My brother Michael is the middle child in our family. If you are a middle child or have one, you know what that means, and I’m so sorry.
Mike doesn’t always make the greatest decisions. Sometimes he doesn’t even make a choice; weird, hilarious things often just happen to him as he meanders through life.
It was the summer of 2017. Arguably, it was the best few months of humanity, outside of that terrible last Game of Thrones episode. Beyonce gave birth to her twins, Gal Gadot debuted as Wonder Woman on the big screen, and most importantly, the world was introduced to the greatest mobile game of all time, Pokémon GO. There were videos of people playing Pokémon GO everywhere: Japan, US, Italy, Brazil, all countries miles apart and yet somehow united in their quest to complete the Pokédex. To no surprise, that same mission continued at our little home in Hamden, Connecticut.
My family was cosplaying at the time, the night before the Saturday of one of our favorite conventions, Connecticon. We were dressing up as our favorite villains, so naturally Darth Vader, Voldemort, Thanos, and Doflamingo from One Piece, an anime show with over a thousand episodes, were a few characters on the roster.
The rules for that night were simple: don’t do anything stupid outside of the house. Don’t do anything stupid inside of the house. Don’t do anything stupid with people. Don’t do anything stupid that could jeopardize a smooth con the next day.
Well, you guessed it, Michael did something stupid.
He and his teenage friends—including my youngest brother, John—went out for a little late night “Poké Grind” as they would call it (dorks) in the park across the street from our house. It was around eleven p.m., the night only illuminated by the flickering street lights and the fluorescent shine from their phones. Michael trudged farther ahead than the rest of them; there was a Jigglypuff nearby that he just needed to catch, despite already having caught four previously. If you’re not familiar with Jigglypuff, it’s a cute, round ball of pink fluff that sings lullabies and puts people to sleep.
With a few flicks and taps on the screen, the Pokémon clicked into the digitized Pokéball and Michael had successfully caught his fifth Jigglypuff.
“Michael, watch out! Your leg!” John yelled from a few dozen feet away.
Mike looked down and saw a fluffy, black and white skunk stuck to his leg. Quickly after, a smell of burnt rubber that could also be mistaken for a certain smoked substance–don’t lie, you know the one–traveled onto his leg and up to his nostrils. A thick, paste-like liquid only made it onto his right shin, not that it matters, and within seconds the skunk scuttled back into the darkness.
I don’t think the fifth Jigglypuff was worth it, Mike, and neither did his friends, seeing as they bolted back to the house the moment they knew the situation was turning a little . . . stinky.
Naturally, as the seventeen-year-old boy Mike was at the time, his first instinct was to call the parent that would yell at him the least, meaning Dad.
“Mike, what’s up?”
“Don’t be mad . . . ” Hot start, Mike.
“Oh God, what happened?”“Well, you know how I was getting our Poké Grind on, right?” (again, dork).
“Yeah . . .”
“While I was playing, I may have gotten sprayed by a skunk.”
Cut to Mom, screaming from across the room, “YOU WHAT!?”
“Oh, you’re on speaker phone by the way,” Dad added. Eventually, my parents and Michael came up with a plan to keep the stench to a minimum, and he started to make his way back to the house.
I was in the dining room at the time, swearing from hot glue burns as I finished up gluing together Darth Vader’s sword and Thanos’ infinity gauntlet. Mom and Dad rushed down the stairs quickly.
“Your brother’s an idiot.”
Yeah . . . sounds about right.
I continued to work on the costumes for a few more minutes until I noticed Mom shuffling through the kitchen, looking for something.
“What are you looking for?”
First, she dug through cabinets above the stove. Crackers, noodles, bagels, bread.
“No . . .” She moved to the drawers under the sink.
Jelly, peanut butter, ketchup, cans of soup.
“No . . .” Finally, the spare closet.
At this point, I was convinced Mom was making the best peanut-butter-and-jelly-and-ketchup sandwiches with chicken noodle soup and crackers on the side, when she yelled “Aha!” There, in her hands, what seemed to be the holy grail of all kitchen ingredients, was two glass jars of the most subpar pasta of all time: Ragu (not sponsored).
Soon after Mom found the sauce, Michael’s friends had returned from their Poké Grind (nerds) and awaited the stinky prince’s arrival into the backyard.
It’s an image I will never get out of my head.
There, my tall, muscular, seventeen-year-old brother stood in his boxers, barefoot in the backyard, tan lines on his pasty thighs brightly illuminated by the flood light from the house, dumping Ragu (still not sponsored) down his legs to try to dissipate the skunky smell. As I’m sure you probably know, there are a few things that can actually cut the smell of a skunk. Ragu is not one of them, and shampoo isn’t either (Remember that in a little while).
We all watched from the kitchen window, cackling at the sight, and then slowly getting whiffs of expired pea soup and sardines into the house. It’s like the smell had a mind of its own, every time we laughed, it got worse.
Poor Mom ended up outside with Michael, helping to scrub the sauce into his legs–as if that made it any more effective–until they both gave up and settled on him coming inside to try and shower. As you could imagine, Mike was not in fact happy with his Jigglypuff catch at this moment, and was not thrilled that we were all laughing constantly at him. So, when he came inside to get to the upstairs bathroom, he was pretty grumpy.
One thing you need to know about my brother: he didn’t take a lot of showers as a teen. I don’t know if it’s just a stinky boy thing or genuinely just Michael, but it wasn’t a common occurrence. So, when this shower lasted like thirty minutes, we knew he was really going at it. Eventually the shower turned off and he came back downstairs in clean clothes.
So, like the big sister I am, I decided to poke more fun at him.
“Did you even use body wash?”
“No, I didn’t.”
Joke’s on him, we ran out of body wash, and who do you think finished it up earlier that night?
So instead, grumpy Mike used shampoo to try to lessen the smell. I’d like to crack a joke and say that the shampoo made it all better, but unless you like the smell of soapy skunk butt spray—said literally no one, ever—I think it was a failed attempt at containing the stench.
Like any of Donald Trump’s advisors, or Britney Spears’s Instagram handlers, or Elon Musk’s Twitter followers, we learned to live in the absolute chaos. The stench lingered for weeks and on Michael even longer. At the convention the next day, he cosplayed as a really stinky Doflamingo from One Piece.
We still enjoyed the weekend, despite the hiccup. Saturday was filled with photoshoots and videos, both as a group and separately. On Sunday, we met a group of cosplayers from Massachusetts: Holly, Jake, and Logan. They were cosplaying from One Piece as well, so Michael got a lot of pictures taken with them. Specifically, he and Holly were photographed often, meaning they stood close together for minutes at time, meaning she definitely smelled the aftereffects of the Poké Grind (at this point do I even need to say it?).
I learned something about Holly that day though, because she’s been Mike’s girlfriend—or my almost sister-in-law—ever since that weekend.
Guess that means she thought Mike was really stinkin’ cute.
Shannon Prevost is a senior at CCSU, where she majors in English and minors in Creative Writing. After she graduates this Spring, she plans to pursue a Masters in Elementary Education from the University of Bridgeport. Shannon has been working with children from ages five to twelve for the last eight years and loves teaching them about English and literacy.