Keep Flying, Gene. Keep Flying.

I don’t know where this photo is from. I found it on social media. I don’t know the context of it… but it might be one of my favorite photos of all time. I like to imagine the little raccoon busted into a small town drug store, drunk as a skunk… err… raccoon and just started trying to steal Pringles and 40 oz bottles of cheap malt liquor to keep his wild bender going.

Things haven’t been the same for him since he caught his wife cheating on him with a house cat up the street who sneaks her Friskies from his nightly dinner. How can he compete with Friskies? He’ll show up with an old fish that is nothing but the head and pure bones below that (like in cartoons), every now and then. But Friskies? The wet kind? He can’t keep up. He’s ok with it. He measures his life not by the things he has, but by the animals he surrounds himself with, and his wife was simply a material girl living in a material world. If there was such a thing, she would’ve most definitely been on The Real Raccoon Housewives of (insert superficial city here). He enjoys being single. So he spends his time partying, rocking n rolling, and stealing potato crisps and Olde English.

But someone called the raccoon cops today. They showed up and said, “Gene! Not you again? How many times are we gonna have to do this?” To which Gene the raccoon feverishly replied, “You won’t catch me this time Officer Diaz!”. Diaz doesn’t really even mind. He likes Gene. He gets his situation, being in a similar one himself, but the law is the law and Officer Diaz took an oath: to uphold it. It’s a fun back and forth they have. It provides Diaz the much-welcomed break of having to notify families of deer that their loved ones were just hit by a Peterbuilt and scraped off of I-90. For Diaz, these Gene calls are what keep him sane.

On this day, Gene runs around the store screaming about his right to party. He’s fought for it and he’ll be damned if someone like Officer Diaz is gonna take it away from him. As he rounds the banana cream-filled Twinkie display at the end of aisle 7, by the old lady hair rollers, he sees daylight coming from the front door. He smells freedom and makes a final leap. As he reaches the crest of his valiant raccoon vault, Officer Diaz snags the rope around his head. He’s caught. Gene knows it.

But this photo was snapped at the split second before he does realize it. It is snapped just as the cool breeze from the automatic front doors open at the rapid-fire motion of his jump from justice. He almost made it. His escapade has ended early. He may have left empty-handed that day, and spent a night in the drunk raccoon tank, but Gene is not discouraged. For it was the brief blink of time this photo encapsulates that he remembers. He sits in his cell, with nothing but that feeling coating his mind, the same way good red wine coats a glass and forms legs that slowly run back down after a good swirling.

Gene shakes his head to re-live that feeling, the memory of freedom continuing to coat his raccoon mind, knowing as soon as someone pays his $425 bail, his first stop is to go catch that feeling one more time. To live that feeling again. And again. And again. Gene will be back. And I hope I’m there to share his joy. Keep flying, Gene. Keep flying.



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