“Help ya?” said the raccoon, a miniature salesperson.
I was surprised, I confess, that he was sitting there, casual as heck, at the pub table in my backyard, leaning back in my deck chair, sipping an Ipswich Ale he’d apparently brought with him.
“Help ya?” he asked again.
I guess I just stood there and gaped at him, silent and slack-jawed, because after a moment or two he leaned forward in my pub chair, put his little raccoon elbows on the pub table, and squinted at me as he said: “You seem to just be standing there gaping at me, silent and slack-jawed.”
Eventually, I snapped out of it.
“What are you doing in my backyard?” I asked, “sitting at my pub table, under my umbrella?”
The raccoon’s little white eyebrows jumped upward in surprise, lifting his little black mask momentarily and settling it back down on his little raccoon face.
“Your backyard?” he replied. “I had no idea.” He turned to scan my beloved acre of Massachusetts wilderness, just off outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich. “I thought this was the woods,” he said.
I shifted uneasily from one foot to the other. “Well, we’re letting this grow up naturally.”
The raccoon took a drag on his joint. “Geez.”
I took a deep breath of my own, but of oxygen. “So, you’re in my backyard, sitting at my pub table. What are you doing here?”
“My mistake,” he replied. “I’m on break, between classes.”
“Yeah, classes for deer.” He took a quick hit. “You didn’t hear all that noise last week from the people next door?”
“Machinery noise. Geez, don’t you pay attention to what’s going on in your neighborhood?”
“Uh,” I responded, “in the summer, the vegetation grows up thick between the two places, so we can’t see over there. But come to think of it, there was a lot of noise from the property next door. Some kind of machine, I guess.”
“Yeah,” the raccoon sneered. “That machine noise was a post hole digger. Your neighbors were setting up a fence around their garden.”
“So they’re trying to keep the deer out of their precious vegetables.”
“And,” the raccoon answered, “capitalism responds.”
“Sorry,” I sighed, “but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The raccoon smiled a wry smile and took another drag. “You know raccoons,” he began, as if giving yet another weary lecture to yet another ignorant human. “You know raccoons can get in and out of anywhere. Those supposedly impenetrable garbage bins? It’s no challenge for us to break into one of those. We find the garbage. No problem.”
“And your point is?”
“The point is, those are teachable skills,” the raccoon said.
He took a gulp of his IPA.
“Honestly, why some species want to break into vegetable gardens — that’s beyond me,” he continued. “Vegetables! Ick. Gimme a nice, juicy, rotted carcass of cod. Or a discarded cat food can. Chicken bones. Anything! Not vegetables!”
He shuddered, then seemed to recover.
“But whatever. I don’t care. If deer want to get into a fenced garden, I can help them. I’m a raccoon.”
“So you’re offering lessons?”
“Offering?” the raccoon snarled. “The deer are practically stampeding me! Everybody wants GAS — that’s what I call it. It stands for Garden Access System.”
I couldn’t help but wonder about one thing.
“Don’t raccoons use their little fingers to pick locks and remove hinges and stuff like that?” I asked. “I mean, deer have hooves, not fingers. How do you…?”
The raccoon chuckled. “You have no imagination, homo sapiens,” he sniggered. “Deer have something raccoons don’t have. Something a raccoon would kill for. Something that can pick a lock in record time with astonishing precision, if properly trained.”
“And that would be…?”
He leered at me and smiled a wicked smile.
Doug Brendel lives in the wilds of outer Linebrook in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where raccoons and deer roam wild and free, and barriers between animals and humans are meaningless. Follow Doug’s commentary on life in small-town New England at Outsidah.com, and his humanitarian work at NewThing.net.