Or at least I thought he was. Now I am not so sure.
Look, this is city living, I get it. We have them in our backyard, though I’ve never actually seen them there with mine own eyes. Our dog goes wild, on occasion, and bolts out to chase after something. Or somethings. I would like to think Wailea’s rabid dog routine keeps the critters at bay. I also see them slinking around the neighborhood, hopping from curb to street, typically when all of our plastic Recology bins are lined up ready for their contents to be composted, recycled or land-filled. I’m OK with this, too. Hey, they’ve got to eat, right? They’ve got to feed their little critter families. That’s almost cute, if you think about it. Like a gaggle of Disney characters.
But I’m far less OK with what I experienced this morning. I was shuffling across the Marina Green with my neighborhood buddies to hop in the Bay for a swim. As we approached the water’s edge in the pre-dawn light, I spied an arch-backed lemur poised and staring. He or she stood right at the top of the steps we use to slip into the Bay, unmoving. He or she looked, well, pissed. They’re supposed to run, right? I heard myself say aloud, “So, what are we supposed to do now? Run serpentine? Play dead? Stand up straight, puff out our chests and look big?”
One of my friends stopped short and cut a comically wide line around the piqued raccoon (not a lemur at all). He reminded me that a woman and her dog had been “mauled” a few months ago in a local park a couple blocks from where we live. This seemed silly to me, but then I looked back at the raccoon and saw that he or she hadn’t blinked or budged. And I think he might even have bared his teeth. My friend maintained eye contact with the beast as he continued his cautious tiptoed routine. Alas, we are on a tight timeline here, things to do today. We did not budget time for a Mexican standoff with the local fauna.
If our wetsuits were better made, I’d feel good about our chances in an attempted mauling. But given the number of times I’ve inadvertently pushed my own fingernail through the cheaply-made neoprene, I doubt very much that these suits are raccoon-proof. Not even racoon-resistant, really. And while I could fault the manufacturer for poor workmanship when it comes to degraded necklines and armpits, I don’t think my complaints about being ripped to shreds by a raccoon would be well-received.
In the midst of the parade of horribles twisting in my mind, fortunately for us, several other racoons join our nemesis at the top step. The happy little family scampers off, suddenly Disney-like again. We follow their movements until we know for sure they are gone. It would be very awkward to find ourselves pinned down on the slick cobblestone staircase at the water’s edge by these little bastards. Too shallow to dive in. And too expensive to call in a Coast Guard chopper rescue. Plus the chopper rescue would likely be captured by a local news crew. And I don’t think we could stand the embarrassment. Still, it would be better than being gnawed to death by a family of cuddly raccoons. While I’m calculating the math involved with a helicopter rescue bill split three ways, we descend the steps and slide into the Bay.
I float on my back, nervously sculling with my hands pulling away from the staircase on shore, my neck craned back towards land, eyes darting around to confirm the coast is, literally, clear. Trying to remember, too, whether raccoons hate the water or love the water. And if the latter, how fast can they swim? And do I even know how to swim “serpentine,” assuming that is what is called for?
We manage to get off a great swim, though admittedly I swung wide, well away from hugging the shore. Willing to be subject to the current’s vagaries rather than feed a family of rodents. Ultimately, we survived the encounter. Until we meet again this Friday….
Thanks for reading.