Our Racoon Year, by Paul Theroux

Our Raccoon Year, by Paul Theroux

One winter day Pa’s chair creaked as he sat up straight. He had been sleeping but heard something: a car in the driveway. He squinted as though a raccoon was approaching and he eyed Ma slipping out of the car as he would have eyed an animal.

When she came inside the house he said, “Where’s your friend?”
“Away for various reasons,” she said. We hadn’t seen her for a year. She was wearing a warm fleece jacket that we recognized, and ski pants and sturdy shoes. But her face was sad and pale and she seemed uneasy. “What’s that funny smell?” “They have scent glands in their armpits” Pa said.
She hugged us, and when I felt her arms I could tell she was thinner. She pressed her head against us, as though in prayer, then said, “Let’s go outside.”
The day was still and cold, ice crusts on the brown grass, frozen dewdrops on the dead leaves, an animal smell in the windless air.
“We’ve got raccoons.”
“I wish I could help,” she said, but she looked nervous.
Pa had followed us out to the gravel path. He said, “Everyone’s got raccoons. You’d just make it worse.”