On Location

by mwalimu

Chapter 16 - It's a Wrap!

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, Sal Simon, Jennifer Ironne, 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. Jake Bunny is copyright Jake Rupert. Kittiara Seng and "Callahans" are copyright Kittiara.

This story is copyright © 2003-2011 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.

Saturday, June 10, 2000

Clarence and Pacidy arrived at the breakfast lounge at about the same time, so they took a seat together. "How late did you get back last night?" the skunk asked.

"I stayed about an hour after you guys left," the rabbit replied, "getting all the costumes prepped for today."

"Was that bunch of protesters still here when you got back?"

"Yeah, they were. I saw a cop car too. So I just walked right past all of 'em like whoever they were was no concern of mine."

"They didn't bother you?"

"I don't think they knew I was with the studio, which suits me fine. Did you know that group's been harassing us all week?"

"Are th..they the same group that kept cruising by when we were doing the party scene?"

"Most likely."

"They sure gave Wanda and me a scare when we got back. Some of them recognized her."

"I'm glad you guys are okay." Pacidy shook her head. "I really don't get people like that. It's not like we're in anybody's face with what we're doing here."

* * *

Cindy had never seen the parking lot of Double Z Studios this empty before, but then she had never had a reason to visit the place on a Saturday morning. Even so, she wasn't the only one. There were three other vehicles in the lot.

Being a young female by herself, she looked around carefully to make sure there wasn't anyone who looked threatening around, and didn't see anyone else, period. Her mind drifted back to the phone call the previous evening.

Her father Rodney had picked up the call, and she had more or less tuned it out. She remembered him saying something about, 'aren't supposed to call me here,' followed a few seconds later by an 'Oh' before he turned to her. "Cindy, it's for you." The caller identified herself as Lilian Bartholomew, an employee at Double Z Studios, who went on to ask if she would be able to visit the studio in the morning, explaining the purpose of the visit.

Cindy got out of the car and walked to the front door, trying it and finding it locked. There were lights on but she couldn't see anyone inside. Clutching her purse tighter against her side she pressed the button to the right of the door. From within the building a chime could be heard. A vixen appeared in the lobby and came over to open the door for her.

"Cindy?" said the vixen.

"Yes," she replied, extending a paw.

"I'm Lilian," the other replied, returning the pawshake and holding the door open for her. "Come on in."

They returned to the room Lilian had emerged from, and Cindy looked around. The room was pretty good sized. All along the side and back walls were racks upon which a colorful variety of outfits hung, ranging from period dress to high fashion to lingerie. A work table took up the center of the room, with sewing machines standing beside it. Cabinets held bolts of cloth, trim, and accessories, and several such items were laid out on the work table. Nearby stood several dress forms. "Wow," Cindy uttered, "you have a lot of stuff in here!"

"This is just the work room. We have a whole 'nother room this size where we have costumes and material stored." Lilian indicated a chair. "Have a seat."

Cindy sat. "So let me see if I got this straight. Zig Zag wants to give Clarence a bonus for his work on the film crew, and you asked me here to help choose it?"

"It wasn't Zig Zag who requested it. It was Wanda, the..."

"Wanda," Cindy repeated, her smile twisting curiously. "Clarence has been talking about her."

"She had some interesting things to say about Clarence too when I spoke with her." Lilian's tail gave a wag.

"Anything you're not supposed to repeat to me?"

The vixen gave a hearty laugh. "No, nothing like that." Lilian pointed to one of the several movie posters that decorated the walls, this one for a film entitled Troublesome Angels. The poster portrayed Wanda with a mischievous smirk on her muzzle, dressed in a schoolgirl uniform with a too-short skirt and seated at a desk in the front row of a classroom. Facing her, leaning against the front of the teacher's desk, was an otter in a crisp dress looking over her glasses at Wanda with a stern expression while holding a blackboard pointer in a manner that suggested other uses for it. Below it in big letters were the names 'Wanda the Vixen' and 'Nancy David', with smaller type beside Wanda's name that read 'Double Z Studios newest young star. "That's Wanda a few years ago, when she could still pass for barely legal," said Lilian. "Wanda still calls Nancy 'teacher' sometimes when they're joking around."

"Nancy's on the crew too, right? I babysat her son last night."

"You know the Fishers?"

"I just met them at the airport when I was dropping Clarence off. Gary needed a babysitter on his bowling nights."

"Good for you! Anyway, one of the things I do for the studio is to design lingerie, and we've been developing some designs that will be sold commercially. Most of these are prototypes but they are based on ones our actresses and models have worn in films and in photo shoots."

"What do they cost?"

Lilian smiled at the rabbit. "For today, don't worry about that. Wanda and I were on the phone for about fifteen minutes last night, and she believes she was able to act better in the film because of having Clarence around. It involved some very awkward moments for him, so her idea for a bonus for him is three lingerie outfits for you."

Cindy blinked. "She's rewarding him by giving lingerie to me? That doesn't make sense!"

Lilian tilted her head and chuckled. "It does, if you think about it. Do you really need me to explain how it's a reward for Clarence?"

Cindy's ears gave a twitch. "No, I think I can figure that part out."

Lilian stepped over to one of the racks and pulled out a teddy with matching panties, and a bra and panty set that was part opaque and part see-through. "These are a couple that Wanda suggested. Tell me, what do you think of them?"

Cindy's eyes went wide at the first one. And when she looked at the second... "Oh my God, that is so... naughty! If Clarence saw me wearing that..."

Lilian grinned. "You'd love to see the look on his face, wouldn't you? You know you would!"

Cindy grinned even bigger, nodding. "He'd turn to mush. And stutter like crazy." Her voice shifted. "But if Wanda suggested these... Does she think she knows what I'd like?"

"They were only suggestions, dear, and that's where I come in." The vixen took a long, slow look over Cindy. "My job in this is to work with you, to help you figure out what goes well with your body shape, your fur color, and especially what you like and what fits your personality. I'm a fashion designer, after all."

Cindy nodded. "Oh, I see. Okay, sure, I could have some fun with this."

Lilian grinned. "That's the spirit! Now why don't you step around here onto this pedestal so I can get some measurements while we're talking."

* * *

"Is everybody ready," shouted Martin, standing on the front porch of the estate house.

"Ready," several voices called out. Jason was at the soundboard. Margo was aiming a diffused spotlight to soften the shadows the sun was casting. Aaron was behind one camera and monitoring another that was set up inside the front door, while Mark had the handicam on a monopod to the right of the door.

The wolf nodded, as he stepped away from the door. "Good, let's roll. Nancy, you're in the driver's seat."

Nancy nodded. "All right, furs, let's get it in one. Cameras. Action!"

'Malachi' stormed up the front steps to the door and pounded on it with his fist. "Rose, get your tail out here!" he roared. He pounded again. "I know you're in there, and I know you're not alone."

"Cut, and action," Nancy called out, a cue to the film editor to insert other footage, in this case portraying something happening inside the house. The cameras kept rolling.

The door opened only partway, and there stood 'Maggie'. "Malachi, what on earth's gotten into you?"

"Get out of my way," he grumbled, pushing 'Maggie' and the door out of the way as he barged in.

"Now you just hold your horses," said 'Tyler' as he stepped up behind 'Maggie' to block him from making his way any further inside. "What in tarnation makes you think you can just barge in here?"

"You're not supposed to be here," he growled at the fennec. "Ruining my betrothed."

"What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

"Why don't you come outside here and we'll settle this once and for all!"

"What!? You want me to fight you?"

"Why not?"

"Whatever the hell for? Is that supposed to impress Rose?"

"It's not her I'm trying to make an impression on."

The fennec glared at him severely as the moment drew out. "Fine, if that's the way you want it."

"This way," said 'Malachi' as he stormed off to the lawn at the side of the house. 'Tyler' slipped past 'Maggie' and marched behind him with a determined look on his face.

"Cut", Nancy called out.

Martin broke character and turned around, looking at Miranda and Nathan. "That was a good start. Do you think you can ramp up the intensity some?" Meanwhile, Aaron made some adjustments to the positioning and settings of the cameras before the next take.

And so it went for several more takes.

For the continuation of the scene, the cameras had to be relocated. Once they were set up on the lawn off the back corner of the estate house, the filming continued.

Following Nancy's call of "Action", the first shot was of 'Malachi' walking around the corner of the house, with 'Tyler' following in step close behind. Behind them in the horseshoe drive, Sal as Malachi's father is seen emerging from the 1920 Packard to amble along behind them.

Once they reached their marks, 'Malachi' turned to face the fennec. 'Tyler' halted and quickly assumed a fighting stance. After several seconds to size each other up, 'Malachi' lunged forward to throw the first punch. 'Tyler', quick on his feet, dodged easily and connected with a jab of his own to the wolf's shoulder.

In the background, 'Rose' and 'Maggie' rushed from the back door of the house onto the back patio. They stopped with horrified looks on their faces, watching the fight unfold. 'Father' is also watching, though he is standing off by himself.

There would be many calls of 'Action', 'Cut', many takes and retakes, camera repositionings, movements and adjustments of sound and lighting equipment, and some bloopers and lighter moments, as the cast and crew worked through the morning to get onto film the scene that the viewer would eventually see...

'Tyler' and 'Malachi' continued their dance through several moves, feints, and a couple more successful hits. After one such hit that left 'Tyler' looking dazed and off balance, 'Malachi' readied a full-force punch, and swung. 'Tyler', acting quickly, zero-zoned him and trapped the arm, then reversed him to get that arm into a hammer-lock. Holding it firmly against the wolf's back, 'Tyler' panted and uttered, "You weren't in the military, were you? That training comes in handy sometimes."

"You think you've won?" growled 'Malachi', panting as he struggled. "I'm not giving up this fight. I'm not going to lose to some two-bit car salesman."

"So what if you do win?" said 'Tyler'. "Marrying someone you don't love? Is that what you call winning?" 'Malachi's' face twitched as 'Tyler' continued. "That don't sound like no victory to me. If you want to win in this fight, first you gotta listen to your heart."

'Malachi' squirmed but 'Tyler' kept a firm hold on him. "What are you talking about," the wolf groaned. In the background, 'Cilia' appeared from the back of the house and stopped beside 'Maggie'.

'Tyler' looked up at the coyote, then drew back, releasing his hold on the larger wolf. "Maybe Cilia can explain it to you."

'Malachi' scowled at 'Tyler' and began to flex his arms as if readying to throw another punch, but then he glanced sideways at the ladies who were watching them, seeing a very tense 'Celia' and a tearful 'Rose'. "Eh... I, uh..."

'Tyler' continued. "Don't you see? It's very simple. Winning isn't about making the other guy lose. It isn't about somebody else's idea of what's right for you. It's about deciding what you want, what's important to you, and going after it with all your heart." He paused for a moment as 'Malachi' seemed to have an internal argument. "It's about marrying the one you love," 'Tyler' continued.

"That sounds all romantic and everything," said 'father', stepping forward and pushing his chest close to 'Tyler', "but there's a lot you don't understand about the way things work."

'Tyler' met his gaze. "What's not to understand?" he asked, as 'Malachi' exchanged glances with 'Rose' and 'Cilia'.

'Father' frowned severely at the fennec, trying to look even more intimidating. 'Malachi' placed a paw on 'father's' shoulder. "You know, Dad, I think the boy's got a point," he said.

'Father' looked incredulously at 'Malachi', then at 'Tyler'. "Now wait just a cotton pickin' minute. My son is NOT marrying a maid." He pushed 'Malachi's' paw aside and his arms extended to give 'Tyler' a shove, causing the fennec to stumble and land on his rear, then stepped forward preparing to give 'Tyler' a kick.

He was caught up short by a paw on his shoulder once again, this one more insistent, and turned around just in time to catch a glimpse of 'Malachi's' fist before it connected with his jaw. "Dad, I love you, but you can take your ideas and shove 'em wherever you like. I may be your son, but I'll marry whomever I damn well please," he growled at his father. As 'Tyler' was regaining his feet, 'Malachi' leaned over to him. "You're no two-bit salesman. I'd give you at least four."

'Tyler' laughed.

'Malachi' padded over to his official fiancée. "Rose, may I have the ring please?"

'Rose' gave a haggard nod as she brought one paw to the other and tugged the engagement ring off her finger. She handed it to him.

'Malachi' smiled at her with a slight bow, then stepped over to the coyote. "It's time I stopped living according to others' expectations and started living according to my own," he said for all to hear. Then he lowered himself to one knee and looked her in the eye, holding out the ring. "Cilia Wiley, will you marry me?"

The shocked look on her face gradually turned into a big grin. "Yes," she cried. "Yes, Malachi, I will marry you! On one condition."

He blinked. "What's that?"

"Promise me you'll never hit me."

He turned to look at 'Rose' with a repentant expression, then turned back to 'Cilia'. "I promise I'll never hit you."

He stood up, they embraced, and gave each other a long and passionate kiss. His father frowned but everyone else had glowing smiles on their faces. 'Tyler' applauded.

They finally stepped back looking at each other, still holding hands. At that moment 'Tyler' stepped up to them and tapped their hands. "Y'all mind if I borrow that ring for just a second?"

'Cilia' giggled and handed it to him. "If it's for what I think it is, you bet!"

'Tyler' accepted the ring and turned to 'Rose'. He too dropped to one knee, looking downward for a long pause, then lifted his muzzle to look deep into her eyes. "Rose Fox, vixen of my dreams, wildest and most wonderful heart, will you marry me?"

'Rose' was smiling all the way through his proposal, crying tears of joy by the time he finished it. "Yes! Yes, Tyler! I will be your bride!"

'Maggie' pounced and hugged her. "Congratulations! I'm so happy for you!" she squealed.

'Tyler' slipped the ring on her finger while she was preoccupied with her best friend. "I'm gonna have to get you one of these," he said as he held her paw, looking at the ring, before he slipped it off and handed it back to 'Malachi' and 'Cilia'. He then tapped 'Maggie' on the shoulder. "May I?" he said to the civet.

"Oh, sorry," she replied, stepping back.

Then the fennec gave 'Rose' a kiss, the kind of kiss to leave all others behind, one to make every other kiss before pale in comparison.

...and thus the scene ended as Martin called out the final "Cut! Print!"

Clint tapped Martin on the shoulder. "I'll take over from here," he said, then looked up to address the entire crew. "While we're waiting for lunch to get here, let's go ahead and set up for the indoor shoot this afternoon. Anything we don't need for this afternoon, get packed up. The truck should be here shortly, and then we'll be able to start loading."

Martin's stomach growled, and he turned to Clint. "Thanks for circulating between takes to get lunch orders. I hope Clarence gets back with it soon."

* * *

Clarence had a queasy feeling in his stomach all the way to the sandwich shop. Clint had taken it upon himself to go around collecting lunch orders, thinking it would expedite matters since they'd ordered from that shop several times before and most of the crew already knew what they liked from their menu. As busy as everyone had been while Clint was collecting the orders, and for as long as it had taken him, there was no good way to tell him why he'd really rather not go back to that shop and could we please get lunch from somewhere else. Now the best he could hope for was that the ferret wouldn't be working today.

No such luck. The ferret was behind the counter as he had been on every previous visit. No choice but to forge ahead with this, thought Clarence.

There was a look of recognition when the ferret met his eyes, but the words that came out of his mouth were the same as usual. "What can I help you with today?"

Clarence peered down at the order sheet in his paw. "I need twenty-two sandwiches," he said. "First, a footlong turkey with provolone..." He went on to give specifics on two more sandwiches. They'd done this enough times to have figured out that three sandwiches at a time was the quickest way to do it, especially if Clarence gave him three similar ones. The ferret began putting the sandwiches together, working as efficiently as on Clarence's previous visits. The silence between them while he worked felt awkward. It was the ferret who finally broke it. "I know that was Wanda the Vixen with you yesterday, one of the star actresses from Double Z Studios." He finished the first sandwich and wrapped it, marking the wrapper before wrapping the next.

It took Clarence a moment to think how to reply. "If you're so sure it was her, th..then why did you let us through?"

The ferret paused and looked up. "I didn't want to have to explain to the reverend why I was so sure." He wrapped the third sandwich.

Clarence looked confused. "Wh..what do you mean?"

"John, chapter 8, verse 7: 'Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her'."

"Oh, so you... Okay." Clarence decided it wasn't worth asking for details.

Clarence went back to his list and read off the next three sandwiches. The ferret reached for the next three rolls to start on them. Once again, the silence became awkward. A few sandwiches later, Clarence looked up at him again. "So why were you... there, with that crowd?"

The ferret gave a shrug. "This town ain't that big. Sometimes ya gotta be seen with the right crowd."

The skunk gave his tail a flick. "I don't think I'd want to live someplace like that."

The ferret blinked. "I don't think I'd want to work for someone like your studio."

Clarence sighed. "My degree is in biological engineering but I haven't got a job yet in that field."

"Is Wanda as good as she looks on screen?"

Clarence was startled by the question. "What!? You think... we..?"

"Seems like she might."

Clarence shook his head. "I wouldn't know. I'm just support crew. Wanda's a friend. I go home to my girlfriend."

They didn't talk much more. Clarence didn't really think the ferret would try to sneak any surprise ingredients into the sandwiches, but he kept a close watch on him just in case. Eventually the order was completed and bagged, and as the ferret was ringing it up he asked Clarence, "Will you be back?"

"We go back home tomorrow."

"Ah, then I guess we won't be seeing you here again. My boss said to tell your boss we appreciate your business."

* * *

So much for getting things caught up today, thought Marvin as he steered his vehicle homeward. At least I got enough done that Zig Zag can't complain about me. Besides, she'd complain louder if she ever thought I wasn't taking good care of Rhonda.

He had been sitting at his desk some twenty minutes earlier when the phone call came. "Marvin, I'm not feeling so good," he heard his wife say. Her voice had sounded weak and pleading, enough to arouse concern that she might be having a relapse of the illness that had put her in the hospital two weeks earlier. He noted with some relief that she'd been able to get to the phone and call him, and while she'd begged him to come as soon as he could, she had also reminded him to drive carefully. After hanging up he told Lilian to lock up when she was finished, and departed the studio.

Upon arriving at their home, he parked the car in the garage and entered the house, looking around. For several seconds his eyes lingered on the spot in their living room where he'd found her collapsed two weeks earlier, but she'd already told him she'd be in bed. First order of business was to check up on her.

The moment he peered into the room, she was already looking back at him with a slightly pained look on her muzzle. "Rhonda, I got home as quick as I could. How are you feeling?"

"You made it." Her voice seemed weak.

Something didn't seem quite right as he padded over to her side and leaned down. "Yes, I'm here for you now."

Her expression morphed into a sultry smile. "Thank you, Marvin. I'm much better now that you're here." As she shifted her body to face him, the sheet covering her slipped partially aside. What she had on was no hospital gown.

Marvin's eyes bulged. "Rhonda, you..." He gave her an exasperated, yet very warm gaze. "You bad girl! That was sneaky!"

She wrapped an arm around him and pulled him closer. "I'm telling Zig Zag..." she gave him a quick kiss. "...that you're a very good husband."

The next kiss lasted longer. "You, my dear, are incorrigible."

"So?" she purred softly in reply. "Now that you're here, I don't need to tell you what would really make me feel better, do I?"

It was the start of an unforgettable afternoon.

* * *

Clarence arrived back at the estate to see that the semi-trailer that had been parked behind the hotel for the last two weeks was now backed into the driveway with a tractor unit at the front. He worked his way around the place passing out the sandwiches, then sat down for a few minutes to eat his own. With his hunger sated, he helped set up the scene that was to be filmed.

Clint explained to everyone in groups of a few at a time what they would be doing for the final scene. "A few days ago we figured out that if our shooting schedule held up we'd have enough time to film this scene. It's a simple scene and we like the way it bookends the movie. At the beginning we had Rose coming down the foyer staircase on the day she gets engaged, and now it will end with her coming down these same stairs on her wedding day. There's no dialogue, so we won't be recording any sound and we'll decide later what foley and sound effects to add."

While the crew was making final checks on the lighting and camera equipment, Clarence went upstairs where he had been told to help Pacidy pack things up in the costume room. Pacidy had just finished getting Wanda looking perfect in the wedding dress. The vixen stepped out into the hall just as Clarence was approaching the door to that room, and Clarence stopped in his tracks, looking her over with a smile. "Wow, Wanda, you look incredible!"

Wanda gave him a coy smile, just like the blushing bride she was supposed to be.

They could hear the radio Pacidy had playing in the costume room, so Clarence acted on an impulse. "Would you like a dance?"

Wanda giggled. "Sure, I'd love to," she replied. They came together in a closed dancing position. "Just be very careful with the costume."

They slipped sideways into the study, making careful steps around the furniture. Clarence thought of his two previous visits to this room, the first where he and Wanda talked of poetry, the second where he and Jennifer and later Wanda talked of his poem. "We seem to keep ending up together in this room, don't we?"

"Yes, we do. Funny how that happens."

They made a careful turn around a coffee table. "You're the second bride I've danced with in less than a month," he said. "It feels nice."

"I'm not a real bride, just playing one."

"True. Still..."

The dance continued. Wanda leaned in to whisper in his ear. "I hope it's best of all when it's your bride."

Clarence got a big smile as their eyes met. "I like that thought."

The song ended and the radio across the hall cut to a weather forecast. They stopped and held each other's eyes for a few seconds. It was Wanda who finally spoke. "Thank you for the dance. I need to get to my cue mark."

Wanda had a warm glow on her face as the cameras started rolling for the first take of her descending the staircase.

Clarence helped Pacidy pack several crates while the crew got more takes of 'Rose' descending the staircase. He was stacking one of them in the hallway when he heard Martin call out, "Cut, print, and it's a wrap."

Pacidy stepped out of the costume room and they both padded over to the top of the staircase, where he saw Martin seated on the director's chair, with Clint and Zig Zag on either side of him. "Our final wrap in Georgia," said Clint. "We've got a truck to load! Lots to get broken down, packed, and loaded."

"When you get back to the hotel, get your suitcases ready," said Zig Zag. "The truck will be back later for them. I have a banquet room reserved for an all crew dinner."

* * *

Sarah Jane's Creekside Inn was not the sort of restaurant that would have a neon sign on the front; it was more the sort to have a menu that was changed out frequently posted beside the front entrance. The place resembled an older home, albeit a very large one, and sat on several well-tended acres. The enclosed patio attached to the rear of the building provided a relaxing view of the lawn and gardens in back.

There was a lot of hubbub in this section of the restaurant. The Double Z Studios crew were socializing while sampling the selection of cheeses, fresh fruit, and deep-fried vegetables spread out on a serving table along one side of the room, which also had coffee and bottles of merlot, chardonnay, and white zinfandel.

When the wait staff entered to take everyone's entree orders, the crew all settled into their seats. Most were seated at one large table in the center of the room. After the orders were in, Zig Zag stood up and tapped her wine glass with her fork until everyone quieted down, and addressed the room.

"I'm so glad all of you could make it here. It's been a long two weeks in Georgia for some of us. We've put in a lot of work, a lot of extra hours, but we got it all done and I hope you had a great time doing it. Thanks to all of your efforts, we're going to have a film ready to release in a few weeks." She paused for some clapping. "Marvin tells me there have already been a lot of inquiries about Wild Southern Rose from the industry press and the distributors. If the reviewers are nice to us, this one is shaping up to be a real winner for our studio."

The tiger-striped skunk gestured toward a table to one side where Floyd was seated with an older mouse couple. All heads turned toward them. "I'd like to introduce the couple sitting over here. This is Keith and Sandy Dalton, who returned this afternoon from a two-week cruise in the Mediterranean. Those of you who haven't already, when you get a minute, go shake their paws, thank them for letting us take over their estate, and tell them what you're going to remember most about it."

She produced a stack of envelopes. "I have something special for each one of you," she said. She called out the name of each member of the cast and crew and said a couple of things about them. In due course, Clarence's name came up.

"Clarence Skunk wasn't supposed to be on this crew. Clarence, I would especially like to thank you for stepping up on short notice! It's not everyone who can drop everything on a day's notice to fly off for two weeks the way he did."

He had stood and was padding up to the front as she was speaking. "You're w..welcome, Zig Zag," he replied as they shook paws and he accepted the envelope.

After he sat back down he opened his envelope and discretely peered at the sheet inside, as he saw some of the others doing.

For your contributions to The Wild Southern Rose, I am rewarding you with a two-night stay for two at the Box Elder Lodge, a bed and breakfast in Zanesville, Ohio. I hope you and Cindy enjoy it as much as James and I did. --Zig Zag
Clarence got a huge smile on his muzzle as he put away the envelope. Don't want to lose track of that one. I can hardly wait to see Cindy's reaction.

A few minutes later when she was done speaking and passing out envelopes, they were still waiting for the entrees to be served, so Clarence made his way over to greet the Daltons. A couple of others had the same idea so there was a brief wait.

"I had a whole big tray of desserts dumped on me," said Nathan as he shook Keith's paw. "You shoulda seen me. I was a big mess."

"I hope this was outside," said Sandy.

"Oh yeah, it was on the back patio."

Aaron was up next. "I'm the lead camera. I was up on the roof getting aerial shots. The view is great from up there!"

Keith chuckled. "Haven't been up there in years myself."

Finally it was Clarence's turn. "Clarence Skunk, sir and ma'am. I'm support crew."

"My pleasure," they both said over each other.

He thought about mentioning his moments in the study but decided he'd rather not have to explain them. "I'll remember parking antique cars in the front driveway."

"You drove them yourself?" asked Sandy.

"No, they don't run anymore. Vernon and I had to push them by hand. Nathan got to drive one, though."

Another pawshake, and he stepped away to let Miranda have her turn. He heard her mentioning scenes at the gazebo as he looked up to see the wait furs bringing out the entrees, so he hurried back to his seat.

It had been a long two weeks, and he was ready to be back home in his apartment or spending time with Cindy, but it was two weeks he was never going to forget.

On to Chapter 17

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