The raccoon (P. lotor), also known as the common raccoon, mates for life.
It doesn’t have to be dramatic. These two in the parking lot, preserved by the frigid air, had any number of lovers before each other. Had been in the getting-to-know-each-other-in-bed stages of getting to know each other. They hadn’t had a proper fight even. They were keeping it casual, no expectation of dying together.
Social and argumentative, it is not uncommon for the raccoon, specifically the North American raccoon, to fight to the death in turf wars.
But these two, too round, too fresh, have no scratches, bites, or blood. They are not flattened, not distressed. They are not under any tires or close enough to, or to each other, to assume some sort of romance or vehicular slaughter.
Raccoons can also be spelled racoons, but gemination is more appropriate for an intransitive mating for life.
Neither forbidden nor forever—just two raccoons without expectations when they met at the edge of this parking lot two months ago. Last month, when the boar sliced his thumb open on a wine glass over dinner and the sow made sure he got home safe, they passed under the motion detector light in the parking lot. The injured boar limped and the sow stood ground in the illuminated lot, growling at the two humans smoking by the building, yards away. This was a sliver of sharing something besides the poison currently in their blood. That next morning, like any morning, each raccoon found breakfast on their own.
Signs of weakness, in all manner of vermin, are dangerous—in the city, in the forest, in the home.
Yesterday they feasted on fettuccine carbonara and the poison that killed them and the boar pointed out that, based on their urban lifestyle, they had, at most, one more year, given their life expectancy. “Oh?” The sow calculated her response, “then if this ended now and we both live another year, we will have spent 5% of our lives together.” “And if we die tomorrow, we’ve spent nearly 10%.” “I’ve been thinking I’d like to have a kit,” the sow slipped in, “no expectations.”
The northern raccoon is not picky. There is no latch they cannot unlatch, no patch of urban unrest they cannot make a den.
The gravel in their fur now is just gravel, despite the number of times they groomed these same rocks from each other’s coats after a romp in what leftovers the city has to give. The leftovers are just leftovers—dirty and delicious. The dirt between their toes; the dirt. The raccoons; unidentifiable from all other raccoons. This is their eulogy.
The service is a surprise party; this group gathered here smoking in the parking lot. The hope was to take care of the rats. A big haul, these lovers are large and no one is willing to determine if they are fifteen pounds or less, much less double bag them and throw them away. They look to be 25 pounds, 40. Urbanized raccoons can reach up to 60 pounds, two combined at 120. One woman says, I’m 120 and an older man nods, an authority, apparently.
The original coonskin cap consisted of the entire raccoon including its head and tail. An art all but lost and a fashion accessory all but unnecessary in the city.
No one wants a new hat so the building manager calls the city. The city dispatches animal control and they arrive with industrial gloves, coveralls, and galoshes. They carry spears the length of any arm that might have wrapped around a shoulder and celebrated in solidarity at this double murder, this fight to the death between man and procyon lotor. The city spears the raccoons into the boxes they will burn in.
Raccoons don’t mate for life. I made that up to make you think this story is about someone else.
Chelsea Werner-Jatzke is a writer from NYC living in Seattle. She received her MFA from Goddard College, was a 2013 Jack Straw Writer, is a 2014 EDGE Artist Trust Graduate, and a Ragdale Foundation Resident. She is co-founder of Till, an annual writing retreat at Smoke Farm and Lit.mustest, a bi-annual reading at The Richard Hugo House. She teaches at Seattle Central Community College and is, or will be, published in Pif, Psychopomp, City Arts, Beecher’s Magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Pacifica Literary Review, Extract(s), Keep This Bag Away From Children, The Conium Review, and ListenParty.com.