A Devil of Infected Confetti
We can hear the talk radio reverberating from Dad’s open windows through the Rhododendrons two blocks away as he drives home from work. I know nothing of the numbers and names being mentioned. Dad is not a great man. He is not a bad man, but he is no hero. Last night he laid a trap for the stubborn raccoon that visits the backyard after school like clockwork. Orange and brown fur glowing beneath the cumulonimbus clouds, beatific creature sits on the patio furniture, more than willing to wait for one of us to open the door. It never attacks.
What the hell is it doing here? Dad asks Mom as she empties the merlot into his glass. Dad has been driving home early in order to ascertain the intentions of the animal. Mom licks the last cluster of salt from the blue rim of her frozen margarita and shakes her head. She pivots to check that the porch door is shut. Sometimes the
animal rubs against the windows, scratching his body against the cold. Every day I toss some of the biodegradable crap that Mom expects me to eat for lunch onto the driveway: bologna and white bread slices, the green apple and purple grapes. I watch the magnificent creature gorging as it shakes its tail; then I drop the brown paper bag so the raccoon can lick it.
Our neighbor is a clinical psychiatrist with a batting cage. Everybody thinks the raccoon must be insane (after all, only a diseased animal would show itself during the daylight), but that man knows I am a lunatic. Though he may never show it or tell his wife, deep down inside he knows the psychological problems run deeper than
a foaming, garbage-eating monster.
Who the hell sends their tween to a psychiatrist that participates in the car pool? Every other morning, I walk across their front lawn and knock on his kitchen door—watch him drinking steaming hazelnut coffee, eating peppered scrambled eggs, buttered toast, and blackened bacon—reading the New York Times. Beethoven blasts from the invisible speakers embedded in the ceiling. A large beagle humps my leg under the table. No thank you, I say to his offers for something to drink. No water. No orange juice.
One day after swimming his adopted son from China convinced me to strip naked and dance around his bedroom. Does the shrink know about that? Should the terrifying aroma of chlorine serve as an example of classical conditioning? Are awkward moments more than a shriveled Pavlovian appendage and a mountain of cold whipped cream on a tween’s nipple? While the warm blood rushes between pimples and blackheads, dizziness welcomes white walls while the psychiatrist plays with his beagle in the backyard?
Dad loads his hunting rifle and aims at the raccoon. Mom turns on the blender—as if to drown out the shot. Mom sucks Jose Cuervo from the pump nozzle of the golden bottle. Dad has perfect aim. He has made his fortune zapping the sun damage from the faces and bodies of wealthy patrons that shell out a few hundred dollars every treatment. The VersaPulse C® Aesthetic Laser has made him a millionaire. Mom has had so many photo facials that she looks more like a teenager than a middle-aged alcoholic. Her face is flawless. The boys at school fantasize about sleepovers at our house. Sometimes, when I wake up in the middle of the night to pee, I find the tweens standing over Mom and Dad’s king-sized bed, listening to them breathe.
Mom growls at the raccoon as Dad lights a Cuban cigar. I have already fed the majestic Procyon lotor all I had, but it waits for more. Dad aims the rifle as if targeting a cluster of broken capillaries and age spots. He pulls the trigger and a piece of roof crumbles onto the table, dust and plaster confetti covering his shoulders. My sister screams and Mom drops the hand-blown margarita glass on the Mexican tile while sprinting from the kitchen. Dad slams his kneecap on one of the legs of the table and stumbles up the staircase.
By the time I get to the top of the landing my sister is crawling, bleeding from her sneaker. Her sock is crimson. There is a hole in her shoe and Dad removes the Nike. There is a hole in her foot and another in the ceiling of her bedroom. Dad takes off his turquoise scrubs and applies the garment as a tourniquet. Mom calls 911 and
we wait for the goddamn ambulance as the raccoon scratches against the patio umbrella. The animal climbs the gutter onto the roof and watches us through the window: my sister screaming, Dad cursing himself, Mom sobbing with her wrinkleless face.
The raccoon is licking the glass, its tail bouncing back and forth. Mom is punching Dad in the back of the head with an open fist. Why did you do that? Mom asks. How the hell could you do that? My sister is screaming as Dad picks her up to avoid Mom’s kicks to the side of his skull. The raccoon follows us from window to window
as we make our way back to the kitchen.
Go get help from one of the neighbors, Mom says. I sprint outside, the fantastic creature following me across the grass toward the psychiatrist’s kitchen. The clinking from the batting cage grows louder. He is sitting inside the kitchen with his beagle. I can see him petting the benevolent creature through the panes of glass where my knuckles knock. He looks up, alarmed, as if half-expecting one of his crazy patients. He lets me in and the raccoon follows. The raccoon lunges toward the beagle, chews the ears and neck as if was a bologna sandwich. The psychiatrist grabs an aluminum baseball bat from his porch, begins swinging at the orange skull.
I grab the butcher knife, skinning myself until the shrink stops. The blood satisfies the raccoon and it drops the crippled beagle. I stab the neighbor in his lungs and the beast bathes in the doctor’s veins. I walk across the street and swagger past the Rhodie through the front door like Don Mattingly. The ambulance is approaching. I grab the rifle and stick the barrel into my mouth. It tastes wonderful between my lips. It rattles against my teeth. I curl my little toe around the trigger. The raccoon sits on my lap as the pitching machine is spitting baseballs. They make contact with the aluminum bat, flying into the upper net where they drop down and roll out of sight. No more sleepovers for a while.