Note: THis will be the last in this series for awhile. Running out of ideas and my own personal interest. But other smk stories will be coming.
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to WB and Shoot the Moon Productions. No infringement is intended. This is written for entertainment purposes only. Please do not redistribute or reproduce this story without my permission.
Summary – Jamie wants a pet—what harm could possibly come from that? Another episode in the Amanda and Jamie series
Rating – general
A Boy And His...
Amanda stood in her kitchen washing dishes. As usual, the dishwasher was acting up and rather than fight with it she decided to do the clean up by hand. Washing dishes wasn't such a bad chore anyway. She could look out the window at her garden, keep an eye on the boys or watch for Lee. She never knew when he might pop up and she was learning to expect the unexpected. This time however, it was Jamie rushing in and excitedly shouting her name that startled her.
"Mom, Mom! Look at what I've got!"
Amanda turned and saw that Jamie was holding a little bundle of fur wrapped in a towel. She sighed. Mrs. McKinnon's cat must have had kittens again. She didn't think this was overly exciting news since her neighbour's cat had kittens with frightening regularity. Tinkerbelle was a cute orange tabby but the little hussy had the morals of a...well...of an alley cat. A new batch of kittens meant at least a month of the boys begging for a pet while Amanda was forced into the role of the mean mom who deprived her children of the only thing they wanted in the whole world. She could hear the conversation already:
"We'll take care of it."' They'd promise. "We'll feed it and brush it. You won't have to do a thing."
When she mentioned cleaning the litter box, vet bills and paying for food out of their allowance they always became quiet but the pitiful 'you don't love us' looks would continue until all of the kittens had homes.
Drying her hands on the dish towel, Amanda turned ready to face a bombardment of pleas for a pet. Jamie stood beaming in front of her with the small creature cradled in his arms.
"See Mom? It's real little so I wrapped it up in this old towel to keep it warm."
Unable to resist, Amanda peered at the little bundle of fur. The part she could see was black and there seemed to be a little touch of white but it really was hard to tell, the way Jamie had it wrapped up
"Mom, can I keep it?"
'Here it comes,' Amanda said to herself. Strengthening her resolve in the face of her son's pleading eyes, she began her usual speech. "Jamie, a pet is a lot of work and expense. You and Phillip will start out caring for it but pretty soon it will be my job. And who's going to buy the food? And pay the vet?"
Jamie's expression changed from hopeful expectation to resignation. "I knew you'd say that."
"I'm sorry sweetheart but it's the truth. We really don't have the time or the money for a pet. Now take the kitten back to Mrs. McKinnon's."
"But I didn't find it at Mrs. McKinnon's. It was in our basement and so are all the other ones."
"In our basement? Now how did they get down there?"
"I don't know but they're in a box of old clothes way in the back corner. I can't see for sure how many there are but I think there might be five or six." Jamie carefully unwrapped the bundle he'd been carrying. "Do you want to hold it, Mom? It's really cute."
He held the little creature out to her and Amanda got her first good look at Jamie's find. "Oh- My-Gosh!"
"Mom? What's wrong? I know you don't want us to have a pet but ..."
"Jamie that's a skunk!"
"Yeah, wouldn't it be a cool pet?" He grinned as he stared at the sleeping animal in his hand. "I read about them somewhere and you can get the stink removed and walk it on leash and everything." He stared hopefully at his mother.
"Jamie you are not keeping a skunk for a pet and the mother skunk is going to be pretty mad when she finds him missing. I can guarantee that she hasn't' had her 'stink' removed." Amanda suddenly had a vision of an enraged mother skunk making its way upstairs and contaminating the whole house. She knew she had to act fast. "Okay Jamie, give me the skunk and I'll put it back downstairs. You go get Grandma and Phillip and wait for me in the den. And whatever you do, be quiet. We don't want to upset the skunks."
"Ah, gee Mom, I wanted to show him to everybody"
"No! Now go!"
Jamie handed his mother the towel and the skunk then reluctantly went on his way. Amanda gingerly held the baby skunk and gave thanks it was still sleeping. If it woke up and started crying, Mama was sure to come. As carefully as if she was carrying a bomb, she made her way down the stairs into the cluttered lower level.
The basement wasn't her favourite place. It was filled with boxes that she kept meaning to go through but never got around to looking at. The Christmas decorations and sports equipment could be tolerated but some of the other stuff really did need to be dealt with. Right now, however, the boxes could be hiding the enemy. A mother skunk wouldn't wander too far from her nest and Amanda had no desire for a face to face greeting.
Carefully she tiptoed across the basement, peering around each box for the intruder, breathing as quietly as possible and alert for any sound or movement that might indicate the enemy's presence. All was silent except for the hum of the hot water heater. Closer and closer she stepped, expecting the worst at any time. Her heart was beating as hard as it did when she was on a mission with Lee.
Briefly, she wondered if skunks could smell fear and tried to recall the chapter on wildlife in the Junior Trailblazer's handbook. She remembered reading that an angry skunk would stomp it's front feet in warning and, if that didn't work, they would then spray their assailant with a foul oil-based concoction. The smell could linger for weeks.
She could just envision the work involved in de-skunking the house. Everything would have to be washed and scrubbed and aired out. The boys would have to miss school; how could she send them when they smelled like skunk? As the enormity of the job hit her, she prayed that she would escape this episode unscathed.
Finally she had traversed the length of the basement. There had been no encounters with the enemy and she breathed a sigh of relief. Her mission was half over but the most dangerous part was still facing her. She stood staring at a cardboard box that had a large hole in its side. Faint rustling and mewing sounds could be heard emanating from within. The box was labelled 'Joe's clothes' and inwardly Amanda thought it served him right for leaving his things there for so long
Slowly, cautiously, Amanda got down on her hands and knees, careful to make no sudden moves. A quick glance inside the box revealed several baby skunks moving about but, thankfully, no mama. She placed Jamie's little friend back in with its brothers and sisters, then eased away. As soon as she was a few feet back, she got to her feet and moved quickly but quietly back to the stairs and then up to the main floor. Once she was safely in the kitchen, she pulled the door shut and leaned against it trying to quiet her pounding heart.
Making her way to the family room, Amanda leaned against the back of the sofa and nervously chewed her lip while waiting for the rest of the family. How did you get rid of a skunk? An exterminator? No, it was a mother and she didn't want it killed. The SPCA? No that was for pets...
"Amanda, what is this all about? Jamie came flying into my room with some wild story about skunks in the basement." Dotty strolled into the room, her reading glasses half way down her nose and the latest romance novel clutched in her hand.
"He's right, Mother."
"What?" a combination of disbelief and horror passed over Dotty's face.
Amanda nodded. "We have a nest of baby skunks in the far corner of the basement and mama must be around here somewhere."
Dotty's eye grew wide. "Well, what are we going to do?"
"I'm not sure, Mother. I'm still thinking about it."
The front door slammed and Amanda winced, praying the new borders downstairs didn't take offence. Phillip ran inside. "Mom! Is Jamie right? Do we have skunks in the house?" Upon seeing his mother nod, his face lit up. "Cool!"
"Not so cool, Phillip." Dotty fixed a hard stare on her grandson. "If those skunks get upset, we'll all end up smelling like skunk and it will mean bathing in tomato juice for a week."
Jamie came in and heard the tail end of Dotty's comment. "Why would you take a bath in tomato juice?"
"Because that's the only way to get rid of the smell if a skunk sprays you." Dotty explained.
The boys looked at each other and made matching disgusted faces before replying in unison. "Gross!"
"Amanda, how could a skunk have gotten into our basement?" Dotty frowned.
"I have no idea, Mother. Maybe the grate that covers the air vent on the far side came loose and she crawled through it. They are clearing all the brush out of the park. Her home could have been destroyed and she decided to use our basement as a nursery."
Phillip elbowed Jamie and, being a perceptive mother, Amanda raised her brows and stared at the boys.
"Tell her, dog breath."
"Shut up, worm brain."
"Boys, don't call each other names. Now tell me. What do you know about this?"
Jamie shuffled about uncomfortably and stared at the ground while Phillip just smirked. "Now you're going to get it."
"Phillip, leave your brother alone. Jamie, is there something you need to tell me?"
"Well...remember how you told me I couldn't use the spaghetti strainer thing in the sandbox anymore? And remember how I lost my allowance in the sandbox? Well, before I told you, I tried to find it myself and I sort of pulled the screen thing off the side of the house and tried to sift the sand with it, to find my money. When I couldn't find it, I went to tell you and I sorta forgot to put the screen thing back."
Amanda closed her eyes and counted to ten before addressing her son. "Jamie, do not pull pieces off of the house. Anything that is attached to the house is there for a reason."
Dotty looked at Amanda and must have sensed her exasperation. "How about if I take the boys out for supper and then to baseball practice. That will leave the house nice and quiet so we don't disturb our...er...visitors and give you time to find someone to help with the problem."
"Thank you, Mother. Jamie, we'll talk more about this later. Now, go grab your baseball stuff but do it quietly." In a short period of time, Dotty had the boys herded out of the house. Amanda rubbed her forehead and tried to think of a solution to her skunk problem. Who could she call that might know how to get rid of intruders...
Just then there was a tapping at the window. She glanced up and saw Lee looking in at her. Hurrying to the door, she slipped outside as quietly as possible.
"Hi! I saw your mother leaving with the boys, so I figured it was safe...Hey, why do you look so worried?"
"We have intruders in the house."
"Intruders? Have you called the police?" Lee reached for his gun instantly alert.
"They're not that kind of intruder. I almost wish they were. Instead it's the four legged, black and white stinky kind."
"Stinky? Black and—oh." Lee started to back away.
"They're in the basement, so we're safe out here. Lee, do you have any idea who I can call about this kind of a problem?"
"No, skunks don't really fall under my jurisdiction. But you know...The Agency has a database of every service available in the area. Why don't we call Francine and have her run it through the computer."
"Francine? Lee, in case you hadn't noticed, Francine isn't exactly overly fond of me. I can't see her doing me a favour like this."
"Listen, if she gives you any trouble, just mention Timothy McCarthy. That will bring her around."
"Okay." Amanda shrugged and went inside to dial IFF. Lee followed, leaning on the counter and listening in with obvious interest. "Hello. Francine? It's Amanda. I need your help. You see, I have a skunk in my basement—Francine? Francine? Huh! We got cut off."
"No. She hung up. Call her again and mention McCarthy."
Once more Amanda got Francine on the phone. "Now Francine don't hang up! Lee said I should mention Timothy McCarthy..." Francine's voice rose several octaves. Amanda held the phone away from her ear. Covering the mouth piece she looked at Lee. "She sounds really mad."
"So? You want the skunks gone don't you? Go ahead and ask her."
"Francine...calm down...all I want is some information on who can get rid of skunks. Okay, I'll wait." Amanda glanced at Lee. "She's checking right now."
In a matter of moments a wildlife expert had been dispatched to Amanda's house. She felt relieved but guilty at the same time. "Lee, I don't feel right about how I got Francine to help with this."
"Amanda you have a lot to learn about the fine art of gathering intelligence and applying pressure."
"Some people would call that blackmail."
"Blackmail is such a nasty word. Call it effective use of knowledge."
"Blackmail is blackmail, no matter what you call it."
"And a bunch of stinky skunks are—?" Lee paused and raised his eyebrows, looking at her expectantly.
Amanda thought for a moment considering all the work involved should the skunk not be successfully removed. She crossed her arms and nodded wisely. "You know, blackmail is a highly underrated skill, now that I think about it."