- The Worst Case Scenario
Being at sea for
months at a time, submarine officers have plenty of time
to think up scenarios about the worst calls they could
make to the captain, such as:
"Captain, sorry to wake you but I just wanted to
inform you that the fire is out."
"Fire! What Fire! What's the status of the
"Well sir, as near as we can tell, it’s shut
"As near as you can tell?!!! What do your
"Um, um, I'm sorry sir, I can't get to them right
"Because of the flooding sir."
"The flooding that put out the fire sir."
"Is the flooding under control?!!!!"
"Well . . . we did get the flooding stopped, but
not before the sub sank . . . "
never had to make such a call during my submarine days,
however, my married days are another story . . .
It all began
innocently enough. Audrey had recently begun a new
series of horticulture classes and was fretting over
having to drive home late at night, only to return the
next day to school. To me the solution was obvious . . .
stay with friends. After all, what could possibly go
wrong in one night?
returned from Government Senior Executive charm school,
which is another story in itself, I eventually convinced
Audrey that I could be trusted alone for one night. With
a skeptical look on her face, she pulled out of the
driveway and headed to school, praying that once, just
once, she might not return home to a catastrophe.
As the dogs and
cats had gathered around to listen to the debate, I
figured this was a good opportunity to let them all know
that this time I meant business. I had no sooner started
to address them all when Charlie took off after the barn
cat. The remaining cats scattered for the high hills,
and PJ, my trusty Jack Russell, headed for the cat food
bowls. Only Kess, who I affectionately describe as
having only one synaptic nerve, which often misses, sat
patiently waiting for instructions -- so much for my
first five minutes in command.
the evening went event free, that is of course, if you
ignore the unscheduled cat chases, unauthorized climbing
on furniture, and the wild tizzy fit that followed the
crossing of the kitchen by an unfortunate mouse. But for
the most part, things were fairly quiet.
p.m. I headed out to the barn to check on the horses,
which also served as the last opportunity for the dogs
to get in one last good sniff. While in the barn, I
heard Kess let out a bark. Hearing no more, I paid no
attention and continued checking the stalls. As I
returned to the house, I noted that Kess was stopping
every few feet to rub her face. Figuring that she was
just being silly, I paid no attention it. Having
forgotten wood, I shushed Kess in and returned to the
barn. It was then that I got my first whiff of the
In the short
interval it took me to retrieve an armful of wood, Kess
managed to rub against every piece of furniture in my
study. The smell was so bad that, after depositing the
wood, I had to rush back outside. Unfortunately, even
this wasn’t much help, as the skunk, to show its
displeasure with Kess, had begun to circle the house,
spraying everything that crossed its path. Which
unfortunately, now included me.
Returning to the
house, I tried to coach Kess back outside, but as she
had by now gone to bed, she would have none of this. As
I reached the limit of my ability to hold my breath, I
finally simply picked her up and headed to the barn. PJ
thought this an excellent opportunity to eat the cat
Kess was none
too pleased with my attempts to give her a bath. About
all I accomplished was getting myself soaking wet and
Kess royally pissed off. The water having made her smell
even more pungent, I opted to lock her up in the barn
for the night, much to the dismay of the horses.
Back in the
house, I faced the daunting task of ridding the house of
the odor. I quickly set about putting outside everything
Kess had touched, even so the house still reeked. I then
began to frantically search for an air freshener. Every
closet, nook, and cranny was searched, but no air
freshener was found. In desperation, I grabbed a can of
lemon-scented Pledge and sprayed till it was empty. The
house smelled like ‘lemon scented skunk furniture
polish.’ I finally couldn’t stand it any more and
ran back outside . . . and promptly tripped over the
fatigued, and hopeless, I climbed into bed. Squeak, one
of our two indoor cats, thought this an appropriate time
to cough up a hairball.
I rose early the
next morning and surveyed the damage. The house looked
like it had hosted the Russian army’s World War II 50th
anniversary party. I showered till the hot water ran out
and tried to find some clothes that wouldn’t reveal
the night’s disaster. When I open the doors to the
barn, I was greeted by four highly perturbed horses, all
wearing gas masks. Kess, the perpetrator of it all,
wiggled in joy at seeing me and, before I could stop
her, she rubbed against me. I showered until the cold
water ran out.
In order to
breathe, I found it necessary to keep all the windows
open on my drive to work. Needless to say, I arrived at
work rather invigorated. Unsure if others could smell
the skunk on me, I cautiously approached my secretary,
whose back was turned. At fifteen feet, I saw no
response. At ten, her nose began to twitch. As I closed
to five, she put her hand over her mouth and turned to
identity the source. My other secretary simply gagged
and ran away. It was obviously going to be a long day.
early, much to the happiness of my co-workers, I once
again turned my attention to ridding the house of the
smell of the skunk. I toyed with the idea of lighting
scented candles in every room, but the thought of
potpourri-scented skunk gave me pause to think. Smoke!
That’s the ticket I thought. Having fought for years
with a smoky fireplace, I knew first hand just how
pungent smoke was.
stove was quickly restocked and a fire lit. Once the
fire was firmly established, I opened the door and
closed down on the damper. The room soon began to smell
like hickory, and I congratulated myself on my brilliant
idea. As the aroma began to diffuse throughout the
house, I turned my attention to restoring order.
I managed to
work my way as far as the kitchen, when I heard the
sound of a log hitting the floor. My first thought was
that the cats were playing in the woodbin, but the puff
of smoke that emerged from the study told me something
else was the culprit. Ducking below the thick smoke
layer, I searched frantically for the fireplace tongs
while simultaneously stamping out the sparks shooting
off the log that had rolled out of the stove.
By the time I
had returned the log to its rightful place and
extinguished the last of the smoldering spots on the
couch, the house had filled with smoke. PJ thought this
a good time to eat the cat food.
I was sitting
outside, with a very bloated PJ, thinking of what could
happen next, when Audrey returned.
everything go all O.K.?"
another typical day home alone on the farm. Um . . . do
you remember that submarine officer joke I once told you
. . ."
other Humor stories by Michael Hillman
other stories by Michael Hillman