I hate ferrets. They require a lot of upkeep, they stink to high heaven, and they’re just too damned delicate to have fun with. Years ago, back when I was tryin’ on the daddy suit, the rugrats begged me and the Old Lady to get one of them critters from the pet store. Even got as far as getting me to the pet store, where I took one look at how much they and all their cute little toys cost. No f**king way! Plus, you could smell the little varmints from clear across the aisle next to the reptile tank.
It just so happened that on the way home from the pet store, we stopped at the ice house so ol’ dad could grab a quart of Bull. The kids all got out and ran over to a vacant lot next door to look for some rocks they could use in their slingshots. Now I reckon that today you could just mosey to the big toy store or something and buy a big ol’ bag of slingshot rocks. But these were the good old days, when you had to hunt down your slingshot rocks your own self. Anyway, the next thing I know, as I’m inside forking over the dough for the Bull and a pack of cigs, I hear this whooping and hollering and then the kids blow in, one of ’em holding up a tiny ball of fur.
“Look, Pap!” They shoved it up near my chin, where I could see the little, ringed tail and then the little black burglar mask over its beady little eyes. “Can we keep him?!” I didn’t know squat about how you’d go about keeping a baby raccoon, and sure didn’t know about the sort of stuff they could pull. But there was somethin’ about how the little bugger looked at me, along with all the other excited little eyes of the rugrats, that I couldn’t refuse. ” Ah, hell, let’s take ‘im, I said.” I surely didn’t know at the time that I had just gotten myself in a whole lot of trouble with the Old Lady. But, overall, it was probably worth it. Probably. Anyway, she didn’t speak a word the rest of the way home. But that’s how little Rocky Raccoon came to be our family pet at the time, and what a time it was.
In a couple of weeks, Rocky had managed to find all sorts of ways to get out of his box in the kids’ bedroom. I remember one night, after a bit of partying, I got up to take a whiz. I almost took it too early when I walked in the dark bathroom and saw two little eyes staring at me. When I hit the light switch, there was Rocky standing on the rim of the john and washing a beer can in the bowl. Cutest thing you ever did see.
A few days later I was taking a smoke and beer break from doin’ man chores around the house, which really got on my nerves, by the way. The next thing I knew, Rocky had climbed up on the table and was wanting to make off with my half-full beer can. “Here, buddy, let’s see how you like this,” I said, pouring a little beer into an ashtray I’d just wiped clean with my shirt. Danged if that little fella didn’t just start lapping it up. I had found myself a new beer buddy. And you ain’t seen nothin’ until you’ve seen a drunk raccoon stand up on his hind legs and burp.
It was after another “Happy Hour,” (which I always like to start around 2 in the p.m., since it’s the suits that have to wait till 5) that I came up with my best idea. I took Rocky while we were both still fairly sober, went out to the bike, fired ‘er up, stashed Rock between my vest and my t shirt, and tore on down the road. It just so happened that some buds were getting together for a little partying at the lake, and that’s where I set our course. At first the little bugger was all teeth and fingernails (coons don’t have claws) inside my vest. I felt a little warm something start soaking into the shirt. After a while, though, he stuck that little bandit face outside my vest and found he liked the wind blowing on him as much as I did. By the time we got to the turnoff to the lake, Rock was having the time of his life, and so I thought I’d work on a good entrance for us. It took a few practice runs on a bumpy dirt road, but we finally got the hang of it. Down by the lake, everyone had parked their bikes next to some picnic tables and were busy knocking back a few barley pops and swapping stories when we rode up. Rocky was out front and center, standing on the gas tank with his hind legs while gripping the handlebars with those little black hands of his. The chicks liked it the best, which was my intention all along. Rocky suddenly had himself a few female admirers and I’d just introduced him to everyone as our new riding mascot. Rocky went everywhere with us that one summer, even studying–as raccoons will do, let me tell you–how we’d pour our beers from the keg. It got so that he’d climb up the plastic barrel to the keg spigot and open it himself and drink from the beer stream like a little kid drinking from a water fountain. It was all good, until one night, after one such party run, Rocky and I came home a little blasted. Okay, way blasted. I hit the waterbed, and the wave almost sent the Old Lady, already asleep, flying off into space. I was out cold, so I had to be told what happened next. It seems that Rocky, blasted his own self, decided he’d go hoard himself some shiny treasure. Raccoons just love shiny stuff, like beer cans and jewelry. He evidently climbed up on the dresser and began going through the O.L.’s earrings and beads and such. Then he carted off his loot to the washing station, the john, which was also apparently the place he thought he could stash it. Someone, probably a rugrat, got up in the middle of the night, used the john and flushed all mom’s good stuff down the pipe, except for the stuff that clogged the pipe. Rocky followed that up with the coup de grace, waddling back into our bedroom and deciding it was play time. The Old Lady had gotten her hair done that day, and evidently the smell of the hair-doing stuff was just too much for Rocky to resist. She said later that the first thing she felt were these little hands running through her hair, along with that little chatter that Rocky sometimes made when he was up to something. Next she smelled what she described as beer-burp meets dead cat. Then she heard a little hacking sound, like a cat coughing up a hairball. Then she felt a warm, lumpy mess with the beer-burp/dead cat smell land on her head. Yep. Rocky had just taken a drunken puke on the Old Lady after running off with her jewelry.
And that’s the day Rocky found himself returned to the great outdoors with a swift kick from that woman’s riding boot. But he was a helluva lot of fun while he lasted. Every once and a while I’ll lift a beer and remember Rocky the Raccoon, one of the best beer drinking buddies I’ve ever run with, and who was a way better pet to have around than any damned ferret.