| Story © 2000-2004 by Keith Dickinson.
All rights reserved. Characters Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel,
Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen Shiela Vixen, Clarisse, and Carrie Squirrel
© Eric W. Schwartz. Character Thomas Woolfe © Michael Higgs. Characters
Chris Foxx, Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Debbye Squirrel, Clarence Skunk,
Mr. Canis, Dexter Collie, Angel Collie, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, Wendy
Vixxen, and Wanda Vixen© Chris Yost. Character ZigZag © Max BlackRabbit.
Character James Sheppard, Doug and Kelly Granitz © James Bruner. Character
Mark the cheetaur © Mark White Eric W. Schwartz © Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz.
Michael Jones © Martin Pedersen. Arden Eastridge © Keith Dickson.
All rights to additional characters reserved by their respective owners.
Zig Zag had her feet propped up on her desk with her chair leaned back. In her left hand was a large folder filled with printed promotional materials for one of the video releases that was in final editing and would soon be going to the duplicators. Her right hand held a pencil that had a large pink eraser attached to the end of it, which she was currently chewing on. Unbeknownst to her, she was being watched from the doorway.
“So, now I know why you always taste like an eraser,” James quipped as he leaned against the doorframe with his hands in his pocket. “I was wondering about that.”
Her head snapped around to face the doorway. She smiled at James and bit the eraser again, showing her sharp fangs as she did so. “What can I say? It’s my second favorite thing to put in my mouth.” Dropping her feet to the floor, she flipped the folder closed before setting it and the pencil on the desktop. “I used to chew on pens, but I had a bad habit of coming away with black teeth.”
James nodded as he took his hands from his pants and stood away from the frame. “I could see how that would be a problem, though with your coloring, you could just claim it was an accent.”
“More like an accident,” she jested in reply. “So what brings you down here today? It’s a bit early for lunch.”
“Nanny interviews, remember?” James said, holding his hands out. “You said to show up at ten, right?”
Zig Zag’s eyes rolled up into her head as she flopped back against the plush office chair. “Oh, God! I’d forgotten about that.” She rubbed the sides of her head and moaned. “This is shaping up to be one of those days.”
Moving to one of the chairs in front of the desk, James sat down. “Why’s that? What’s wrong?” he asked, frowning slightly.
“Hazel,” Zig Zag spat. “That kid is one seriously spoiled brat. I was about ready to slap her head off this morning. Sheila wasn’t helping much either.”
James’ frown deepened as he crossed his arms. “It sounds like those two are going to heterodyne.”
“Hetro-what?” Zig Zag asked, her ears perking up as she gave him a questioning look. “This some new kink I haven’t heard about?”
“No!” James replied, trying not to laugh and failing miserably. “It’s an electronics term. It means to combine two different oscillating frequencies to create a third frequency. Kind of like saying that putting two people together will make them rise to a new level of whatever they’re both well known for. You know, putting two practical jokers together in the same room. Things can rapidly get out of hand if you don’t keep a careful eye on it.”
“Great,” Zig Zag grunted. “I’m doomed.” She let out a long sigh of exasperation before sitting back up and facing James. “I just told those two they could shack up together for a while.”
“You what?” James asked in a shocked tone of voice. “What about Sheila’s treatment in the hospital?”
Zig Zag shrugged. “Apparently her breakthrough with you was enough to convince the doctor that she’s ready for limited release. If she doesn’t do anything stupid for a week, the doc says she can leave the hospital.”
James frowned again. “So how did Hazel work her way into this?”
Picking up the pencil, she idly began to flip it around in her fingers. “Hazel was there when Sheila broke the good news. She latched on it as the perfect excuse to get away from her mother, which means I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. If I go along with this insanity, Sandy will be riding my ass and if I don’t, Hazel’s going to play the oppressed card.”
“So fire Hazel,” James suggested. “It’ll solve your problem with Sandy once and for all at the minor expense of having Hazel pissed off at you. Which is the lesser of two evils?”
Zig Zag wearily shook her head. “I wish it were that easy. Sheila likes the idea of shacking up with her while we look for a permanent place for her and the nanny to live.”
James chucked. “Well if they want to live together so much, why not hire Hazel as the nanny? It’s not like she would be a bad choice for the job.”
The idea completely derailed Zig Zag’s train of thought. Hazel was good with the kits and they had suggested sharing the duties while they lived together. It would save money and kill two birds with one stone. Of course, she’d still have to deal with Sandy, but no matter what happened, she’d always have to deal with Sandy. “Damn, that might actually work.”
“All right!” she said, slapping her palm on the desk before standing up. “Let’s run it up the flag pole and see who salutes.”
The pair walked the few steps to the assistant director’s office and entered to find Sheila and Thomas each with a kit in their arms, feeding them while Hazel sat back in her chair playing with a hand-held video game.
Zig Zag froze in her tracks. “How’d you get in here?” she asked Thomas.
“I told them to let him in,” Sheila replied in a sarcastic tone. “Duh!”
Zig Zag’s started to say something, but decided not to fight the flow. “It’s good to see you again, Mr. Livingston.”
“And you too, Miss Zig Zag,” the mouse replied, nodding to her. “And I must presume that this handsome gentleman standing behind you would be Mr. Sheppard? I must say, Mr. Sheppard, you are much more---handsome in person. Your pictures in the tabloids fail to do you credit.”
James blushed under his fur. “Um---well---thanks,” he stammered, running the claw of his index finger around the inside of his collar.
“He’s cute when he gets flustered, isn’t he?” the mouse asked, giving Zig Zag a coy smile which only served to deepen James’ embarrassment.
Zig Zag glanced over at James and suppressed a smile of amusement. “Actually,” she said, looking over at Sheila, “the reason we came by was to suggest that since you and Hazel want to get an apartment together for now, that you might want to hire Hazel as the nanny.”
Sheila gave Hazel a curious look.
“No!” the squirrel replied, shaking her head. “Hell no! I plan on having a nightlife and that ain’t happening if I’m gonna be stuck kit sitting twenty-four seven.”
“Well, I guess that answers that,” James said, shrugging. “I guess we should all move to the conference room, unless you want to do your interview in here?”
Before Thomas could reply, Sheila said, “How about we don’t and pretend we did and just hire the guy.”
There was a pain forming behind Zig Zag’s eyes, and it was an all too familiar one. “Sheila, we had this discussion. You need to interview all three candidates before decided.”
“Screw that,” the vixen replied. “You’ve talked about the interviews and I’ve already read their resumes. I’ve gotten to know Thomas, he gets along with me and Hazel just fine and the kits love him. What else do you need?” She frowned at Zig Zag’s expression. “All right, you give me one good solid reason why we shouldn’t hire him and I’ll interview the primadonna and the tree hugger.”
Zig Zag’s claws dug into her hands as she fought to control her emotions. What could she say about the mouse? That she didn’t trust him? That there was something in the back of the head telling her he was too good to be true? Was there any real reason not to hire the guy?
“He’s too good to be true,” Zig Zag replied, settling on her best answer. “I’m still having trouble understanding why a guy who’s as rich as he is would volunteer to work for almost nothing.”
Sheila chuckled. “There are a lot of fans who can’t understand how someone who used to pork just about anything that moved at the drop of a hat would settle down with one guy, but it happened.”
James bristled at the comment, but didn’t say anything. He didn’t feel it was his place to interfere.
Seeing Zig Zag’s and James’ reaction, Sheila rolled her eyes. “Jesus Christ, Zig Zag! The guys a psychologist for fucks sake! All this time you’ve been telling me I need to see a shrink and now that I find one I actually like, you’re against it?”
Sheila’s outburst stunned Zig Zag for a moment. She’d never mentioned Thomas being a psychologist. “How did you know he’s a psychologist?”
“God, Zigs,” Sheila replied, adjusting how the baby was cradled in her arms. “You’re really losing it, you know that? I know he’s a shrink because I read his stupid resume! It’s not like you made a point to put them away or anything!”
“Curious,” Thomas injected. “I’ve heard that you have a great disdain for psychologists and yet you have no problem with my living under your roof?”
“On the contrary, I do have problems living with you,” the vixen said, frowning slightly. “Then again, I have problems with living with an eighteen year old, self centered, hyperactive squirrel---”
“Hey!” Hazel yipped.
“I also have a problem with my control freak best friend and boss as well,” Sheila continued, ignoring Hazel’s outburst, “but that doesn’t mean I can’t deal with them. I’ve been dealing with problems all my life. I think I can handle that one, just as long as you don’t try to psychoanalyze me all the time and stick to kit sitting.”
“That should not be a problem,” Thomas replied. “I have no intention of doing that unless you so request it. Of course, should I observe you acting in an irrational manner that could affect the kit’s welfare, I will have no choice but to act upon those observations.”
Sheila had to think about that for a moment before she nodded to Zig Zag. “There you go, then. Looks like we got us a nanny.”
“Well, I guess that’s that,” Zig Zag said, nodding to Thomas. “Welcome aboard, Doctor Livingston. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go call the other two and cancel their interviews.”
“Well, that went better than expected,” Sheila commented after Zig Zag and James were out of earshot.
“Actually, I’d disagree,” Thomas said. “I believe your actions may have further alienated Zig Zag.”
“Hey!” Sheila barked. “What did I say about analyzing me? Besides, I’ve known Zig Zag for almost twenty years and it’ll take a lot more than that to alienate her. She’s just hurt because I managed to get my way for a change. She’ll get over it.”
“I see,” the mouse replied quietly. “And please, don’t presume that I was attempting to analyze you. I was simply commenting on the event as an interested observer; after all she is the person to whom I will ultimately be answering.”
Sheila smiled and chuckled to herself. “Speaking of which, how do you think the crown’s going to react when they see you getting checks from Double Z Studios?”
“I beg your pardon?” Thomas asked, his eyes wide with shock. “What ever do you mean? I’ll be working for Miss Zig Zag, not the studio.”
“Not if I know Zig Zag,” the vixen replied, laughing at the mouse’s discomfort. “She’ll find a way to work you in so that your fee is an expense off the company’s taxes.”
Thomas’ ears drooped in disdain. “Oh my.”
“Damn it!” Zig Zag spat as she got back to her office. She plopped down into her chair and crossed her arms. “You know, David got me off on a murder charge once already, do you think he could do it again?”
James shook his head. “I don’t think so, Zig,” he replied. “If you think about it, the main reason he got you off the first time is because Sheila was really alive. You kill her now and I’m not sure you’d get away with it. Besides, she’s got a point about him being a shrink. It might not hurt to have him around as a dampening rod if she starts to flake out again.”
Zig Zag stared at James incredulously. “You’re not siding with her?”
Shaking his head, James let out a sigh. “Zig, it’s not about who’s siding with whom. Contrary to what you may believe, this isn’t a contest. The ultimate goal is to get Sheila back out on her own and do it in a manner that’s safe.” He paused to cross his arms and think for a moment. “I agree that there’s something just too good about this guy, but Sheila’s right about people changing over a lifetime. Maybe he really is what he seems. Still…”
“Still what?” Zig Zag asked.
“Still…” James glanced towards the door to make sure nobody was listening. “Whenever I’m around him, I get that same weird feeling I did when Arden was around. It’s nothing specific, it’s just a feeling that something isn’t quite right with the universe.”
Zig Zag’s frown deepened. “Normally I’d laugh at that, but after everything that’s happened, I’m not going to risk it.” She shook her head slowly as she considered the situation. “There’s nothing we can do for now but keep our eyes and ears open. At least we’ll have a couple of weeks of getting used to the guy before we let him loose with Sheila’s kits. If there is something funky…”
Their conversation was interrupted by a knock at the door. “Pardon me, but may I enter?” Thomas asked.
Mentally Zig Zag cursed her luck. “Sure, come on in.”
The mouse stepped into the office and closed the door before taking a seat. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but overhear the last part of your conversation.” He held up a hand to forestall any reply. “Please, I understand your concern and if you desire, I will retract my offer to work for you. I really do not wish to be the cause of any strife.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Zig Zag replied, leaning back in her chair. “Besides, if you pull out now Sheila’s going to raise a stink about it.”
Thomas contemplated that statement for a moment. “Perhaps if there were some family emergency back in London that required my attention? She could not possibly lay blame on you for that, could she?”
Zig Zag frowned again. “You’re pushing kind of hard to pull out of this. If you don’t want the job, don’t take it.”
“It’s not that, ma’am,” the mouse replied, glancing towards James for a moment. “It’s a matter of trust. From what you’ve said, I have a feeling that you don’t trust me. In this line of work, trust must be implicit or the relationship will be a troubled one. My concern is for my effectiveness in caring for the kits first and Sheila second. My ability to accomplish those tasks will be complicated if the trust required is missing. If that is the case, then it is in the best interests of the kits that I withdraw.”
“Best interest,” Zig Zag whispered to herself. His words seemed to echo in her head in an odd way. She glanced over at James who shrugged. She had never been one for blind trust, but you couldn’t run a company if you didn’t trust your employees to do their job. “All right. I think I understand what you’re getting at and I understand your concerns. At the same time, I think you understand our concerns, so I’m going to go along with Sheila’s decision. She trusts you so I’ll trust you.”
“Hi, Mom! I’m home!”
Sandy looked up from her cutting board at the sound of Hazel’s voice. “Hi, Honey. How was work today?”
“Pretty good,” the young squirrel replied as she opened the refrigerator. Pulling out a soda, she popped the top on it and took a sip. “Did you toss the paper yet?”
“Uh, no. It should be on the chair still,” her mother replied, resuming her cutting. She glanced over towards Hazel as she sat down at the table and saw the want ads. “Still looking for that perfect car?”
Hazel shook her head. “Nah,” she grunted as she flipped through the pages. “Apartment.”
“Apartment?” Sandy echoed, her fur standing on end at the thought. “You can’t seriously be thinking of an apartment yet. You don’t have any money saved up.”
“Don’t need it,” the young squirrel replied, circling an item in the paper. “Splitting it with Sheila. Zig’s gonna do the first month and deposit.”
Sandy set the knife down and went over to the table. “Wait a minute. Sheila’s still in the hospital, isn’t she?”
“For the moment, yeah,” Hazel said, circling another item. “She’s getting out next week. Doc says she’s not as fu---screwed up as they thought she was. Zig figured that it would be better to have her split an apartment with someone else until she got back on her feet, one hundred percent.”
“Well, I suppose I can see that,” Sandy said, taking a seat at the table, “but I’m not so sure it’s wise for you to be rooming with her. I’m mean, I’m not so sure I want you living with that kind of female!”
Hazel shot her mother a dubious look. “What, a single mother?”
“No!” Sandy shot back defensively. “One of those porn star actresses. I’m not fond of the idea of having strange men going in and out of your apartment at all odd hours of the day and night.”
“Mom!” Hazel whined, drawing the word out. “She’s not a prostitute. Besides, she’s got a thing for some guy named Anatol anyway, not to mention most guys would be scared off of some chick with twins no matter how big her tits are!”
Hazel’s frank talk took Sandy by surprise. “And just how will you get to work? I know where that studio is and there isn’t anything you’d want to rent down there. You don’t even have a car.”
“No, but Sheila does,” Hazel replied with a smile. “And until they can straighten out her being declared dead, I’ll be the one driving us around in it. Zig thinks that her lawyer can get it out of the impound lot by the end of the week. If not, we’ll rent something.”
“I don’t like it.” Having run out of reasonable objections, Sandy fell back on her old habits. “I don’t like anything about it.”
“Well, I guess it’s a good thing you don’t have to like it,” Hazel venomously replied, glaring at her mother. “I’m eighteen and you need to get used to the idea that what you like or dislike no longer controls my life. I’ve got a chance to move out and if it meant moving into a crack house, I’d take it, just as long as it would get me away from you.”
Sandy watched as her daughter snatched up the newspaper and drink before storming back to her room and slamming the door. She sat there in shock at what was happening. Her little girl was moving out. She was barely out of high school and she was moving out. They’d agreed that she’d move out when it came time for college, but now she wasn’t even talking about going any more. Now it was all about Zig Zag and her studio full of degenerates.
Pushing her chair back, she stood and walked out the front door and over to Zig Zag’s where she promptly pressed the doorbell repeatedly. After a moment the door opened. “There you are!” She said. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Trying very hard not to kill you,” Zig Zag replied, enjoying the shocked look on the squirrel’s face. “I’ve had it up to here with your shit! You’re a controlling, obnoxious, self centered bitch and I’m sick and tired of you blaming me for the fact that you suck as a mother!”
“What?” Sandy shrieked.
“You heard me,” Zig Zag declared, stepping down onto the porch and forcing Sandy to take a step backwards. “Rather than facing the fact that you’ve totally fucked up your relationship with your daughter by trying to control every aspect of her life, you’re over here bitching at me. If you had any sense---”
“Now you li…” she started to say.
“NO!” Zig Zag snarled at the top of her voice, showing her fangs. “You’re going to shut the fuck up and listen to me! If you ever want to have a chance at salvaging anything resembling a relationship with your daughter, you need to go back over there and apologize for being a complete and total cunt! Then you need to help your daughter plan her move away from you because whether you like it or not, she is moving away! If you can do that without trying to control everything she does in the process, you might---MIGHT---still have a daughter when all is said and done. Either way, I want you to get the hell off of my porch and don’t come back.”
Stunned by the outburst, Sandy could only watch as Zig Zag went back into her house and slammed the door loud enough to cause the windows to rattle.
Inside, Zig Zag glared at Thomas and James. “What?”
Thomas froze. During his existence he’d faced many dangerous and terrible creatures, but none of them had ever come close to this. He decided to take the safe route and remain silent.
He chose wisely.