Prairie Dogs, Pronghorns & Penis Sheaths

by Biff Spork

Chapter 2


To all of you who choose to look the other way every day because you seem more frightened of the changes that can prevent catastrophic climate change than the catastrophic climate change itself.

Your silence is the worst of all.

The future of all the coming generations rests on your shoulders.

Those of us who are still children can't change what you do now once we're old enough to do something about it.

So please treat the climate crisis like the acute crisis it is and give us a future.

Our lives are in your hands.

(Greta Thunberg "No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference" Penguin Books 2018)

I didn't go to sleep for a couple of hours, but when I did, I slept so deeply it was mid-day before I awoke. My memory of the night's events was dream-like until I retrieved the camera and watched the video. It wasn't a dream. It had all unfolded exactly as I remembered.

While I picked up the garbage and re-set the trap, I decided what to do. A note in the kitchen offered me ten bucks if I mowed our lawn and that filled out the rest of the afternoon. Before supper, I laid out what I would need for the night, then joined my parents for the meal. When I finished cleaning up the kitchen we watched a film together. Then, feigning tiredness, I went up to my bedroom, set the alarm for one o'clock and lay down for a few hours' sleep.

My black ski mask completed my outfit of black jeans and a black hoodie. I covered my hands with my winter cycling gloves. I had been stumped about my lack of black footwear, but solved that problem by stretching a pair of my father's black dress socks over my red sneakers. At ten past one, I climbed from my bedroom window down the ladder to the driveway and lurked in the shadows. Ten minutes later, the raccoon showed up to scatter our garbage. Then he entered the trap. While he tore at the strip of smoked salmon I used for bait, the black go-cart slid silently into the driveway. Its driver crept towards the caged raccoon, still engaged in eating the salmon. The figure glanced up at my dark bedroom window, then reached down to the trap. I sneaked up behind him and touched him on the shoulder. He spun around and assumed a threatening martial arts stance.

"Hey," I whispered. "It's only me."

"You should be more careful," he said. "I might have killed you."

"Well, you should be more careful too. I might have killed you too, but I just tapped you on the shoulder."

"I doubt you know how to kill anyone," he said.

"Well, if I wanted to kill you I would have bopped you with a baseball bat, but I don't want to kill you."

"Yeah," he said. "I don't want to kill you either." Like the previous night, there was just the hint of a giggle.

We locked eyes again, and again everything stopped. I felt I was being measured.

"Don't let the raccoon go," I said. "I'm tired of picking up our garbage every day. Let's take him to some nice bushy area where he can eat bugs and crayfish instead of garbage."

He looked toward his vehicle. "We'd have to sit pretty close," he said. "There's not much room on my cart. Have you got any diseases or anything?"


"How about Jefferson Lake?" he offered. "It's a big park. There's lots of bush there."

"Sounds like a raccoon paradise," I said. I picked up the trap and followed him down the drive.

A couple of bungee cords fastened the trap atop a box fixed to the back of the cart. Then he indicated I was to sit in the driver's bucket seat. He strapped me in then sat down between my legs on the front edge of the seat.

"Like I said," he chuckled, "It's pretty tight. You okay?"

"Yeah, fine."

"You've got to hold me good or I'll get thrown off the first time we go around a corner. Okay?"

I wrapped both arms around his waist and pulled him tight against me. The go-cart shot out of the driveway like a jet. We zoomed down the road so fast I held my breath. I didn't want to distract him from his driving by talking. We flew around a corner and I pulled him even tighter against me when the centrifugal force of cornering was pushing him off the cart.

I put my chin on his shoulder and said, "Maybe you could slow down a bit when we corner."

"Fast is more fun!" he grunted as he sped into another corner, this time so fast that the whole cart drifted sideways before he accelerated out of the turn.

He was right. What a ride! My heart was in my throat the whole way. It took no more than a quarter of an hour to get to Jefferson Lake, a half-hour's drive in a car. With him pressed against me I popped a boner, of course, but I was so intent on suppressing my squeals of fear that I was barely aware of it. Thankfully, he was concentrated on his driving and didn't appear to notice the iron rod pressed against his bum. He parked off the road under some trees near the edge of the park and we carried the cage into the forest. After the raccoon scurried into the undergrowth, we walked back to the cart. A vehicle idled in a nearby parking lot, its headlights shining.

"Cops!" he whispered. He crouched down behind some bushes and pulled me down beside him. He looked over at me. "Your face is too white," he said. He rubbed some dirt around my eyes and forehead until he was satisfied that I was camouflaged enough. A uniformed policeman got out of the car, leaned against the front fender and emitted a cloud of smoke.

"Ah," said my companion. "He's not after us. He's just having a vape. He'll go soon."

We squatted in the bushes in silence for a few minutes and I decided to voice the question I'd been incubating since I first met him. "So, what're you doing, all dressed in black and racing around every night? Some kinda Free the Raccoon patrol?"

"No," he said. "This raccoon rescue is a one-off, though animal justice is absolutely part of the picture. But mostly, with your raccoon, it was personal. I feel bad when I see animals in cages."

"So there's another reason?" I persisted.

He turned and our eyes met again. Then he looked away and said, "War."


Again our eyes locked. "Yes, war," he said. "People talk about the climate crisis as if we're all in it together, as if all humanity was joining together to meet the global disaster that's coming. But we're not in it together. There are many people who are not working to solve the problem, many people who are actively making the crisis worse, all these fossil fuel people, the big oil interests, people who insist on eating a lot of meat and dairy products, driving big gas-guzzling cars and flying around the world without any regard for the damage they're doing to the planet. They're not innocent bystanders. They're actively working against my best interests, against the best interests of kids everywhere. They are the enemy. So, yes, it's war. It's us against them. Or right now, right here, it's me against them."

My pulse quickened. "Me too," I said. Our eyes met and I felt like we were signing a pact.

The cop car rolled out of the parking lot and sped away.

"C'mon then," he said. "Let's go."

His electric go-cart was nearly noiseless and the way we were seated made it easy for us to talk. I put my chin on his shoulder and spoke into his ear. "Where are we going?"

"We'll head back to your place but make a few stops on the way," he said.

We cruised the back streets of a residential neighborhood. Then he pulled into the shadow of a tall hedge. From the box on the back of the cart, he selected a few items. A minute later we were kneeling in the shadows beside an expensive SUV. He handed me a roll of paper.

"Unroll that stencil and hold it against the front door," he said. Then he uncapped a squirt bottle of paint and sprayed the stencil as I held it. In large green letters, it read, Gas Guzzler . We did the same on the other front door.

"This SUV gets about twelve miles to the gallon and spews something like a pound of CO2 into the atmosphere for every gallon of gas it burns," he said.

"Do you think paint is a very environmentally friendly way to protest?" I asked.

He leaned back and looked at me intently for a few seconds. Then he held up the paint bottle and said, "This is a re-usable bottle, not an aerosol spray can, and the paint is made from water-soluble organic dyes that will degrade harmlessly within a few months or less. It will take some scrubbing to get it off, but it's washable. The stencil is made from re-cycled unbleached paper and will be composted when it's worn out."

"Sorry," I mumbled. "I just wondered."

"Don't be sorry," he said. "You're right to put everything we do under the same scrutiny we apply to the actions of other people. That's good. What you said didn't bother me. I'm just surprised to meet someone who thinks like I do. I'm not used to that, but I like it. It's good."

We cruised up and down other back streets, all the while continuing in the direction of my house. We defaced another parked SUV with the stencil on both front doors.

"It ain't much," he said as we neared my street, "but it makes people think, the people who own those cars and the people who just read the stencils on the doors. It makes everybody think about what side they're on. There are some other things I do too, but that's enough for tonight."

I stood by while he strapped himself into the cart at my driveway. "Tomorrow night?" I asked.

"We'll do a restaurant tour," he said. "I'll pick you up at two o'clock." He tugged the glove off his right hand and held it out. I pulled my glove off and we shook hands. A second later, he was gone.

As I walked up the drive I suddenly caught a hint of his scent. Every time I had put my chin on his shoulder to talk to him, I had got a faint whiff of his smell from behind his ear, and some of it must have lingered in my nostrils. I held my breath to savor that warm, vibrant aroma, the first time I had ever smelled another boy.

I climbed the ladder up to my room, dropped my clothes in a pile and fell into bed. My thoughts were in a whirl. The feel of him leaning against my arms when we cornered, that final handclasp, his warm dry hand the same size as mine, his husky treble voice, his smell; all these were mixed up with what we had done and why we had done it. It was all wrong and yet I knew it was all righter than anything I had ever done. My overloaded brain happily collapsed into sleep.

When I stumbled downstairs around noon I had forgotten it was Saturday. That meant my mother was at home. Father would be at the golf course until late afternoon.

"What's that on your face?" my mother asked. "What have you been doing?"

In the downstairs bathroom, I saw that the upper part of my face was still blackened from the previous night's activities. I washed it off and returned to the kitchen.

"That's better," she said. "And what's that green stain on your hand?"

"Paint," I said in a tone I hoped would discourage further questions.

I opened the fridge and surveyed the contents and she continued, "Your dad got upset again about the garbage in the driveway."

"It's okay," I said. "I'll clean it up after breakfast. It won't happen again. The raccoon is gone and won't be back."

"I hope not, dear. But how did you do that?"

I extracted a bottle of coconut kefir from the fridge and wrapped my arms around my mother. "I have my methods," I said mysteriously and poured myself a tall glassful. I then popped two slices of bread into the toaster and thumb-tested a couple of avocados to select the most perfectly ripened one for my breakfast.

After picking up the garbage, I spent the afternoon shopping for glasses dark enough and big enough so that I would not have to blacken my face that night. In the evening, I again retired early after setting the alarm for one forty-five.

Shortly after two o'clock, we were speeding towards the city center on one of the many bike trails, deserted at this time of night. We wore matte-black helmets he had brought with him. "We're breaking about ten different laws," he said, "but I don't want us to break our heads too."

Our first stop was a popular steak house. It was dark and deserted but we watched it from the shadows for a few minutes.

"It's always good to make sure a restaurant is closed and empty," said my companion. "Last week I was doing a stencil and the owner came busting out the front door and nearly caught me."

We crept up to the door and while I held the stencil he sprayed in red paint, Murdered Animals Here .

As we settled ourselves onto the cart he explained, "Most of the restaurants in the city serve meat or fish but I only stencil those that have nothing vegan on their menu, as though vegans don't exist. They're not even trying to adjust. They need a wake-up call."

We then hit a seafood grill with the same stencil but as we were rolling away, a police car came around the corner. He immediately chirped his siren and started flashing all those blinking red and blue lights.

We raced down an alley and into the main town square. The cop car was right behind us, burping his siren every hundred yards. We left the town square by a wheelchair ramp, then down another alley and ramp to a bike trail. The police car couldn't follow and we left it blinking impotently.

We cruised along the bike trail for about a mile then veered up into a suburban mall. On the front window of a large fast-food restaurant, we stenciled, STOP FUNDING ANIMAL AGRICULTURE!

We returned to the main town square and braked to a stop beside the central fountain. It was dead quiet but we waited to make sure the cops had moved on. We dumped a bottle of bio-degradable red dye into the water and stenciled No More Slaughterhouses in two places on the rim of the pool. Then we pelted down to the bike trail and headed out of the town center.

When we were nearing my place, he pulled over into the inky shadow beneath a shade tree.

"We were lucky tonight," he said. "That cop might have caught us if we'd been in some other part of town without a handy ramp and bike trail. With two of us on the cart, it's a bit slow and I'm kinda worried about that. It'd be better if you had your own cart."

"Yeah, this cart is great," I said, "but there's no way I could get one of my own." This didn't bother me much because I liked sitting on the cart with him in my arms.

"We could build one," he said. "I built this one and I've got all the parts we need to build another. I was gonna put it together so I would have a backup if anything happened to this one. But if you're gonna work with me, you could use it."

We arranged to meet the following day in a nearby mall, in front of a big T-shirt store, then go together by bike to his workshop.

"I've never seen your face," I said. "How will I know you?"

"I'll wear a pink covid mask with little red hearts on it," he said. "And you?"

"Um, a blue T-shirt. It says 'Plant-Powered' on it, and a blue covid mask."

"Uh," he said, hesitating. Then in an oddly intimate way, he said, "Good night."

I found that when I answered, my voice had softened in response and my pro forma "Good night," came out with more feeling than it usually carried. In that simple everyday phrase, we had somehow exchanged slim packets of affection that felt much warmer than warranted by the slender acquaintance we could claim.

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