place twice using the first draft. Grrr.

Anyway, I had the window open to let some of the cool autumn air in since it had stopped raining. It was around nine o'clock and the streets were quiet--the streets in this neck of the woods pretty much roll up after supper--until a frenzy of mewling and snarling and yipping started up across the street in amongst the long grass and apple trees. It snapped me to attention, I can tell you that.

Through the warmer months you can hear the likes of every kind of caterwauling at ungodly times in the night. A fellow gets used to it, tunes it out in no time at all in a town or city setting. Annoying as hell when you're trying to watch TV or read a book. Or in my case, write one. Those occasions are provided by the town cats usually, as I can only guess people can't be bothered to let the things inside their homes after sunset. Sure, a tomcat has to prowl, but I swear there's more out than in around these parts.

But, Wednesday night gave me a polecat philharmonic. I'd smelled that malodor of skunk in the air, just a hint of it, around suppertime. So I have to assume at least one of the combatants reenacting an episode of Wild Kingdom across the street was a skunk. I couldn't tell from my vantage point and I damned sure wasn't going to venture out in the dark to see if my suspicions were right. I haven't been sprayed by a skunk yet in my life, though there were a couple of close calls, and I'm in no hurry to press my luck in the matter.

Whatever was out there was raising such a ruckus, the likes of which I can't recall ever hearing before. And I grew up in the woods, and have seen and heard some strange things out in the wilderness. Maybe it was the town setting that amplified the creep-factor for me. A couple of alley cats clawing at each other on a side street is one thing. We've all heard that stuff, but the hell-for-leather turf war going on under those apple trees was something else. I don't know what kind of junk the neighbors have piled back there, but those critters were knocking things over and tearing the place apart. You'd think the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had permeated into the wildlife.

After ten minutes of riotous racket, things went back to normal. I have no idea who won and what species left to lick its wounds, but I got knocked right out of my stream of consciousness for writing that short story for the night.

The silver lining, however, was I got myself an idea for another short story. Thanks, nature.

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