Payback, Karma, Balancing The Scales

Kage Baker, at moments of extreme joy or good fortune, was prone to cast her eyes heavenward and call out, “She’s ugly! Ugly!”

This was a joke from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. At one point, the slave Pseudolus, played by the incomparable Zero Mostel, so advises the ever-listening gods about his young master’s light o’love: in order to discourage said gods from sending ill-fortune upon the too-lucky. It also just amused Kage, who figured anyone with half an education ought to understand the reference. Also, that anyone with any knowledge at all about movies should recognize a line from one of the funniest films ever made.

And she liked the looks on people’s faces when she yelled at the sky, too.

This is a habit I need to revive in my personal life, I think. Clearly, there has been too much gloating and rejoicing going on around here. Zeus is raining down lightning, the peevish old crock.

My beautiful new dryer has been delayed until May 1st. Despite all the care taken to check inventory, it won’t be available until then and so I have to wait. Wah! I’m still missing a 1099, though at least I have time to acquire the hard copy – the info got to the Feds on time, but I need that copy! And last night, the local vermin resumed their summertime Morris Ales on the roof …

I assume they’re drinking, anyway. Because they certainly make a lot of noise, run into the walls and fall off the roof. The raccoons, that is – the frat boys of the animal world. They evidently regard our house as the local shady liquor store, where beer for fake IDs can be reliably gotten … I think it’s the fermenting wintergreen berries up there.

In the next tree over, right over my bedroom, a territorial mocking bird has been singing of love all night, every night. That, I like. In avian terms, it may be the equivalent of a garage band, and that exquisite liquid sound translates to other birds as Stairway To Heaven picked out laboriously on an unplugged axe … but to me it sounds like the lullabies of Paradise.

However, the squirrels I could do without. By day, they are cute little acrobats foraging amid the mulberry fruit. By night, the raccoons stumble over their nests and the squirrels wake up cursing and screaming. Weird as hell and twice as noisy.

Last night, the Corgi apparently noticed that the local wildlife had returned, and decided he was derelict in his duty. Something was certainly prowling at ground level; you could track its progress all over the neighborhood by which dogs were having hysterics. Whenever it got close to our house, Dylan would charge outside baying and howling. It was much more than his usual response, and at one point he was doing his best Hound of the Baskervilles imitation right in front of the living room windows. So we assumed that whatever-it-was, it was on the porch smoking bidis or something.

After two hours of this, I had had enough. Kimberly was lying on the couch with a pillow and a cat over her head, moaning; I got up and went out on the front porch to stomp raccoons and have a talk with the dog. He was on point – which looks pretty funny on a low-slung dog like a Corgi – with his radar ears triangulating on the driveway.

Now. I was in just my nightie, not even my glasses on. And while I have good night vision, my actual eyesight sucks. That means I see well in the dark, but I don’t see much of whatever it is I see. So I did see that an animal was creeping up the driveway, but I couldn’t tell what it was.

Those of us who are vision-impaired but not actually blind tend to judge things by patterns of dark and light. I could tell it was a black and white animal … but it was only when I began to stamp my feet and hiss that I registered the fact that its black and white was not the basically horizontal deco of a raccoon – you know, the stripes on the tail, the ear to ear mask. Instead, there was an undeniable verticality to the white bits … and when I stamped at it a second time, it stamped back and rushed at me.

It was a skunk. Not just a skunk, but a mature, practiced skunk. One who knew how to give warning and wait to see just how stupid I was. A gunslinger skunk.

I levitated, turned in midair with an unexpected JATO capacity, and found myself back on the porch. The Corgi was already inside, under the pillows in his nest and pretending he’d never made a sound. Even the raccoons shut up. And everyone finally went back to sleep.

I’m calling him Hipshot Percussion. He’s clearly a message from the Fates. And he can patrol the yard as often as he likes. Yep. A skunk on Security is just fine with me.

Because, you know, Lady Luck and all – She’s ugly! Ugly!

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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11 Responses to Payback, Karma, Balancing The Scales

  1. staceyjow says:

    Skunks? Hah, that ain’t nothin’ that an unconscious actor sleeping on a couch in San Bernardino couldn’t handle!

    And it could be worse. Some other Guild member, whose name and a fictional town in Maine bear a striking resemblance, would probably try to adopt it.


  2. wayne says:

    I like when John threw a sleeping skunk off him in his sleep thinking it was a cat…


  3. Tom says:

    The Skunkly Nation is afoot (all four of ’em) across the realm. We have three brothers who live somewhere nearby, wobbling down the sidewalks after dark, happy to encounter the locals as they can.
    Those three bushy upright tails moving in unison is a site to see. From the front.


    • Kate says:

      Skunks all walk like their legs are fastened on too far under their corners – so they wobble. It’s hilarious – from, as you say, the front. Ol’ Hipshot last night was not funny at all, nor very wobbly – he was all business. Even the Corgi figured that out!


  4. I thought for sure this story was going to end with a tomato sauce bath. Thank heavens it didn’t! (Ugly!)


  5. Kate says:

    For a moment there, Laura, I had a horrible suspician it would, too. Although we have discovered that tomato juice doesn’t work as well as anything carbonated – Coke, 7-Up, tonic water, etc. A litre bottle of any fizzy drink will de-skunk the average-sized Corgi something wonderful …


  6. AHHH yes, the fearless Skunk, a noble creature and guardian of all creatures of intellect (because only the dim would tangle with one). They also make wonderful pets. I want one and I will name him Petey. Never had a doubt you and the Corgi would pass the test though the mental picture made me smile.


  7. Kate says:

    Skunks are undeniabky cool – but best admired from a distance.

    One of the funny things about the Corgi and I is that Corgis are matriarchal. Unlike most dog breeds – and more like wolves – the females are usually dominant. Dylan would, frankly, lay down his little life for my sister Kimberly, and has no doubets whatsoever about following either of us into any domestic battle: as far as he’s concerned, the ladies are in charge. So as long as one of us will come check on the monsters in the dark, he feels safe and vindicated. All I have to do is be willing to come out in my nightgown – which really ought to be enough to scary ANY marauder away.


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