AN: The question was posed today by Fantasy Forest after reading 'Seven Days in the Life', "what would've happened if he had been attacked by a rabid skunk or three?" A plot bunny was born and the following bit of silliness was written at the colonel's expense.
I don't know if Germany has skunks, but it does for this story.
Hogan turned a corner in the tunnel and stopped dead in his tracks. There, not two yards in front of him, tail up and spread to full plume, tiny feet angrily stamping out a tattoo in the dirt, was the last thing he had expected to find.
SKUNK! Hogan's mind frantically bleated at him. He stared down at it; sweat popping out on his forehead at the thought of the animal's natural defense when pushed too far.
The skunk skitter-danced sideways, arched tail twitching out its agitation, its head lowered and its little black eyes glued on him. Hogan swallowed hard and made no threatening moves.
How did it get down here?
Who the #$!% # CARES? Came the immediate, shrill response. It's a SKUNK, you idiot! Get away from it!
Hogan carefully slid one foot backward. The skunk seemed to swell and hopped straight up and down, its small, black and white body buzzing with a growl. Hogan froze, the flow of sweat accelerating.
Oh, yeah, great advice, Hogan silently argued with himself. Shoot a walking stink bomb? I might as well run up to it and yell 'BOO'!
Okay, then . . . Shoot it and RUN FAST!
We'll never get the smell out of the walls!
The skunk, apparently fed up with the stupid human, danced side to side on stiff-legs, then curled its body, aiming the back end – the shooting end – at Hogan. The growl's volume ratcheted up to chainsaw levels.
A faint, unmanly squeak slipped from between Hogan's lips. And then, just when he thought it could not get any worse . . . It did.
Three more skunks scurried from around the next corner, plumed tails arched over their backs. They fell into formation behind the first skunk, their growls mingling into four-part harmony.
&$#&%#!! Hogan's mind gibbered.
Emboldened by the company of its brethren, the skunk on point stamp-charged a few feet toward Hogan. The other three showed their support by bouncing along behind it like black and white ping pong balls, throwing some chattering in with their growls.
Yep, you're dead, agreed Hogan's mind. Just call you 'stinky'.
Footsteps sounded from around the next corner, coming in their direction. Hogan was about to call out a warning when Maddux came into view.
"There you are!" Maddux went to a knee and spread his arms wide.
To Hogan's absolute gap-mouthed amazement, the skunks did a synchronized about-face and ran pell-mell at Maddux, their tails drooped to half-mast.
"You little stinkers," Maddux cooed, stroking little black heads and striped backs. "You're not supposed to run away like that." He gazed lovingly down at the milling mass of fur, laughed softly as one of the skunks climbed onto his knee. It balanced on three legs, reached out a clawed front paw. The other skunks tumbled over each other, chittering and squeaking, vying for attention.
Bug-eyed, Hogan closed his mouth, worked up some spit and found his voice.
"Have you lost your mind?"
Maddux's head jerked up. The skunks, reminded of Hogan's presence, immediately closed ranks and set up a chorus of growls. The ringleader bared its teeth, flipped its tail over its back and fluffed into full display. Hogan flinched, but stayed his ground.
"Easy guys," Maddux crooned to the small band of skunks. "Don't mess with the brass."
The growling subsided, but the skunks held their tight formation.
Hogan tore his eyes off the feisty fur balls and lowered his voice to avoid provoking an attack. "Maddux . . ."
Maddux looked up, voice and expression contrite. "Sorry, sir. I thought their cage door was latched, but I guess it wasn't 'cause . . ." he looked down at the skunks, then back at Hogan. "here they are." He shrugged, gave a weak chuckle.
Hogan stared at him. "They're skunks!"
"Baby ones!" Maddux said in a rush.
"They're skunks," Hogan repeated through clenched teeth.
"They're so young they can't spray much!"
Hogan's voice rose and took on dangerous overtones. "Much?"
A rustling noise came from floor level. Hogan looked down to find four pointed faces glaring up at him, teeth bared and tails fanned over their backs. He went still, but had the crazy urge to bare his own teeth. The little monsters were trespassing!
"Not hardly as much as an adult," came Maddux's weak reply. "And not unless they feel really threatened." He suddenly turned Hogan's glare back on him. "You didn't threaten them, did you?"
Hogan's gaze snapped up. "No. You, however . . ."
Maddux looked down at the skunks, bravely standing between him and the big, bad, noisy man. "I found what was left of their momma when I was coming back from a drop. Looked like an owl had got her. The babies didn't even have their eyes open yet. I didn't have the heart to just leave them there for something to pick off."
Steady. Don't let him get to you, whispered Hogan's mind. Think about the stink, only the stink and nothing but the stink.
Maddux stroked one of the skunks. It set up a happy trilling noise, which seemed to calm the other three. The growling stuttered and faded, but their tails stayed high. "Their cage is in a storage room in tunnel 9, clear in the back against the wall. They've been there for months and haven't bothered anyone. I'm going to turn them loose outside once they're old enough."
"They're old enough."
"Their eyes look wide open to me."
"Yeah . . ."
"They look well fed."
"Yeah . . ."
"And they obviously have no problem aiming their weapons. They're old enough."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. I'll turn them out tomorrow."
Hogan started to shake his head, then decided not to risk setting off a skunk bomb. "Now."
Maddux sighed. "Now."
Hogan carefully edged backward. "I'm going this way. You take them that way and right out the exit."
"But the dogs--"
"Know better than to mess with skunks, Maddux. Now get them out of here."
Maddux carefully extended his arms and curled them loosely about the skunks, discouraging any thoughts they might have had about chasing Hogan. "Come on, guys. Time to leave the nest."
Hogan slowly walked backward, while Maddux gently herded his four-footed charges the other way, enticing them onward by dangling a feather tied with a length of string. Hogan watched until they were out of sight, then slumped against the tunnel wall, weak-kneed with relief.
"That's it," he breathed, dragging a hand over his face. "I'm declaring a no pets rule."
Thank you for reading!