The Dead Skunk’s Tale
The skunk speaks
Pepe Le Pew is a cute Looney Tune's caricature of a skunk. He's always chasing love and speaking in french. In reality, no one enjoys the scent that is emitted from skunks when they are startled. One day in early April, I noticed the smell of a skunk as I was driving on a certain street. Later, when walking through the area with my grandchildren, we saw a dead skunk on the sidewalk in front of an auto upholstery business. I'm always the one to call and report power outages, downed power lines or stop signs that have been knocked over, but this time I decided to wait. I wanted to find out if anyone else would report the deceased mammal and have it removed. Time went on and the polecat was still in its spot. April turned into May and the scent subsided but the carcass was not removed. I realized this animal who was silent in death was speaking volumes.
I wondered why the owners and or workers of the auto upholstery establishment did not have the skunk moved? Why were their patrons and police who patrolled the area just going about their business as if this disgusting sight was not right out in front of everyone who walked or drove through the area? July came and with it extreme heat. I did not find myself in the area where the skunk's dead body resided for most of the month. When at last I traveled that way, I saw that nothing was left but the skin. It was lying flat on the ground as if it were a thin piece of carpet. By the end of the month the color looked like burned grass and had shriveled up somewhat.
Things don't change until they change
I began to ponder the hundreds of men, and women, who walked or drove that way each day. Not one of them thought to make a simple phone call that would get what was left of the skunk off the sidewalk. Before I knew it, August was upon us. People simply ignored that mass that was on the ground as if it did not matter. When I shared this with my oldest son, he asked me what I expected, based on the location. The skunk was in a working-class area, mixed with deep pockets of poverty. Individuals who are thinking about where their next meal is coming from, or are running trying not to miss a bus, have the weight of the world on their shoulders and could care less about a dead skunk.
The employees of the upholstery company are probably barely making enough money to survive and their minds are elsewhere. The sight and stench of the polecat, just blended in with the other scenery and smells of that neck of the woods. It was not that those who passed this animal were being lax, they simply were worn down by the cares of life. In my opinion, this is why you see rundown homes in impoverished neighborhoods, with three or four broken down vehicles in the yard. With a lack of money and a feeling of hopelessness comes the inability to focus on what others so easily comprehend. I recall once when my husband was out of work and we were barely making it, his older brother commented that our vehicle needed washing. He had worked for the General Electric company for 30 years at that time, had never missed a paycheck or a meal. He kept his vehicles spotless because he had the time, money and mindset to do so. My husband and I were concerned about feeding our children and meeting the mortgage, so a clean car was the least of our worries. When our situation changed, then so did our behavior. Things really cannot change for the disenfranchised, until there is a change.
Too broke to pay attention
I was in a church service years ago, where a preacher made a statement as a joke, but to this day I realize it has validity. He said that some people were too broke to pay attention. Those going to work every day and stepping over the skunk, along with people who walked or drove around it are broken in some way. It could be emotional, a physical condition and of course financial. The cares of the world have overwhelmed them to the point where they were not really paying attention, and or just did not care.People who live in this part of town also may be used to the city officials and police not moving in a timely manner and thought to themselves, "What's the use?" I recall when a teenage acquaintance of my youngest son was shot just a few blocks from my grandmother's home, we went to the scene and saw the young man crumpled on the ground near the curb. People were asking when the body would be removed and the answer was when the coroner arrived.
We went home, but I was curious and returned to the grim scene about two hours later, to find the child still in the street. Because it was a crime scene, his mother could not touch him and stood nearby crying. The next day I was told that it took the corner five hours to show up and remove the body. Neighbors complained that if this had happened in a more affluent neighborhood, the young man would never have remained at the curb that long. When people experience this type of injustice on a regular basis, they expect the worst and unfortunately many times they get it.
There are people, such as an aunt of mine who dot every I and cross each T. Their lawns are meticulously manicured, and they pick up even the smallest piece of paper that may soil their well kept yard. My aunt, and others like her would have made a phone call to the animal control department within 60 seconds of seeing that dead skunk. It probably would not have been on the ground four hours, and certainly not been allowed to rot away for four months. That one dead skunk spoke volumes, and the fact that it continues to reside on the sidewalk tells an incredible tale. As I write the clock is ticking away into the seventh month of the year and I have to wonder if the skunk remains will stay in that spot until the elements clear them away.
In the eye of the beholder
All of life, much like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In today's "Me too" era, there are those who might say there was nothing cute about Pepe Le Pew and that he is a sexual predator. Likewise, not everyone will understand my reasoning regarding why no one had the skunk removed from the sidewalk. Those reading who can take a vacation to relieve stress, and don't live with the fear of something being repossessed, or being evicted or foreclosed upon, cannot comprehend what I suggest. It nevertheless remains true. Those who live for months, years and decades under the stress of poverty and lack often can see no further than how they will obtain their next meal. They could be living with roaches, mice, rats, backed-up toilets, appliances and heat that does not work. and dealing with slumlords. To these individuals, a dead skunk is simply par for the course. This is why as Dionne Warwick sang, they simply walk on by.
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© 2019 Cheryl E Preston