Heather Mallick: I stabbed a Toronto raccoon. Do not do that
I stabbed a raccoon. With a fork. He was after me, but to what purpose I cannot say, Your Honour, I don’t think food and I hope not sex. He was following me around the garden and I couldn’t shake him off, a not-unfamiliar sensation as I am frequently targeted by obsessives.
I beg your pardon, Your Honour?
A dessert fork.
It was the only weapon I had to hand. How quickly we deteriorate esthetically when no one’s watching. I was at home that day, alone, writing about the melting of the polar ice caps and eating cold soufflé out of last night’s baking dish, the very picture of sloth and gloom in an era of decline.
No, Your Honour. I had no hostility toward Mother Nature that day, quite the opposite. Knowing that the planet would survive the wiping out of all human and animal life cheered me. Good for the planet.
I heard a shout. There was a raccoon being held off with a rake by my nice neighbour in his backyard, and suddenly the raccoon was in mine, so I opened the door and shouted at it.
Well, you know raccoons. Toronto’s hairy bête noir, they’re like teenagers, they do not listen.
I went outside, still holding the fork, and the raccoon turned and came for me fast, with a lumbering intensity that scared me. I used the hose on him and he didn’t appear to care, although in my experience, raccoons do not like being hosed right in the nose. We then had what U.S. Attorney-General William Barr might call “an episode.”
The sodden creature kept coming, Your Honour, (I’m using legal-speak because I just binge-watched 76 episodes of ) and he had a grim determined look.
If that seems implausible — raccoons are like foxes and don’t lock eyes — all I can see was that he was fixated on me. (“I want to take you right now,” as Will Gardner tells Alicia Florrick in Season 1.)
A helpful passerby said the raccoon thought I was his mother. I don’t know about that. Why would he want sex with his mother? I’ve seen rabid squirrels paste themselves to the deck and aggressively hump it but raccoons? In dark green corduroy pants and a forest green sweater, I suspect I looked vaguely like a tree and he wanted to climb me. He very clearly had distemper.
Anyway I stabbed him, hard, with the fork. It was a terrible sensation. I have sliced myself badly before but rose thorns and secateur blades slide in easily. Forks don’t.
Here’s what it feels like to stab a raccoon. It is instantly awful, like stabbing a live, furry airport tarmac. I made no impression whatsoever. The raccoon did not flinch or react in any way, which comforts me now.
I suddenly saw how ridiculous I looked, dressed like Robin Hood, manic, eyes wild, holding a fork up in the air like Jack the Ripper, the tines covered with coarse hair, the victim waddling off.
I googled “raccoon skin” and straight up got a YouTube video of an Illinois trapper skinning a raccoon, presumably to eat it. The video, only tolerable when muted, was revelatory. Raccoon hide is impermeable. American college kids wore raccoon coats to football games in the 1920s to be dry as well as wacky.
The raccoon will return. They always do. I recall a strange man who wrote to me obsessively, following me from newsroom to newsroom, sending messages of personal rage and hatred. He made it clear he was angry that women like me were being given a voice, with salary and benefits, and supplanting more worthy men of his era.
He did this for 11 years. Then it stopped. I assumed he was dead but as it turns out, he is not. I googled him and saw he had finally written something, unpaid, in the saddest place on the internet. For the first time I felt pity. How it must have pained him to feel so small and unheard.
But that’s not what really caught my attention. He was writing about raccoons in his yard in Ottawa and his great obsession: hunting them down.
I had been his raccoon.
Heather Mallick is a columnist based in Toronto covering current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @HeatherMallick