a story by
(c) 1998 by Chris Yost. All rights to story content reserved. Characters Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, Tabitha, Carli, and Tammy Vixen (c) Eric W. Schwartz. Character Roxikat (c) John Barrett. Character Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Characters Chris Foxx, Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Amy Squirrel, Clarence Skunk, Dexter Collie, Angel Collie, and Wendy Vixxen (c) Chris Yost. Character Florence Ambrose (c) Mark Stanley. Character ZigZag (c) Max BlackRabbit. All rights to additional characters reserved by their respective owners. Story based on characters and situations created by Eric W. Schwartz.Windows95 (TM) Microsoft Corp. Amiga (TM) Gateway Computers.
Outside ZZ Productions, the white tiger-striped skunkette walked across the street from the parking garage. She adjusted the strap over her shoulder that helped barely hold the short dress she wore. As she stepped on the curb she yelled when a nearby wolf pushed her against a parked car, yanked the purse from her arm, and ran at a reckless speed down the sidewalk!
ZigZag quickly recovered and took off after him, yelling things after him I absolutely could never reproduce here. The wolf dodged a car screeching to a halt, ZigZag vaulted over the hood and kept after him. She watched him disappear around a corner, then heard a thud and an "Oof!" Panting, she caught the corner of the building and ran around.
She watched as the wolf disappeared down the street, still running, but now with a distinct limp. Catching her breath as she moved, she walked up to the male skunk standing between the Pacer and the open driver's door.
"Hey," she said as she walked over to him, "you okay?"
Clarence nodded. "Yeah." He rubbed at his upper arm where it had impacted with the doorframe. "Yeah, I -- " Looking down, he saw what must've been dropped by the guy who ran into him. Picking it up, "I, uh, guess this is yours?" he asked sheepishly.
"Sure is!" She took it and looked through it quickly. But quickly wasn't the way Clarence looked over his new acquaintance -- he studied as politely as he could; short dress, the sharply-angled nose, the long braided white hair, the ... claws? The black jagged stripes? White fur on a skunk??
She closed her purse and pulled his paw out to where she could shake it. "You have no idea what you did!" she exclaimed. "I've got my entire company's payroll in here!" As Clarence lowered his jaw in amazement, ZigZag shook her head. "How he knew it's beyond me."
"Maybe he didn't," Clarence offered. "Maybe he just thought you'd be easy."
Clarence didn't understand why she laughed so hard when he said that. And as long as she had his hand, "Call me ZigZag." She smiled as she saw the expression on his face. "And yes, I'm a skunk. Long story about the stripe pattern."
Clarence shook her hand. "Hi. I'm Clarence." Unconsciously, he started rubbing his arm again.
"I don't know how to begin to thank you!" ZigZag touched Clarence's shoulder. "You look like you're really hurting." She ran her hand down Clarence's arm in a slow, practiced maneuver she didn't even realize she was using. "Why don't you come with me. Maybe I do know a way to thank you."
Clarence felt his insides jump. "Uh," he stammered, "th-that's awfully nice of you, but really, it's okay … "
ZigZag watched him and smiled to herself. "Hey, don't be frightened of me," she told him. "I don't bite … well, not much." And she grinned. She grinned a wide grin that showed just a hint of her sharpened front teeth.
"Well, I-I-I-I-ah-I-well-that is -- I'm actually meeting my girlfriend shortly and I only came by this way to buy her some flowers!" he got out as quickly as he could.
"Re-lax, Clare! How soon until you meet your girlfriend?"
Clarence looked at his watch. Tell her in about five minutes! "Uhm, not for a little over an hour yet." And he felt his insides cringe again.
Next he felt ZigZag guiding him around the door. "Tell you what, you come with me, and I'll make sure you get out in plenty of time. Deal?"
Clarence wasn't brought up to be rude, truth is he's seen people be rude, but it just was never part of his nature, and try as he might, he just couldn't say "No thank you", as badly as he wanted to. Instead he watched himself lock and close the driver's door, and let ZigZag lead him with a paw on his back to her studio … where Clarence saw the overhead sign and abruptly stopped at the threshold!
"Y-You're that ZZ?!" he gasped.
ZigZag opened the front door. "The one and only." As Clarence backed into her paw, she gave him a push that sent him inside. Now she laughed out loud. "Clarence, you're as safe here as you are anywhere!" She rubbed at a knot in the back of his neck. "We're a tax-paying business, just like a clothing store or a gift shop." She led him past the front counter, and once out of sight of the windows past posters featuring both her and other adult actors and actresses, in various stages of dress and undress, in various stages of ... you know ... well ...
"You blush worse than the writer!" ZigZag told Clarence as they passed closed doors with intense "Oo's" and "Ah's" and "Omigod's" and assorted grunts and moans coming from beyond.
"But I've heard stories ... " ZigZag looked amusedly at Clarence as he talked. "People are taken off the streets, given illegal drugs, made to do all sorts of things ... "
" ... stolen by corrupt governments and sold into slavery on other planets ... " ZigZag giggled and opened the door to her office. "I've heard them all." She let Clarence lead the way in and closed the door behind her. "Look, I'm not going to say that doesn't happen, but we're a legit business here. Folks don't work here unless they want to work here. Their choice, and they make a pretty decent living at it." She smacked a large padded table. "Hop up!"
Clarence jumped when ZigZag smacked! He scooted over to the table and hopped up. ZigZag began unbuttoning his shirt. "Now," she said as she worked, "before you or anyone with a dirty mind gets the wrong idea, I'm only taking your shirt off because I'm going to ask you to lie down on your tummy, and I'm going to give you a massage that would knock your socks off if you wore socks."
"Th-th-th-that's really very nice of you ... "
"This is my personal massage table," ZigZag went on. "You're the first besides me to use it."
" ... but ... but I'm having dinner with my girlfriend and her parents, and I really have to get to the flower shop before they close, and ... "
ZigZag pushed Clarence's shirt over his shoulders. "Is that all?" She walked to her desk and picked up the phone. In a moment the number she dialed rang.
Clarence started to slip his shirt back up. One ear was tuned to the one side of the conversation. "Hi Maggie, it's ZigZag ... fine, thanks. Listen, can you send two one-dozen rose bouquets over before you close? Put it on my account ... thanks Maggie! Love ya! Bye."
ZigZag turned back and held out her arms. "Ta-daa."
"Thank you, that's awfully nice of you."
ZigZag walked back, dropping one shoulder with each step. "Be careful Clare, you lost your stammer." She took his shirt and slid it down Clarence's arms. "You don't know how you saved me. Who knows how long it might've been for me to get that money replaced from the insurance company? Now lie down." She took his arm and when he laid down the way ZigZag wanted him, she picked up a metal bristled brush and started by combing it through the deep black sides of his fur. This is to relax you, opens the blood vessels."
Clarence felt the brush go through his back fur, ZigZag alternating left side and right. Then down the middle. She gently pressed the little balls of the bristle ends so they ran through his fur and over his skin. ZigZag proved she was no stranger to the art of massage ... eventually she laid the brush down and started working Clarence's shoulder muscles with her hands. She kept her claws retracted and rolled her thumbs as her fingers eased the tension from him. When she finally saw Clarence's shoulders slump and a quiet sigh escape, she grinned.
A knock on the door. ZigZag yelled over her shoulder. "'sopen!"
A muscular badger wearing a headset came in with two bouquets. "You got another admirer, Zig," he told her.
ZigZag laughed as she worked her way down Clarence's back. "Not this time, hon." She stopped for a second. "Tell everyone to drop what they're doing and get in here, five minutes. Payday."
The badger nodded and ducked out. Clarence, meanwhile, was the most relaxed he'd been since leaving the womb. When the door closed the sounds from the nearest studio quieted. "You have a busy place, Miss ZigZag," Clarence told her.
ZigZag worked her way around the small of Clarence's back. "No Miss, just ZigZag. Yeah, some parts busier than others. And see how you feel now? Nothing to worry about."
Clarence combined a small laugh with a larger moan.
"Y'know," ZigZag continued, "ever think of doing some acting?"
"Me?!" Clarence raised his head and ZigZag pushed it back down, massaging his left arm. "You've got to be kidding. I could never do anything like that!"
"Y'never know 'till you try." ZigZag moved around to the other side and started on his right arm. "There's a big cry for amateur talent, money to be made."
Clarence blushed again. "I ........ don't think I could, thank you." He changed attitudes. "I could put you a really nice website together, though."
ZigZag unsheathed her left set of claws and gennnnnnntly dragged them through Clarence's back fur, from top to bottom, left to right. Clarence almost purred as she did it. "Thanks, but I've already got someone doing one of those for me. Talented lady too, and cute!" Just then, ZigZag stopped and squatted at the head of the table. "I want to show my appreciation. Do you need a job by any chance?"
Clarence looked up at the nice lady, his eyes wide, then narrowing as he listened. "Look, this business isn't for everybody. But we can always use a go-fer, and it'd be a kind of entry-level position, maybe get you used to being around our kind of people. And they're all good people. We're really casual; like a big family. We look out for each other. Interested?"
When ZigZag flashed her blue eyes and fluttered her eyelids, she knew Clarence was hooked on the idea. "Can I start Monday?" Clarence asked.
"Eleven A.M. sharp, no dress clothes or I dress you in lederhosen." She winked as the door was pushed open. She stood up and motioned to Clarence to sit up. He did, looking for something to cover himself with, which is when he noticed a third of the people were in dressing gowns or less. "Everyone, meet Clarence," ZigZag announced. "Be nice to him, he's the guy who stopped me getting mugged and made sure you all got paid today."
Just as Clarence opened his mouth to correct her, 19 people applauded and whooped for him. He turned back to see them, this second look slightly less embarrassing than the first. He watched the badger pass out the checks, which left three people waiting.
"These three get paid cash," ZigZag told him as she walked to open her purse. "Meet Yevette, Rodney, and Dawne. The one in the middle keeps our video equipment working."
Clarence nodded to each in turn; a tigress, a lop-ear rabbit who was slightly older than the two ladies, and the yellow and white feline. ZigZag gave each a receipt for them to sign before she counted out the money and paid them. Rodney waited until last. "I need to take your number four color camera home with me," he informed her. "I'm going to have to resolder the board."
"'kay. See you and it Monday." Rodney left and ZigZag came back to Clarence. "How's that arm now?" she asked.
Clarence straightened his left arm and flexed it. "Perfect," he said. "Thanks for everything."
"No sweat." She handed Clarence back his shirt, and when he'd buttoned it up she handed him the flowers. "Have fun at dinner, see you Monday."
When Clarence had finally left, ZigZag leaned against the front of her desk. "Two in as many months." She giggled. Both skunks too. "We may be dysfunctional, but darn it, we're a family."
"You're sure a different man than you were this afternoon," Sabrina said to Chris as they walked up the walk a few blocks from downtown. She pulled herself closer to him as they walked arm-in-arm.
Chris chuckled. "I knew I had nothing to worry about," he said. "Just that one percent chance a paranoid guy like me has to keep a weather-eye out for."
"Well, everyone loved you, and you made a real hit with the kids! You're invited to parties now by people you don't know."
"I like simple parties the best," Chris said. "Loaf of bread, jug of wine, you … "
Sabrina brushed her tail over Chris'. "Best kind."
A wolf limped past them as they turned a corner by a small grocery store. In the darkening shade of a tree Chris stole a kiss. "Have I told you lately that I love you?" he asked.
Sabrina raised her blue eyes toward the branches. "Uhm ... only five minutes ago," she teased. "But I'll listen to it as often as you wanna say it." And he almost got it out again before Sabrina kissed him. Now taking hands, they continued their walk.
"I actually never understood eating bread with wine," Chris said. "But if you'll point us in the right direction, we'll stop and get a bottle and something to go with it." Chris smiled. "That's one nice thing about Ohio, you can buy your wine right in the grocery store."
Sabrina nodded. "Yeah, it's -- " She brought them both to a stop. "Chris," she asked, "why aren't we in the car?"
Chris opened his mouth to answer, then realized he didn't have one. Together they sighed, then giggled, then changed sides and began the 11-block walk back to her parents' house.
Cindy hooked her bracelet just as the doorbell rang. She straightened the shoulders of her new dress and put just the tiniest touch of perfume behind each long-hanging ear, and ran down the stairs to the front door.
"Hi Clarence, c'mon in."
Clarence couldn't hide the silly grin as he entered the house. "Hi Cindy," he said. "These are for you. Sweets to the sweet." And he handed her a bouquet of roses. "I know, but I couldn't think of anything else romantic to say."
Cindy smiled at Clarence. "This coming from someone who writes love poetry?" She leaned in to kiss his cheek. "Easy this time," she whispered and delivered his kiss.
As Cindy closed the door, Clarence pushed his glasses back up and looked at her. "You look beautiful tonight, Cindy," he forced out.
"Thank you." Cindy buried her nose into the roses and took a deep sniff. She ran a paw over one sleeve of Clarence's sport coat. "You look nice too," she said. "I love that tie."
"Thanks." Clarence tried not to sound bashful as he talked, not after his encounter earlier this evening. "Paisley never goes out of style, they say."
Cindy took his free hand. "C'mon, Mom's in the kitchen." She led Clarence along and they found Mom, dressed up, wiping down the countertop.
"Hi Mom," Cindy began, "This is Clarence. Clarence, this is my mom."
"Well, it's about time I get to meet you," Cindy's mom said as she walked over to them. She offered her paw. "It's very nice to meet you, Clarence."
"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Lapine." Clarence slipped on the eye contact while he shook her hand gently. He handed her the other bouquet. "Thank you for having me to dinner."
"Thank you! My word, what a gentleman you are." Cindy's mother accepted the roses and inhaled them the same way Cindy had. "I'm only sorry dinner has to be so late tonight," she apologized. "Cindy's father had to work late this evening, but he should be home any minute now."
While they talked, Cindy looked under the sink and found a couple of vases and arranged both sets of roses nicely, then carried them to the dining room table. That was when everyone heard the side door open and close. "Hi Daddy!" came through from the dining room. Clarence finished and passed his first conversation with Cindy's mother, and went in to meet the father.
When Clarence went into the dining room, there was only Cindy. She'd placed a vase on either side of the table. "They're wonderful Clarence, thank you." She came over and kissed him again. "Stroke of genius, bringing one for Mom too! I think you made her night!"
Clarence just grinned, not wanting to spoil the evening by saying it wasn't his idea. "I've got some news too," he said while they waited for her father to return, "I think I've got a job for the summer."
"That's wonderful!" Cindy beamed. "You wasted no time, either! Think they might have something for me?"
Just as the blush started to rise, Cindy saw her father return. "Daddy!" she said, I want you to meet my boyfriend Clarence ... "
The sudden "Aaaach!" from both of them startled Cindy and brought her mother running in from the kitchen.
Her dad nearly dropped the camera case to the floor.
Cindy finished the introductions. "Clarence, my dad Rodney."
Chris lay awake in Sabrina's bed listening to the rain pelt the windows. That sound was part of what lulled Sabrina to sleep, cuddled in his arm.
The worst is over. They like me! Chris carefully angled his head to look at the quietly sleeping Sabrina. Pretty lady. He made her stir softly when he kissed her atop her head. I don't deserve you one bit ... I'll never be more thankful than I am now for you.
The last he saw was a distant flash of lightening as he fell asleep.