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, Wendy Vixxen, and Wanda (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. Character James Sheppard and Marvin Badger (c) James Bruner. 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
Clarence was sitting in the Men's Room stall the next day wondering aloud what to do with his newfound situation with Wanda and Cindy when Marvin entered the bathroom. Clarence didn't hear the badger enter, but Marvin definitely heard the muttering coming from behind the door.
"Clarence, is that you?" Marvin asked as he washed his hands.
"Yes," was the dejected reply.
"Clarence, what's the problem? You sound pretty down in there."
Clarence stood and opened the door and saw Marvin standing by the sinks with a concerned look on his face.
"I'll be okay," Clarence told him.
Marvin knew better. Clarence looked bad -- worse than usual. Clarence was a good worker and really made an effort around the studio, and Marvin had taken him under his wing.
"Clarence, something is bothering you," Marvin lectured and threw away the paper towels. "Don't deny it, it's written all over you face."
Clarence came over to the sink beside Marvin and washed his paws. Marvin waited patiently for him to finish.
Finally done and with his paws dried to his satisfaction, Clarence cleared his mind, then his throat, and addressed Marvin:
"Marvin, how do you handle the temptation around here?"
Marvin smiled. "That's easy," he replied. "I married her."
Clarence looked even worse; his shoulders slumped and his ears drooped. "That's not what I mean," he said. "I have someone I'm seeing right now, but there is one performer here that has taken an interest in me. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I just can't risk messing up what I have with my girlfriend, either."
Marvin thought about what the young skunk had said. The poor guy looked miserable. "To be honest, Clarence, there is no easy way for you to deal with this. On the one paw, you risk alienating someone you work with. On the other, you want to maintain a relationship with your girlfriend. Tell me, does your girlfriend know where you work?"
Clarence shook his head sadly. "No. I don't know how I could tell her."
Marvin gripped Clarence's shoulder. "Clarence, there is nothing to be ashamed of working here. Sure, some people have some bias about what we do, but most are pretty understanding. If you love this girl, and if she loves you, then where you work shouldn't matter. As for the other, tell the lady that you're involved with someone and you aren't interested in extracurricular activities. If that doesn't solve the problem, let me know and I'll take care of it. Zig likes you, I like you and everyone else here likes you, and we don't want to lose you now that you are getting broken in," he added with a smile and a clap of his paw on Clarence's shoulder.
Clarence felt better at that. It's too soon to tell Cindy about my new job, but I will, soon, he thought.
"Thanks, Marvin. You've been a real help," Clarence told him, stepping towards the door.
"Any time, Clarence," Marvin replied, watching the change in Clarence's attitude.
Clarence stepped into the hallway and looked carefully in both directions before going towards the editing room to pick up the afternoon edits to put in the safe.
Contacts in place, coffee cup half full, Sabrina flipped from page to page of her bride's magazine. Since the newspaper announced her engagement she'd received every piece of advertising and coupons and freebies imaginable. This magazine was one of them; each glossy page made her long for a better paying job. With little exception every gown displayed, naturally, was gorgeous.
Sabrina took a sip of coffee. She turned a page and propped her head upon her fists, smiling at the lady raccoon dressed in a beautiful white satin and taffeta gown, the skirt barely graced the floor, the train fell down her back and draped beautifully around her shiny brushed tail. Her black hair was held in a ponytail with a gold ring, her head looked demurely down into her bouquet with a smile Sabrina could definitely relate to. Sitting in her C-CAD tee shirt and her black and white stretch pants made for quite a contrast which she easily edited out by staying as focused as she could. This one she honestly tried to picture herself wearing, the only difference being her head wasn't tilted, her eyes not downcast; rather she held herself proudly, inwardly knowing she was soon to belong to whom she believed to be the most wonderful man she had ever met.
She reached behind her head and tugged on her hair. Mom's thinking letting her hair grow longer for a ponytail, what would I look like with one?
Sabrina let go quickly when she heard the apartment door open. Thomas came in with a handful of envelopes and small packages gum-banded together.
"Mail call." He walked over to the table and dropped the packages and about eleven envelopes beside Sabrina's magazine.
"More free stuff? I can't believe this." Sabrina looked through the small pile. "Well, two bills. The rest are all advertising. Lookit." She read the blurb on the outside of each envelope. "'Come honeymoon with us in the scenic Pocono Mountains' 'Spend the first days of the rest of your married life overlooking beautiful Niagara Falls' 'Honeymoon in Steubenville, Ohio'?"
"I liked it there," Thomas said, "used to be a really good diner off the main drag."
Sabrina opened one of the packages. "Look at this." She pulled her hand from a padded envelope. "A fork. A single fork. They want to sell me monogrammed silverware." She looked at the fork. "It's a really nice 'M' engraved on the end of the handle. Too bad my name's going to start with an 'F'."
"So is theirs, right?" Thomas kidded.
snicker "Right." Sabrina looked at her watch. "I really should be working. It's almost ten o'clock, after all." She took another package and started to tear it open, then gathered everything up and carried it to her room. "Later," she promised.
Cindy bounded into the house, not paying attention to the slam of the front door. "MOM!" she yelled.
Ellen muted the sound on the television. "Cindy!" she scolded. "You know better that to slam the door like that!"
"Sorry, Mom." Cindy bounced into the living room. "But I got the waitressing job at the new restaurant downtown! I start tomorrow!"
"Wonderful!" Ellen said as she shifted herself on the couch to face her daughter better. "This is your first real job."
"Yeah. It's only part-time though." Cindy wrinkled her nose. "But the tips will make up for it, they tell me."
Ellen listened closely. "Well, I'm very happy for you."
Cindy sat on the edge of the chair opposite the couch. "Thanks! I can't wait to tell Clarence!"
Ellen picked up the remote control and turned the TV off. "You two have really become close, haven't you?" she asked.
And Ellen was answered with Cindy's smile. "You know Mom, you were right."
Ellen interrupted Cindy. "We always are." And she folded her arms and leaned back smugly.
Cindy barely noticed. "He's a really nice, sweet guy. And he's cute, in a kinky sort of way."
"And what is it he does again?" she asked Cindy.
"He's a go-fer," Cindy explained. "You know, he 'goes-fer' coffee, 'goes-fer' this, 'goes-fer' that "
Cindy stopped and thought a moment. "You know, I don't remember or he never told me " Just then Cindy laughed out loud. "Maybe he's working with Sabrina!"
"At that adult movie studio?" Ellen laughed out loud, too, uncontrollably. "Could you imagine!"
Cindy shrugged. "It might help his complexion if he did."
When the laughter finally died down, Ellen scooted back up. "You know, Even your father seems to like him. Not like your last boyfriend," she added.
"I still don't know why dad went off on him like that," Cindy said darkly. "All he said was that he thought it would be nice to get ear tattoos together."
"And you wonder why your father gave him the bum's rush," her mother replied
Cindy shook her head. "Sometimes dad is way too overprotective. I'm not a little kid anymore."
"Cindy, I'm going to let you in on a secret: nobody you date is going to meet your father's standards."
Cindy squinted with one eye. "I kind of figured that out for myself, mom. At least he hasn't started in on Clarence yet."
"I didn't notice that. And who knows, maybe he won't." Ellen grinned. "Maybe your father has perfected a way of keeping an eye on your boyfriends during the day," she said with a laugh.
"Don't even joke about that, Mom. It isn't funny."
"Sorry sweetie. I won't do it again."
"Thanks," Cindy said, and proceeded to tell her mother all about her new job.
Safely through another week! It had been a heck of a week, too; somehow Clarence had managed to safely avoid Wanda, but only by the dander of his fur some times! But it was payday, and he had allowed himself some room to breathe easier. For the moment.
It was when Clarence opened his pay envelope that he felt anxious again. He couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the amount on the check! He went out in search of his immediate boss Marvin.
He found him in the kitchenette at the coffee machine. "Marvin," he asked the badger filling his coffee mug, "Did ZigZag make a mistake on my paycheck?"
"Let me see," Marvin said, reaching for the check.
Clarence handed it over numbly and Marvin scanned the hours, pay rate and deductions section on the attached statement with a practiced eye.
"Nope," Marvin concluded, "everything seems to be in order. Why do you ask? Did she promise you more and shortchange you?"
"No!" Clarence quickly corrected him. "This is more than I expected. I am just a go-fer, after all."
"Buddy, let me tell you something," Marvin said, sitting backwards in the free chair and facing Clarence at the small table. "Zig takes good care of us here. You do your job well and she treats you well. Really foul things up though, and you're gone." He took a drink of his coffee. "But even then, you'd have to really foul up. She's a fair lady."
Clarence took this information in and stored it for future reference. "This is more than I could make as an engineering intern," he said with a touch of awe, staring at the check face once again.
Marvin smiled at Clarence. It's hard not liking this kid. He took a drink of coffee and watched.
"Got big plans for the newfound wealth?" Marvin asked politely.
"Now I do," Clarence confided, lowering the check. "I thought that I would have to work all summer to be able to afford a used car, but this plus my savings will make a great down payment."
Marvin nodded. "A young male needed his wheels these days," he agreed. "You have any particular car picked out?"
Clarence nodded his head. "Already did my research and checked prices last month. I found a Saturn dealership with a good selection of used cars. And a couple independent lots, too."
"My cousin has one of those," Marvin offered. "She really likes it. I drove it a few times and it's got some zip too."
Clarence looked at the clock on the microwave display. "Looks like I'd better get back to work." He put his check in his pocket and fished out change for a can of cherry cola.
"Where are you working today?" Marvin asked.
"I'm in editing with Derek. He wants me to help him explore the capabilities of the editing system now that we have the network storage for it."
Marvin put a hand in front of Clarence. "Have you had any more problems from a certain model?" he asked obliquely.
Clarence avoided his gaze. "I-I haven't seen Wanda for the past few days."
Marvin remembered what his wife had told him about Wanda and he decided to relay it to Clarence, since he was the current object of her attentions.
"Clarence, Wanda really is harmless. She just has a real bad desire for the shy types and her emotions sometimes override her brain. You won't hurt her feelings by telling her that you're involved with someone."
Clarence looked a little sheepish now, but he felt better, too. He didn't think that he could confront Wanda without causing a scene. "Thanks Marvin," he said, "you've been a really big help"
They both stood and started for the door. "Anytime Clarence. That's what I'm here for." They stepped into the hallway and went in their opposite directions.
Dexter took a week off to allow Angel time to recuperate at home. And he was fast learning what he was missing by working nine to eleven hours a day.
And he didn't miss it.
"Dad!" called Jeremy from the kitchen table a foot away, "when will Mom be better?"
"Oh, better give her a while," Dexter explained. "Coming home from the hospital, she's going to take some time."
Robin ran screaming into the kitchen. "DA-AD!"
"Robin!" Dexter scolded.
"Can Russell come over and play?" he finished.
Dexter shrugged. "I guess so."
"Nuh-uh!" Jeremy said. "Not until he learns to 'control his mouth', that's what Mom says."
"When's Mom coming back to cook for us, Dad?"
"Yeah Dad, Mom's pancakes you can eat."
"I don't like pancakes, I like waffles." Robin tugged on Dexter's shirt. "Can we have waffles tomorrow? I hate oatmeal."
"I hate the raisins in it." Jeremy made a face. "Can I have mine with sugar on it tomorrow?"
Dexter tried to take a step away.
"Hey Dad," Jeremy said as he climbed down from the table, "wanna play video games with us?"
"I can't," Dexter told him. He managed another step and turned the heat on under the tea kettle.
"No! Play race-cars instead!" Robin ran in a big circle around Dexter, with Jeremy in hot pursuit, each boy making loud engine noises.
"Boys," Dexter tried, "stop that!"
"C'mon Dad!" one of them yelled; Dexter couldn't decide who. "C'mon! V-rooooooooooooooooomm!!!" And that's when Robin's arm hit the dish rack and knocked the clean dishes into the sink, breaking roughly half of them.
"THAT'S ENOUGH!" Dexter grabbed each stunned boy by the shirt collar and pulled them into the living room. He pointed to the couch. "SIT!" Robin and Jeremy climbed up in stunned silence. "STAY!" They sat, they stayed. "Now stay that way!"
Dexter went into the kitchen and turned the heat up under the kettle and got down Angel's favorite mug which he smacked onto the countertop, threw a teabag into it, and picked the broken pieces of plate out of the sink. When the whistle whistled he poured the boiling water into it. He finished steeping the bag and threw it away, sweetened it, and carried it upstairs to the master bedroom. In the living room, two chastised boys sat motionless, tails between their legs.
Dexter regained his composure by the time his foot hit the top step and he nudged the bedroom door open. "Hey, where do you think you're going?"
Angel had pushed the blankets aside and was just putting a foot on the floor. "I was just coming down to see what all the commotion was about," she said.
Dexter set the cup on the dresser and helped Angel back into bed. "Just the boys screaming carrying on "
"You mean doing their kid jobs?" She took the mug from Dexter and took a sip while Dexter sat on the edge of the bed. Downstairs, the sound of roughhousing children quietly made its way upstairs.
Angel lowered her tea. "Something else is bothering you, hon," she noticed, placing a hand on her husband's leg.
"Me? Nah!" Dexter bounced on the edge. "How're you healing?" he asked. "When can we test 'em out?"
Angel smirked and took her hand back, using it now to smack her husband. "You didn't answer my question."
Dexter turned his head away, shaking it silently. Angel watched, and she understood. "Take a break," she said. "Take a walk. Take a drive. Call Chris and go out."
"Sure I will!" Dexter slid up closer to Angel. "I took the time off so I could take care of you, not to abandon you."
"And you are." Now Angel slid her free paw over the black fur of Dexter's cheek, trailing her finger to the open part of his shirt and tickled where the white fur of his chest started. "And you've earned a break. Get Chris and go out." And just as Dexter opened his mouth to protest, "I'll call Becky next door and she can bring her new one over; I want to see how she's growing anyway."
Dexter's mouth hung in mid-air. Angel was using her eyes to her unfair advantage, and the way he was truly feeling, it was working. He felt his resistance wane.
Finally he nodded. And got the cordless phone.
Clarence cashed his paycheck and put the money in his wallet before he left the bank. His visits to two used car lots in the area proved fruitless. When the tiger at the second lot attempted to qualify him and asked where he worked, Clarence had made the mistake of telling him. That only put his car-hunt off forty-five minutes.
When he arrived at the third dealer, Clarence was able to take his time wandering around. He liked it here, the sales staff didn't rush him like a pack of starving animals. He didn't deal with pressure very well, and so far this was the most comfortable place he had found to shop.
He stopped in front of a two-door coupe and noted the price on the sticker. It was well within his budgeted amount. He peered in the driver's side window and noted the mileage on the odometer. Satisfied that the car had potential, he went to the front and got down on his paws and knees and looked underneath the car. "Hmmm, no oil spots," he commented to himself. He stood and wrote the inventory number on his notepad.
Clarence stood and made his way to the lobby of the dealership and approached a salesperson.
"May I help you?" the coatimundi asked him politely, smiling at him.
"Uhm, yes," Clarence began after clearing his throat, "could you show me this car, please?" He handed her the inventory number.
"I sure can," she replied. "Let me get the keys for you." She went to the board and picked a tagged set of keys from a hook in a square of wood amongst several other sets, and returned quickly. "Is this your first car?" Charlene asked as they walked in the sunlight across the lot.
"Yes it is, if everything checks out" he replied politely, pointing to the car he was interested in seeing.
Charlene took Clarence around the car twice, giving him her practiced charm all the information on the car. An A-title, so far so good.
The nice lady opened the car door and handed Clarence the keys. "Would you like a test drive?" she asked.
"In a bit," Clarence replied, reaching down and pulling the hood release lever. "I want to see the condition of the motor first."
"Wise decision," she told him. "We don't steam clean the motors of the used cars until they are sold," she said as he propped the hood open.
"Makes it harder to spot leaks if you do," Clarence mumbled as he peered at every nook and cranny where he believed fluids might escape the motor. He felt he was in familiar territory now from his classes in mechanical engineering and his comfort level rose considerably.
Charlene let Clarence poke and prod to his heart's content, not disturbing him, reaffirming Clarence's decision to buy.
Clarence checked the fluid levels and stood up, closing the hood. "If you don't mind, I'd like that test drive, now."
Clarence drove his new used car home carefully. He was grinning from ear to ear, taking in every detail of his first vehicle.
The dealership had been true to Charlene's word and not only steam cleaned the motor, but had washed and waxed the car and had it ready for Clarence when he signed the last of the paperwork.
Boy, won't Cindy be surprised when she sees it?
Chris> And you were supposed to be working! You bad little slacker!
Sabrina shook her head and tousled her hair.
Kitten> Oh, I'm a bad girl! ::wink:: Watcha gonna do to me, you big bad man?
*Chris gives Kitten an eeevil grin*
"Ooooh, my!" Sabrina grinned.
Chris> Maybe beat up the HR guy for you
Kitten> You couldn't change their minds, huh?
Chris was shaking his head at the monitor.
Chris> I talked with both Jim and Paul in Human Resources. It's at least 7 weeks until your new start date :-(
Kitten> Well, I appreciate your trying for me :* But hey, we'll be there together before we know it!
Chris> Yeah, the weekend's coming up, too :-)
Kitten> Hey, yeah! You can meet ZigZag and her new beau!
Chris looked up, grumbling nothing nice.
Chris> Hang on Kitten, someone's at the door ::grrrrrrr-r-r!::
Kitten> Don't worry, I'll be here ;)
Chris pushed himself back from the desk as the doorbell rang again. "Keep your pants on," Chris muttered as he made his way to the front door.
Looking through the glass, he saw Dexter standing there, a completely blank look across his face.
Hmmm, what up with that? Chris opened the door. "Whatever you're selling, I don't want it," he said flatly.
Dexter looked startled for a few seconds and grinned as he realized that Chris was needling him. Chris opened the door wide for him.
"Sorry to bother you," he said, following Chris into the house, "but I was wondering if you had some time I could borrow."
"For you? Always. Just let me tell Sabrina." He ducked into the room where his computer was set up.
Dexter stopped at the doorway. "Hey, if this isn't a good time, I understand."
There's never a good time when you're talking to the woman of your dreams! Of course, Chris would never say that to him. "It's no problem," he told him, sitting at the keyboard. "We were just chatting, nothing that can't wait until later."
And he typed:
Chris> Dexter is here and he needs to talk. Can I call you later?
Kitten> OK. Tell Dex hi for me, and I hope Angel is feeling better! :)
Chris: Will do. I LOVE YOU SABRINA!!!
Sabrina grinned. "I love it when he shouts it." And she pressed her CAPS LOCK key.
Kitten> LOVE YOU MORE! BYE :*
When Sabrina saw Chris has logged off, she changed her nickname back to BRINA1 and entered the public chat lobby.
Chris spun his chair around. Dexter took a tissue from the box on the desk and blew his nose, then looked at Chris' wastebasket. "You got a cold or something?" he asked.
"Uhm, yeah, something." He got up and they walked into his living room. Chris sat on one end of his couch, Dexter took the other and sighed tiredly.
"What's on your mind, pal?" Chris asked.
Dexter took a deep breath and started. "Angel chased me out of the house."
"She what!?" Chris sat bolt upright.
"Oh, nothing like that," Dexter waved it off. "I'm behaving like a complete idiot at home."
Chris nodded. "Well, admitting you have a problem is the first step in overcoming it."
When Dexter didn't laugh, Chris knew he'd better change his angle of approach. "Talk to me, Dex."
The sigh he started with could have been weighed, it was so heavy. "Angel had a benign tumor removed from her right breast."
"She's okay. I told her she was going to be okay, and she is. Everything went textbook."
"And I keep thinking 'what if it had been different' and I lost her?" Dexter put his elbows on his knees and stared at the floor. "Chris, I just don't know what I would do if I lost Angel," he choked before burying his face in his paws.
Chris felt the anguish his best friend was going through. But he did not know how to lessen the pain Dexter was feeling. He placed a paw on Dexter's shoulder and squeezed. "Uh, Dex "
"I know," he told Chris through his hands, "it's stupid. She's fine and she's home, and if I could I'd marry her all over again. But still, I can't shake the feeling, hard as I try."
After a while, Dexter raised his head a bit, but still stared at the floor. Chris kept his hand where he'd left it, and continued to listen. Dexter went on, speaking as coherently as he could. And he succeeded in making Chris' mind drift If it were me, and Sabrina were Angel He shook his head and dismissed the thought. Pay attention, you jerk! This is your best friend here!
"Dex, Angel is all right," Chris ventured. "The lump was benign. After she completely recovers, this will just be an unpleasant memory for the both of you."
"I know," Dexter responded slowly. "It's just that, everything just hit me all at once today. This could've been a really close call for us." He pulled his paws across his eyes. "And here I am, taking you away from your fiancιe."
Chris released his grip on Dexter's shoulder. The poor guy had been under so much pressure and Chris had not even picked up on it. Some friend I am, wrapped up in my own world with Sabrina. He felt even worse now.
"Dex," Chris said, "I apologize for not being more supportive of you during this entire incident. You're my best friend, and I let you twist in the wind."
Dexter turned his head and looked at Chris. "What are you talking about?" he asked.
Chris fumbled for words. "Well, I mean, It's just that I've been walking with my head in the clouds over my good fortune with Sabrina and my best friend and his wife needed my support, and it wasn't there."
"Chris, Angel wanted you kept in the dark. For that matter, so did I. Until Angel had the lumpectomy, she wanted nobody to know what was going on."
Dexter bumped Chris' knee with his. "Besides, you couldn't have done anything about it. The support would have been thoughtful, but this was something we needed to go through privately." Dexter stood up. "I'm sorry, Chris. I came here feeling blue and now you are down on yourself; that's not right. I should have thought about this before I came over."
"You made the right choice, Dex." Chris stood up with him. "You'd do the same for me, right?"
Dexter nodded. "In a heartbeat."
"Then I'm not blue. Just so you know, we're here for each other. So there."
"Heluva friend." Dexter slapped Chris' shoulder, then gave him a bear hug.
"Tell you what Dex," Chris said with a grin, " you want to order some take-out and surprise Angel? We'll have dinner and celebrate good fortune."
"Sounds good to me," Dexter agreed, and slapped Chris on the back.