Story Notes:Written circa 2002. Edited in 2009. Based on a family story of mine.
He learned his lesson alright. Oh, yes he had. Even if the stock market dropped lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon track and the country was thrown into an economic depression, that was no reason to begin hoarding crates of Cap’n Crunch away in Mia’s tool shed.
That was how it started.
Kento had been sitting at the kitchen table one morning, reading in the business and economics section since it was the only part of the newspaper split between the five teenage boys that he could get his hands on. Stocks were dreadfully boring, but Ryo had called dibs on the sports section and Rowen stole the funnies from Kento when he wasn’t looking. Cye had the living section while Sage was flipping through the weather.
“Hey, Ryo. A small volcano erupted on an uninhabited island off the coast of Hawaii,” the blond read, sipping his tea daintily. “You should tell us the next time you go on vacation.”
Their dark haired leader made a face at Sage from over the top of his paper. “Ha ha. Write that down and I’ll use it in my stand up.”
Cye interjected, “Ey up. There’s a recipe for a smashing haggis in here. How would everybody like it if I made that for dinner?”
Everyone stared at the British lad with a look of profound disgust.
“I’d soona commit cannibalism,” Rowen said at length.
“Yeah, and, uh . . .” Ryo faltered. “Sheep don’t grow on trees around here.”
“Ryo, sheep don’t grow on trees, period.”
“You know what I meant.”
While his comrades were busy trying to convince Cye that no one in the house would want to eat vital sheep organs, Kento was trying to decipher the language of the stock market when suddenly it all became clear to him, and it said this: The stock market is falling. If it keeps up then you’ll be thrown into the midst of a terrible depression. Locusts will descend from the sky like a cloud and eat your favorite breakfast cereals. It will not rain for forty days and forty nights. Goats will give sour milk. The blind will become blinder and the lame will take over television with their inane programming. Hoard, and sin no more.
After this epiphany, Kento jumped out of his chair with a cry and shouted, “The market is falling! The market is falling! What’ll we do!”
Four pairs of eye stared at Kento as if he’d gone completely mad. The young man continued to rant: “What’ll become of the country! What’ll become of us! What about the batteries! And the light bulbs and the petrol and the rice and the inflatable pool toys and-” A look of utter horror swept across his face. “Oh my God. The Cap’n! The Cap’n Crun-” And he bolted from the table and out of the kitchen.
Cye calmly set down his cup of tea and said, “I told you this would happen; Kento learned to read stock quotes and lost his mind.” He shook his head pitifully. “The poor devil.”
That morning was spent with Kento down at the old train depot, buying boxes upon boxes of Cap’n Crunch. Whenever the boxcars rolled in with their shipments of goods and other cargo, there was often damaged bulk that didn’t get shipped out to the stores. These items were sold by a man in a red cardigan at a little place in the train depot, at extremely cheap prices.
Kento got the equivalent of 341 boxes of Cap’n Crunch for under seventy five American dollars. He filled the back seat of the jeep to the brim and had to strap the rest of the boxes onto the roof.
Imagine the looks he got from his comrades when he pulled into the drive with a plethora of Cap’n’s delight bursting the seams of the jeep. Had Cye not insisted that there was a logical explanation behind it all, Rowen would have called the nearest mental health center to have Kento committed.
Mia was not too happy when she arrived home and found an explosion of cereal all over her kitchen. After listening to Kento’s paranoid account of it all, she told him that either he take the boxes back where they came from or spend the rest of his living days eating the cereal he had hoarded. Kento insisted that the man in the red cardigan at the train depot didn’t take refunds, and so instead was forced to move all 341 boxes out into the small, drafty tool shed to the side of the house.
But that was not the end of that, oh, certainly not.
Summer was on its way, and everyone was inclined to sleep with their windows open since the weather was so pleasant. However, after about three days since Kento had stowed the boxes away, Sage began to notice a particularly awful odor emanating from within the recesses of the tool shed, particularly in the early hours of the morning. At first he thought it was just the garbage or the contents of the boxes decomposing, but this wasn’t a rotten smell. It was a sharp, biting, musky smell like that of an animal. He cornered Ryo and demanded to know if he had been letting White Blaze urinate in the side yard but Ryo pleaded innocence (if not ignorance) on the tiger’s case.
Sage took the matter up with Kento, who had also begun to notice the smell. Another day and the fumes were unbearable, and they were all confronted and threatened by an angry Mia who told them to get to the bottom of this or they could all find another person to shack up with. After a thorough investigation of the Koji premises, a 24 hour vigil was set up on the tool shed with each Ronin standing a 4.8 hour watch (Rowen did the math).
That night during Cye’s watch, the others were woken up by an intensely horrid stench and a frantic British accent screeching the entire household awake. They ran outdoors just in time to the fat black and white buttocks of a well-fed skunk scamper off into the underbrush. Apparently it had been making a feast of the Cap’n Crunch, evidence by all the gnawed edges of the boxes with missing contents. Ryo fetched White Blaze and told him to sic the pest, but Blaze was no dumb tiger. He sat on his haunches and coolly glared at his master as if to say, “You moron. You go sink your teeth into that skunk and see if you like it.”
After pondering how a North American mammal could have possibly found its way to a place like Toyama Japan, they went back inside and asked Mia if she had any rapid-projectile implements of destruction (commonly called guns) or something they could exterminate the skunk with. Mia, appalled at the thought of killing innocent creatures, refused to give them firearms even if she had any.
The five young men sat around and wondered how to rid themselves of their burden. Kento suggested scaring it to death since it looked obese to the point of having serious arterial complications. Rowen despaired and told Kento of how skunks only spray their Parfum de Insidious Dump Heap in self defense or when they’re frightened. And they must have frightened the creature badly by stomping outside that night, for the entire yard was now saturated with the gag-inducing aroma of fresh skunk.
Rowen, ever the MacGyver of the group, came up with a plan for a makeshift combustion cannon, constructed out of two PVC pipes and fueled by nothing more than Sage’s highly flammable hair spray. With a little duct tape (man’s best friend), some epoxy glue and a 10 pound sack of potatoes, they were ready to wage war…with a bazooka that was capable of firing potatoes up to a distance of 200 yards. They didn’t plan on killing the creature — just knocking it out cold before it had a chance to spew its funk all over them. Then they’d sell it to a zoo or something.
They slept the rest of the day with intentions to defend the tool shed and The Cap’n from foreign invasion by stinky mammals the whole night through if necessary.
When Mia came home and saw her boys setting up what looked like a home-made ballistics cannon in the side yard, making practice fires at a cardboard cutout of a deformed looking skunk and using her good broom handle as a ramrod, she snuck inside and locked herself in her room for the remainder of the evening.
That night, they all went a little crazy.
Anxious for battle and maybe even a tad bloodthirsty for action after nearly two years of neither demon megalomaniacs nor insane computer nerds, the five young men became warriors again. Ryo used Mia’s bright red lipstick to put war paint on everyone’s faces and dubbed Kento as the honorary “Skunkmeister”, with a ceremony reminiscent to ridiculous college frat house inductions.
That very night, the five Ronins lay low in the shrubs with their cannon hidden from view and waited for their quarry to appear. They didn’t have to wait long before the blimpish, bloated skunk came waddling up to the tool shed and they jumped into battle.
“Get the spray!” Rowen hissed, holding the spud cannon. “Am I loaded?”
“Aye aye, torpedo tube loaded,” Cye whispered.
Sage shook the can of salon spray and gave a good coating to the combustion chamber and said, “Ready!”
“Got ‘im in my sights,” Rowen muttered, putting the overweight mustelidae in the crosshairs of his scope. “Light me!”
Ryo struck up a cigarette lighter and two seconds later the tuber was sent hurtling towards the skunk where it knocked him smack in the bean. The mammal fell over and didn’t know what had hit him.
The Ronins rejoiced and Kento ventured out of the shrubs to examine his “kill”. It sure looked dead when he got closer. Alas, appearances can be deceiving; as he bent closer to have a better look at the beastie, it jumped up in fright, apparently only stunned for the moment. It took one look at Kento, whipped its hindquarters around and unleashed its own brand of chemical warfare, soaking Kento in skunk musk.
You really could smell him a mile away.
Chaos ensued. The Ronins burst out of the shrubbery and tripped over each other, choking and gasping raggedly for breath. Kento, not knowing what else to do and panicked by the current situation, reached down and grabbed the skunk by the tail, lifting it off the ground, taking a deep breath and running.
Ryo looked up to see Kento bolt across the side yard and into the back where there was a small precipice toward the rear of the property. Kento never made it. He was halfway there before he ran out of air and just decided to throw the squabbling, scratching beast as far from himself as possible. His head swam with this last thought and as he fell to the ground in a faint, he drew back his arm and chucked that thing high into the sky.
The Ronins were treated to the sight of a fat, frightened ball of fur flying across the silver face of the moon, a screaming little silhouette, and heard it land somewhere in the woods. Very very hard.
Gagging, they went into the backyard and collected Kento’s unconscious body, then spent the rest of the week soaking in vats of Campbell’s tomato juice and sleeping outside.
And they never did see that skunk or another box of Cap’n Crunch again.