The Skunk Ape

41

The legend of the skunk ape is as old as antiquity.

“Something killed my cat,” the boy said flatly. The ride home from school on the bus always seemed interminable. Danny and Bud were the same age and lived side-by-side way out in the sticks in north-central Mississippi. They both despised school. As 10-year-old boys, they certainly did not break any fresh ground in that regard. All 10-year-old boys hated school.

Their friendship was the only thing that made the day tolerable. The weather had been too bad to go outside for recess. As a result, the bus ride home was their first real chance to visit. Additionally, Danny had held sincere affection for that cat. He had not felt like discussing it previously.

“Something killed Felix?” Bud asked. “I liked your cat.”

“Yeah, me, too,” Danny said. “He was a good cat, always bringing up dead moles, lizards, and stuff. I found him out behind the barn. What I found didn’t really look much like a cat.”

“What happened to him?” Bud asked.

“Don’t much know,” Danny replied. “Dad said it was most likely a bobcat or a coyote. He said it didn’t hurt long, so at least there’s that.”

The bus came to a complete stop in front of a railroad crossing. When the driver took the vehicle over the tracks, the rear end jumped, throwing the two boys briefly up and out of their seats. This phenomenon was most pronounced right over the rear axles. That’s why they chose this seat. After a few moments in silence, Bud continued, “I bet it was a skunk ape.”

Danny looked at his friend curiously and said, “What’s a skunk ape?”

“Caitlyn told me about it,” Bud explained. “A skunk ape is kind of like Sasquatch or the abominable snow monster. They live in the woods in Florida and eat people’s dogs and stuff.”

Danny looked at Bud in silence for a full half minute.

“Caitlyn told you?” he asked. “Your sister Caitlyn? The same Caitlyn who also convinced you there was a bridge to Hawaii? Caitlyn lies about everything. There’s no such thing as a skunk ape.”

Bud pulled out his phone. He had gotten it two months earlier for his birthday. It was a hand-me-down from his mom after she upgraded. His parents had put filters on it, but he could still get Wikipedia.

The skunk ape and his cousin Sasquatch have purportedly
been seen countless times.

“I looked it up,” Bud said. “Wikipedia says the skunk ape is a real thing. You’re right. Caitlyn lies about everything, but Wikipedia doesn’t lie. Wikipedia is like the government or something.”

Both boys hovered over the vintage iPhone as Bud worked his thumbs.

“The skunk ape is a large hairy human-like mythical creature purported to inhabit the forests and swamps in the southeastern United States, most notably in Florida. It is often compared to Bigfoot.”

“I don’t know,” Danny said. “Still sounds fake to me. Even if it is on Wikipedia. What’s a skunk ape look like?”

Bud scrolled down further.

“The skunk ape is commonly described as a bipedal human or ape-like creature, approximately 1.5–2.1 m (5–7 feet) tall and covered in mottled reddish-brown hair. The skunk ape is often reported to be smaller in stature compared to traditional descriptions of Bigfoot. It is named for its foul odor, often described as being similar to a skunk.”

“Doesn’t say anything about what a skunk ape eats,” Danny said. “If it ate cats, I’d think Wikipedia would say.”

The two boys pored over the rest of the article between potholes. Bud and Danny’s homes were the last stop on the run. By the time the driver finally put out the folding Stop sign they had both read the article and knew a fair amount about skunk apes.

“Thanks, Tommy,” Bud said to the driver as they climbed off the bus. The bus driver smiled and closed the door behind them, anxious to get the bus put to bed. It was a quarter mile down a meandering common drive to get to Bud and Danny’s respective houses.

“I still think it was a bobcat,” Danny mused as they walked. “I don’t think skunk apes are real. And this is Mississippi, not Florida. Even if they were real, I don’t think they’d live up here.”

“You’re probably right,” Bud said. “And Caitlyn does lie a lot.”

The two boys continued down the driveway in silence.

The skunk ape lurked within the tree line, watching the two boys intently as they kicked along the dusty driveway. His thick, matted red hair melded into the surrounding foliage perfectly. He sat perfectly still, embracing the shadows.

This particular skunk ape was fully eight feet tall. He traveled at night, and his prodigious stride made the trek up from Florida a fairly expeditious affair. Most of this area was still unspoiled wilderness, so finding his coveted solitude was not a chore. Climate change had left the Florida swamps too hot and fraught with mosquitoes.

The skunk ape was hungry. That stringy cat had not been terribly filling for a creature his size. He peered silently at the two unsuspecting boys, his stomach beginning to growl.

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