The Mark of El Zorrillo


There’s the way, the truth, and the light beer in the cooler. The truth is that the teenager is still attached by an invisible umbilical, umbilical rage; inside the adolescent mind the naked baby picture is still always on display for all of the aunts, uncles, cousins, abuelitos, and everybody knows everything about me so why won’t you all just leave me alone?

Or at least so I gather from the thousands of myspace confessionals where they are all safely contained. In that vigorous and embarrassing cyber playpen, the acne is hidden, although excruciating social pain and suffering is on display on a strangely volitional level. I gave my 15-year-old a mood rug. It changes colors depending on who’s lying on it, who’s looking, who’s commenting on who’s looking at whoever is lying on it. He’s constantly changing the subject.

In Kuala Lumpur there are no skunks, there are no skunks in Malaka either, or in any Polynesian islands. The skunk is an American animal, altogether. The skunk is an American animal, related to the cat, who lives with us, not against us.

The skunk is not a Christian animal, the skunk in fact is opposed to all forms of organized religion and is more likely to express his discontent in the vicinity of churches and large families for whom religion is a loud or overt practice. Of particular note, the American skunk is especially offended by knuckle-dragging bible-thumpers, and has been known to both spray and leave graffiti on the fences and sidewalks of known fundamentalists.

Fundamentalism gnaws away at the insides of skunks, gives them indigestion and chronic rage. A skunk with indigestion and chronic rage is an animal to be avoided. And since skunks are indigenous to the Americas, and since they have so clear an aversion to certain religious types, and since relocating the skunks didn’t seem right, fair or possible, the fundamentalists were eventually told that they would have to leave, find a home where they would not offend these first Americans, and where they could practice the fine art of intolerance among animals whose glands were not quite as powerful or pervasive as those of the native American skunk.

The skunks came to every council meeting in every village, city, county and other governing body making their point until the fundamentalists got the message and packed their bags and their air fresheners and got on their arc and floated away. The skunks threw flowers at every ship in every port and had champagne to celebrate the improvement in air quality that came in with the sea breeze.

The skunks elected Natalie Snood to be president, first woman president ever in this mighty nation, and she, being the radical type, declared a renewal of the bill of rights and the constitution of the United States of America and a protection of her citizenry and they had a big party with big multicultural stew – haggis and hummis and mulligatawny and lutefisk and chimichangas and sashimi and little chewy bits of gristle from a small country that not many people know about, and everybody had a fabulous time. BB King played, and Taj Mahal, and Jellyroll Morton, and some of the ghosts of the Grateful Dead. The clouds piled up and there was a big rain, and the big rain soaked into the dry ground, and the kingdom was released, just like the fisher king story. Things began to grow healthy again instead of just big for the first time in who knows how long. Mr. Bag-O-Squash wandered from town to town delivering his zucchinis and his crooknecks and his little squash blossoms, which are delicious fried.


 The next crop to come along was crazy strong women, who could sing and demand and keep the peace, and men who could think and praise, and children who could listen and learn, and teenagers with pretty clear skin and the habit of giggling and exposing only the most charming of adolescent secrets – little dreams, the shapes of clouds, the incubating poetry of the very young – and then a fine strong crop of elders who acquired dignity and respect, and then the wee babies.

And while we’re at it the skunks started a national orchestra and a choir and theatre and art gallery and they put one in every single little village, and in every single big city, they put a bunch of them. Then the skunks started a greenish manufacturing plant for bicycles and trains, and since these are hippie skunks, they turned the freeways into fields and planted mile upon mile of tulips and day lilies and marigold and cosmos, and in the medians they grew corn and chile and watermelon and beans and potatoes and tea and rice. What a wonderful thing to have the skunks in charge, everyone said. They changed the national anthem and put up flags with pictures of Natalie Snood and then everyone went to our teenagers’ commencements, and gave them presents, and told them that the best times are about to begin.



4 Responses to “The Mark of El Zorrillo”

  1. 1 Tek July 26, 2006 at 11:32 am

    beautiful 🙂

  2. 2 Ellie August 23, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    The skunks! I never knew! My dogs just hink that they are funny looking kitty cats, damn them. But if they are this wonderful, I support them fully.

  3. 3 houseguest September 9, 2006 at 6:07 am

    What an absolutely beautiful story. Thanks, I needed that.

  4. 4 Teresa September 9, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    You’re welcome – it was quite fun to write, too.

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