This piece has a variety of titles: Communing With Nature, Christmas Skunk, The "I'm Being Scalped" Scream... The story seems old, familiar, now, so I was surprised to see that I had NOT put it in my journal yet.
When J. and JB changed the plans less than 24 hours before Christmas, I went into "clean it up" frenzy, which I'd PROMISED myself I would NOT do. I'd been working on destroying unneeded paper at a quite leisurely pace throughout vacation so far. The mass by the door was growing to magnificent proportions, waiting for a windless day to be burned, but stored where the varmints would not be able to scatter it...
My goal was simple: three chairs cleaned off in the living room so three people could sit and talk; three places at the table with a big enough area around them that three people could set plates and glasses without feeling they had no elbow room...
I remembered buying and freezing four turkey tenders (fillets of skinless, boneless meat that fry up very nicely,) as I talked to J. on the phone... But, checking ingredients for the meal, I discovered I could NOT find the turkey tenders. I did find a chunk of the whole breast I'd frozen after the Thanksgiving break was over, about a quarter of a breast, and NOT cut in such a fashion to be served as the main meat in a meal. I decided I could chop it into bits and make either a rice and turkey or stuffing and turkey casserole with it. I also decided to wait until the boys showed up to see which they'd prefer. I put it in the fridge to defrost overnight.
The next morning, I began on dinner by cleaning out the refrigerator, tossing things I'd thought I might be able to serve when I'd agreed to host Christmas... a request that came in AFTER all the grocery stores in the area had closed for Christmas Eve-Christmas day...
J. as usual had requested that I make the stuffing, so since that was what I was supposed to take, I had the stuff bought to do that. I also had a whole acorn squash that was going into a new recipe I wanted to try. But in the fruit salad department, I was totally shot down. The red raspberries were the first to get tossed out the front door for the birds. Then the green Thompson grapes, followed by the strawberries. The honey dew mellon was still okay, so it got chopped into bite sized bits, but was NOT part of a bigger, red and green Christmasy whole.
J. worked on the waterer that had frozen up, then begun working spontaneously. Then J. did the hauling and burning while his younger brother tried to find a place to gas up his car... with no credit card. While he tried to borrow a credit card to run through the 24 hour gas station, J. came up to say that the trash fire was burning out of control down the ditch. He took off with the roll of hose and said not to call anyone yet. His brother called back -- he'd located a credit card he could borrow, but he couldn't get there to pick it up.
Dinner was progressing slowly. The bread crumbs I'd carefully wrapped in plastic had been invaded by MILLERS. I tossed them outside. Taking a partial loaf of totally fresh bread, I popped half of it onto a tray and toasted it in the oven. J. came back with the hose and wet pant legs, saying that W.'s wood pile that would not be burnable until spring WOULD BURN right now. I suggested NOT doing the 6' tall, 12' wide, 20' long brush pile right then...
The missing turkey tenders still bugged me. Sometime during the afternoon, I looked in the ice compartment, and there they were... on top of the ice cubes. Each pack took 20 minutes on defrost.
The acorn squash was to cook for three minutes per pound in the microwave. I had no idea what it weighed, so I did it in three minute bursts until I thought it was done, then sliced it open and deseeded it.
JB called back -- he was setting out and if he got stranded, the only way we'd know was that he didn't show in 30 min. He told J. his route.
Enter two starving boys, and we discovered the honey dew really was just an appetizer. J. began his green bean casserole. He did NOT know that cream of mushroom soup went into it. JB tore chunks of bread into bits in the biggest bowl. I chopped celery. Onions, spices and Pepperridge Farm croutons went in. J. said he was on an oregano kick, so more of that went in. The water was boiled with beef bullion and chicken broth. Oh, well, variety is the spice of life, right? Brown sugar, butter, and pecan halves went into the center of the squash. While dressing and beans went into the oven, the turkey breasts were pan fried, and the squash finished its trips through the microwave. I did five smaller potatoes in the microwave, heated some gravy their mother had sent home from Thanksgiving with me, and we were done.
And it all tasted great together. J. had bought two "pies" -- a Sara Lee cheese cake with strawberries on top, and a chocolate parfait from Wal Mart. They'd been on special. By the time we were ready to eat them, the chocolate one had defrosted a bit beyond what would have been ideal, but nobody minded.
The pace fell to peaceful and stories started around. J and I really hadn't talked since Thanksgiving, and then not much, as there were tons of people around. JB, as the youngest of eight, gets told tall tales a lot, and I could tell as I related a previous "holiday burning" story, he was not sure it wasn't a "go fish" story. J., who had flashed to that Thanksgiving afternoon when I'd been trapped behind a tree while the sudden spurt of wind blew the fire past me into the neighbor's alfalfa field, added that no way was he going to have the volunteer firemen called out to put out ANOTHER fire on ANOTHER holiday afternoon. The story of J. killing the smaller of the two possums with my brand new sponge mop was covered, the eagle on the roof, the skunk who got mowed down by truck tire in the snow, the raccoon... JB nodded agreeably throughout, but he was still privately sure his leg was being pulled.
When it came time for the boys to leave, J. took a big bowl of stuffing and some of the bean casserole and a chunk of the cheese cake and headed out the door, JB right behind him. A blood-curdling scream, and he leaped back inside, landing practically on top of his brother.
"You've got a SKUNK out there!"
"I told you I had a skunk. He's probably been eating the fruit the cats didn't want."
J. added, "Skunks eat anything."
"He's just having his Christmas dinner. He won't hurt you if you don't threaten him."
JB wanted to know if the skunk ever sprayed.
"Well, I've thrown stuff at him, but my aim is so bad it did not really threatened him, so he never has. I threw the yellow scoop I scoop the cat food up in, and missed, bouncing it off the bottom step. He followed it on down and stopped to sniff all around it, checking for the cat food it normally scatters all over. Like I said, he'll get closer to the front door than the outside (wild) cats do."
"I want to see him again."
"Where'd he go?"
"Under the fence into the horse pasture."
"Well, try some cat food under the bench."
He waited over 30 minutes, but the skunk did not reappear. Too many people, too much noise, I guess. And, by then, he was probably full of red and green Christmas goodies.