Usually I wear earplugs to go to sleep, but last night I was wishing I had some nose plugs to go with them. I woke up at around 4 a.m. to the pungent and totalitarian and overwhelming odor of skunk.
In case you have never been in close quarters with a skunk, let me assure you that it is, perhaps, the most penetrating, vitriolic, malicious odor known to man. It is notoriously difficult to neutralize, and when it interacts with a wet cat, it has been known to make grown men faint. Skunk odor will linger for ever, so that you will think you can smell it, even days after you can't. Skunk is what evil smells like.
When I worked at a dry cleaners, when I was in high school, we wouldn't even take stuff that had been sprayed by a skunk, because the smell would contaminate everything it touched. I remember a woman who came in with an armload of sleeping bags, and the stink hit us before she'd even made it all the way in the door; they had been camping with their dog, and the dog taunted the skunk and then ran for the tent. We hustled her outside the door and told her to torch the sleeping bags and euthanize the dog. My parents had a good friend who managed to get sprayed by a skunk and had to get in his car to get away. He claimed that car never totally got rid of the skunk smell, and on a humid day, years later, it was still possible to get a good whiff of it now and then.
Skunks themselves aren't terribly mean or aggressive. They actually are rather near-sighted and keep pretty much to themselves, if given the chance. Once, the Mister was out in the breezeway late one summer night reading "Harry Potter", when it came to his attention that a baby skunk had wandered to within a couple of feet of him, and was enjoying the remains of the popcorn Thing 2 had dropped on the ground earlier. Himself decided to just stay where he was and go back to his reading, and the skunk wandered off. Probably never noticed the Mister there at all.
When I smelled the skunk last night, my first thought was "where's Toby?". Toby has been known to tangle with skunks before, and he has never come out the better for it. Experience is no teacher to a belligerent cat, however, and he continues to delude himself that sooner or later he will kick some skunky ass. He's been sprayed once or twice, which did not seem to be a pleasant experience for him, and yet, the Mister saw Toby tearing through the breezeway after a baby skunk just last week. He just cannot seem to get it into his little pea-sized brain that those black-and-white "cats" are not willing to take what he can dish out. The sprayings have been exceedingly unpleasant for us, as Toby wants nothing more than to engulf us with his affections afterwards, and it is precisely the opposite of what we want. The few times Toby has been sprayed by a skunk, it has taken days for him to be fit for human consumption again. Luckily he was in last night.
As I walked to the bus stop this morning, I noticed the smell getting more, um, pronounced, and then realized it was because there was a dead skunk in the middle of the road. Man, I thought live skunks were noxious, but dead ones? are just dire. I'm really glad I didn't live in any of the houses nearby; breakfast would have been out of the question entirely. By the time I came home from work, someone (very gallant) had removed the dead skunk from the middle of the road, but the smell was still pretty robust, and I think dinner would be out of the question, too.