Heater, Mother of Lance

In preservation of the inheritance

The phone rings, and when I answer it I hear my father’s gloomy voice on the other end.

“Feather,” he says. “This is your dad.”

“Hey, Dad.” I say. “How are you?”

“I’m okay. Listen, I need to talk to you. Do you have a second?”

I’ve been lying horizontally on the couch, but when I hear him say “need” I sit upright. He doesn’t ever call me and use this tone of voice, one of worry and uncertainty. Usually when he calls he’s beaming at having just saved 40 cents on a loaf of bread, did you know that at his rate he could save $20.80 over the course of the year? That’s more than $200 in ten years ALL BECAUSE OF A COUPON. When you multiply that by the fact that he hasn’t ever bought anything without a coupon — socks! birthday presents for other people! HAIRCUTS! THEY MAKE COUPONS FOR YOUR HAIR! — you realize that I didn’t come by my insanity on accident.

“What’s going on?” I ask, a little afraid.

“Well,” he begins, “can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” I say.

“Does your husband like us?” he asks.

I want to tell him immediately that, of course, Jon loves him. Jon loves all of my family despite the fact that they conduct themselves in a manner that suggests it is their God-given right to park a pickup truck on your front lawn. But before I answer I’m struck dumb with the implications of such a question. What happened between Jon and my father? When? Jon understands explicitly that he is never supposed to bring up religion or politics when in the company of my family because one, it will only end up in a useless argument, and two, my father owns a gun.

A few weeks ago we were sitting in my father’s living room having a friendly conversation when Jon’s brain temporarily shut off and shriveled into a wrinkled mass the size of a green pea: he enthusiastically brought up a recent op-ed piece about homosexuality in the local newspaper. Once the word HOMOSEXUALITY left Jon’s mouth both my father and I immediately shut down into Preservation Mode: Keep Mouth Shut So That Leta Can Continue To Have A Relationship With Her Grandfather. Neither he nor I said a word for the next twenty minutes because he knows he’ll never change my mind, and me? I have seen his gun, and it is very gun-like.

I swallow loudly and say, “Jon loves you, Dad.” And then I ask without wanting to know the answer, “Why?”

“Does he really?” he asks. “How much does he love us?”

I guess not enough that he won’t bring up The Gays in your living room, Dad, but that has nothing to do with love and everything to do with a terminal case of absent-mindedness. “He loves you like his own family,” I say.

“Do you think he loves us enough that he would help us out if we needed it?”

My heart starts to break a little. “Of course! Whatever you need, Dad,” I say hoping that he understands that he is an important part of our lives, that having him so close has given Leta a chance to know her grandfather, something neither Jon nor I ever really had. I want him to know that I love him as his child, but more importantly that we, as adults, respect the man that he is. “Jon would do anything for you.”

“Then tell him I have an angry skunk stuck in my window well, and I need someone to climb in and get him out.”

  • Mrs Ca

    2006/07/10 at 9:39 am

    I don’t even think I love my husband enough to confront an angry skunk. Tell him to look for a coupon for pest control.

  • Donny

    2006/07/10 at 9:37 am

    Sounds like a smart man, getting you to commit your husband to help before telling you what he needed.

    Thanks for the first smile of the morning.

  • Tracy

    2006/07/10 at 9:37 am

    Ha! Man, that is truly a much keener test of in-law filial devotion than biting his tongue over social issues.

    Also, unless you have an XL decon suit just laying around the house, the follow-on question must be: Do you love Jon enough to let him come back into your house reeking of skunk?

  • Meretrice

    2006/07/10 at 9:37 am

    LOL, that is awesome. 🙂

    I realized that my husband loved my parents when he had to use his training as a nurse to help my dad when he was sick with cancer. I won’t go into details given that this is a family blog, but let’s just say that any man willing to put one of his digits in any oriface of his father-IN-LAW must love me, and my family. (I just went into the details, didn’t I?)

    I don’t think I ever loved my husband more than in those moments when he was taking care of my dad, who ultimately died of prostate cancer.

    And he kills ugly bugs for me too.

  • Melissa

    2006/07/10 at 9:34 am

    Truly awesome.

    I love that your dad was so nervous about asking for Jon’s help in this sensitive matter!

  • sarahekite

    2006/07/10 at 9:32 am

    There for a minute I was worried where this story was going, now I can’t stop laughing, nor can I see through the laughter induced tears!

  • dancingnancy

    2006/07/10 at 9:32 am

    THAT is love, Jon. I don’t care what anyone says. Or maybe I should include Heather in this as well. You’re the one who’ll have to start the dreaded tomato bath……

    Like a fat kid loves cake………..

  • smoness

    2006/07/10 at 9:34 am

    THAT takes quite a bit of love! Oh, and tomato juice? Not so much does it get the stench out… but it will turn you a nice shade of pink. 😉 Go to the nearest pet store and buy, Odor Mute – it works.

  • JC

    2006/07/10 at 10:21 am

    jon should just throw his clogs at the skunk. that’ll fix it!

  • Mack'sMom

    2006/07/10 at 10:26 am

    Here I thought he was going to ask for one of Jon’s kidneys…instead this was way more “AWESOMER”

    So in the case my parents or in-laws were to call in the same dilemma, am I an unloving cruel bitch to say “HELL NO!” Just wondering…I just want to be prepared.

  • Jeni

    2006/07/10 at 10:19 am

    Okay, total gut-busting laughter in my office. I was thinking this was going to be a we-need-money thing, but I realized you probably wouldn’t post such a thing. Never, did I expect an angry skunk.

  • Danalan

    2006/07/10 at 10:19 am


    Way to start my Monday. Don’t be too surprised when you find out how long if took your dad to find a good skunk to put in there, so as to teach Jon a lesson.

  • carosgram

    2006/07/10 at 10:19 am

    Now that is what I call REAL love!

  • katy66

    2006/07/10 at 10:17 am

    Your Daddy gets three snaps in a circle!

  • veg4me

    2006/07/10 at 10:17 am

    Last summer my Dad woke up in the middle of a nice summer nights sleep to the aroma of skunk. He looked out the open window, saw the skunk on the lawn, opened the door and grabbed his sneaker. He attempted to scare off the skunk by throwing the size 11 at it. Hit that skunk on the back of the head from 30 feet away in the dark of night and killed it.

    Next morning he had to get up, get his sneaker, grab a shovel and bury a skunk.

    Tell Jon to bring The Clogs, they might come in handy…

  • JustLinda

    2006/07/10 at 10:13 am

    Ah, a little skunk funk.

    We had one in our garage a couple years ago. My daughter ran in saying “There’s a STUNK in our garage.” No doubt at all.

    My parents just redid their wills a couple months ago, signed, sealed and locked away for the time being. Having nothing to gain from climbing to rid my parents of the dead skunk, I’m certain he would have called an exterminator. We’re not skunk people, he and I. We just plain aren’t.

  • sweetney

    2006/07/10 at 10:07 am

    and off in the distance, a rimshot was heard…

  • Y

    2006/07/10 at 10:09 am

    I wonder if the skunk is a homosexual.

  • jes

    2006/07/10 at 10:13 am

    And what was Jon’s response? To tell him to suck dirrrty coon tails?

    Did he go after the skunk? And if so, I won’t believe that you didn’t photograph it. Or! RECORD IT. even better.

  • Jonniker

    2006/07/10 at 10:13 am

    I got two skunks stuck in my window well last year and basically, it sucked. Sprayed everything, everywhere (did you know that it’s WHITE when it hits things? And smells like burning lamp fuel up reallyreally close?)

    Not that you asked for it, but the best way we found to get them out was to put a plank in there to help them crawl out themselves. If they’ve been in there long enough, they will do it, and you’ll have plenty of time to run. I’m telling you this so that Jon saves himself from getting sprayed multiple times – a fate that we did not escape.

    Cute side note: When the skunks escaped, the first skunk sweetly waited at the top of the window well for the second skunk to make her way up, then they hopped off into the distance. Aside from the stench, it was the most darling thing I’d seen in a long time.

  • Joana

    2006/07/10 at 10:04 am

    Ahahahahah! True love, right there.

  • Elleana

    2006/07/10 at 10:06 am

    I guess I’m not the only one to think ‘she must get this on video’. And you MUST.

  • lawyerish

    2006/07/10 at 10:02 am

    Proof that you are Southern: “you realize that I didn’t come by my insanity on accident.” ON accident (as opposed to BY accident) = 100% Dixie. I miss me some Southern.

    Proof I am an idiot: what is a window well? I am imagining that it’s the space underneath a window, i.e., the space into which a car window fits when you roll it down, but whether in a house or a car, I can’t imagine that it’s a space that could accommodate a skunk. Help?

    (Of course, maybe I am being too literal and, in fact, your Dad was speaking metaphorically, to the effect that Jon had dang well better not bring up The Gays in My House Ever Again or else I’ll have him wrasslin’ angry skunks in no time flat.)

  • TxSuzyQ

    2006/07/10 at 10:03 am

    Guess Jonboy’s not gonna be gettin’ any lovin’ anytime soon… unless you can hold your breath for the duration!

  • amieable

    2006/07/10 at 10:01 am

    Skunk-retrieval is the barometer of true love.

  • Valerie

    2006/07/10 at 10:01 am

    Must have follow-up post! Must know the ending of this story! Must have video with cool CNN sound effects!

    I know that my grandfather loves my husband because he calls him his “little buddy”. Not sure what that does for my husband’s self-esteem, though.

  • karen

    2006/07/10 at 10:01 am

    Here’s a website you might find handy. If it’s already to late for you to need the big “Professional Skunk Trappers” link at the top, the skunk smell removal recipe toward the bottom might be of use:


    At least it sounds like the inheritance might be worth something…all that coupon use! I’m lucky if I get it together to notice that a particular brand of something is on sale – our kids have no hope for much leftover when we’re gone.

  • Kung Foodie

    2006/07/10 at 9:40 am

    Chuck to the rescue!!!

  • Arty Steph

    2006/07/10 at 9:41 am

    Wow, that really sucked me, I was waiting for the horrifying ending! And then, when I read how funny it was, I sprayed orange juice out my noise. thanks for that 🙂

  • Carrie Johnston

    2006/07/10 at 9:42 am

    I would smack my dad for almost giving me a broken heart/heart attack/something related in a bad way to the heart.

  • shannon (bitter-girl)

    2006/07/10 at 9:44 am

    Hoo boy. I don’t think I’d trust mine anywhere near a skunk…not after our dachshund got skunked in the face last year and he LET HER RUN INTO THE HOUSE AND DRIP SKUNK SAUCE ON THE CARPET.

    (Capitals added for *extreme emphasis*)

    I bet Jon wouldn’t do anything nearly as clueless, though, so you’re in the clear.

  • babbling

    2006/07/10 at 9:46 am

    does your dad like Jon? that’s a stinkyyyyyyyyyyy situation to put Jon in!!!!!

  • justlisa

    2006/07/10 at 9:46 am

    I almost let a skunk in our house once. Thought it was the cat. Big mistake! I suppose there is no good technique for removing a skunk from a house or a window well.

  • AnitaBonita

    2006/07/10 at 9:47 am

    Oh my LORD, that is funny!

  • toddlermama

    2006/07/10 at 9:49 am

    Please take pictures! Jon will perform this horrific feat and save the day, right? Because it’s only fair, after bringing up Those Gays… (been there, bit my tongue on that…)

  • Lauren

    2006/07/10 at 9:52 am

    oh please don’t forget the camera.

    this needs to be documented.

    or video! even better ..


  • patchuga

    2006/07/10 at 9:54 am

    I love your dad. That is exactly something my grandpa would have said and requested help for.

    I need to know, though, if Jon did in fact crawl down and rescue the angry skunk.

  • JennJenn

    2006/07/10 at 9:58 am

    Amen my good woman.

    I know the situation all too well so I empathize with you, A LOT.

  • bananie

    2006/07/10 at 9:58 am

    so classic. what a fabulous story. well crafted and the suspense was perfect (esp as i cringed at the word “homosexuality” being uttered in your father’s presence).

  • Trips' Dad

    2006/07/10 at 9:59 am

    Wow… not sure which is stronger or more satisfying: the sigh of relief or the shot of laughter! (BOTH are good on a Monday morning!) As an inactive SLC Mormon who questions everything every day, I appreciate the PALPABLE parental tension… I appreciate it “with every fiber of my being.” 🙂
    PS – I appreciate your artistic eye, too (whichever it is, right or left, doesn’t matter) – thanks for sharing your daily photos.

  • Chantel

    2006/07/10 at 10:01 am

    I think that it would take a “different” kind of love for me to save people from skunks.

  • Jennifer

    2006/07/10 at 10:01 am

    That is absolutely fantastic. Absolutely. Did Jon go over and get the skunk out?

  • charmarie

    2006/07/10 at 10:32 pm

    Afterall skunk removal is important.

  • Charlie

    2006/07/11 at 1:01 am

    Would your dad let Jon use his gun?

  • fred

    2006/07/10 at 8:13 pm

    and the oscar goes to…… your dad.

    well played.

  • Mary Craig

    2006/07/10 at 8:22 pm

    I love many people in this world, but for NO ONE would I crawl into a window well to confront an angry skunk.

    That’s right. Not even for my kids, whom I love more than anything (including chocolate, if that gives you an indication of the depth of my feelings), would I mess with a skunk.

  • diana the goddess

    2006/07/10 at 9:12 pm

    Hey Heather, I just wanted you to know that I just got a new computer for work and the very first thing I did when I got it home was log into Dooce.com and save you as a bookmark, my very first bookmark. I love you,

  • Vir-gin-YA

    2006/07/10 at 9:29 pm


    I lloovvee the smell of skunk. I don’t know why. It just reminds me of my best summer time memories of childhood – hanging out with friends, sneaking out in the middle of the night and hearing the little critters walking under my window on the hottest of nights – not memories of being sprayed, because that has yet to happen 😛

    I have never met another who loves the smell. I always joke around that I could wear the parfume if they ever made it.

    Anywho, I hope your dad got some loving from Jon.

    Take care


  • Heather

    2006/07/10 at 7:54 pm

    Simply awesome! Great laugh! Thanks!

  • Maniacal

    2006/07/10 at 7:13 pm

    Aaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahaha How funny is he! Using the tone of voice and everything….

    Soooo did you say….Yeeeeaaa, not THAT MUCH dad! LOL

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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