Fruitful Grounds

CHEAP EATS One week you smell like bacon, and the next week it's skunk. Life is like this.

And do you know what a skunk sounds like? They make one of the most sinister noises in the animal kingdom, I think. They speak in a kind of wheezy, whiny murmur that forebodes death and disaster like a bunch of gangsters with head colds complaining about the service at a Chinese dive.

First I thought they were trying to make a hit on my chickens. It was three in the morning and I was in the throes of my depression. So the last thing I needed to wake up to was a pile of smelly, bloody feathers. Wait. I think skunks are like weasels. They pull the chickens' heads off and suck out their brains, then leave the rest.

Either way, not a cheerful scenario.

So I dragged myself out of bed and went to my closet for something farmerly to wear. I couldn't decide between overalls over a union suit and a Western shirt with a denim skirt. Overalls look great with a shotgun, and Western wear goes better with handguns. Of course, I don't have either kind of gun. I just wanted to look convincing because the last time I raced outside in the middle of the night to defend the honor of my chickens, I was essentially laughed back to high school by a gang of possums, I assume because of the pajamas I was wearing.

In any case, my self-esteem suffered. They can be a cruel lot, these woodsy types that I hang with. Possums, foxes, bobcats, skunks ... Eventually, after trying on several outfits, I settled on a "safe" floral-print flannel shirt and tight blue jeans under a long oversize coat that isn't a trench coat but looked pretty good in the half dark in the mirror, especially from the side, I thought. And I went outside with a flashlight and walked around the chicken coop, trying to act casually curious, if not cool.

At the exact same time I realized that, gasp, I was wearing socks with Birkenstocks, I also saw, spotlighted in my flashlight light, the skunk. Also looking at my feet, shaking its head, like, "Loser!"

He wasn't interested in my chickens after all. He'd been messing around behind the woodpile. I think he had a girl with him, or vice versa. In any case, this skunk was now smack between me and the door to my shack, and it turned its back to me, still shaking its head and muttering something about "pathetic hippie chicks."

I'm going to smell really bad for a really long time, I thought. But miraculously, it didn't spray.

I was almost offended. What do I have to do to look threatening around here? I wondered, tiptoeing back around to the porch. Inside my shack I stood in the dark with my back to the door and breathed again. Then I threw my coat on the floor, kicked the old Birks way under the bed, and got back under the covers. Way under.

The fucking skunks fucked all the rest of the night that night, and when they weren't making love they were complaining in those whiny, whiny undertones, right outside my window. I think someone wasn't seeing to the other one's needs or something.

It smelled a bit bad, but not as bad as it did a couple of nights later when the same skunk or skunks — or a different one — mixed it up with a feral cat in the crawl space beneath my shack. That was on Friday, and five days later I still smelled it on every single aspect of my life. Everything I own, and everything I have on loan from the library.

My dreams. My thoughts. My food. My songs, my singing. My writing. It all stinks right now. My cat, Weirdo the Cat ... She doesn't seem to mind. I smoke a lot of pot. And I keep a pan of bacon grease just sort of simmering on the wood stove.

Trying to get it back.

My new favorite restaurant is Fruitful Grounds. It's just a little coffeehouse on Fulton near Masonic, but it has a good choice of good foodstuffs. Like French toast with bacon for $7.50. Huge portion. Delicious.

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