Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Father, Foaming at the Mouth


On Monday, I received a phone call from my mother, who was not unusually frantic. I perked up to hear her usual "Oh my God" because, let's face it, I am a stay-at-home mother who is always looking for something to think, talk or write about. Mom Drama, Yes! "We need your help," she said in her usual careless way (as if talking was primary and talking to me was secondary, it could have been anyone and they could or could not have been listening). I was, of course, hooked despite knowing this because--as my whole family knows--I LOVE to help. Well, not exactly help. I love to try and try and try again to help.

I was walking with my cell phone, partly listening and partly picking things (i.e. the things around my house: a dirty diaper, a slobbery block, a Band aid wrapper, a rubber fish, a Boppy, one of my breast pads) up around the house. Despite her urgency, I figured (for that flash-like moment in time in which one figures) that she was simply in a right-fighter conversation with my father over some trivial matter or some actual piece of trivia and wanted me to ask The Source (my wife who has a PhD...something that is envied and admired in my family) for a confirming answer. I was right that she wanted me to consult with The Source, but I was wrong about the subject.

My mother wanted to know about rabies. Rabies. What? Why? Who has rabies? So, she proceeded to tell me about the incident that left her terrified for my father's life...it went something like this.

There was a freak accident in the muddy backyard on Chasewood Lane involving two incestuous beagles, my father, and a small skunk. Not everyone survived the ordeal. Unfortunately the little skunk did not survive. The beagles are now under an order of compulsory isolation (some might consider it quarantine or garage arrest or crate arrest). And my father, well we were worried about him for awhile but it turns out he will be with us for some indefinite time. Apparently, a rabid skunk found its way into my parents' backyard where he then encountered two overly-friendly beagles. (Note: these beagles are cute and harmless except when it comes to other female dogs, food or anything edible including their own poop at times, and small animals that are within range of their tangled leashes.) The skunk and the beagles (we're not sure who started it, though we blame the one we KNOW has rabies) got into it real bad. They got into a brawl, that is. My parents heard snarling and howling, and found that Stella (the sister/female beagle who had to abort the embryos she and her brother made together) and Mr. Skunk (yes, I'll make him male...If we were to genderize the language, I believe rabies would be a male disease) were mouth to mouth. I don't know what Scamper (the brother/male beagle who has an issue with incontinence and a taste for his own poop) was doing-- howling in the background, I imagine.

Now this is the most truly disturbing part of the story, so readers beware. My dad acted on impulse, and ran out onto the patio with a broom to break up the fight. I wasn't there, so I can only imagine what went on next. All I know is that somehow my father got into it with Mr. Skunk, and HE BEAT MR. SKUNK TO DEATH WITH A BROOM. According to my father, Mr. Skunk put up a good fight, and he had to bash him in the head ten times before he finally gave up and died. (Deep breath.) Poor Mr. Skunk. I understand that my father had to act fast to protect the beagles and the neighbors and all that. Still, I can't help but cringe at the thought of my father beating a tiny skunk to death. I know he didn't enjoy it (my father, I mean), but it is disturbing for me to think of him being so violent. It makes me think of a story someone once told me about my Papa beating a bunny (okay, I'll quit using pet names...a rabbit, ahem) to death with a bat. He was fed up with the rabbit stealing things from his garden. Poor rabbit. Poor Bunny. Let us be silent for a moment in honor of both the angry, rabid skunklet and the hungry bunny. I know the two situations are different, yet I can't help but respond emotionally to the thought of my father and papa violently beating helpless animals to death. I suppose I could beat a helpless animal to death if I had to do it to save my family, but it would be really hard and I would definitely feel guilty for eternity and hate every millisecond of the experience. I think my dad is sorry he had to beat it to death, but, even if he is not, we will remind him of the incident for years to come...buying him books about skunks and skunk families, giving him stuffed skunks, dressing our daughter up as a skunk for Halloween. In fact, I encourage you to revive Mr. Skunk once in a while. So, fear not, the skunk will live on. Mr. Skunk did not die in rabid vain.

For a while, we feared my father might end up having the worse end of the deal: he had been in contact with the skunk and the slobbery beagles (who might have had some rabidskunksaliva on their noses). And he was suffering from seasonal allergies that morning, and was rubbing his eyes! This whole situation made my mother more frantic than usual. We also realized how little all of us knew about rabies. Mr. Skunk's head had to be cut off and shipped to a lab for an evaluation (because rabies can only be officially detected once the animal is dead). The beagles have been ordered to be quarantined in the garage for six months, until the threat of rabies has ended (even though a veterinarian said that the beagles were up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations).

And then there's my dad. I guess he got off easy. He doesn't have to die a painful death and have his head cut off. He doesn't have to spend months in a tiny crate devoid of human contact. All he has to do it get jabbed a few times with a needle and put up with a few bad rabies jokes. He is in the process of receiving a series of rabies vaccinations. He had to have them because rabies is only treatable for a certain period of time; once a person starts showing signs of having rabies it is already too late for them and death is certain. The chances that my father received the poisonous saliva (from skunk to beagle to his eye or mouth) are slim, but it is not worth waiting around to find out. If you encounter my dad, you might want to be aware of this. Watch for signs after the encounter, such as foaming at the mouth and lashing out violently, and whatever you do DO NOT EXCHANGE BODILY FLUIDS WITH THE MAN. We can be sure my father's brain is safe from the disease, however we cannot erase the rabid memories he stored in it. He'll always carry Mr. Skunk with him. My father survived, but the two are connected for life.

How is my mother faring? She has dealt with the situation by talking on the phone and cleaning the house over and over and over. She has been using bleach and scented candles to combat the stench of an angry and dead skunk. And believe you me, that is one stench that has not and will not go quietly into the night.

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