a story by


Story and Disclaimer (c) 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Chris Yost. All rights to story content reserved. Characters Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen, Sheila Vixen, Clarisse, Timothy Squirrel-Woolfe, and Carrie Squirrel (c) Eric W. Schwartz. Character Roxikat (c) John Barrett. Character Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Characters Chris Foxx, Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Debbye Squirrel, Clarence Skunk, Dexter Collie, Angel Collie, Stacy, Wendy Vixxen, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, Wanda, and Mrs. Skunk  (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, Marvin Badger, and Chrissy the Bondo Vixen (c) James Bruner. Characters Kittiara and Katja (c) "Kittiara". Character Mark the "cheetaur" (c) Mark White. Character Tyler Leone (c) Michael Mullig. Characters Kevin and Kell Dewclaw (c) Bill Holbrook. Character Trudy (c) Jeffrey Darlington. Characters Chatin and Cilke (c) Tiffany Ross. Characters Jack Black and Cecil Stewart (c) Scott Kellogg. Characters Packard Melan and DJ Gabe (c) S. Adam Tindall. Character Ricky Boone (c) Ricky Boone. Character Portia (c) Matt Trepal. Character Josh Fox (c) his player. Character Hikaru Katayamma (c) Keith Dickinson. Character CottonLop (c) Jenifer Taylor. Character Tina (c) Tina Amberg. Character Elmer Foxx (c) Elmer Yost. Character BondoFox (c) his player. Character Vikki Vixen (c) her player. Cirrel Concolor (c) his player. Eric Schwartz (c) Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz. 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, Amino Systems, or whoever the heck owns them now (I think it's Amiga, Inc as of the time of this chapter's writing). "Cooking for Dummies" (c) 1999 IDG Books Worldwide. Chalupa is a registered trademark of Taco Bell. Mercury (TM) Ford Motor Corp. Honda and Honda Civic (TM) Honda Motors. BeastWars is a registered trademark of Hasbro, Inc. WBUT is owned by Brandon Communications.  "Extinctioners" (c) Shantae Howard.

Reproduction or altering of this story by any means or any unauthorized use without the expressed written permission of Chris Yost is strictly prohibited.

Chapter 50

            Clarence parked his Saturn behind his mother’s Pacer and climbed out.  He locked the doors and walked to the house, letting himself in the side door.  Lifting his head as he entered he followed the smell of cinnamon to the kitchen, where a large platter held several dozen sugar/cinnamon cookies that couldn’t have been more than an hour or two old. 

            Looking over both shoulders, he reached over to snitch one. 

“Clarence, no cookies before dinner,” warned his mother’s voice. 

            He quickly looked over the kitchen, but didn’t see his mother.  How does she do that?? he wondered. 

            As he walked out of the kitchen, he met his mother coming up from the basement, a basket of freshly-laundered towels carried in both paws.  “Clarence,” she said, “I’d like you to peel seven potatoes and put a pot of water on the stove to boil.” 

            “Sure, Mom.”  He followed her into the living room and watched her sit on the sofa, settling in and taking out the first bath towel to fold.  “M-Mom,” he started, trying not to show hesitation as he spoke, “I-I was … invitedtoCindy’sforThanksgiving!” 

            His mother stopped in mid-fold.  “But Clarence, we always go to your Uncle Michael and Aunt Crystal’s for Thanksgiving.  It’s tradition, having the entire family together.  And I certainly wasn’t baking all of those cookies for just us.” 

            Clarence’s head drooped a bit and he brought it back up, forcing his ears to not fold back. “I-I kn-know Mom, b-but do I have to go?  I m-mean, I’m, well, older now, and I-I r-really want to go.”  He found he had to force the last bit out, not knowing how his mother would respond made him nervous, it always did. 

            She made the final fold and set the towel beside her.  She replied, looking straight ahead toward the television.  “Well, you are certainly old enough to know your own mind, and if that’s what you want to do then you can certainly do it.” 

            Clarence felt a smile of victory begin to creep across his muzzle. 

            “I’ll just not go to Thanksgiving,” she concluded. 

            Before he could stop them, not that he ever had control of them in his life, his ears and tail pointed toward the floor.  “But Mom,” he argued with a whine he also couldn’t control, “you can go without me!  Just tell everyone I-I-I’m spending Thanksg-g-giving w-with my g-girlfriend.  I can st-still d-drop you off and p-pick y-you up.” 

            Clarence’s mother looked from the television to her laundry basket and removed another towel, peeling the dryer sheet away and setting it on the sofa’s arm.  “No,” she countered, “we’re a family, we’re all the family we’ve got.  And if we can’t go to a family function as a family, well, then, we just won’t do it.”  She laid the tan and white striped towel across her lap and began folding.  “You have a good time with your girlfriend and her family, and I’ll phone our apologies to your uncle and aunt.” 

            Standing quietly, Clarence watched as she finished and moved on to folding a tea towel, his head lowered, his eyes burning, tears forming in the corners of his eyes.  He could hear his mind telling him what to say, how to say it, What about when I finally leave home, Mom?  We’ll still be a family.  I’m almost 24, I can’t stay here the rest of my life.  What about then??  Dad’s not here anymore, and you still go to “family get-togethers”, aren’t we still family even without Dad?  Why won’t you let me go to my girlfriend’s??  It’s not fair!! 

            The first tear trickled unnoticed by his mother as Clarence turned to go to the kitchen.  “I’ll go,” he said in a quiet voice, which cracked as he spoke.  I-I’ll c-call C-C-Cindy and t-tell h-h-her I-I-I c-can’t m-make it.” 

            “ … My brother’s on leave, so he’ll be home for Thanksgiving this year,” Susan told Sabrina over the phone.  She lay on her bed and twirled the coiled phone cord between two fingers as she talked.  “Cindy’s invited Clarence to her house, and Debbye’s family are having a party with some other branches of their family.” 

            “Yeah, that’s what I heard from Amy,” Sabrina told her as she scribbled away at a pencil sketch of how she was picturing Susan as they spoke.  She wasn’t too far off either, except she drew Susan sitting against the back of her bed instead of laying on her tummy, she was holding a cell phone, and her hair and dress were different.  “She’s debating on whether or not to go, but I think she will.  The attention-hound she is, she’ll take the opportunity to show off little Timothy in a heartbeat.” 

            “He is a cutie,” Susan said.  “Makes you want one of your own, doesn’t it?” she teased, flashing a toothy grin.

            Sabrina smiled and tilted her head back and forth.  “Yeah, maybe a little,” she admitted, not realizing Susan wasn’t being serious.  “Except we’ll wait.  Call me old-fashioned, but I want the wedding ring on my finger before we start having children.” 

            “Yeah, remember,” Susan warned, “Accidents cause people.” 

            “Yeah, Chris already made that joke.” Sabrina began shading around Susan’s thigh.  “Speaking of weddings, I heard from the bridal store.  We can all go for our fittings Saturday after next.” 

            Susan rolled onto her knees, excited.  “All right!  We’ll make a day and a night of it!  We can all slumber party here, like we used to!  I’ll rent some movies, we’ll make a ton of popcorn, make prank phone calls, and watch movies all night long, just like before.” 

            “Sounds great!” 

            “Chris won’t mind, will he?” 

            Sabrina waved a paw dismissively.  “Nah, he’ll be okay with it.  After all, how often do I get to see my friends anymore?” 

            “Yeah, you’re right,” Susan agreed, “We’re all over here and you’re way way over there.” 

            “You make it sound like the other end of the world.”  Sabrina put her pencil down.  “Y’know,” she started, “if everyone brought sleeping bags, we could slumber party right here sometime, too!” 

            Susan knelt straight up.  “What a great idea!  Maybe we can do that after the holidays, huh?” 

            “Why not?” Sabrina asked excitedly!  “As long as the snow doesn’t screw everything up.” 

            Susan pointed an index finger into the air.  “And Y2K doesn’t shut the world down!” she reminded her. 

            Sabrina shook her head sadly.  “You don’t really think anything can happen, do you?” 

            Susan sat back.  “Don’t you?” 

            Sabrina shrugged a shoulder.  “I dunno,” she admitted.  “I highly doubt it, but there’s an awful lot of people saying otherwise, and at work Chris and the whole MIS staff are making all of these arrangements and going to a lot of trouble because of it.”  She sighed quietly.  “Doesn’t make any sense to me that anything’ll happen; Chris has some plans made just in case, so I guess being prepared isn’t a really bad thing.” 

            “Nah, never is,” Susan agreed.  “That’s what I had drummed into my head growing up, be ready for anything.” 

            “Explains why you carry what you carry in your purse,” Sabrina said to her with an evil grin on her face. 

            Susan blew a raspberry through the phone.

            Chris walked to his computer and took his seat.  When the monitor came up he reached for his mouse -- 

            Where in the heck’s my mouse? 

            He looked around the monitor, on the floor, behind the computer … it was when he heard a throat clearing that he looked up to see Sabrina, holding the mouse by its wire, which disappeared into her paw behind her back.  She shifted her hips left and right as she sauntered toward the center of the room. 

            Chris smiled.  “When did you get back?” he asked. 

            “A few minutes before you.”  She swung the mouse back and forth.  “And you can have this,” she stated, “when you show me what you can do.”

            With a wicked grin Chris climbed to his feet and walked toward his fiancée.  “Oh, I can do a lot,” he threatened her and placed himself against her.  Sabrina tilted her head one way as Chris tilted his the other, kissing her long and slowly, one paw removing the mouse from Sabrina’s and moving her paw behind her to meet her other. 

            Startled for the moment Sabrina looked behind her just as he looped the mouse cable around her wrists.  “W-what do you think you’re doing?” she asked. 

            “You said you wanted to see what I could do, little skunk of short memory,” the fox told her just as he made the second loop and the telephone rang.

            They both looked toward the phone as it rang a second time. 

            “I really should get that,” Chris said. 

            “Leave it,” Sabrina said.  “They’ll call back if it’s important.” 

            Tempting as it was, Chris said, “It might be Dad about Thanksgiving.”  On the third ring he told Sabrina, “Stay just like that” and kissed her, and ran to the bedroom to get the phone. 

            “Hello?” Sabrina heard from the other room.  “Yeah, hi Dad.”  As they talked, several minutes went by when Sabrina finally realized she was still standing here like this; she shook her paws to free them from the mouse cable and carried it with her into the bedroom where Chris was sitting on the foot of the waterbed wrapping up the conversation with his father.  She sat beside him and waited patiently as they talked. 

            Chris put a paw over the mouthpiece.  “I thought I told you to stay that way,” he teased and went back to talking so he could wrap up the conversation, hang up the phone, and crawl across the water mattress to his intended.

            With the dinner dishes washed and put away, another habit Sabrina brought with her from Columbus, she made a final inspection of the house to be sure it would pass muster with her parents when they arrive tomorrow. 

            Chris tried his best to push the hanger back to the center position in the bedroom closet, but it wasn’t about to budge another inch.  Sighing in resignation he waved it off and turned to quickly channel-surf through the bedroom TV and found nothing on, and after his third circuit he turned it off and set the remote on top of the satellite box. 

            “Well, I think we’re as ready as we’ll ever be,” Sabrina said as she entered and sat on the bed, bouncing slightly with the waves beneath.  “If the house isn’t perfect, then I’m sorry.” 

            “The house is fine,” Chris told her.  “It’s only your parents after all.” 

            Sabrina placed her paws behind her and used her arms to support her weight.  “Doesn’t matter, she’ll find something, I know she will.” 

            “It’s not like the house isn’t near-perfect anyway, it always is,” Chris told her.  “Well, since you moved in anyway … ” 

            “I can’t help it,” Sabrina replied, “I just feel … I dunno, compelled I guess.”  She looked up at him.  “What do you think about a bigger house?” she asked again.  “Then next year we wouldn’t have to bother your dad and use his house to host Thanksgiving.” 

            Chris shook his head.  Sabrina had the idea of moving in her head for several weeks now, and his insides twinged each time.  “I don’t know,” he moaned, “Boxing everything up, enlisting friends to help … a bigger mortgage, holy moley.” 

            “It’s not like we couldn’t afford it,” Sabrina reminded him.  “Even if I were only working for Zig Zag, we could swing it easily.  And now that I know you want a big family too … ” 

            Chris blinked.  “I want a what now?” 

            Sabrina made quotes in the air with her fingers.  “‘Lotsa little skunk babies’, you said,” she reminded him. 

            Oh, sheesh.  “You weren’t supposed to remember that!” Chris told her. 

            Sabrina only smiled. 

            “Besides,” Chris said, thinking quickly, “you don’t know it yet, but there’s this thing called ‘labor pains’, and I hear they’re really really unpleasant.  You can ask Angel in a few months, she’ll tell you all about ‘em.” 

            Sabrina smiled teasingly and rolled out of the bed.  “You changing your mind?” she grinned. 

            “Well … ” Chris tried not to stammer.  “ … we’re counting our eggs, so to speak.”  He forced a smile.  “Might be fun to be a dad, though.  I wonder if we’ll end up with white-striped foxes or brown skunks.” 

            Which leads me into something else.” 

            Sabrina had to force that last sentence out.  She’d been fighting with this feeling for a while, and she couldn’t explain it away to herself, she had to ask him 

            “What is it,” Chris asked, fighting a yawn; he’d had a busy day since this morning.           

            Sabrina didn’t feel right in asking.  “Chris … do you still have any feelings for Wendy?” 

            Chris was wide awake now.  “No,” he said as he turned to look at Sabrina.  “And why would you ask a question like that?” 

            Sabrina couldn’t help looking guilty.  “It’s … it’s silly, never mind.” 

            “Oooooh, no you don’t!”  As Sabrina turned to leave, Chris grabbed hold of the sides of her tail with both paws. 

            “Ow!”  Sabrina wanted to get out of the conversation she started.  “Let go of my tail,” she said in an authoritative voice. 


            “Let go of my tail.” 

            “Not until you tell me why you asked me.” 

            In a moment Sabrina sighed and sagged her shoulders in resignation, and Chris released her tail.  Sabrina turned and almost looked guilty.  “I … had this dream … ” 

            “Oh boy, one of these,” Chris said. 

            Sabrina raised her head.  “Now don’t roll your eyes, I’m serious!  It was … really clear, really real … ” 

            Chris folded his arms casually as he listened to his fiancée. 

            “You and Wendy were, well, intimate … not making-love intimate, but kissing, holding forepaws, smiling, laughing … and I was nowhere to be seen at all.  I mean, you know how when you see something like that in a dream you see it as if you’re there watching it?  Well, it was third person only, I wasn’t there watching you and her, I was just … not there.”

            Chris unfolded his arms and raised a paw to his ear.  “You hear that?” he asked. 

            Sabrina listened hard.  “What?” she asked. 

“The sound of your feminine intuition backfiring,” he observed.  Before Sabrina turned indignant Chris quickly added, “I haven’t had any feelings for Windy in years, and since she came back I still don’t.  What it sounds like to me is that you’re jealous of her.” 

            “That’s ridiculous!” Sabrina countered.  “I don’t have any reason to be jealous!” 

            Right,” Chris agreed, “but it sure sounds like jealousy to me.  And what’s funny is when you tell me you don’t like my jealousy -- ” 

            “I knew I shouldn’t have said anything,” Sabrina said with a huff.  “Men just don’t understand.” 

            Chris’ jaw opened incredulously.  “We do too!  But now you know how I feel when you mention Dumpster-Div -- ” 

            “I really wish you’d stop calling him that.”  Sabrina felt her tail shaking the way it always did when she felt angry.  “There is nothing between us, and frankly I’m getting a little sick of defending myself every single month.” 

            “But you want me to defend myself over something in a dream.” 

            “Oh, forget it!” Sabrina threw her arms in the air and screamed!  “I’m sorry now I even brought it up!”  She turned and stormed out of the bedroom.

             Chris watched her walk out of the room and out of sight.  Finally he sighed and walked out to find her. 

            Sabrina was sitting on their new couch looking through her new Amiga-friendly software catalog.  She obviously wasn’t reading anything, just flipping page after page and letting the pictures blur past her, displacing her anger on the printed pages.  When she felt Chris sit down beside her she didn’t flinch, she just concentrated on not acknowledging his being there. 

            Chris sighed again.  “I’m sorry, kitten,” he said as he gave her thigh a gentle squeeze.  “It was important to you, I really should have taken it seriously.”

             Sabrina ignored him for several moments.  Finally, she lowered her catalog a bit.  “I know it was silly, but it was important.”  She sighed.  “I just had to hear you say it.” 

            Chris peeled her right paw away from the catalog.  “So you’ll still marry me?” 

            Sabrina tilted her head and shrugged.  “I guess I’m sorta committed.”  She turned to him, Chris put an arm around her and pulled her closer, and they cuddled. 


            “You called her ‘Windy’.” 

            Chris widened his eyes.  “No, I didn’t,” he replied.  Then, did I??  I hope I didn’t! 

            Sabrina turned in his embrace.  “I think you did,” she countered.  “It sounded like ‘Windy’.” 

            Chris shook his head with hopes of getting out of this.  “She gave up being Windy when she ran off,” he told her.  “Windy is no more.” 

            My memories aside

            Sabrina shrugged it off and snuggled closer, her previous fit now forgotten. 

Thanksgiving Eve 

            “Are we there yet?” Tabitha asked from the back seat. 

            “No,” Sarge answered as he passed the truck, “Not yet.” 

            The radio station began to fade out.  Her mother began searching for a new one to listen to, leaving the music cassettes for last, the ones Tabitha hated so much.  Looking outside, the car passed mile after mile of dormant trees, once lush with green leaves, now bare enough to see houses and smaller roadways beyond. 

            “Are we there yet?” 

            “No, not yet.” 

            Endora turned to the back seat.  “Tabitha, honey,” she said, “I told you, it will take us about three and a half hours to get there.” 

            “Closer to four,” Sarge said quietly. 

            Tabitha sat back with a huff.  “But I’m bored!” she exclaimed. 

            “Why don’t you lie down on the back seat and take a nap?” he suggested. 

            Tabitha folded her arms.  “I’m not seepy.” 

            As Endora turned back Tabitha began kicking her feet up and down, unable to reach the backs of the front seats, and not from a lack of trying.

             Miles rolled by. 

            “I spy with my little eye,” Tabitha said as she looked out of the side window, “Something beginning with ‘C’.” 

            “Car.” Warren said. 


            “For the fourth time,” Warren said out loud to himself. 

            “It was a diff’r’nt car!” Tabitha announced proudly. 

            Endora looked back and gave her daughter a smile.  “You’ve got to make them a little less obvious,” she told her.  “That’s the secret.  Make us think about the answer.” 

            “Yes,” Warren said as he signaled and passed a moving truck.  “Like this:  I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with ‘J’.” 

            Endora saw him pace the large truck.  “Oh, you’re not giving her ‘juggernaut lorry’, are you?  That wouldn’t be fair!” 

            “Of course I wouldn’t give her that!”  Sarge looked at his wife.  “You have got to stop watching those English TV shows on PBS.”

             She looked out of the windshield and folded her arms.  “I like Keeping Up Appearances,” she told him. 

            “Okay,” he conceded,” but how many times can you watch that one about the department store -- ?” 

            “Giant sign!” Tabitha yelled triumphantly. 

            “No,” her father corrected, “‘Giant’ begins with a ‘G’.  It just happens to have a ‘J’ sound sometimes.” 

            “Oh,” came the tiny voice from the back seat.  She looked out the window. 

            Endora clasped her paws and interlaced her fingers on her lap.  “I barely watch any television at all other than those shows.” 

            “Jaguar!” Tabitha yelled, leaning toward the window as far as the center seatbelt allowed.  “Driving that car!”  She thought for a moment.  “Or is it the car?” 

            “Make it easier for her,” Endora 

            “But she got it!” Sarge defended.  “I’ve been pacing him to help her guess it.”  He slowed down a bit and the Jaguar moved up the highway.  “He’s going to think I’m a troublemaker.” 

            “Or following him now,” she said as he pulled in behind him.  Sarge muttered something and signaled back into the outside lane. 

            “Can I have a snack?”  Tabitha asked. 

            Endora turned back to the back seat.  “Sweetie, you just had breakfast not an hour ago.” 

            “You should’ve finished it,” her father told her. 

            Tabitha wrinkled her little nose.  “I don’t like that cereal,” she said before she stuck her tongue out. 

            Sarge tried his best to not to raise his voice.  “Then why on Earth did you beg me to buy it for you??” 

            “Wanted the prize inside,” Tabitha told him. 

            Endora watched him shake his head.  “And you never did that when you were a kid.” 

            Tabitha sat up and leaned forward.  ‘They have cereal back then?” she asked. 

            Warren wasn’t going to say anything.  “Of course we did,” her mother told her and turned back. 

            As they traveled northward, they eventually passed the sign stating they were entering Medina County. 

            “Are we there yet?” 

            Sarge took a deep breath.  “No.  Not yet.”  He tried to look at the map before Endora tore it from his paw.  “Look and see how far we are from I-76,” he told her. 

            “How long we gonna be at Kiss and Sabeena’s?” Tabitha asked. 

            Warren sighed, avoiding a glare from his wife.  “Just until Saturday, three days,” he said to her.  “We’ve told you this at least three times now.”

             “Weaders don’t know,” Tabitha told him.  She sulked for a minute, then leaned forward to fish around into one of her bags of toys and singled out her yellow Pikachu.  Even with her seat belt in place, Tabitha managed to lean up to bounce her plushie demon mouse on the backs of the front seats making repeating “Pika-pika” noises. 

            Warren turned the radio up.


            Warren turned onto the exit and saw the green sign saying that Eau Claire was only five more miles away. 

            Endora fished the directions out of her purse and clasped it shut again.  “Five miles down the road and we’ll see the fire department on the right.  Slow down then and you’ll see their driveway with their cars on the left. 

            “Tabitha, put your toys away, we’re almo -- ”  Endora looked over the back seat and saw Tabitha had fallen asleep, a mere few minutes before their arrival, seemingly every toy and book she owned strewn over the back seat and the floor. 

            “Wouldn’t you know it,” she said as she turned back around.      

            Warren glanced behind his seat.  “Typical,” he nodded. 

            A few stray snowflakes flew past the windshield as they motored along.  “At least it’s a nice rural drive in,” he admitted, “once you get off of the highway.”

            “We’re almost there,” Endora told him.  “Keep telling yourself that.” 

            Warren had to nod in agreement.  “I’m anxious to meet the father,” he said.  “I wonder why he never mentions his mother.” 

            Endora turned back from the window.  “According to Sabrina, she passed away when he was still in high school.  Maybe he doesn’t like to talk about her.” 

            “Oh?  I didn’t know that.  Better to not bring it up.”  He found the “crazy bend” he’d been forewarned about and slowed down, going up the hill and onto the leveler road he nodded toward his right.  “Okay, there’s the fire station,” and drove around the bend.  “And there’s the driveway … which I see as I’m driving past it!”  He muttered something unrepeatable under his breath. 

            “Look,” Endora said as she pointed, “you can turn around past that church. 

            “Yes, I can see it.”  Crossing the lane he pulled in and turned around, pulled out, and found the driveway much easier.  Chris and Sabrina had parked their cars down and beside each other to give them plenty of room to park. 

            Sabrina held the new curtains and mini-blinds aside and looked through the window.  “Oh God, they’re here.”  She slowly let the curtain fall back into place and flattened herself with her back against the wall hoping they didn’t see her.  “God,” she said, raising her eyes Heavenward, “if You see me through this, I promise I’ll do anything You ask.”  She smoothed out her sweater and went to the living room and lifted Chris’ feet off of the coffee table again.  “C’mon, they’re here!” 

            “Nuts,” Chris said, closing his new copy of Extinctioners.  “Just a few pages left to go.” 

            Sabrina looked at her watch.  “They’re right on time too, of course.”  Before Chris could say anything she was on her way to the kitchen.  Chris laid his comic book on the coffee table and chased after her, catching up as she walked through the back door and onto the porch. 

            “Hi Mom, Hi Dad,” Sabrina waved as she walked across the side yard to meet them as Chris caught up behind her. 

            “Hello, Sabrina,” Endora said as she held the seat forward to let Tabitha emerge from the back.  “Hello Chris, it’s good to see you again.” 

            “Hey, Endora,” Chris waved.  When her father came around the car and over to them he gave Sabrina a warm hug and shook paws with Chris, who returned with his firmest pawshake.  “Hi Sarge, good to finally see you again!” he said to Warren. 

            “Chris,” he simply said, “Thank you for having us.”  By this time Tabitha had extruded herself and ran headlong to her sister carrying her favorite-toy-du-jour and stopped on a dime at her feet.  “Hi, Sabeena!!” she yelled. 

            It had been a while, long enough for Sabrina to actually grin at her baby sister.  “Hiya, Squirt,” he said and ruffled her hair with her open paw.  After her adventure last spring Sabrina had developed a whole new respect for her sibling.  She still thought she was a brat, but she thought she had a newfound tolerance for her now.  And in her mind, she sort of had to. 

            Tabitha yelled a greeting at Chris, too.  Chris smiled at her and greeted her back, and offered to help Sarge with the luggage.  They only had two bags, he handed the smaller one of Tabitha’s to him and they walked to the house. 

            “So how have you been, Sabrina?” Endora asked.  “I haven’t heard much from you since the big move.” 

            “Mom, can I p’ay in the backyard?” Tabitha yelled to her mother beside her. 

            Endora nodded.  “Put your jacket on first.” 

            “I’m okay, thanks,” Sabrina answered.  “And you’d hear more from me if you’d just let me e-mail you.” 

            She shook her head.  “No thank you, I have no need of your father’s computer,” she declined.  “And a phone call or a letter would be much more personal, don’t you think?” 

            Oh good God, she’s starting already.  “I s’pose,” Sabrina admitted uneasily.  “Only, with two jobs, I really don’t have much time to write a letter … ” 

            Tabitha ran up and stood as still as she could while Endora zipped up her jacket, then watched as she took off like a screaming black and white rocket into the back yard. 

            “How about you?” Sabrina asked.  “What do you say we go inside?” she offered, extending her arm toward the back porch. 

            “Just a moment, Sabrina.”  Endora went back to the car and took two binders from a box in the trunk, then closed it and followed her daughter to the house.  Chris had come out to check on them, and on seeing them approach he held the door wide open for them, giving Sabrina a quick pinch on her backside as she passed, then an innocent look when she jumped and stared at him. 

            “Thank you, Chris,” Endora said as she entered the kitchen clutching the two large binders; catching Sabrina’s eye now that they were indoors she saw that one was white edged in lace trim, the other a medium shade of purple.  Endora casually looked the kitchen over and tried not to wrinkle her nose.  “You have a very nice house.” 

            “Thanks,” Chris said.  While he was happy to see his fiancée’s parents, he was also revisiting the anxiety he felt when he first met them.  “We’ve been talking about some improvements, making the deck bigger, some painting, maybe a different color in the living and family rooms, the dining room, the kitchen she thought, maybe moving altogether … ” 

            Sabrina pointed to the binders.  “What’re those?” she asked. 

            “Oh, these,” Endora said as she was led to the dining room, “are samples of wedding invitations.”  She sat them on the corner of the table.  “As your father and I are paying for your wedding and we’re going to be here for a few days, I thought you and I may have a chance to look them over.” 

            Already Sabrina felt her stomach bunch up.  “Well, Mom, that’s nice … but we don’t have to do it right away, do we?” 

            Endora raised her head from the white binder she’d opened.  “You don’t want to wait too long, Sabrina, they need time to print them up, and your order will be with everyone else’s who will be getting married.”  She slipped her finger where the first yellow sticky-note paper was stuck and flipped open the book.  “Now, these were the two best ones and he let me borrow them for the holiday weekend.  I looked through them and marked the ones I thought were the best ones. 

            Sabrina stepped over beside her mother and looked politely at the binder she was opening.  Each page had two sample invitations accompanying matching linen envelopes and a small matching piece of tissue that to this day no one can determine its purpose. 

            Chris noticed Warren emerging from the bedroom via the bathroom.  “Sabrina said you like a beer occasionally,” Chris said to him.  “Care for one?”

            Looking past him to see the start of what could either be kibitzing or the early stages of bickering, he replied “Why not?”, and retrieving their jackets they retired with their bottles to the backyard where Tabitha was mapping out the lay of the land. 

            “Nice-sized backyard,” Sarge said as they walked toward the small woods behind the yard, drinks in paw.  Tabitha was having a grand time, finally being out of the car and the wide open space of Chris’ backyard made her more rambunctious than usual; now that she had paced out the perimeters she extended her arms and ran willy-nilly pell-mell in the manner of a jet airplane with a drunken pilot. 

            “Thanks,” Chris replied.  “Sabrina’s been saying we should look for something bigger, house-wise, thinking about the future, kids and all.”  He took a swallow of his drink.  “I also get the feeling she wants to move, sometimes it feels like she’s anxious to get out of Eau Claire, but she’s always seems to want to evade the reason.” 

            Sarge’s eyes widened.  “Oh?” he said, trying to conceal an edge of concern in his voice at the mention of children.  “Is there anything I should know about?” 

            Chris shook his head.  “I can safely say without fear of contradiction that there is absolutely nothing you should know about.” 

            He had to let that one sit in as he looked over his glasses at his future son-in-law.  “I think it’s only fair to tell you,” he told Chris in a somewhat firmer voice, “that I’ve never been in favor of these living arrangements.”  Sarge gave that a moment to settle in.  “Sabrina may have told you that we had a … disagreement … about this before she moved out here.” 

            Chris nodded his head.  “She said something about it, yes,” he said in as neutral a voice as he could. 

            “But,” he continued, “Endora seems to like you … ” 

            “But she’s a married woman!” 

            The fur bristled on the back of Sarge’s neck.  He was wondering if the fox was taking any of his concerns seriously. 

“Now listen, Sabrina is a grown woman, she knows her own mind, and for better or worse I have to accept that.”  He forced back a shiver from a light breeze that came out of the late Pennsylvania autumn.  “But grown woman or not, she’s still my little girl.”  He took another sip, watched Chris nod his head in agreement ... then, Sarge took a step closer and extended a finger from the paw holding his drink and held it against Chris’ chest.  “And neither one of us are that anxious to become grandparents, if you know what I mean.”

            Chris never realized his ears had lowered more than halfway down his head.  Sarge was now not so much “Sarge” as he was Sabrina’s father, and he certainly had the ability to be intimidating if he wanted to be, and he was making his point crystal clear.  He’s not an idiot, streamed through Chris’ mind followed with, he has to know Sabrina and I are sexually active; how do I put his mind to rest by not telling him we’re careful and take precautions?

            Chris blinked.  Sarge was still making perfect eye contact with him.  Chris now couldn’t decide if what he had just been told was rhetorical or not. 

            Sometimes three seconds seems like a lot longer, doesn’t it? 

            “Trust me Sarge,” Chris said as he was now aware his tail was laying on the ground behind him and he rapidly tried to regain control, “we’re not anxious to become parents either.   I love your daughter way too much than to let anything like that happen.” 

            Slowly, Sarge withdrew his finger.  Tabitha made her umpteenth circuit of the yard, running around them with a “Nee-yeeeeeeeeeooooooooowwwwwww!” with her arms still outstretched.  As she passed Sarge casually picked her up by the scruff of her neck and as her little legs stayed in motion he turned her around and set her down to run back in the other direction and she altered her course toward the front yard.

“I’m not saying I don’t believe you,” he said to Chris.  “When you have a daughter, I think you’ll understand better.”

            “Oh, I understand now,” he assured him.  “And rest assured, Sabrina’s in careful, loving paws.             

            Sarge brought his beer to his mouth.  “Just don’t make me get the shotgun,” and drained the last. 


            Tabitha was usually allowed to stay up on special occasions.  Come 11:00 she was sound asleep next to her mother on the couch. 

            “It’s going to be a big day tomorrow,” Sabrina said, trying not to avoid her mother this time.  Everyone agreed and began making tracks for bed, Chris laid the cushions on the loveseat and started pulling the bed out from inside.  This one idea of Sabrina’s made sense, and was going to keep them from using sleeping bags on the living room floor, which quite frankly they wouldn’t have minded too much. 

            Sarge came downstairs after tucking Tabitha in and waved a “goodnight” to his daughter and her … As much as he liked Chris, he still had to get used to the fact that he’d talked his eldest daughter into “shacking up”, and that still didn’t set well with him at all.  Going through the dining room he let himself into the bathroom and looked through the wood-framed medicine cabinet Sabrina had Chris install some weeks before and found something to counteract his daughter’s roast beef dinner.  After brushing his teeth he entered the master bedroom, and stopped in his tracks at what he saw. 

            “What in the world do you think this is here for?” his naked wife asked holding the crowbar she’d found. 

            With a wry smile Warren took it away from Endora.  “You wouldn’t understand,” he told her and placed it beside the dresser. 

            Sarge watched Endora turn to take a nightgown out of their suitcase, and listened to her sigh as she did.  And he recognized that sigh.  Quickly he stretched out his arms and said, “Wow, I didn’t realize how tired I was.  That drive from home seemed longer than I’d th -- ” 

            “I can’t believe your daughter,” she said as she began wriggling into her nightgown.  “Why on Earth would she want to put off looking over the invitations to her own wedding?” 

            Probably because she wants to do it on her own.  “Probably because she’s preoccupied with tomorrow,” he offered instead as he took his pajamas from her and laid them on the bed.  “She’s got a lot on her paws -- ” 

            Endora took her brush and leaned into the dresser mirror, brushing out her hair.  “I don’t see why, I can help her out with everything in the kitchen.”

            You just answered your own question, Sarge thought as he quietly started to undress. 

            “She’s going to need it, after all,” Endora continued.  “I hope she took my suggestions about dinner the way I meant them.  I love her dearly, but I’m not fully sure she’s got timing the meals out properly.  Those mashed potatoes could have used -- ” 


            Endora stopped brushing and looked over her shoulder at her husband.  “Come again?” 

            Sarge folded his trousers.  “She says her sister-in-law-to-be and her husband are vegetarians, so she’s trying out some ideas.  Apparently she wanted squash but broke the vegetable peeler on one and decided to try mashed turnips instead.” 

            Endora wrinkled her nose.  “Well, that does explain the marshmallows and brown sugar on top of it.”  She turned back to the mirror and began putting her hair up.  “And did you know Chris owns a gun??” 

            She watched the reflection of Sarge shaking his head.  “Nope -- wait, how do you know that?” 

            She tilted her head toward the top dresser drawer.  “I don’t know how I feel about Sabrina being in the same house with a gun.” 

            Sarge buttoned his tops.  “Well, he hasn’t shot her with it yet,” he answered, “and what do I have to do to make you stop looking in other people’s drawers and medicine chests?” 

            Endora turned and gave her husband what was almost a snarl.  “Oh, honestly Warren, this is not about me.”  With that she set down her curler and pulled open the middle drawer, dug under three sweaters and pulled out two videotapes with white edges sporting tiger stripes.  Thrusting them into Sarge’s paw, she barked, “Look at those!  That’s the ‘studio’ she works for.  And they’re obviously not hers.” 

            Warren looked at the bound exotic skunk and tigress on the cover.  “So that’s what she looks like,” he said.  “Well, we can hope they’re not hers … ”

            “Good Lord.”  Endora waggled a finger at the front of the top cassette.  “You don’t suppose he does that to her, do you??” 

            Warren extended his arms.  “What if he does?” he asked, then remembered to keep his voice down.  “Lookit, you were the one in favor of her moving here and living in this relationship -- ” 

            “Oh, that’s right,” she countered, “I’m the bad guy.” 

            “I didn’t say -- look, she obviously loves him, he loves her enough to keep a gun in the house to protect her, and as long as she’s an adult then for better or worse what they do is none of our business!”  He pushed the tapes back where he thought his wife had found them and straightened the sweaters while she went back and stuffed the few remaining curlers in her hair with a huff. 

            Sarge, now in his pajamas, placed his paws on the back of Endora’s shoulders and rubbed them.  “I understand how hard it is to let go,” he told her.  “I never wanted to let go.  But she’s made it as clear as she could she doesn’t want us around her anymore.  At least, not where she thinks we can exert any control over her and her decisions.” 

            Endora sighed, turning from her reflection and reaching behind to pull an errant bobby pin she’d missed from her tail. 

            “And will you please stop rooting around in their drawers!” 

            Looking up at her husband she sighed and turned away to stand and walk toward the bed.  “Then I won’t bother telling you what they have hidden behind the boxes in the bottom of their closet.” 

            Just as Sarge opened his muzzle Endora shot back, “Oh for God’s sake Warren, I was kidding.”  She sat on the bed.  “I know to you it seems I’m WAAAAAUUUHH!”  She rolled backwards, side-to-side, backwards again, then forwards on the water-filled mattress; coming to a rest finally Endora remembered they were sleeping in a waterbed tonight. 

            Trying his best not to laugh, Warren extended his paw and Endora; after glaring at his grin she accepted and he pulled her up and off. 

            “How do they sleep in this thing,” she asked rhetorically.  She pulled the blankets down while Warren walked around, snickering as quietly as he could, thinking it served her right for nosing around where she didn’t belong.  He watched his wife carefully slide one leg onto the mattress, followed buy the other, and she tried to grip it with both paws until the water moving beneath her subsided.  It took a minute before she felt safe enough to attempt slipping herself under the covers.  Warren turned off the light, and in the pale light barely breaking the darkness from the window he covered his muzzle and got the snickering out of his system as much as he could, then carefully got into his side of the bed, placing his glasses on the headboard next to Endora’s. 

            As the motion subsided they both lay there, not speaking at first. 

            “You know,” Warren said, “I could get used to sleeping in one of these.” 

            Endora adjusted herself, rolling onto her side.  “Maybe with your next wife,” she said and closed her eyes.

End of Chapter 50

This Way to Chapter 51