Close Encounters of the Worst Kind

This is a true story, the memory of which was triggered by this Morguefile photo that is featured in Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. So apologies in advance to Roger, as this is not a flash fiction tale, and it does not fit within his suggested 200 word limit. But I think this story may be worth telling.

The incident took place maybe around fifteen years ago when I let our dog out in our backyard dog run for his last bathroom break of the night. He apparently smelled something that required him to go investigate.

Hearing his exciting barking, I hurried over to see what had attracted him and saw that he had cornered a skunk and the skunk was not a happy camper.

Knowing what was about to happen, I reached out to grab my dog to pull him out of harm’s way.

Too little, too late. The two of us got sprayed.

I lifted the poor dog and carried all 70 pounds of him into the house, frantically calling out to my wife, “We got sprayed.” I asked her to Google what to do when your dog gets sprayed by a skunk.

I grabbed a few towels from the laundry room and started to pat down the hapless dog. My wife came back from her Google search saying that we needed to bathe him in a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dishwashing liquid. She also said some sites mentioned tomato juice and vinegar. “But all we have in the house is the dishwashing liquid and vinegar,” she pointed out.

Reluctantly, I drove to the grocery store to get tomato juice, peroxide, and baking soda. The good news was that it was 9 p.m. and there weren’t very many people in the grocery store. The bad news was that those who were there looked at me in horror and moved away from me as quickly as they could. Having just been sprayed by a skunk, I stunk terribly.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

When I got home, my wife and I bathed the dog in the mixture of ingredients. Twice, in fact. Unfortunately, there was no salvaging the clothes we were wearing or any of the towels we had used to dry the dog. Those were tossed into a large trash bag for disposal.

I spent the next half hour scrubbing myself down in the shower, trying as best I could to get the stink off of me.

Our dog recovered from his skunk encounter, although whenever it rained and his fur got wet, even years later, the faint smell of skunk would return.

FFfPP — The Flat

Russ was in his kitchen unpacking the boxes the movers had delivered the day before. A very organized guy, Russ was eager to get everything set up in the townhouse he’d just moved into, which is why he became irritated when he heard his doorbell ring. He thought about ignoring it and continuing to put the dishes into his kitchen cabinets, but then the doorbell rang a second time.

Reluctantly, Russ made this way through the boxes and got to his front door. He opened it up to see a young woman, fairly attractive, perhaps in her mid-twenties, standing there. With a big smile on her face, she thrust out her hand and said, “Hi, neighbor, my name’s Terri and I live right next door to you. Welcome to the neighborhood.”

“Nice to meet you, Terri,” Russ said as he shook her hand. “I’m Russ. Listen, I’d love to chat with you but my household goods were just delivered yesterday and I’m trying to get everything organized as in place, so if you’ll excuse me….”

Terri interrupted. “I was hoping you could give me a hand. My car has a flat tire and I’ve never changed a tire before. I have no idea how to go about it. Could you change it for me, please?”

Never one to resist the call of a damsel in distress, Russ agreed to change her tire. She led him to her car and when Russ saw the shredded tire he was shocked. “Holy shit!” Russ said. “This isn’t just a flat tire, it looks like it exploded.”

“Yeah, well I didn’t realize it was flat and I’ve been driving around on it for a few days,” Terri admitted. “I did hear a thumping sound, but I thought it was just road noise.”

Russ shook his head, mumbled “women” under his breath, and set about changing the tire on Terri’s car. To show her appreciation to Russ, Terri offered to cook him dinner that night. It was the first of many that she would prepare for him over the course of their forty-plus years together.

Written for Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction For The Purposeful Practitioner. Also for Linda G. Hill’s Just Jot it January prompt, where the word in “neighbor.” Photo Credit: Morguefile. Apologies to Roger for exceeding his recommended 200 word limit by about 75%.

FFfPP — Piano Man

Billy Joel and Elton John were Jason’s idols. He truly believed that if he had a piano and could learn to play it, his name would be right up there with Billy and Elton as one of the greats. The only problems was that he lived in a small, one-bedroom apartment with no room for a piano, and he couldn’t afford to buy one, anyway.

When Jason told his friend Steve about his dream to be a piano virtuoso but the obstacles he faced in reaching his dream, Steve said, “You know, Jason, you can get an electronic piano keyboard on Amazon for under 150 bucks. And when you’re not using it, you can fold it up and store it in your closet.”

“That’s a great idea, Steve,” Jason said. “I’ll jump right on that.”

A few weeks later, Steve called Jason. “Hey man, are you the new Billy Joel yet?”

“Nah, I returned the keyboard” Jason said. “I discovered that piano is not my thing. So instead I bought an electric guitar. I’m going to be the next Eric Clapton.”

“Rock on, buddy,” Steve said.

Written for Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. Photo credit: Morguefile.

FFfPP — Neither Here Nor There

Alvin rubbed his eyes with his glove-covered hands, not sure whether what he saw was real or a hallucination. He was tired. He was hungry. And he was chilled to the bone. He shook his head vigorously and blinked, and the small structure a few hundred feet ahead was still there. It must be real.

He started to walk toward the structure and could discern that it wasn’t some ramshackle shack. It seemed to be a small cabin and Alvin was feeling hopeful that his ordeal might finally be over.

Alvin quickened his pace, walking as fast as his nearly frost bitten feet could take him, but he wasn’t making any headway. The cabin was no closer. Exhausted and disheartened, he fell down and into the deep snow and sleep quickly overcame him.

When he awoke, Alvin was lying in a bed. A fire in the fireplace warmed the room and a strange man was sitting on a chair opposite the bed staring at Alvin. “Am I dead? Am I alive?” Alvin asked the man.

The man smiled. “There is no distinction anymore, Alvin.”

Alvin didn’t understand. “Where am I?” he asked.

The man simply said, “You are neither here nor there.”

Written for Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. Photo credit:

FFfPP — The Campfire

The three 15-year-old friends, all Boy Scouts, figured it would be a fun outing to head deep into the woods, where they would start a small campfire, cook up a few hot dogs, and roast some marshmallows. Greg agreed to bring the franks and the hot dog rolls. Andy would supply a bag of marshmallows and the mustard and relish, and David would bring paper plates and cups and would also grab a six pack of beer from the stash that his father kept in the refrigerator in the garage.

After hiking for about an hour, the boys scouted around for a suitable place to start their campfire, which didn’t take long. They put down their backpacks and began foraging for kindling and some decent sized branches for the fire. Using their Boy Scout training, they set about laying out the wood for the campfire. Once it was ready, David squirted some lighter fluid all over the wood, lit a match, and tossed it on to the pile of wood.

The three boys cheered as the wood burst into flames. They took some long, thin sticks they had scavenged from the ground, stuck their hot dogs on the ends of the sticks, and held them over the fire. David popped open three cans of beer and handed one to Greg and one to Andy. David took a long slug from of the one he kept for himself and then let out a long, loud belch. The three boys started laughing hysterically. Yes, it was going to be a fun afternoon.

What none of them counted on was the wind beginning to whip up a bit, causing some sparks and embers from their blazing campfire to be picked up by the strong breezes and carried off a few feet and igniting the dry forest tinder.

What none of them had anticipated was how quickly that tinder would burst into flames and start to spread. David tried to douse the rapidly spreading fire with the beer that remained in his can. The other two boys followed suit, but it was to no avail. They decided that they needed to run for their lives before they, themselves, became engulfed in flames.

What none of them could possibly have imagined was the thousands of burned acres, the homes and businesses destroyed, and the people who lost their lives as a result of the out of control wildfire that they started on their fun outing that afternoon.

Written for this week’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner from Roger Shipp. Photo credit: Morguefile.