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Raccoon King

One man’s trash panda is another man’s treasure.

By Tiffany MercerPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 3 min read
1
Raccoon King
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

“I’m sorry,” I say with the calm of someone experiencing a dizzying disconnect from reality. “What did you say?”

“Javi, baby, I know it sounds crazy—“

“It is crazy, Mattie!” I cut him off with a hiss, gesturing at the six raccoons lounging beside him on our couch, munching their way through my stash of peanut butter-filled pretzel bites. “Nothing about any of this is not crazy!”

Seven sets of eyes regard me blankly for a moment, the human ones sliding away in embarrassment as Matt shifts guiltily on the cushions.

“You said you were working late again,” he mumbles. “I got lonely.”

“So you just thought you’d throw a little trash-panda slumber party? How long has this been going on?”

Silence.

“Goddamn it, M—“

“Since I was a kid!” Matt blurts out. “I’ve always been able to talk to raccoons.”

Talk?”

“Yeah! I mean, it’s not really like a conversation. They mostly just think in pictures. But like, we can communicate. Usually I just let them know what’s going on in the neighborhood, or get their help with the chores sometimes.”

I pinch the top of my nose. “The chores.”

“I mean,” he starts, then hesitates. “Well, back when I was a kid. You already know the kind of stuff I got into, but… sometimes they helped.”

“Let me get this straight,” I snort, tugging fretfully at the short sleeves of my scrubs as I cross my arms in front of me. “I just want to be very clear right now. Way back when we first started dating— when you confessed to me about your teenage miscreant days of shoplifting and housebreaking— the part you neglected to mention was that you had telepathically trained an army of raccoon rogues to assist you?”

“‘Army’ sounds a little dramatic—“

I’m dramatic? There are six raccoons dressed in tiny bathrobes sitting on my couch, eating pretzels, and watching ‘Pushing Daisies’, Snow White!”

“You said you were working late!”

“Where did you even get the bathrobes?” I yell, aware that the pitch of my voice is dangerously close to hysterical.

“I saw some in the toddler section at Target when we were shopping for your niece’s birthday. I thought they’d be cute. They were on sale,” he adds, clearly hopeful that an appeal to my bargain-loving brain will redirect my mood.

“And you just thought I’d never notice? They stink!”

“Honestly? I was a little surprised you never questioned how much Febreeze we go through.”

“I figured you were just smoking pot like a normal chef!” I pause, terror-stricken by a new thought. “Is this some kind of ‘Ratatouille’ shit you’re into? Are these animals your employees?”

“No! God, no! I mean, they’re surprisingly fastidious about washing their hands, but there isn’t a hairnet in the world I would trust enough to allow these guys into the kitchen at work. Anyway, they’re nocturnal; not the best brunch crew.”

I blow out a breath, releasing my arms to run my fingers through my hair. As I pace the edge of the area rug, Matt stands up and three of the raccoons leap off the couch. I jerk back in alarm, but they’re already scampering towards the kitchen. Matt, on the other hand, approaches me slowly, hands held out in a placating gesture.

“Javi, baby, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I didn’t want to freak you out, but it was wrong to keep it from you. I guess I didn’t think you’d believe me.”

I exhale a short laugh, rolling my eyes, but don’t pull away as he rests his hands on my upper arms.

“Maybe you can just try this out with us for tonight? If you hate it, we can set some ground rules so you’ll feel safe and comfortable. I think you might start to like having them around, though— you’d been mentioning that you might like a dog, after all.”

“Is this why you wouldn’t let me get that borzoi puppy?”

“No! I mean, sort of, but also I just find borzois unsettling.”

“Yeah. Dogs are unsettling,” I sigh as the three raccoons re-enter the room from the kitchen on their hind legs. One is carrying a bottle of beer, one a package of Maltesers, and one looks sheepish, as though he’d joined the others on their errand just to avoid the awkward confrontation between Mattie and myself. The first two leave the beer and candies on my favorite chair like a peace offering. They are kind of cute, I guess.

I look at Matt, and the nervous hope in his eyes makes me slump my shoulders in defeat and kiss his chin. “I guess we’re just doing our part to help keep Portland weird. Restart the episode, though— I love this one.”

Short Story
1

About the Creator

Tiffany Mercer

Just your basic, garden-variety fiction dweeb. :-)

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