It's getting late and you're wrapping up chores before bed. Half asleep, you walk out back to throw the garbage away when you are face-to-face with Rocky Raccoon, sitting on your garbage can, eating a persimmon.
"What?" he says, wiping the juice off his chin.
Suddenly, you are very awake.
"Geez … you scared me," you say, stepping back, heart pumping.
"Just go ahead and leave that," Rocky says. "I'll go through it."
That's essentially what happened to me on Monday night, more or less.
The difference is that I called out to my youngest son: "Cole, come out and look at the raccoon!"
Cole, 12, arrived in PJs, holding a flashlight.
We all stood staring. Rocky continued eating the persimmon. I felt like getting him a napkin.
"Can I pet him?" Cole asked.
"No, you can't pet him! He's a raccoon. He could bite you."
"Does he have rabies?"
"I don't know," I said. "That's what they say."
"He looks cool," Cole said. "Kind of like a mix between a big cat and a rat."
Rocky finished his persimmon, got bored and trudged off.
Animals in Laguna Beach are not news, but they are always startling. What's interesting — and a little funny to me — is how they immediately command your attention.
It's as if we have inculcated our lives with pavement, Starbucks, books and irony. We have shielded ourselves with a dome of invincibility. There is simply no need for animals.
For Cole, it was like "Ratatouille" -- some talking, anthropomorphic rodent that he could invite inside.
Who does that? Is there some assumption now that if an animal is urban, it is somehow more tame? Is it a fundamental lack of appreciation for what is wild? Have we completely forgotten that we were once dessert for saber-toothed cats?
Unfortunately, mountain bikers in Whiting Ranch know how wild mountain lions can be.