Shantih Journal 3.1 - Page 31

Amorphous, black and white, twice the size of a broad-brimmed hat, the specter hovered several inches above the ground, rotated like an airport beacon. It wobbled along the forest edge, brushed aside bracken ferns, floated over granite outcrops, slid past stumps, paused as if to sniff and taste. Then it swerved toward the grape arbor, began to suck up mushrooms, worms, grubs, and salamanders, made an odd, murmur-murmur, chirp-chirp noise like a raft of baby chicks caught in ebb tide. The apparition changed course again, trembled, spun toward our house. What if this thing oozed into the crawl space, took up residence beneath our bedroom, sought spiders and centipedes, muttered and twittered all through the night? Kathryn leaned forward, squinted through the dim light. “What in hell is that?” When the phantom cloud first appeared, blue jays ceased their chatter, a pair of grey squirrels quit their gossiping and fled. all we could hear was the somber hoot-hoot of a faraway barred owl, the distant lamentations of a dove. As we watched, a mother skunk ushered her brood on an exploratory odyssey through our garden and yard. The kits stuck to mom like rivets. The black and white surfeit was so tight we couldn’t tell whether it contained six or seven. We strained our necks, took pictures, and when the sun slipped beneath the horizon and we were certain that the skunk family wasn’t headed for the crawlspace, we went inside. I had just settled on the couch and opened a book when Kathryn called from the kitchen. “Better check the have-a-hart trap. I think you’ve caught a skunk.” I had forgotten about the mainstay of my low-tech arsenal to rid the property of red and gray squirrels. These creatures have a penchant for cultivated strawberries, and later in the season, concord grapes. Although my friends had told me otherwise, I had much success with this method and had relocated about a dozen in the last couple of weeks. The mini-prison was less 31