Skunks of the Hollywood Hills
By Rodger Jacobs
“Did I ever tell you about the time I groped a girl in a pharmacy and she turned out to be a he?” Trace asked.
Pamela stared at him over the rim of her wine glass and simply blinked.
“The moral of that tale,” Trace continued, grabbing the bottle by the neck and refilling his glass to the rim, “is that one needs to know the terrain before assuming a comfort level, or something to that effect.”
Trace and Pamela were standing on the white marble patio of a luxurious faux Mediterranean villa in a lush Hollywood Hills canyon. Pamela was a television actress – not a very good one but she had the dumb luck to be in a hit TV show, preceded by the lead role in a hit slasher film – and the house represented the pinnacle of her success.
“I’ve never owned a home of my own,” she told Trace. “If it doesn’t get any better than this I’m perfectly fine with that because this is all more than I asked for.”
“Uh-huh,” Trace grunted. He was momentarily preoccupied by thoughts of how he was going to squeeze another two grand out of her. Trace had been working on a screenplay with Pamela for the last year and a half. She was paying him $2,000 a month for his efforts and he made sure that there were lots and lots of rewrites and revisions involved because the Packard needed new tires and a paint job. The screenplay was shit, he knew that, a vanity project if there ever was one. But she had the bucks and he had the talent so it was a comfortable relationship as long as no one asked any questions.
“Trace, what does groping a transsexual have to do with my house?”
“Well, I’m just saying, know your terrain. The Hollywood Hills. Lots of wild animals up here.”
Pamela laughed. “What kind of animals?”
“First, you have your coyotes. Coyotes are kind of cool in a mystical, Carlos Castenada sort of way but watch out for the goddamn skunks up here.”
Skunks, he informed her as if he knew what he was talking about and should never be questioned, are prone to rabies.
“If you ever see a skunk walking toward you, run.”
“Why?” She laughed again.
“Because skunks are anti-social. They don’t like humans. The only time a skunk loses it’s fear of humans and approaches them is when it’s mad from rabies. You get bit by a rabid skunk and you’ll have to endure a series of painful injections in the stomach with a needle as long as my arm.”
“I thought they had a different way of doing that now.”
“Not that I heard of.”
Trace convinced her to advance him $500 off the next installment and promised he would return next Tuesday with new pages.
Over the course of the next week, while Trace was pounding away at a screenplay that he knew would get Pamela laughed out of every production office in Hollywood, the actress was developing a morbid dread of skunks.
It started one evening when she returned home late from the studio and saw a large black and white rodent loitering in her driveway. When her headlights sought out the animal, it turned and looked directly into the halogen and then scampered off into a hedgerow. But she could see its beady eyes in the bushes, glaring at her as she stepped out of the Lexus. Pamela bolted to the front door, tripping on the marble steps and breaking a heel in the process.
The next evening, after a long and languid session of autoerotica – Pamela had sworn off men in her life after discovering the joys of batteries and things that go buzz – she sauntered downstairs for a glass of Chardonnay. She turned on the backyard floodlights to proudly survey her new domain and what she saw made her drop her glass on the marble floor.
“There must have been dozens of them,” she shrieked in the phone to Trace. “And the smell! My God.”
“Sounds like you live near an enclave,” Trace mumbled. He was only half listening to her, his nose buried in a Bruce Wagner novel.
“What’s an enclave? You always use words I have to go look up.”
“A family of skunks, Pamela. Do you know anyone who’s selling weed? I’m running kind of low.”
Pamela gave him the phone number of a production assistant who had a profitable side line selling marijuana and male hustlers. Trace assured her that he was only interested in the former.
By Monday Trace had painfully written ten new pages of Pamela’s screenplay. It was so bad, so God awful, such a horrible idea but it was her idea and she wanted him to write it and he had bills to pay. When he phoned to confirm their Tuesday meeting she had good news of her own.
“I got rid of the skunks!” she announced.
“Congratulations. What was the trick?”
“I got a dog. It was the weirdest thing, Trace, like fate. I was driving home late one night and when I got up to this one turn in the canyon there was a dog just standing in the middle of the road. I couldn’t swerve to avoid hitting him or I’d go off into the canyon so I stopped the car but he just stood there with these soulful eyes staring at me.”
“Uh-huh.” Trace was taking a hit off a joint he just rolled. The dealer that Pamela turned him onto sold some good shit, so good and intoxicating that he was able to cut back on his liquor tab at the hotel bar.
“I got out of the car,” Pamela continued, “and I crouched down low and extended a hand to him. He looked so sad and mangy and you could see his ribs, he hadn’t eaten in so long. He’s been here for two days now and he’s all fat and happy and the skunks have disappeared and -- ”
“Did this dog have a collar, Pamela?” Trace probed. “What do its ears look like?”
“Kind of pointy.”
“A low animal?”
“Is it a small dog?”
“Uh-huh. And where is this dog now?”
“In the backyard.”
Trace told her to keep the dog in the backyard until he got to her house. At that time of night he could make the drive from Glendale to the Hollywood Hills in fifteen minutes.
“I hope you haven’t named your new dog yet,” he mumbled as she answered the front door. “Or bonded with him or any shit like that.”
Trace stood at the closed glass door leading to the back yard and glared at the mangy dog resting on the plush lawn. He lit a cigar and looked upon her as if he just discovered that she was of an alien race.
“That, Pamela,” he said, “is a goddamn coyote.”