Tail of woe

Around the crack of dawn I was dreaming about sliding across a wood floor in my socks in an Adam-Sandler-does-ballet kind of way, when into the dream slunk a skunk.

Skunk reek tests my chemical common sense.

I stop sliding and stare at the furry black creature whose stubby legs reminded me of corgies, those Scottish herding dogs upon whom breeders imprinted their cruel sense of irony. The skunk reeks of musk so funky that it makes my eyes burn–my common chemical sense kicking in–and leaves a greasy coating in my throat. I swallow hard. But the Scentinelle is not scared of a little skunk. I inhale and go deep, determined to get to the bottom of the stench.

The surprising thing about skunk musk is that is has an almost sweet base note of roasted garlic, but it’s not a clove of roasted garlic; it’s an entire field, roasted, then juiced, then concentrated to fill a shot glass.

That’s when I wake up, realizing that the skunk I smelled in my dream is actually wagging its tail of woe under my bedroom window. A quick internet search identifies the chemical, butyl mercaptan, as the primary source of stink in skunk musk. Turns out mercaptans are a family containing some of the most notoriously stinky compounds, according to the Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed):

..allyl mercaptan is released when onions are cut, butanethiol (butyl mercaptan) derivatives are present in skunk secretion, and mercaptans are among the sulfur compounds causing the disagreeable odor of flatus.

Later I ask my neighbor about the skunk. Turns out that skunks are wild in this area, along with raccoons, hawks, ravens and coyote. Funny what realtors fail to mention. My neighbor pays a de-skunker to come over every week and hose her house down with a homebrewed de-skunking agent. She offers me the recipe.

This calls for another pot of jasmine tea.

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  1. this is the way a blog should be! thanks!

  2. I would also like to know if medications can cause bad braeth. My boyfriend is on a medication for sesures at night and zocor could that have any effect as well as juices, coffee, cheese, Italian. He gave up drinking beer. If he limits the cheese he is better. His hygene is good to and he brushes and uses mouth wash. To much even on pizza lingers his braeth for a couple of days and he wakes up with it. he wonders why and what it smells like. I do not have the answers.


  1. […] about 400 chemicals, including furfuryl mercaptan, a compound in the same extended family as skunk musk’s butyl mercaptan. Furfuryl mercaptan lends coffee a roasted, meaty aroma. Much of it gets lost in the decaf process, […]