An Unexpected Encounter

Dusk lingered, though the sun had slipped below the horizon some time ago. The din of crickets and cicadas, and the shuuushk of Junebugs hitting the lanterns outside provided a familiar sound: a symphony of summer on the ranch.

It was the kind of night that begs you to be outside and makes you feel alive, deep in your veins.

I was so enamored with the evening, I decided to go for a walk. I wanted to meditate with the last half-hour of the fading light, so I threw on some muck boots with my sundress. Quite the ensemble. 💁🏼‍♀️ I left the dogs at home so they wouldn’t distract me.

I was on the home-stretch, about fifteen minutes from my house, really enjoying myself. I felt so at peace, so Zen… when I noticed my cat trotting down the path. Even better! Cats can be so standoffish —he had never joined me on a walk before. I felt honored!

It was almost completely dark. I continued walking toward him, crouching low, making idiotic meowing noises (cat owners, you get it).

Suddenly, a feather of doubt flitted through my chest. Wait I sec, dummy…the cat has never joined you on a walk before. Why would he suddenly decide to come find you…?

We were about 8 feet apart when I realized nope, it was not my cat. 

I was frozen in my crouched-low position, right arm outstretched. The last little meow got stuck in my throat and every Zen vibe vacated my body.

I was eye-level with a mother fudging skunk. His tail was arched, ready to spray. 

This had turned into quite the meditation. “Holyshit-holyshit-holyshit” became my mantra. We were making serious eye contact. 

Breathe in, breathe out. What does om mean again??

Holyshit-holyshit-holyshit turned into whatdoIdo-whatdoIdo-whatdoIdo?

Is it going to chase me? Do skunks travel in packs? Are there more following it? Should I run? What if it bites me? WHAT IF I GET SPRAYED? If I get caught out here, in the pitch dark, with a family of rabid skunks at my heels, I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL SELL EVERY COW ON THIS RANCH.

What little light was left was vanishing by the second.

It was fight or flight mode, and I decided flight was the best option here. 

I inched backwards. Skunk inched forwards. 


I took several really big, really fast steps backward. The skunk advanced. We were doing a cha-cha dance from hell. I’m not Catholic but I threw in a few Hail Mary’s for dramatic effect.

As if in slow-motion, it rotated its body – a graceful spin in our dramatic dance sequence. I held my breath, clamped my eyes shut, and prepared for the deluge. I said goodbye to the beloved sundress that I would never wear again. I watched my life flash before my eyes. I said goodbye to my children I would never know…

An eternity passed (well, tbh, it was probably only a few milliseconds). I hadn’t gotten sprayed, bitten, or mauled. I cracked open my left eye. He was trotting away in the other direction. Cue the hallelujah chorus!

Even with the sundress and muck boots, I’m certain I clocked my fastest quarter-mile sprint back up the my house. 

note to self: don’t go walking in the wilderness alone at night.

4 thoughts on “An Unexpected Encounter

  1. Sarah Pinner

    Nina, your writing drew me into the moment! I could feel the enchantment of your evening and feel your panic when you realized it was a skunk. Please keep writing!


  2. Regena Blasdel Morris

    I loved your story. Sure glad to skunk trotted off. What a sigh of relief. Next time I bet your dogs go with you.


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