How about a piece of nonsense this week. Just a short, short story… sort of.
But first, let me remind everyone that my book, The Zozobra Incident, comes out on Tuesday, November 15. I’ll admit to being a little bit excited.
Now to the story.
HONEYSUCKLE, WISTERIA, AND LITTLE ROSY
Fred the mailman parked his white, blue-trimmed, boxy vehicle at the top of the street and stuffed his heavy bag with the appropriate deliveries. This was the last street and his favorite block on the route. Hard to say why. Small wooded area at the bottom of the hill. Double row of thirties-type homes facing one another across the asphalt. Upscale then, middle class now. They weren’t cookie-cutter houses. Each one was a custom-built. All neat and well-tended. There was just one thing wrong with the neighborhood. It was old enough so that each residence had a mail box affixed to the wall beside the front door, grandfathered in before the changes that made mail delivery possible from the front seat of his truck. Still, somehow it was worth the inconvenience.
Most likely it was the folks living here who made it so special. The Parsons family on the east side of the street at the top of the block were cat people. They resembled their pets, meaning they sometimes watched from the window but never came outside to say hello. Snooty or shy? In five years, he hadn’t figured that out.
Farther down the block, he came to the Daniels’ house. Except he called it the Spaniels’ house. Two beautiful Springers roamed the fenced yard. He chuckled to himself. They needed a “Beware of Dog” sign posted at the gate. Not because Nip and Tuck were ferocious, they just mauled him a little trying to plant sloppy kisses on his nose.
Down at the end of the block, the Smith’s hamster sitting in her cage at the picture window usually went crazy on her wheel. Her little legs moved in a whir as soon as he hit the front step. He could hear the squeak of the circular ladder as it spun… even through the plate glass.
But the Foxendillers, last house on the west side closest to the wooded area, were his favorite. Joe Foxendiller, a retired computer programmer, lived with his wife in the neat stucco with a modest mansard roof. Joe liked to talk, and often as not, met Fred at the door to collect his mail before it got to the mailbox. And, often as not, he’d be accompanied by his three “babies.”
The family’s children had grown up and moved out, leaving the old folks with their surviving pets: Honeysuckle, Wisteria, and Little Rosy… born this past May. Fred was pretty sure it was illegal to own pet skunks in New Mexico—something to do with rabies—but the Foxendiller kids had been raising them for years, and nobody in the neighborhood seemed to object.
Joe didn’t come to the door today, but Fred spotted two little animals sitting side-by-side on top of the sofa near the window. Black button eyes, black fur with two gorgeous white stripes running down each of their backs. He did a double take. There were usually three. Where was Honeysuckle? That was the big male. He was usually sitting there with the other two.
He had ribbed Joe about naming a male skunk Honeysuckle, but Joe just shrugged and said the kids gave all their pets flower names like that children’s book, Bambi. And that’s the one he got stuck with. Wisteria, the female, was slightly smaller, but had a sweeter nature. Little Rosy was as friendly and awkward as a small puppy.
Fred waved at the little guys before dropping the Foxendillers’ stack of bills and advertising in the box. Then he turned and tripped down the steps, coming to an abrupt halt at the sight of a big skunk on the sidewalk. The mammal seemed as wary of Fred as Fred was of him.
“Honeysuckle! You gave me a start? What are you doing outside?”
He bent down to stroke the animal’s head—just as he had a hundred times before—but the skunk hissed and backed up a few steps. That wasn’t like Honeysuckle. Probably because his owner wasn’t with him. Joe never let his pets outside by themselves.
“Okay, guy, you’re gonna get in trouble, you know.” Fred backed up the steps and felt for the door handle. Sometimes the Foxendillers failed to lock their door. It was that kind of neighborhood. The knob turned to his touch, and he stood aside. “Go on, get inside.”
The animal stared at the gaping door a moment before making a dash up the steps and disappearing inside. Feeling proud of himself, Fred gave a tip of his hat to the three pets lining the back of the couch.
Fred glanced into the shadowed hallway in time to see a white tail disappear around a corner.
“Oh, my God!” he moaned. “What have I done?”
Man, I’m glad I wasn’t in that house for the next few minutes… or the next few days if the stray skunk got pissed at someone. Wonder if Fred admitted what he did or simply slunk away. Let me know what you think about the story.
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New Posts published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.