I murdered a raccoon. Probably. I did it on my first day back behind the wheel in ten months. We're back in America. Gotta drive. Driving means hitting raccoons. Poor dumb bastards. They shoot out—all nails and tails and eyeballs afire—like they've been waiting their whole damned lives for the moment. Bolts of furry lightning. Lumpy, fleshy, furry lightning.
I dunno, Penny. Maybe the damned thing survived. It could have. I watched it in my rearview long enough to see it pick itself up and hobble to the median. ("She's a game girl, you know. Got up and finished fourth.") I don't think I hit it so much as I rolled it. Rolling a raccoon is a very distinct feeling. It's something like hitting a bridge's expansion joint in summer. Something like it, but harder. It's pretty much exactly like rolling a possum. If there's a difference, it's that a possum will stare you down and hiss just as you're on it. If ever Phobetor were presented a finer clay for the crafting of nightmares than the hiss of a soon-to-be-rolled possum, I know not of it.
I hadn't planned to focus this entry so much on destroying the raccoon, so I'll move on from it. There's a lot of stuff to talk about. We were in Germany a week ago, and now we're in Missouri. That should be some trippy shit for you. It's not really enough to faze your mother and me. The magic of flight means nothing to us. We're seasoned veterans of flight. I guess this also makes us assholes. Not everybody gets to fly.
I say it's not enough to faze us, but it did. Lightning hit our plane on our first flight and fried the controls. The pilot did a one-eighty and took us back to Munich. Still made our connecting flight, believe it or not. Wasn't too big a deal.
All right. I've changed my mind. We even managed to turn getting hit by lighting WHILE FLYING THROUGH THE TROPOSPHERE into a nonevent. (Maybe we were in the stratosphere. I guess the difference matters, but I don't care enough to look it up.) We really are assholes.
Anyway, the point is you've been a red cunt hair from death every split second since initial chemotaxis. You're the raccoon, Penny. What's the deal with those lights barreling down? Maybe they're supposed to light your way across! Run, Penny! Run for your meaningless miserable life!
Jesus. Maybe the raccoon made it, after all. I mean, if I just rolled it. It could have. If I can survive being hit by a German postal van, a raccoon can survive being hit by a Chevy Cavalier, right? Of course, the raccoon probably didn't have the benefit of multiple medical teams sweating for hours over its anesthetized little body.
Who am I kidding? The thing's dead for sure. It probably held on a few hours before succumbing to intense internal bleeding. Unless the blood found outer purchase. It probably did. Exsanguination, then. From the ears and mouth, I'd guess, unless the impact opened it up somewhere. Poor dumb bastard. Hope it wasn't a mother raccoon.
Eh. Raccoons get hit all the time. What do I care? And so what if it dies? I'm bringing a life into the world. So I took one out. It's a trade-off.
Here's the thing. I've always swerved to miss animals in the past. It's been a matter of pride. I totaled my first car to miss a rabbit. It was my life or the rabbit's, and I figured the rabbit had as much of a right to life as I did. Far as I know, that rabbit went on to fuck and fuck and fuck. Could have thousands of great-great-grandchildren hopping around today.
I didn't swerve to miss the raccoon. Why? For you. Your mother was in the passenger's seat, and you were in her belly. I guess that's who I am, now. I'm the guy who values his child's life over other lives. I've killed for you, Penny. Appreciate this.
Seriously, though, there's plenty of stuff to tell you. All kinds of crazy stuff. Your mother's mucus plug fell out the day after the flight. Stress, probably. We were walking into a Wal-Mart to get my hair cut. Boom. Mucus plug. Smelled like concentrated vagina. Looked like that caramelly goop you get when you burn an ear candle. You didn't have to be looking to know when she had pulled it out of her pocket to show it off. The smell would hit you. And she pulled it out of her pocket a lot. Pulled it out for her mom. Pulled it out for her pediatrician. Pulled it out for the on-duty nurse at the hospital. Pulled it out for the doctor.
We just wanted to make sure you weren't coming way early. You're not. Cervix was still closed.
Those ear candles are snake oil, by the way. The goop is the residue you get when you burn them with or without sticking them in an ear. I've proved this to my mother. She remains unconvinced. Says they make her feel better. She self-administers and burns her hand half the time, but hey. Says they temporarily cure her vertigo. I dunno.
I'm guessing the ear candles wouldn't do a damned thing for the raccoon I hit. Poor dumb bastard. Whatever. Raccoons get hit all the time. No big deal. Natural selection and shit. It's just a raccoon. There're, like, hundreds of thousands of raccoons still running around that are every bit as good as the one I hit.
I've named it Doughboy. Because it was a little trooper. Also, because I think I rolled it.
Really, though, it's better Doughboy got hit by someone like me—someone profoundly affected and deeply disturbed by the act. I guess.
I'll probably be over it before you know it. We're like this. We're bleeding hearts for just as long as it takes for us to feel better about ourselves for feeling bad about something. (You're going to hear some variation on this every few months of your life for the rest of your life.)
This is the trade-off. Another trade-off. This is part of being an American in America. It's a fucklong distance from point A to point B, and you gotta have a car to bridge it. And sometimes having a car means ending the life of a complex and beautiful vertebrate. And maybe, just maybe it means doing it on your first day back as a driver after a ten-month absence behind the wheel. And maybe it won't totally destroy your driving confidence for the month to come.
Captive raccoons wash their food, you know. Why? Beats the hell out of me. Could be a vacuum activity. That's what scientists say.
Fine. You caught me. I'm dealing with my guilt the only way I know how: reading about raccoons on Wikipedia. Not that I deal with all guilt by reading about raccoons on Wikipedia.
No, you're right. Wikipedia just scratches the surface. I'd want to delve deeper if I weren't such an asshole.
But enough about Doughboy and Doughboy's kind. I still have to tell you about getting a wisdom tooth and some bone ripped out of my jaw the day before the flight, and about Damm-Massageöl. I have to tell you about Tom Turpin, Vess Ossman, James Scott, Scott Joplin, and how much of a privilege it is to spend even a day in St. Louis. I have to tell you about how your great-grandmother wants your mother to hold you in until the anniversary of your great-grandfather's death, and how creepily charming that is.
And I should probably tell you some private detail about myself to numb the sting I'm sure your mother will feel when she sees just how candid I've been about the mucus plug. (There were hairs on it. Hairs she wouldn't remove. Just kept showing them off every time she took the plug out of her pocket.) My birth certificate says I'm a female. That's something, right? That equals stinky mucus plug. I'm sure of it.
I also need to prepare you for the backwardness of Alabama. You will be going there in October. Not just there, but the boonies-est version of there. Place is fucking crawling with Doughboys.
 I've told you about this, I think. I know I've told you a little. I'm sure you'll be hearing a lot more. It's pretty much the only interesting thing that ever happened to me.
 I should probably make it clear that she only kept it long enough for it to be identified by a series of medical professionals. She didn't know what the hell it was. It got tossed as soon as the doctor verified it was a mucus plug, that they sometimes come out early, and that a new one would probably grow in the old one's place. I didn't want you thinking she has it to this day, and that she's still whipping it out and showing it to strangers—like it's a sonogram or something.
 Sure, it took me a couple months to get over being made to stomp on a baby snake by a roommate, but the raccoon was an accident. The snake was an act of forced cruelty by a soulless ophidiophobe. I made constant appeal to the D. H. Lawrence poem to try to shame her for what she made me do, but she remained unshamed.
 Taint massage oil. Perineal massage oil, if you want to be a little less disgusting. I figure I ought to translate the German for you, since the likelihood of you learning German from your parents is slim. Only hippy douches teach their child a language that's not their native language. Also, our German sucks.