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. Character Cyberhorn (c) William Morris. Character Terl Skunk (c) Rodney Stringwell. 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. "Cooking for Dummies" (c) 1999 IDG Books Worldwide
"Okay, up just another couple inches."
Clarence unlocked the shaft and raised the flood light. Mark, the lemur photographer, brought the string from the lamp to where the model would be standing -- "Stop! Right there." He let the string drop and Clarence pushed the locking lever back in place.
Mark took a light reading and let the meter drop to hang from its lanyard. "Okay, mark that spot. Tape's on the table."
Clarence found the masking tape on the table and came back to place bits of it in front of the light's tripod legs. Mark straightened the presents under the decorated pine tree and picked up a bright red ornament that had fallen from one of the lower boughs.
"Doesn't it seem funny to you," Clarence asked as he put the tape marks on the wooden floor, "to do a Christmas scene in the summertime?"
"That's when you gotta do it," Mark explained as he hung the little ball back on the branch. "It takes time to produce and eventually market seasonal stuff, and we start advertising late October for November sales, which means the new girl has to start drawing up the promotional ad slicks. Zig wants to fill orders as soon as they come in and the checks clear, and we have to have everything ready."
Clarence backed up to stand and just caught the empty camera tripod his tail knocked over. He quickly set it back on its tape spots as Mark turned, only just catching an idea of what happened.
"Will you relax?" he told Clarence, giving him a smack on his shoulder. "A tense assistant isn't going to help me."
"I just want to do a good job," Clarence simply said.
Mark steered Clarence behind the lighting. "You are. Zig sure thinks you are, that's why she put you in the studio today. How long have you been in this business, anyway?"
"Oh, God." Mark buried his face in his hand, then slowly dragged down. "Well, just watch the tail, okay?"
Clarence nodded and pulled it closer to himself.
They both turned when the door from the dressing room opened. The vixen strolled out in a red V-neck Santa outfit trimmed in white fur that was accompanied by a matching mini-skirt. The red Santa hat with the white ball and trim was cocked to one side.
"Ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille," she said with a smile.
Mark grinned wide. "Wanda! Come out and meet Clarence, my new assistant."
How Wanda managed to bounce in something that tight Clarence couldn't begin to understand. His jaw stood open as his palms began to completely drench.
Wanda looked Clarence over. "He's shy," she said, giving Clarence a wink. "I like shy." She tilted her head slightly downward and gave Clarence a teasing smile that completely removed any chance of his saying a word.
And for about the next five minutes, Clarence was completely useless. His brain barely registered anything as Mark photographed Wanda in a very wide variety of poses. She kept looking over at Clarence and giggling. "First time?" she asked as she twisted and bent waaaaaaay over, secretly undoing the buttons barely holding her Christmastime outfit together.
And when she stood up, turned back, and peeled it away ………. Clarence blushed and was frozen to his spot! And when Wanda took a second look at the poor skunk and could see from there what was happening to him, her own eyes widened and …
… well, let's just say ZigZag was more than impressed with the best holiday layout she'd ever seen.
Amy looked up from the magazine she had open on the table. "Whatcha got there?" she asked.
Sabrina kicked the apartment door closed with her foot and carried the two bags of groceries, purse, and plastic bag from the bookstore to the table. She opened her mouth and dropped her keys into one of the paper bags. "Groceries," she repeated coherently. She almost dropped them on the table top. "I picked up a cookbook, too. I'm going to try my hand at some cooking."
"You?" Amy smirked. "No offense, Sabrina, but you've said yourself you're no good at it."
Narrowing her eyes over her glasses, Sabrina formed what was almost a scowl. Possibly brought upon by her carrying everything she did up from the car in one trip with no help. "I think it's time I learned," she told her. "After all, I know how to cook a few things, I just need practice is all."
"Yeah," Amy said, "I remember the last dinner you made."
"Hey," Sabrina said, "anybody can scorch food a little bit."
"Sabrina, you burned soup!"
Sabrina's mind ran for a comeback. "I don't see you offering anything better," is what she came up with.
"That's because I know I can't cook. I never had to learn." She turned back to her magazine.
With that, Sabrina took the book from the bag and plunked it on top of what Amy was reading. "If you can read," she told her, "you can cook. That's what my mom says."
Amy looked at the title. "I don't know," she said, "Cooking for Dummies doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence."
"We've all got to start someplace. Want to help?"
Amy handed Sabrina the book back. "Thanks, but I don't think I'm ready to take the plunge yet. You know what they say about 'too many cooks' and everything."
"Hmmph." Sabrina snatched her book back and pulled a seat from the other side of the table.
BASIC CHICKEN DINNER
"This should be easy," Sabrina said, leaning over the open book, her hands open on the front edge of the kitchen counter. "This recipe's named after an obsolete computer language." She slid her finger one at a time under each ingredient:
Sabrina popped open the cellophane wrapping on the chicken breasts and picked one up, analyzing it. "Skinned …. well, no problem there, skin's right on it."
"Easy." Sabrina found a baking dish and arranged them neatly, sprinkling salt over the top. "Done."
She read on:
"Open the can, Sabrina, no problem."
Sabrina picked up the wine and measuring cup next.
"Easy. Gawd, and I was scared to do this, too."
She looked at the package. "Eight ounces." She hefted the package. "How many mushrooms make up an ounce?" Opening the package, she dumped the mushrooms onto the countertop and counted them.
"Fifteen mushrooms … fifteen divided by eight … doesn't work. That's just under two mushrooms." She began whistling, rinsed the mushrooms under cold water, cut the bottoms off, and dropped them in a group on the counter. She split them in half, then one half in half again, then that half in half --
"Still only two mushrooms."
Sabrina picked up two, looked at them, shrugged, and dropped them into the bowl and stirred everything. Turning back to the cookbook:
"Ack!" Sabrina put just her fingertips into the sauce and picked the slippery mushrooms out, and shook them off into the bowl. One slipped back in and spattered her shirt with little drops of soup.
Sabrina picked it out again, found a sharp knife, and began slicing. When everything was sliced, mixed, stirred, and salted:
Which she did. She spooned the sauce neatly over each breast and slid it into the oven. She set the oven timer and cleaned her mess up. Once finished, Sabrina leaned on the counter again and heaved a sigh.
"No wonder Mom was always so short when I came home from school." And she took a drink from the wine bottle.