Elbows resting on the banister of my front porch, I was enjoying a can of Earth Rider and a cigarette, as a prepared to venture out to Sir Ben’s for the Evening. My apartment rests in the middle of an avenue, across from an empty parking lot. From the shadows of this parking lot, emerged two racoons that went by the names of Gary and Chester. They were carrying on, riffing jokes back and forth to each other. I don’t speak racoon of course, that’d be silly. I could tell what they were talking about by reading their body language and mannerisms as the scurried towards the main road at the end of the block.
Across this street, was another parking lot, which belonged to a city park called the rose garden, a very happening spot for Racoon nightlife. Gary and Chester were excited about the bush party they were on their way to! It was around 10:30 PM on a brisk Tuesday evening in April, the streets were virtually empty at the moment. The two of them had just successfully crossed the ordinarily busy street, when Gary paused in his tracks; he’d forgotten something.
“Shit!” Gary said as he patted his pockets.
“What is it Gary?” Chester asked.
“I forgot my garbage; I have to run back to get it”
“You know, that super dank garbage I found by the juice place earlier? I was going to bring it to the party.”
“I’m sure there is going to be plenty of garbage there, Gary. We are already running late!”
“It’s fine dude, it’s early! No cool coons show up before 11 anyways! Besides, Daphne said she might come so…”
Chester rolled his eyes.
“So, you think if you share your special garbage with her, she’s going to see what she’s been missing out on all these years, and finally give you the time of day? Face it man, she’s just not into you like that.”
“You’re so negative Chester! By the time you’re finished crushing my dreams, I could’ve been back already!”
Stubborn as usual, Gary insisted on going back. He headed across the street with his head turned backwards, assuring to Chester, that everything is going to be alright
“It’ll be quick, just wait here!”
As I watch them squabble, I can hear the roar of oncoming traffic in the distance. Time slowed down as I tried to yell for Gary to Look out; it was too late. A Ford Escort barreled through an unsuspecting Gary, sending him rolling underneath the speeding, oblivious machine of destruction. Chester and I both stood completely still and silent as we watched Gary lay on his back, grasping for life with his little, creepy racoon fingers. One hand gripping his chest, the other falling slowly toward the ground, it appeared Gary was a goner.
I felt helpless. I’d never seen anyone get murdered before, and I didn’t know what to do. Chester was in shock! He took off in a panic across the parking lot. He frantically paced back and forth near the entrance of the park, assumable trying to wrap his head around losing his best friend. When I hadn’t seen Chester in a few min I assumed he’d moved on with his life. Maybe that’s just how racoons are, I don’t hang out with them enough to fully understand their cultural idiosyncrasies. We grieve how we grieve; whatever.
Chester reappeared, slowly meandering into the desolate parking lot he’d vanished into minutes earlier. Having had time to process his trauma, he approached Gary to pay his final respects. He stood above his fallen comrade, weeping and asking “why not me?” Chester noticed me watching him grieve, and began to approach me. We made eye-contact from over 50-yards away. I saw infinite questions in his eyes, and apparently, he saw answers in mine.
I’m a little nervous at this point. This racoon is grieving; what if I don’t say the right thing? What if he’s upset that I’ve just been watching his life fall apart for the last 20 minutes and did nothing about it? Maybe he’s angry, and he’s the type to take his frustration out on whatever is in his way. As Chester approached my stoop, we heard a faint voice in the distance.
It was Gary! He rose up slowly and shook the whole thing off. We couldn’t believe it, or at least I couldn’t. Chester turned around to go get Gary before we had a chance to talk about it. Either way, the two of them met at the corner, and without stopping, breaking stride, or verbally acknowledging what just happened, took off down the road in the opposite direction of the bush party. They just went on about their lives like nothing ever happened.
The Raccoon Whisperer