I got the call on Sunday, at approximately the same time I was letting out a huge sigh of relief that the wrath of Hurricane Irene did little more than knock down a few branches at my house. It was our publisher, Susan Lyons, who called, and she had a somber tone to her voice.
“Hey, I just wanted to let you know I can confirm one local fatality from the storm,” she said.
My heart immediately sunk, and it took all my good feelings with it.
“What happened,” I asked, cautiously.
“Well, I swung by the office and Leviathan was dead in the parking lot,” she deadpanned.
I exhaled in relief. And then I chuckled over how she set me up so convincingly. I am a favorite target at the office as just about every member of the staff tries to get me with one zinger or another, and I was sure Susan was feeling pretty good about herself for how she nearly gave me a stroke.
And, you know, I don’t get why they all feel it’s so important to pick on me. It’s not like I make fun of Bobby for being the size of a Christmas tree ornament, or Susan for her involvement in John Adams’ presidential campaign, or Jane Johnson for ...
But I digress.
Susan’s opening statement had left me cold. I was fearful that a tree had fallen into a home, or somebody had ignored driving restrictions or evacuation notices and gotten into an accident or some surfer just threw common sense out the window and caught that unbeatable wave to another world.
Hearing that it was Leviathan, the freak-sized raccoon that has terrified me in the parking lot of our office for the past several years, I felt an immediate sense of relief. No longer would I have to hide my lunch money in my sock when walking out to my car, or live in fear of getting a wedgie from a creature that could very well be carrying rabies (of course, I still have to fear Harry Steele, in that regard).
But that relief pretty quickly turned into a bit of sadness.
My nemesis was gone. What would the Baltimore Ravens be without the Pittsburgh Steelers? Obama without Palin? AT&T without Verizon? Empty and without purpose — that’s what they’d be.
It would be easy to relish in Leviathan’s passing, but I can’t. For one thing, I love animals, even the ones who give me noogies or make me punch myself repeatedly. For another, this destroys a lot of fodder for future columns. It also leaves a huge question in my mind.
Who is going to take Leviathan’s place as my antagonist? Will a swan start giving me Indian rope burns? A deer? A heron? Or, would one of Leviathan’s raccoon minions step up and take the mantle of physically and emotionally assaulting me?
Or should I just use this time to stand up for myself and state once and for all that I’m no patsy for every creature that springs from the wetlands behind our office and I’m going to lash out at the next one that tries any funny business with me?
Taking a cue from Susan, I decided to just be the bigger mammal and bury the hatchet with Leviathan once and for all, as opposed to flexing my newfound muscles for the rest of our natural wildlife to witness. I would not celebrate his passing or talk smack about him now that he’s gone. Instead, I’m going to extend the proverbial olive branch, and extend warm thoughts to my striped acquaintance.
It is with that in mind that I offer the following eulogy to my departed rival:
He was a strong raccoon, with a zest for life. There was something warm and inviting about his laugh as he would chase me through a darkened parking lot or watch me from behind a tree as I would walk up to my car and see the air had been let out of my tires.
He commanded leadership through his personality, as his minions would always follow closely behind, and he was said to be quite charitable with the loose change he would get from robbing me or Shaun Lambert late at night near the Dumpster. He had a way with words, as he could use “sissy pants” and “cry baby” effortlessly, without ever sounding like he was trying too hard. And he loved NASCAR and hot wings. He will be missed.