Clarence Skunk, Cindy Lapine, Wanda the Vixen, Susan Felin, Debbye Squirrel, Chris Foxx, Rodney and Ellen Lapine, and Mark the Lemur are copyright Chris Yost. Martin Lupina, Nathan Fenicus, Clint Aardwulf, Nancy David, Pacidy Angelou, Vernon Procyon, Miranda Civet, and most others not listed here are copyright Joe McCauley. Zig Zag is copyright Max Black Rabbit. Sabrina Mustelidae is copyright Eric W. Schwartz. James Sheppard, Rhonda Badger, Lilian Bartholomew, and Gypsy Coyote are copyright James Bruner. Marvin Badger is copyright James Bruner after a description by Chris Yost. Lee Evans is copyright Evan Mayerle. Joshua Fox is copyright Joshua Fox. Jake Mackelroy is copyright David S. Adrian. Kittiara Seng and "Callahans" are copyright Kittiara.
This story is copyright © 2003-2005 by Joe McCauley. This story may not be sold or used for commercial profit in any form or fashion. This story may not be modified in any way. This story may not be posted on any Internet site, archive, or newsgroup without the written permission of the author. Permission is granted for readers to produce an individual copy in print, magnetic or optical media for personal use only.
Characters listed as copyright this author may not be used in other works without the written permission of the author. Permission to use characters that are copyright other individuals was obtained prior to the appearance of said characters.
This is an independent work of fiction that is not canonical with any other work occurring in the same setting or featuring the same characters.
He awoke to the sound of splashing outside. Clarence had a moment of panic when he thought he had overslept until he glanced at the clock. Now who on earth would be swimming before 7:00? Putting on his glasses, he peered out between the curtains at the swimming pool and noticed three furs swimming back and forth. Otters. Well I guess that makes sense. As he was getting dressed and grooming his fur, he peeked out at them occasionally. He recognized one of them when she got out of the pool.
* * *
"The water here is quite a bit warmer than I'm used to at home," Nancy said to Clarence and Jason in the continental breakfast lounge, "but it'll do."
The skunk nodded. "Do you swim every morning?"
"If I can, and at least once in the evening. More often if I can get away with it." She twitched her whiskers. "Be nice if I could find some cooler water to dip into if I get a chance."
"I know what you mean," said Jason. "I don't mind the warmer water myself, but it's not the same."
Clarence gave the bear a puzzled look. "You like cold water?"
"No, it's just different," Jason replied, and then gazed off thoughtfully. "When I was a kid my parents used to take us to this pond. The water was always so cool and refreshing. And the best part was, the owners kept it stocked with salmon, so if a bear wanted to get back to his feral roots, he could try to catch himself a snack..."
"Did you?" asked Nancy.
"A couple of times. Let me tell you, it's not as easy as the nature films make it look."
* * *
Pacidy led Vernon and Clarence out to the patio garden. "We need to set up a camera dolly track right along here," said Pacidy as she gestured to indicate the path they were to follow. "Any questions?"
There was a long hesitation as Clarence traced a foot across the uneven flagstones of the patio. "How do you, uh, do that on this kind of surface?"
"What do you mean? You do this back at the studio, don't you?"
"Th... the floor there is, um, perfectly flat..."
"I can show you how to do it," Vernon interrupted, seeing the exasperated look the rabbit was giving the skunk. "I know a few tricks."
"Then show him," she said to the raccoon. "When you're done, I'll expect you," she looked at Clarence, "to be able to do this without any help. We've got other scenes we need to shoot here this week."
The skunk felt chastised by the time Pacidy left to return to the costume shop. Vernon put a paw on his shoulder. "If you're not sure how to do something, don't make yourself look stupid. Just ask me or one of the other grunts here and we'll help you figure it out."
Clarence nodded. "Eh, okay, I'll... I'll try to remember that."
"Now what you do first is to..."
Earlier that morning, Clarence had helped Jason get the main sound board set up and run a sound check, and had helped Margo unpack some of the lighting equipment. Then his instructions were to offer to help Pacidy get the costume shop and the dressing rooms organized, but those rooms were crowded enough already so she took him and Vernon outside to Martin and Nancy who were leading the actors through the scenes they would be shooting that day. After a brief conversation with Martin, she had put them to work on the dolly track.
As Clarence and Vernon worked on this task, there were a few minutes when Martin brought Wanda and Miranda near where they were working so they could rehearse a scene and decide on cue points, places where one of the characters would do something. Clarence became uneasy at being in close proximity to the vixen, but he soon realized that as long as Wanda was busy with her work, Clarence was able to keep his mind on his.
As the pair of them completed the task, Clint came by, surveying their progress. "How's everything going?" he asked Vernon.
"Not too bad," the raccoon replied. "Took a little longer 'cause Pacidy wanted me to show Skunky here how to do it." He smiled at Clarence.
"Think you can do it yourself next time?" Clint asked him.
"Uh, yes sir."
Martin had paused in his work with the two actresses to follow the conversation. "It'll be time for lunch in about an hour, and we'll be ready to shoot after that."
"Excellent," said Clint. "Vernon, go tell Aaron we're ready to set up the camera."
"Aye aye, sir," he replied as he headed off to find the bobcat.
Martin glanced at Clarence, and turned back to Clint. "How about we have him take orders from everyone and make a run to that sandwich shop by the hotel?"
"Can't do that," the aardwolf replied. "Our rental car contract required us to notify them of any unmarried male drivers under 25 and we didn't get Clarence's name in it."
Clarence's shoulders sagged. First the dolly track, and now this. How much more useless can I be?
Martin let out a snort, then shrugged. "Well crimeny! Can we get the contract modified?"
Clint shrugged. "Yeah, probably. I'll give the rental company a call."
"You can still go around and take sandwich orders," Martin said to Clarence.
"Y... yes sir," the skunk replied. "I'll go get a notepad."
"I have one right here," said Clint, handing him the scratch pad and lead pencil from his shirt pocket. Clarence felt like there was something else he needed, but noticing Wanda standing right behind Martin, his mind went blank. Then Clint suddenly gave a start and smiled. "Oh, sorry. You'll probably need this," he said, pulling a menu from his day planner and handing it to him. "Ham and Swiss on rye," he said.
He scribbled on the pad. "Anything to drink?"
"We've got drinks already. Just get sandwiches."
"Turkey club on wheat," said Martin.
Clarence turned to the two femmes. Wanda's eyes met his, and for an uncomfortably long pause, his brain quit working and he found himself unable to speak. The vixen smiled and reached toward him to pluck the menu from his paw. "May I?" she asked.
Clarence, very much aware of how close Wanda was to him, took a deep breath, as she and Miranda studied the menu. Wanda made a few mutterings before making her selection. "I'd like the chef's salad with grilled chicken. No onions."
"Tuna salad," said the civet.
Clarence finally got his brain in gear. "Yeah, okay, sure," he stammered as she handed the menu back to him. As he turned to look for the rest of the crew, he realized he hadn't written down their orders yet, so he stopped to do that. Gads, he thought, did I look like an idiot back there or what?
* * *
"I'm depressed," said Cindy.
"Don't tell me you miss Clarence already," said Debbye wryly. "It's only been one day."
"Yeah, I know," the rabbit mused, and let out a sigh. "It's more the thought of how much longer it'll be before I see him again."
"I know what you mean. But at least you know when you'll see him again."
Their eyes met, and suddenly Cindy wondered if she should even be having this conversation with Debbye, considering what the squirrel was going through. She and Lee had been apart for months, and when he had made it back for Sabrina's wedding his trip had been cut short. "Have you heard anything from Lee?"
"When we talked the other night he didn't know when he'd be able to come home, but didn't think it would be too much longer."
Cindy grimaced. "Ugh! I feel sorry for you. We oughta just cancel Cedar Point this weekend. I'd rather just wait until we can all go."
Debbye nodded. "Better let Susan know, then. Once we figure out when all of us are here, we should call Sabrina and see if she and Chris want to meet us there."
"Yeah, that's a great idea!"
* * *
"The car rental agency said they'll add you if we can get proof of insurance," said Clint. "Do you have an insurance card with you?"
"No," Clarence muttered. "I mean, I have insurance, but... but I keep the card in my glove compartment."
The aardwolf thought a moment. "Okay then, we need you to contact your insurance agent and have them fax us the information."
"I don't know her number."
"The computer's hooked up. You can look it up on the Internet."
"Err, I guess I can do that."
Clint nodded. "Good. When that's taken care of, I need you and Vernon to pick up our truck. The truck rental place is in Warner Robins."
"I'll be out location scouting with Pacidy and Mark. If anything comes up, you can call me on my cellphone."
"Yes sir," said Clarence.
The aardwolf smiled. "Just call me Clint."
Clarence smiled back. "Yes s... uh, Clint."
"There you go."
* * *
"Please don't put your elbows on the table."
Cindy hurriedly sat up straighter, putting the paw her chin had been leaning on in her lap. "Sorry, Mom." She resumed poking at her food.
"Something on your mind?" Ellen asked.
"Kind of," she replied. "I know, Clarence hasn't been gone that long yet." Cindy twirled her fork around a piece of the cabbage on her plate before skewering and raising it halfway to her mouth. "What do you think, him just taking off like that for two weeks?"
When Ellen didn't answer right away, Rodney spoke up. "His company was in a difficult position, and he was willing to step up and fill in. Things like that will look very good when he goes looking for a career job."
"Yeah, I know," she murmured. "But... How often are things like that going to happen? I mean, we had plans." She put the piece of cabbage in her mouth.
Ellen put her paw on her daughter's. "I know how you feel. I miss your father when he has to go on business trips. But he knows who is most important and never lets work take too much of him away from us." She smiled at her husband.
"What about Clarence? I've seen how he gets when his mind is on something he's doing, and he hardly notices anything else..."
Her mother gave Rodney a knowing glance and squeezed her daughter's paw. "Cindy, what does your heart tell you?"
She didn't speak for a long moment. Cindy's eyes and ears moved around a bit as she thought about this, as she searched her feelings. Finally she spoke. "I don't think he'd ever let his job come between us. He was afraid of what I'd think when he got the job at the adult film studio, but he told me anyway and it hasn't been a problem." She looked up at her mother, then at her father. "No, he'd talk to me about it."
"I believe you're right," Rodney observed. "Clarence seems like the sort to keep his priorities straight." Ellen nodded.
"Huhn," Cindy murred as her ears perked up a bit. "Thank you."
Ellen smiled. "We're here anytime you want to talk."
* * *
"If this phone card is going to last the whole trip, I'd better not use too much of it tonight," said Clarence.
"You know what?" chuckled Cindy. "I can call some of the time."
"Or I could buy another one. They have stores here too, you know. I mean, it's not like we're out in the boonies..."
"You're impossible." She let out a sigh. "I miss you," she said after a long pause.
"I miss you too. Funny, we go longer than this without seeing each other all the time and don't think about it."
"Yeah, but we could if we wanted to. See each other, I mean."
"That must be it." The line went quiet, and they just listened to each other breathe for a few seconds. Even when they ran out of things to say, they enjoyed every moment on the phone together.
Cindy finally spoke. "I guess I should go now."
"Do you have to?" groaned Clarence.
"Yeah, I know. Good night."
"Good night. I love you."
"I love you too."
After they hung up, Clarence felt the need to get out of the hotel room, so he took a walk to check out the convenience store near the hotel. The sound from the nearby interstate carried well in the humid evening air, and the aroma of the fields and flora in the vicinity was mixed with the smell of spilled automotive fluids and nearby dumpsters. Not exactly the romantic land of Dixie, he thought to himself.
He browsed around a bit in the convenience store to see what snacks, drinks and souvenirs were available. He made a mental note of their price for phone cards, bought a bottle of soda, and left.
As the skunk was returning to his hotel room, he noticed the door to a nearby room propped open and chanced a peek inside. "Hey, Clarence," said Margo from inside. "What's cookin'?"
"Not much. I just came back from a walk."
"Care to join us?" asked the rat. "We can deal you in next hand." She, Nathan, Jason and Mark were playing cards.
He shrugged his shoulders. "Sure, I guess. Beats sitting alone in my room."
* * *
Wanda studied her reflection in the hotel bathroom. First day here. I'm getting used to the setting, and we've already shot a scene with Miranda. It sure does get humid here, though! The vixen groomed her face fur as her thoughts wandered through the events of the day. I behaved myself and kept it professional around Clarence, but he seemed to come unglued anyway. When he was passing out the sandwiches at lunch, he said something to everyone else, but when he gave me mine, all he could do was stutter. He's so cute and irresistible when he's bashful like that. She smiled at the memory, but then frowned. Sometimes, I wish he could just relax and talk to me like everyone else. I wonder what clever comments he would have made if he hadn't been so afraid of me.
Returning to the bed, she turned on the television and selected a sitcom. An attractive teenage femme is thrilled to get a date with one of the best looking guys in her class, but the date turns sour when the guy turns out to be less interested in her than in showing her off to his buddies. I remember guys like that when I was in high school. Heck, I know guys like that my own age. Another reason I prefer shy guys, Wanda mused as she propped her head up on her elbows. They're often thrilled to have you for a date. Sometimes I even want to be seen by his friends. Funny, the less they show me off, the more I want them to. She rolled over and looked at the ceiling. I couldn't imagine Clarence treating a lady like that guy on the TV show. Heck, I doubt if he even has friends like him.
And there was Clarence, popping into her head again. She couldn't really avoid him during the location shoot even if she wasn't seeking him out. And every chance encounter she had with the shy skunk seemed to set her mind to thinking about him.
As she lay there on the bed trying to let some of the stress of the day drain out of her, Wanda let her thoughts wander into flights of whimsy. She recalled a film she had appeared in about a year earlier set in ancient Egypt, and imagined herself in a similar setting...
"Your Highness," said the attendant from behind the curtained doorway.
The flicker of the oil lamps caused the iridescent pattern on Princess Wanda's fine silks to shift as she turned toward the doorway. "Enter," the vixen commanded from the plush pillows where she lay reclined.
The ferret pushed aside the curtain, which fell back into place with a rustle as the attendant got down on one knee before the princess and lowered her eyes. "Princess, your newest slave boy is ready to be presented to you."
Wanda smiled. "Very well. Bring him in."
The ferret extended her arms toward the archway and clapped her paws. The curtain again moved aside, and a handsome skunk wearing a vest and a loincloth padded sheepishly into the princess' chamber. His eyes didn't meet hers, and his head was lower than even most of her slaves. He nearly stumbled as he shuffled slowly toward her.
"Hurry up, skunk," Wanda commanded. "It's not good to keep your princess waiting."
Trembling now, he moved faster, finally kneeling before her and prostrating himself upon the floor.
"You may kneel up," she said, more gently now. He did, still keeping his eyes lowered. She studied the skunk, who was still trembling slightly though trying not to. He was deferential, bashful, afraid... "Look up at me, skunk," she said, pausing briefly while he obeyed, "and tell me your name."
The skunk swallowed as his eyes flickered away briefly before meeting hers again. "C... C... Clarence." His ears reddened visibly as he struggled to continue speaking. "Clarence Skunk, your Highness." He looked down and closed his eyes.
Princess Wanda smiled down at him. She didn't make a habit of lording her power over her underlings unnecessarily, saving it for those occasions when her responsibilities required it of her, and rather enjoyed seeing the ones who were initially nervous learn to be relaxed in her presence. "Well, Clarence Skunk, welcome to my chamber." She pondered him as the skunk's ears reddened even more. This one's going to take some effort to get him to loosen up. And I think I'm going to enjoy every minute of it. "You belong to me now. I hope you enjoy it here."
As the fantasy ran through her mind, Wanda let out a sigh. A very interesting fantasy it was, one that could play out a number of different ways, each one better than the last, and it could be fun to figure out which would be her favorite. But she wondered if it would be more interesting to back up and switch things around a bit...
"Your Highness," said the attendant from behind the curtained doorway.
The flicker of the oil lamps caused the iridescent pattern on Prince Clarence's fine silks to shift as he turned toward the doorway. "Come in," said the skunk from the plush pillows where he lay reclined.
The ferret pushed aside the curtain, which fell back into place with a rustle as the attendant got down on one knee before the prince and lowered his eyes. "Prince, your new harem girl is ready to be presented to you."
Clarence sat up as he regarded the attendant for a moment. "Okay, will you show her in, please?"
The ferret stood up and pulled back the curtain, and a beautiful vixen wearing only a semi-transparent veil and a sheer body wrap entered the prince's chamber. She paused briefly in the doorway to smile at him, then batting her eyes she approached him with a seductive sway, her movements accentuating the allure of her ill-concealed body. He gasped audibly as she stopped before him and slowly knelt down. Holding her head up, she gazed into his eyes warmly. With some effort he held her gaze, and in deference to his position she finally looked down, giving her eyelashes one last flutter as she did so. Gracefully extending her arms, she prostrated herself fully.
He was at a loss for words as his eyes were transfixed by her body, and the moment dragged out before he found his voice again. "You... you may kneel up," he said, and when she did, he again became tongue-tied. Though he thought it impolite even for one of his stature to stare, he couldn't stop looking at this heavenly vixen, who seemed quite flattered and amused by his predicament. "Wh... What is your name?" Clarence finally stammered.
"I am Wanda," she cooed. "I'm very pleased to meet you, your Highness." Her silky voice did nothing to lessen the impression her appearance was making.
"Ehh... welcome to my chamber, Wanda," he made himself say, "and to my household. I hope you will be happy here."
The vixen looked back at her new master. "I shall do my best, your Highness," was all she said. But her thoughts were racing. How could one in your position be so shy? Surely I'm not the first you've had. Yes, I'm going to be very happy here, and I'm going to make you happier than you ever thought possible. She glanced up at Prince Clarence again as he shifted uncomfortably.
Once again, there were many different ways it could continue. Wanda realized it was the journey, not the destination, which appealed to her so much about these fantasies. Even though Clarence had a girlfriend to whom he was very devoted, she sensed that he liked her too. And Wanda was used to being forward with those that appealed to her. But when she'd tried that with Clarence, he was so painfully shy that he trembled at her approach. And that only made him more of a challenge to her.
What if he does finally get over his shyness, relax and warm up to me? Will he still be as appealing to me? She thought about this a little bit. One of the reasons I like shy guys is seeing the possibilities in them, helping to make some of them into realities, and helping them feel better and more confident about themselves. And Clarence is a trainload of possibilities. Wanda thought about the shy guys she'd dated in the past, about how she'd helped some of them overcome their shyness and eventually had sex with some of them. He has Cindy. I don't want to be remembered as someone who made him do something he'd regret later. No, I see plenty of other possibilities in him.
On to Chapter 5
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