I was standing in my driveway the other day, frowning at the gutter that is slowly attempting to escape from the side of my house. Frowning in the direction of the problem will in no way reattach the gutter, but I find that it gives me at least some measure of satisfaction for having “done something” about the problem. I was mid-frown when I heard a familiar rickety pickup truck turn onto my street. The truck lurched up the hill and screeched to a stop in front of my driveway. I didn’t turn around – frowning properly takes dedication – but clearly heard the door creak open, and my old friend Rick O’Shea hopped out.

He walked over and stood next to me. His Yankees cap was faded from too much sun and frayed a bit at the brim. There was a plastic cup of iced coffee in his hand, and he sipped noisily from a leaky straw. Then, unable to stand the silence any longer, he made a sweeping motion with his arm and asked, “What the heck happened to your lawn? Is it some kind of new aeration strategy, or are you trying to lower your taxes by killing your property value?”

Neither. It appears that my lawn has the tastiest grubs in the neighborhood, and skunks from all over come here at night to dig them up, and unfortunately they don’t clean up after themselves. The stinky buggers tunneled under the fence to get to my backyard, too. Luckily my dog was inside at the time.

“Didn’t your dog actually bite a skunk in your backyard a few years back?”

Yep. I opened the back door to let the dog out and then watched helplessly as she charged a skunk that was nosing around near the gate. It was almost like a movie; it was happening in slow motion while I yelled, ‘Noooooooo!’ The skunk got bit, sprayed my dog in the face, and escaped. When the dog came into the house she rubbed her nose – and skunk juice – on every rug and carpet we own. We were chasing her around, but she can be wily and elusive when she sets her mind to it.

“Not the smartest dog in the world if she’s going around biting skunks. Still, you would think that sort of news would get around in the skunk community – I’m surprised that they would dare to venture back here.”

Maybe the grubs are so good that they are worth the risk. Or maybe with all the construction going on in the neighborhood the skunks are less likely to go out of town for dinner. I think it’s more likely that they have scouts who tell them when the dog is in for the night. That time is earlier these days now that little baby Bronco is waking us up at all hours.

“I saw Bronco recently. He’s not so little. In fact, I think that I actually watched him outgrow the clothes he was wearing and pop the snaps.”

He’s 96th percentile for height and weight, and about 25th percentile for sleeping through the night. Everyone tells us to feed him rice cereal to solve that. We tried it once before, about a month ago, and it resulted in hours of tears and screaming. Been dragging our feet since then due to the fear of losing a night’s sleep, but I think he’s ready now.

“I think he’s ready to play linebacker for the Pats now.”

They sure could use the help.

“So, are you going to do anything about that gutter, or are you going to wait until it falls onto your cars?”

My fear is that in fixing the gutter, I will find out that my roof needs to be replaced. Getting that done will take all the money I would otherwise have spent when my furnace gives out this winter. It’s all very complicated. I just don’t know if I want to start that chain of events.

“So, you aren’t going to do anything about it?”

I’m not sure yet. It’s been like this for a long time. I have expected it to fall off each of the past three winters, yet it perseveres. I almost feel like it would be wrong to get involved. Maybe the gutter deserves another chance.

“Maybe it will fall on the skunks.”

That would be most excellent.