At the end of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the king is presented as a tormented soul looking to muster up some courage as his life falls apart. A victim of his own ‘vaulting ambition,’ Macbeth sees his reign as king disintegrate as a series of prophecies come true. In his final act, Macbeth, cornered by the noble Macduff, implores his opponent to fight. “Lay on, Macduff,” Macbeth says, “And be damned he that cries, ‘Hold, enough!’” This is Shakespeare’s fancy way of saying, “We’re gonna fight and one of us is gonna die!” In this case, Macbeth is slain by Macduff as the king’s murderous era comes to a close.
Macduff emerges as the hero. Courageous and victorious, he is the promise of renewed hope in a fractured kingdom.
I can’t help but think of my own backyard as a fractured kingdom. On two occasions the rambunctious Reilly was felled by the spray of a skunk. Twice I was forced to clean and deodorize my poor little Westie. We needed a hero – a Macduff – to come and restore hope to the kingdom.
So we invited our friend Linda over, whose dog happens to be named Macduff.
A BBQ and a Campfire
Linda and Macduff arrived at our house along with our friends Sandy and Rob one beautiful August evening (both Sandy and Rob are humans in case you were wondering). It was one of those summer nights where everything just came together: the weather was great, the food was delicious, and the company – both human and canine – was most enjoyable.
We had dinner outside and, as the sun started to set, we decided a little campfire might add to the ambience of the evening. As the skies grew darker, we shared stories and jokes as the wine flowed and the night grew cooler – making the fire that much more soothing.
Lay on, Macduff!
The dogs were nestled in under our chairs. Reilly was sleeping but Macduff was kind of sitting up looking around. At one point, he went for a little stroll away from us. I was staring intently at the fire when Linda, looking out for her dog, asked, “Is that a skunk?”
Because I’m an optimist, I replied without looking over to where she was pointing, “No, it must be a cat.”
I should have looked because before I knew it Macduff was paying a skunk a visit. Was it the same skunk that had sprayed Reilly? Were there multiple skunks that routinely invade our property? The moment of truth was upon us. Would the courageous Macduff – in keeping with his namesake – emerge as our conquering hero?
Skunk 3, Macduff/Reilly 0
Macduff wasn’t as zealous as Reilly when it came to chasing the rodent (actually a skunk is part of the weasel family so I use this word more as a descriptor) but he got close enough to get sprayed. Fortunately Reilly was asleep under my wife’s chair when Macduff visited the skunk so we were able to hold him back after he woke up and realized what was going on. Linda tried to draw the puppy away from the skunk but her calls were no match for the Westie’s curiosity.
To be fair, Macduff didn’t really deserve to get sprayed. He approached the skunk very cautiously, as if it were another dog, just hoping to get a whiff of the animals scent. Instead he got a face full stink that left him smelling – as the bard might say – ‘most foul.’
The skunk had won again.
While Macduff thought he was being respectful by avoiding a mad charge at the intruder, the skunk let him know that he was a smelly force to be reckoned with. Blinded by his own instincts, the poor white puppy walked headlong into humiliation.
What followed was the embarrassing visit with the laundry tub as I did my level best to get the skunk shampoo to take as much of the smell out of him as possible.
This marked the third skunk encounter in our backyard. The skunk(s) won all three battles. Outwitted by the intruder, the Westies were forced to retreat, mired in the stench of the attack, unable to live up to the honour and dignity of the soldier Macduff was named after.
This is just my version of events. Sure I’ve peppered the tale with pomposity and drama but, in the end, I never open my back door without worrying about the skunk(s). And hopefully you don’t feel my story is ‘a tale told by idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ (Macbeth Act 5, Scene 5, 26-28)