My red Oldsmobile Achieva hummed into the entrance of our school. The aroma of the hazelnut coffee I bought at Dunkin Donuts saturated the car. I was listening to the Paul and Young Ron show on the radio. Everything was normal. As I headed down the path to our school, my mood shifted. Construction cones, barricades, forklifts, bulldozers, and jackhammers contaminated the road. Clouds of thick black smoke grew over the work-site.
I tuned it out by turning up my radio and singing along, as I headed down the barricaded path. I passed the “speeding fines doubled when workers present” sign, the “25 mile per hour” sign, and a tired worker swaying an orange flag back and forth to direct traffic. When the construction site was over, the cars from behind began zooming passed. “What’s the rush?” I thought to myself. I rounded the last bend leading into the information booth, and headed to the housing department. It was about ten o’clock in the morning, just the time I told my friend, Carrie, I would be there.
I turned into the housing area and swung my car around the swale in the loading lane. As I pulled my car up, I saw a blackish-gray blob scurry across the front of my car, barely missing my wheels. I jerked my car into park and ran out. Sitting on the sidewalk was a small raccoon with unique markings on his face. He had black around his eyes and two small white lines on each side. His heart was racing so fast, that his entire chest was thrusting in and out. The whole parking lot could have heard it pounding in his tiny chest. “It’s okay baby,” I whispered in a soft and gentle voice, “I’m not going to hurt you. I promise.” I grabbed my camera phone and tried to take his picture, but his intentions rested on grabbing my coffee. I pulled away, sat down on the bench and waited for Carrie to come downstairs.
While waiting, I took advantage of soaking in some nature. The air was cool and crisp, the way it always is when fall and winter collide. The birds were singing, squirrels were chasing each other, and my new little friend was crouched on the ground staring at me with his head cocked to one side. Carrie swung the double doors open and screamed, “Rosco, you’re up early today.” She broke off a piece of her Power Bar and chucked it at him.
“What are you doing?” I hollered. “Raccoons can’t eat that stuff. He’ll be sick.”
“It’s just a power bar, not the end of the world.” She snapped and sat on the bench opposite me.
As we talked, more raccoons showed up. Some of them raggedy looking with scars and missing fur patches. One was even missing his tail. Soon the swarm of them began dumpster diving for McDonald’s bags, scoring a few fries, McMuffin leftovers, and bite size pieces of burgers. They even clawed at the ketchup packets until those too were sucked clean. “Gee, these raccoons are crazy.” I said.
“They’re like that all the time. You get used to it.” She said. When they were finished, they scurried off into the wooded area behind the Housing Department, dodging cars and trucks as if they were in the game, “Frogger”.
We retreated to my car and headed for the beach. “I can’t believe people just leave garbage out there without a bag or anything to let these animals eat.” I said.
“Why, how else are they going to eat?” Carrie answered.
“Carrie, obviously they have become dependent on humans if they are out at ten in the morning just to eat our sloppy seconds.” I hissed. Carrie sat thinking for a second and after a moment or two, answered me.
“Yeah, aren’t raccoons nocturnal?” She asked.
“Yes, but these raccoons have adapted to a human’s schedule. They no longer know when they are supposed to sleep and when they aren’t, they just follow humans.” I explained. “That’s what happens when you build a school next to a Wildlife Conservation Center,” I added. “We invaded their home, chopped down their trees, and took away their safe environment to stick them somewhere that ruins their diets, and forces them to attempt fate just by crossing the street to feed their babies.” I said. The more I talked, the angrier I got.
When I came to the corner at the Wellness Center, I stopped at the stop sign. I looked at Carrie and said, “The animal kingdom wasn’t ready for our generation. We took everything that they know and transformed it into a dangerous world.”
“So we feed the raccoons, and we took their home. But they are happy here.” She argued. “You know how happy Rosco is when he sees me?” she added. “It’s not as bad as you think, you’re just a tree hugger.” She said. “Now, unlock the window so I can smoke a cigarette.” She smiled at me with full teeth. I smirked at her and complied, but when I looked back at her, something caught my attention in the background.
I pointed out the window. A small, scruffy looking raccoon lay on the side of the road, covered in blood. Before I can say a word, Carrie leaped out of my car and rushed to the animal in distress. She unfolded her towel and wrapped it around the poor raccoon. I couldn’t help letting a small tear run down my cheek. I’m such an animal lover, and it just breaks my heart to see them like this. Carrie picked up the raccoon and ran over to me.
“It’s Rosco,” she screamed. “We have to help him.” The innocent victim of this hit and run remained motionless. His head slumped to the side, his tongue slipped out of his mouth and his eyes bulged from his head solid, as if he was still in fear.
“He’s dead, Carrie. It’s too late.” I mumbled. I stepped back in my car and pounded my steering wheel with an angry fist. Carrie turned around with her head hung low, opened the car door, and slumped down into the seat. Rosco’s head was slumped over and his eyes fixed on me. I slung the towel over his head and looked up at Carrie. “I’m so sorry, Care.” I told her. She just remained silent and shook her head up and down, as if to say, “I know.”
“You’re right, Meagan.” She said. This shit never would have happened if we stayed out of their lives. They aren’t scared of us.” “We took the fear out of them, and now they are the ones that suffer.” I looked at her. She was crying and her shirt was covered in Rosco’s blood.
I rested a gentle hand on her shoulder as she stared in silence at the limp body in her arms. “Let’s go, Care.” I said. “The least we can do is give him a proper burial.”