Speaking of Skunks, Dogs, and Peanuts

Burt Prelutsky
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Posted: Mar 11, 2008 11:02 AM
Speaking of Skunks, Dogs, and Peanuts

It was many years ago that I discovered that I liked the smell of skunks. I hasten to explain that I’ve never been doused by the animal, never had to burn my clothes or bathe in tomato juice. But every so often when I’ve been driving down the road, I’ll get a whiff of skunk scent, and while everyone else in the car is trying not to inhale, I’m wondering what their problem is. I’m not at all sure what it means, but I have a similar reaction when it comes to John McCain. While nearly all the other conservatives I know are frantically waving their hands in front of their noses, I’m thinking McCain may not be Chanel Number 5, but, unlike Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, he’s not exactly the equivalent of mustard gas.

Something else that baffles me is the conflict between creationists and those who aren’t. Not being a religious man, I don’t feel as if I have a dog in the fight, but I just don’t get the hard feelings on either side. In fact, if there is one area in which compromise between those on the secular left and those on the religious right seems possible, this would be it. After all, why is it so difficult for people to accept the premise that God created the heavens and the earth and all the rest, after which things just evolved? I realize that there are some folks who can’t figure out, if man evolved from the ape, why there are still apes hanging around. Or, for that matter, if land animals evolved from the sea, how is it that fish still exist? But one might as well ask: If Darwin was right about the survival of the fittest, how is it that Ted Kennedy and those people who insist on honking their horns when driving through tunnels aren’t extinct?

Speaking of animals, I’d like to know how Trouble is doing. In case he’s slipped your mind, Trouble is Leona Helmsley’s cocker spaniel. When the lady died, she left the dog $12 million in her will. So, naturally, it figures that greedy people would go after the pooch. The last thing I heard was that Remus Pop, the 27-year-old son of Mrs. Helmsley’s housekeeper was talking to lawyers. It seems that his mother had been nipped by Trouble, and had already tried to sue her employer. The case had been dismissed years earlier by a judge who ruled that Mrs. Helmsley was insulated from liability under the worker’s compensation law. Now I’m not a lawyer -- and you’ll simply have to take my word for it that I’m not just bragging -- but where does Mr. Pop get off coming after the grief-stricken heir? Mr. Pop was quoted at the time, stating: “That dog got money. That money is going to be taken away from that dog.” So while I make no bones about disliking Mr. Pop and his naked greed, I must admit that I admire his prose style.

Speaking of dogs, albeit one with nary a plugged nickel to his name, my dog Duke gives me more to think about than most people do. For instance, why does he walk around in circles before lying down? When he stares at himself in the mirror, does he think that’s another dog or is it just plain vanity? And when I take him for a walk and he comes across something on the sidewalk -- a dead worm, for instance -- and he refuses to budge, does he wonder what the heck is the matter with me that I’m not equally fascinated by this remarkable discovery?

And, finally, I wish to report that I recently flew up to San Francisco to do an interview about my new book and, while waiting to board the plane, it was announced that this was a peanut-free flight. My immediate reaction was to assume, as with most public announcements at airports, that I had simply misunderstood what was said. But the stewardess went on to state that not only would they not be handing out those little bags of peanuts, but that if any of us had peanuts on our person we had to get rid of them before we’d be allowed to board the plane. It took a few moments to sink in, but then I started to laugh. This was straight out of theatre of the absurd.

I know some of you are shaking your heads and going “Tsk, tsk.” I realize that I have managed to remove whatever doubts you may have had about my callous, insensitive nature. How could I chuckle when we all know that there are people who are allergic to peanuts? Frankly, my guess is that there are three or four of these strange creatures in the entire world and, so far as I’m concerned, they should all stay home before they succeed in turning baseball parks, zoos and circuses, into peanut-free zones. I mean, if these poor souls not only can’t eat peanuts, but are in mortal danger if anybody else does, why risk going outdoors where even the most innocent-looking passerby may have just finished off a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, and breathe on them?

It so happens that I was flying on Southwest, the airline that boasts that, thanks to them: “(ding) You are now free to move about the country.” Oh, sure, unless you’re a peanut brittle junkie.

I mean, first it was cigars and cigarettes. Then it was cologne and perfume. Now it’s peanuts that are being prohibited just because a few troublemakers have allergies. What’s next? I won’t be able to board a plane just because, for reasons that are none of your beeswax, my pockets are filled with strawberries and shrimp?