There are very few things more immediately terrifying than glancing into the ditch and seeing a skunk running along beside you, its little legs churning up the earth as if it made a bet with all the other skunks and simply would not be beaten by a human. Even now I can hear them on the other side of the dirt: Go, Marvin! Go, you smelly-butt son of a marsupial! Go! He’s beating you, Marvin! Run!!

Skunk bullying. Skunk disgrace. Skunk humiliation. It was awful, even for me. I almost felt sorry for the little guy. Let’s face it, he was already a skunk. How much worse could it get? Yup, skunk embarrassment.

That’s how much worse. Beat by a human. So we ran. I pushed. I dripped with sweat. And he matched me stride for stride! I could hear the violins. I could hear the synthesizer, the horns, the drumbeats. It was a β€œChariots of Fire” moment if ever there was one, the orchestra hiding in peach trees.

It’s true. It’s all true – at least the part about the skunk running beside me. And to be entirely honest, I’m not completely sure about the betting habits of the little beasts. Or skunk insults. But I do know what I heard…

And I do know with absolute certainty that he was there. I saw him. He saw me. We locked eyes… just before I panicked. I dug deep and discovered a new gear marked β€œS-T” which I imagine stood for one of two things: Skunk-Turbo or Skunk-Terror. Possibly both. Yup. I was instantly and without doubt in what one could charitably call β€œflight” mode.

There would be no fight. Although I swear I saw the little hooligan rear up on his hind legs for just a moment, his wee front paws jabbing and hooking, his snout batting at the air in a critter versus man challenge, tattoos rippling as he flexed. But no, discretion was the better part of valor and flight was more my speed that night.

And so I dug in. My shoes grabbed the pavement a little harder, my legs found fresh reserves and I ran. Oh, I ran. No problem, I thought. I got this. And I did. I had it. Marvin was going down! β€œChariots of Fire” had nothing on us. We were the main event!

But this was in the days when the Naramata Road wasn’t always maintained quite as well as it is now. It was in pre-modern times. It was a dark era when fruit farmers on their tractors ruled the road: scalding, smoky exhaust, goggles, bandanas, face masks… Mad-Max would have been proud. I suppose that it wasn’t quite post-apocalyptic outback but that night it could have been. Man. Beast with its horde. Darkness falling…

And potholes.

Maybe it was Karma. Maybe it was fate. Maybe it the god of the ancient forefathers of Ogopogo heaping wrath. I didn’t think I deserved it but who am I to say? Maybe I had broken an immutable law of the Halls of Aquatic Beasts when I risked sport in the dying hours.


I went down. But not without a fight, not without arms flailing, not without a few sprawling strides where my legs and feet were so far behind my upper body that if my arms had been wings, I could have taken flight. I swear. I would have flown like a bald eagle, screeching in terror and then cackling with relief as I rocketed to the heavens.

See ya later, MAR-VIN… my voice trailing off into the evening clouds as I broke the sound barrier, rings of light flashing around me, shock waves rippling through the darkening sky. Marvin’s head hung low, skunk shock turning to skunk shame. Oh, the shame…

But there were no wings. There was no flying. There were two flailing legs, two thrashing arms, and there was gravity. And a skunk. Named Marvin.

It may have been a karmic moment. It quite possibly was a karmic moment, one that remains an indelible imprint in my memory, an adrenaline inducing video clip that was not made in a studio. But I still didn’t think that I deserved it.

And yes, I could hear his wretched little buddies cheering as I almost bowed to my fate. Yeah, Marvin! You got this! Do it! Do it! Mar-vin! Mar-vin!

But Marvin’s victory was not assured – not yet. I rolled. I scrambled. I pushed off the traitorous pavement and staggered to my feet.

NO! I do not yield! My voice thundered to the heavens. Leaves fluttered. Trees shook. Waves rolled on the distant lake.

Marvin skidded to a stop, mere feet from my burning, smoking shoes.

But you must. It is written.

And I must interject here: he had a surprisingly deep voice for such a plucky little thing. Perhaps he was in training for the opera, maybe to be an auctioneer. One never knows with skunks.

But, I digress.

He continued: You must. It is written. I have bested you in battle. Kneel. Present yourself! Yield!

But I did not. I would not. I could not. As much as I had a soft spot for the mite, I could not grant the victory. The cost was simply too high.

I looked right. I looked right again, and once more to be sure. Yes! Marvin’s head was turning to look, tracking me move for move, just as I’d hoped.

And one more time I looked right, casting a furtive glance to see that his shifty but courageous little eyes followed mine. And then I sprang. While we both looked right together, I leaped left. I used the edge of the offending pothole to gain purchase on the pavement and I ran for my sweet smelling life.

Across the road. To the other ditch. In the other direction… To freedom!

To this day, I see them in my dreams. I wake in the wee hours and I hear skunks cheering. I hear skunks chanting: Mar-vin, Mar-vin… And I hear Marvin. I hear poor, gobsmacked Marvin.

And then I hear one more voice, rallying the troops: Hey! Guys! The orchestra is still here. Get ’em! πŸ™‚

Based ‘loosely’ on real life events. Honestly – true story πŸ˜‰

Categories: Skunks!


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