Chester was always amazed how fresh his fur felt after a bath. He glanced at the tub of water. A few strands of his brown and cream-colored fur floated among the remaining suds. He would clean that up after work. He hated cleaning up almost as much as having the wet suds invade his fur. Still, they were both necessary weekly evils if he wanted to work as a salesweasel. He would have more success if there weren’t flies buzzing around him.
The weasel wrapped himself in a towel before pulling his bathing trousers off. After drying off, he slipped his underpants on, dropped the towel, and finished dressing. Chester pulled his navy trousers from the clothing line outside his apartment window. He ran his paw over the cuff and nodded. Seeing they were dry enough, he slipped them on.
He gazed at himself in the cracked hand mirror and made a mental note to look for a larger discarded mirror. He licked his free paw and smoothed it over the bush of brown head fur. The bush sprang back to life a couple seconds later. His fur, including the excess chin furs and his scraggly brown and cream tail, had been in desperate need of a trim. He had tried trimming himself once before and it ended with uneven and nearly bare patches. Chester scowled and placed his patched top hat on his head. He placed his glasses on his snout. He didn’t need them to see, but glasses made people look more intelligent, though the weasel knew he had brains to spare.
Chester scanned the rest of himself in the mirror. His spats were yellowed from sweat, but he was proud of the staining and the patches on his clothes. They were signs that he worked hard, a trait potential customers were sure to admire. The World War a few years ago provided lots of potential customers. Immigrants had flooded the city, seeking refuge from their war-battered countries and soldiers returned in need of jobs and, therefore, cheap goods for their families.
His patched briefcase sat on his worktable. He opened the briefcase and groped through the contents: One rubber ducky (how else does one stayed amused during a bath?), one sock, brown from previous use (no need to worry about them shrinking in the wash), one horse stuffed animal (sure, it’s a unicorn, it just has one eye instead of a single horn), one alarm clock (The clock face is sticking out because it’s part cuckoo clock, of course), and one fish bone (from the fish Abraham Lincoln ate before going to the theater). As long as he looked and sounded trustworthy, he could get Abraham Lincoln himself to buy those fish bones.
He walked down two flights of stairs and out the doors of his apartment building. Chester filled his lungs with the thick city air, sweet in his current optimism. “Time to charm some money into my pockets.”
The door slammed and Chester dropped his smile. The weasel grumbled and straightened his top hat before sticking his tongue out at the door. He had walked at least a dozen blocks in the past hour and knocked on the doors. No one was home in half of them and another chunk were only pretending no one was home. Some took one look at his goods and said no. One out of work bum threatened to kick him into the street (he looked like the type to own a rubber ducky) and an elderly woman hit him in the shin with her cane (Chester could have sworn she was old enough to have met Abraham Lincoln).
Chester crossed the street. The residential townhouses faded behind him and the business district came into view. He entered a slum of derelict storefronts. The signs mumbled with faded paint and missing letters. Half of the stores were boarded up. The weasel toyed with a stray whisker with his two fingers. Why hadn’t he thought of it before? Why go home to home when everyone was at work in the city? More people meant more potential customers. Chester made up his mind. He wouldn’t leave the business district until he made a sale.
Dale’s Drugstore was the first store on his end of the sidewalk. Chester glanced at the sign in front of the door. Open 12-4 p.m. M-F. Chester had left his home about an hour ago and that was 9 a.m. There was a chance the storeowner could be inside. Chester pressed his face against the glass. The store was oddly spacious for only running twenty hours a week, filled with a dozen metal shelves, most of which only held a handful of bottles. The desk near the back of the store was unoccupied.
Bottles clanked and Chester perked up his ears. The sound came from the alleyway to the left of the store. Chester flashed a grin for the glass, his gold tooth glistening in the sunlight. He nodded, and walked over to the alleyway.
“Good morning sir!” Chester said as he tipped his top hat.
Two males, a barrel-chested badger and a scraggly skunk, froze.
“I mean, sirs!” Chester said, maintaining his smile. The badger and skunk held a wooden crate between them, standing behind a tarp-covered truck. The narrow tops of bottles peeked out from the top of the crate. One sat near the side door of the drugstore. Something told Chester the bottles weren’t filled with medicine. Still, even bootleggers could use an alarm clock.
“Back it up,” the skunk said. His hand reached behind him.
Chester froze. As much as he wanted to make a sale, he didn’t want anyone pulling a gun on him.
“Take it easy,” the badger said to his partner. “He’s just a dumb salesman.”
“How do you know he’s not a cop?” the skunk said.
“I don’t like cops either,” Chester said. “Do I look like a cop to you?”
The badger shrugged. “He’s too scrawny to be a cop.”
“He’s probably staking out our turf,” the skunk said. “You think he’s one of those weasels with the Candoli family?”
“I don’t know anything about the Cannolis or whoever, I promise,” Chester said. “I really do.” Chester had heard of the Candoli family, along with other mob families in the city. Even since Prohibition began a few years ago, alcohol had been in high demand. To Chester, business was business, legal or not. “Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal.” He opened his briefcase.
“Don’t move!” the skunk said.
The badger gripped the skunk’s shoulder. “Calm down, he’s not worth it.”
Chester gulped as he dug through his briefcase. He needed some smooth talking and a big discount to get the bootleggers on his side. He grabbed the fishbone. “How about I give you this—”
The skunk was turned around and on all fours, his tail straight up and his rear pointed in Chester’s direction. The rear flap flopped down.
The hot stream of musk spritzed his face. Chester turned and yelped as a second shot of musk, this one more of a cloud than a squirt, misted his side. Chester dropped his briefcase and staggered. Tears welled up as he could barely manage to squint through the thick cloud of musk, forcing him to rely on his ears.
“What’d you do that for?”
“He was onto us!”
“Get in the car. Let’s get out of here.”
“What about the goods?”
“Forget about them. You stunk up two of the crates. Besides, no one’s coming to party with this stink hanging about.” The car doors shut and tires screeched as the bootleggers escaped.
Chester wobbled to the wall by the trashcans. His brain was telling him to get away from the smell, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. His stomach twisted and he dry heaved over one of the trashcans. Nothing came out, so he spat to get stink that invaded his mouth. He collapsed again with his back against the wall.
The weasel squinted at his briefcase. There was no doubt it and his goods were skunked. He sniffed and gagged. He, for sure, was skunked. Chester took his glasses off and inspected them. A couple of droplets of musk clung to the lenses. He heard skunk musk could sting your eyes. His glasses had stopped the musk from getting in his eyes, but tears still dampened his cheeks.
He needed a bath. Chester sniffed again and held his nose. He needed at least three bathes. Chester sighed and picked himself off. Rent would have to wait. If he was going to sell anything, he needed to get rid of the smell.
Chester’s walk back to his apartment was almost as unpleasant as getting sprayed. Although his eyesight was slowly returning, Chester still had to squint to see where he was going. Various passersby gave him a wide berth on the sidewalk. He was used to the looks of disgust, the crinkled snouts, the shouts about his hygiene, but he had never encountered such distaste for his presence. He stuck to alleyways when he could.
Under and hour later, Chester arrived at his apartment building, a three-story rectangle with dusky windows and bricks pinked from weather. The weasel made it two steps into the lobby before Schmidt, the portly pig landlord, came around the corner from the staircase.
“You, out, now!” the pig said as he swung a bat with one hand and held his nose with the other.
Chester ducked and shoved a smile onto his face. “Come on Schmidty. Can’t you see I need a bath?”
“You aren’t getting it here,” Schmidt said. “I sniffed you out for a whole ten minutes.”
“Then where am I supposed to go?” Chester said.
“Not my problem,” the pig said. He swung again. Chester backed up, stumbling out the door.
“Don’t take another step in here,” the pig said, his bat pointed at the weasel. “Wash the stink off before you come back or consider yourself kicked out for good!” He slammed the door shut.
Chester spat at the door, partially out of defiance and partially to get the taste of skunk spray out of his mouth.
The weasel sighed and walked through the alleyways, only taking the sidewalks when he had to. If only he had been less forceful with the skunk. If only he hadn’t been so caught up with making a sale and noticed the skunk’s tail going up. If only he hadn’t tried to sell a fishbone to bootleggers. Now he was in even worse shape than he was this morning.
He entered the outskirts of the park and sat under a tree. He patted the fur on his face, not caring if he spread the stink further on him. Even the parts untouched by the spray had probably absorbed the smell by now. His fingers came back slick and oily, but his fur no longer felt damp. He could see just fine. He sniffed and coughed. If only he could bathe. Chester looked up. Only a few stray white puffs hung in the early afternoon sky. Rain wasn’t an option.
Chester ears perked up. A trickle of water hitting water reached his ears. He looked around the tree. A fountain with a cherub spitting water sat in a wide circle on the walking path.
The weasel rushed over and hopped into the fountain. The cold water breached through his fur. He let shivers take his body, half from the cold and half from disgust over bathing twice in one day. The weasel set his top hat and glasses on the ground and stood under the cherub’s spit. He ran a paw over his flattened bush of brown head fur, and then stripped off his jacket. He turned around, letting the cherub spit in his face where the skunk’s first shot hit him between the eyes.
After a minute, he stepped away and wiped his face. When he opened his eyes, a small audience was watching him several feet away.
“What the matter?” Chester said as he scrubbed under his arms. “You’ve never seen a weasel take a bath before?” Chester sniffed himself again and wrinkled his nose. The stink wasn’t going away. It might have been his imagination, but the smell was getting worse.
A whistle pierced the air. Two police officers rushed to the fountain. By the time Chester climbed out and grabbed his hat and glasses, the police officers had arrived. One held a pair of handcuffs and had his whistle in his mouth while the other tapped a baton against his palm.
“There’s no bathing in the public fountain,” the officer with the baton said. “You’ll have to come with us.”
“All right,” Chester said, placing his arms out and wrists together. “Come over here and cuff me. Then you can put me in your nice police car of yours. I wonder how long you’ll have me in the car before you get to the station? Oh, and would you mind not rolling down the windows? I’m still wet and I don’t want to catch a chill.”
The officer with the baton turned to his partner. “You heard him. Cuff him.”
The other officer dropped the whistle from his mouth. “Well, you saw him first. It’s only fair you get to cuff him.”
“I may have seen him first,” said the one with the baton. “But you were the first to say we go after him.”
“I said we should see what the commotion was about,” the one with the whistle said. “You noticed the weasel first.”
The small crowd watched as the two squabbled, Chester tipped his hat to them and hustled away from the scene.
Chester stopped at the other edge of the park and flopped down on the bench. He sniffed again, wrinkled his nose, and groaned. He might have escaped the police, but there was no escaping the skunk odor. Maybe it was because he didn’t use soap. He could buy some, but he had no money on him. The little money he had saved up sat in his apartment, which he couldn’t enter. Even if he had money on him, the skunk odor would have clung to it, Plus, he doubted any storeowner would let him inside. He could find a lake or a river to bathe in, but he would have to leave the city to find one.
A car horn honked three time, short and light.
Chester looked up. A beaver with a thick moustache sat in the driver’s seat of a red truck. Even behind the moustache, Chester could tell the beaver’s nose was all scrunched up.
“Run into some skunk trouble?” the beaver asked.
“I’ve got more than skunk trouble,” Chester said. “I really do, but this stink’s near the top of the list.”
“Need help getting the stink off?” the beaver said. “I know a thing or two about it.”
Chester stood up and crossed his arms. “If you’re trying to sell me something, I’m not interested. That’s my shtick.”
“I’m not selling you anything,” the beaver said. “I’m giving it to you.”
Chester arched his eyebrow. As a salesman, Chester knew there was always a catch. He made the mistake of sniffing and wrinkled his nose. He wasn’t in a position to argue.
“Hop in,” the beaver said.
Chester went around to the passenger’s side door, but the beaver shook his head.
“Sorry, but you’re going in the back,” the beaver. “As much as I want to help, I’m not looking to get too acquainted with your aroma.”
Chester scrambled into the back of the pick-up. He nestled himself between a couple empty crates. Once he was in, the beaver pulled back onto the road.
Riding in the back of the truck was tricky work. Whenever the squirrel turned, Chester had to grab one of the empty crates for support. To do that, he had to let go of his top hat or his nose. After his top hat almost flew off the truck, Chester took his paw off his nose and surrendered to the stink. The odor had lodged itself in his nose to the point where holding his nose was a useless gesture.
“The name’s George,” the beaver said.
Chester tipped his hat, even though he was facing the other way. “Chester Q. Frink, salesweasel.”
“What do you sell?” George asked.
“Whatever you want and more,” Chester said. “Though I recently lost my goods in a recent sale gone wrong.”
George chuckled. “Would that explain the smell? Must have been a poor deal for such a reaction.”
Chester crossed his arms. “I was giving him a discount. He was ungrateful.” He decided not to mention the skunk was a bootlegger. George might think he was of criminal blood if he did mention it. Chester uncrossed is arms and steadied himself with a crate as the beaver turned again. “You got a job?”
“Farmer,” George said. “I grow crops outside of the city and sell them local grocers.”
“Outside the city?” Chester said. “How long is this ride going to take?”
“Another hour, at least,” George said. “You’ll have to live with the skunk odor a little longer, but I’ll try to get us to my place fast. The longer that musk is on you, the harder it is to remove. When did you get skunked?”
“Two hours ago, give or take,” Chester said. The thought of having the stench on him so long made his nose wrinkle. He fanned the air with his top hat. “So, you happen to be an expert of getting skunk odor off?”
“I’m no expert,” George said. “I’m just privy to a few facts on the matter.”
“Have you been skunked?” Chester said.
“No sir,” George said. “And I don’t plan to be. I’ve known others who have, so I know a few tricks on removing the smell.”
“Well don’t be shy,” Chester said as he stopped fanning. “Tell me.”
“You’ll see,” the beaver said. “Just try to relax.”
For the next hour, the towering city faded into the distance. The pavement gave way to a single dirt road. The closely packed apartment buildings became acres of farmland bordered by wooden fences with chipped white paint. Chester turned to the driver, but the beaver kept going until Geroge pulled off the road and into a thick grouping of trees. A few splotches of sunlight pushed through the trees and onto the cabin.
“This is it,” George said as he cut the motor.
Chester climbed out of the back and rubbed his rear. The bumpy dirt road had pounded his tailbone to dust. “Pretty private.” The single story wooden shack wasn’t as big as the other houses and barns they had passed, but it was larger than Chester’s apartment, so he couldn’t complain.
“Yes indeed,” George said as he climbed out of the car. A few extra pounds pushed against his button-up shirt and faded jeans, but his belt and suspenders kept the plumpness under check. “It’s better than the city. There’s cleaner air in these parts.”
Chester scowled. “Forgive me if I can’t tell at the moment.”
George put his paws up and chuckled. “My apologies. Now stay put. I’m just grabbing a few things for you.”
The beaver returned wearing a bandana around his nose. He was dragging a tin tub, which held a long-handled scrubbing brush and an scraggly towel inside it. “You see that shed?” The shed, about twenty yards away, looked like a smaller version of the cabin. “I wish I could be more hospitable and have you in the cabin with me, but the stink’s too strong right now. Follow me, but keep some distance, okay?” He pointed to the rectangular outhouse behind the cabin. “And don’t use that. That got filled up a long time ago. If nature calls, find a bush or a tree far from the cabin.”
At the shed, the beaver tugged the door open and propped it with a brick lying nearby. The sun pouring through the single window on the right provided a bit of light. Hoes, shovels, and rakes leaned against the wall. The space was half the size of Chester’s apartment, which was cramped to begin with.
“I’ll let you move the tub in there,” George said as he brushed his paws on his overalls. “Take your clothes off and put them outside when you’re done. I’m going back to get more supplies.”
Chester nodded. As the beaver left, Chester examined the tools in the shed. The metal was dingy with dirt and use. He wouldn’t be able to see his reflection in them. The window reached from his chest past his head and it faced George’s cabin. The weasel didn’t like the idea of someone having eyes on him as he bathed, not even his own. He was just so skinny. He sat in the tub and looked out the window. Only the top of his head was visible, which was comforting.
George knocked. “You decent?”
“Still dressed,” Chester said. He opened the door.
George placed a crate on the floor. “Once you’re out of those clothes, you’ll need these.” He handed Chester a pair of scissors and a razor. “The musk is deep in your fur. It might be good to just shave it all off.”
“Forget it!” Chester said as he pressed the scissors and razor back into George’s paws. “I’m not walking around looking like one of those hairless cats! Don’t you think I’ve gone through enough?”
“Suit yourself,” George said as he shrugged. “At least take this.” He pulled a clothespin out of his pocket. “Now take those clothes off and get in the tub.”
Chester clamped the clothespin on his nose. He glanced at the door and cleared his throat.
“Ah, of course, George said. “Pardon me.” After he shut the door, Chester stood as far away from the window as he could.
“So, what are you going to do with my clothes?” Chester asked as he pulled his jacket off. His voice took on a hum-like quality thanks to the clothespin. “You going to scrub them for me with some magic soap or something?”
“It’s close to impossible to get skunk stink off of clothes,” George said. “Best thing we can do is burn them.”
Chester opened the door and stuck his head out. “But these are the only clothes I’ve got! They really are!”
“I can buy you something to wear once you’re smelling fresh enough,” George said. “There’s a store ten minutes from here.”
“I refuse!” Chester said. “The clothes stay here with me.”
George sighed. “Fine. Chuck them in the tub with you, but don’t be surprised if they still stink after this. Open the door if you’re still decent. I’ve still got the crate for you.”
Chester opened the door and picked a jar out of the crate. Red liquid sloshed about inside. “What’s this?”
“Tomato juice,” George said. “Two, maybe three quarts worth of it. Scrub yourself with it and you’ll be tolerable soon enough.”
Chester arched an eyebrow and chuckled. “George, I’ve dabbled in the snake oil business and this sounds a lot like snake oil.”
“It’s odd, I know,” George said, his paws up. “A friend of mine explained it once. Something about acid breaking the chemicals in the musk. It went over my head, but it helps.”
The weasel opened a jar and sniffed the contents. While skunk dominated, a pungent twinge of tomato crept in. “Forgive me if I’m skeptical.”
“If you don’t want it, I’ll take it back,” George said as he picked up the crate. “I was going to sell this before you came along.”
“For how much?” the weasel asked.
The beaver shook his head. “It’s free for you.”
“I’ll pay you back,” Chester said. “I really will. I don’t have the money now—”
“It’s my gift to you,” George said.
Chester scowled. “What are you, Santa?”
“I like helping others,” George said. “We’ve all got our sins to atone for.”
“Put it down,” Chester said. “I’ll do it, but no shaving and no burning my clothes, okay?”
George nodded. “I’ll come check up on you in a couple hours. Just warning you now, you may have to scrub all night.”
Chester grabbed the crate, placed it by the tub, and shut the door. He watched George from the window. When the beaver was back in the cabin, Chester finished removing his clothes except for his underpants. Even though he was alone, he didn’t feel comfortable parting with them. He tossed the clothes into the tub and climbed in.
He grabbed the jar he opened before, studying the muddled red goop. He sighed. “Well, here goes something.” He tipped the jar over his head. He shuddered as the cold juice soaked his head. It ran down his back and onto his face. He shut his eyes and poured the rest of the contents out. He wiped his eyes, opened another jar, and poured it over his face and neck.
Chester developed a system. He poured a jarful of juice on himself, scrubbed with the brush, poured another jarful of juice on an article of clothing, scrubbed that article and repeated. Every now and then, he would take a swig of the juice, swish it in his mouth, gargle, and swallow. After an hour or so, all twelve of the jars were empty. It was less of a bath and more like a puddle of tomato juice. He used the empty jars to scoop up the juice at the bottom of the tub and pour it on himself and his clothes.
A knock came at the door. “Brought you some dinner if the skunk smell hasn’t made you too queasy.”
Chester climbed out of the tub. He jumped into his trousers and threw on his button-up shirt before sticking his head out of the door. “How long do I bathe in this stuff for?”
The beaver, the bandana still around his nose and mouth, turned his head and took a couple steps back. “Keep in on until morning. We’ll throw you in the creek and see what you smell like then.”
As the beaver went back into the cabin, Chester grabbed the tray and frowned. There were carrots, apples, and tomatoes, all whole. Chester was sick of tomatoes at this point, but he was sicker of the skunk odor. A glass of water sat next to a candle and a pack of matches. Still, it was a free meal. He wolfed down the dinner, but saved a couple tomatoes to scrub on himself.
Chester peeked through the window as he rubbed a squished tomato on his neck. The beaver passed by the window of the cabin, but didn’t glance at the shed. The weasel wondered what sins George was hiding. Chester was aware of his sins, chiefly his swindling. He assumed his lack of financial security was his punishment. Perhaps getting skunked was retribution for some recent wrongdoings. Maybe it was karma. He shook his head. Karma was for wimps. He was careless today. That was it.
The light dwindled from the window. Without anywhere to go, Chester propped his jacket behind his head and hung his foot paws over the side of the tub. It wouldn’t do him good to concern himself with his or George’s wrongdoings. With that, Chester closed his eyes.
Sleeping in an old tin tub was uncomfortable enough. Having to sleep in a tin tub in a wooden shack that creaked with the gentlest breeze while covered in tomato juice was near impossible. Chester sat up and shook some excess tomato juice from his top hat. Odorous or not, sitting in a tub was dull stuff. He needed to walk around and stretch. Chester slipped his clothes on, brushing crusted tomato juice off where he saw fit. The weasel paused as a door shut. He squinted in the darkness before finding the candle and lighting it. He held it to the window.
George walked from his cabin into the outhouse.
Chester scratched his head and flicked crusted tomato from his head fur. George had said something about not going into the outhouse. He shrugged and exited the shed.
Chester held the candle out in front, but he let his ears do most of the work. The sound of trickling water reached him and he smiled. He had left the tomato juice on all afternoon and evening. The weasel assumed he could go ahead and wash it off. He hopped into the ankle-deep water. He rolled about, scrubbing and scratching the tomato juice from his fur. He removed his clothes and rubbed them against rocks jutting out from the creek as if they were washboards. After convincing himself that no one would be awake at this hour, he allowed himself to remove his underpants.
The weasel wiped his face, knocking the clothespin off his nose and into the water. Chester gasped and took a tentative sniff. He smiled. There was no smell. He inhaled deeply and laughed. He was finally free of that dreaded stink. The weasel hummed to himself as he scrubbed the last of the tomato juice out of his fur. Never before had he been so happy to take a bath.
When he was finished, he groped about for the candle, but had no luck finding it. Chester concluded that it must have fallen in the creek and washed away. He shrugged and dressed. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness, so getting back to George’s cabin wouldn’t be a problem. Maybe he could convince George to let him sleep in the cabin instead of the shed.
As Chester arrived back at the cabin, the outhouse door swung open. George walked out, carrying a crateful of jars.
“George, my friend!” Chester said. “To think I almost took you for a liar! Take a whiff. I’m cured!”
George’s tail stuck up, its fur on end. “Chester! What are you doing up?” He coughed and placed the crate on the ground.
“Washing the tomato juice off in the creek,” Chester said. “Now that I’m fresh and rosy, do you have a spare bed in your cabin?”
George pulled a pistol out of his waistband and pointed it at the weasel. “You should have just stayed put.” He pulled a handkerchief out of his other pocket and held it to his nose. “And you ain’t cured, you fool. You still stink.”
Chester held his paws up. “Is this about me staying in the cabin?” He chanced a quick sniff under his arm. “And what are you talking about? I don’t smell anything.”
“Your sense of smell got tired from all that skunk odor,” George said. “You think you’re fine, but you’re still skunky. Not as bad as earlier, but still pretty bad.” He straightened his arm. “But that’s not the issue now.” He glanced around and then sighed. “Take the crate and go into the cabin. You may stink it up, but I can’t have you out of my sight.”
Chester grabbed the crate and marched into the cabin. As he and George entered, the beaver turned on the overhead light. The liquid in the jars were not red, but clear.
“So this is your sin?” Chester said.
“Just a side job,” George said, “It helps cover the bills. Put the crate down with the others.”
Chester placed the crate by the three others sitting by the front door. He held his paws up. “You expecting someone?”
“None of your business,” George said. “Now get back outside.”
George led the weasel back to the shed. The beaver coughed and squinted through the odor as he grabbed rope from the wall. “Sit down, paws behind your back.”
“I don’t care that you’re a bootlegger,” Chester said as George tied his paws together. “I really don’t. I won’t tell the cops. I’m not fond of them myself.”
“I wish I could believe you Chester,” George said. He used his handkerchief to gag the weasel. As he bound Chester’s tied paws to a wooden bar, a flash of light poured into the property. “Now stay put and don’t make a sound,” George said. “I’ll deal with you later.” The beaver shut the door.
Chester grumbled under his gag. Was a peaceful day of sales so much to ask for? He pulled against the restraints and the ropes slackened. He smiled. George must have improperly tied the knots in his haste. After a few tugs, the ropes fell away from the bar. He scrapped the ropes binding his paws over one of the hanging hoes. After a minute, the rope severed and fell to the floor. Chester pulled the gag out. The weasel peeked out of the door. Two people entered George’s house. The visitors’ truck sat out front, its headlights still on.
Chester grabbed the hoe and chuckled. He had a plan. A brilliant plan he would brag to grandchildren on day, if he we interested in having children. The weasel stayed low to the ground, clutching the hoe.
He slunk around the back of the cabin, staying low to the ground. He couldn’t hear what was being said inside, but he could hear the squeak of loose floorboards and the muffled clink of jars. Chester rounded to the left side of the house, closest to the two parked trucks.
“How about lending a paw with these?” said one of the men at the door.
George fingered through a wad of cash. “Just double checking.”
“Save some money for some candles or something,” said the other man. “Your whole property stinks.”
George stayed at the door as the two men descended the stairs, carrying one of the crates.
Chester swore, his tail flicking up. The skunk and badger from earlier loaded the first crate into the back of their truck. How could these two have followed him? Had George told them he was harboring him? Chester didn’t believe so. George could have squealed on him by now. A lump settled in Chester’s throat, but as the skunk and badger went inside, the weasel swallowed the lump.
“Sorry about this,” Chester said. He brought the hoe’s edge against the back tire of George’s truck. The air hissed and the rubber of the tire slumped, as if melting.
“Anyone else hear something?” said a gravelly voice inside, which Chester identified as the badger’s.
Chester jumped out of his hiding spot and slipped into the driver’s seat of the skunk and badger’s truck.
“Shit!” said a sharp whistle of a voice, which Chester identified as the skunk’s voice. “It’s that damn weasel again!”
Chester looked up. The skunk and badger drew their guns. George froze, his paws still on the money.
The weasel tipped his hat and his teeth chattered with his smile. “Don’t mind me. I’m just going for a drive.” He pushed one of the cranks. The car lurched forward and bumped into the side of the porch. Then Chester remembered he had never driven before. There were so man levers and cranks, but which one was for reverse?
Two bullets blasted the car, one in the windshield and the other in the hood. Chester fiddled with the cranks until the car sped backward. He yelped and yanked on the steering wheel. The car swerved into a tree, causing the weasel’s head to fling back and some of the jars to clank against one another. Two more rounds hit the car, enough for the weasel to snap out of his momentary daze. Chester fussed with the cranks and levers until the car went forward. He pressed the pedal as far as it would go. He ducked as more bullets flew at the car. The bumpy dirt road caused him to whack his head against the steering wheel and for a few jars in the back to shatter. He kept his foot smashed on the pedal until George’s cabin was out of site. He kept his head down long after the bullets stopped.
Chester blinked sleep from his eyes as he drove down the nearly empty streets of the city. The night revelers, some with their arms around bob-haired flappers, walked the sidewalks with less than steady footing. One of them, a beaver, picked up one of his companions who had fallen over.
The beaver brought Chester’s thoughts to George. If he ever saw George again, he would repay him for the tomato juice. And for the candles he may need to have his cabin and shed smelling fresh again. And for the tire he slashed. And for any damage to the porch and the tree. Chester concluded it would take a while to pay George back.
He pulled over to the curb by the entrance to the park. It took the weasel a couple tries, but the car came to a halt. Chester sighed and stepped out of the truck. He could have gotten rid of the truck by selling it, but Chester knew it wouldn’t work. The damage to the rear, the bullet holes, and, though his nose couldn’t detect it, his skunky odor, brought down the truck’s value. He also didn’t want anyone to connect his face with the truck in case the skunk and badger came looking for him.
Chester walked to the back of the truck. The paint was chipped and the metal was dented. Clear alcohol soaked into the rear, which was scattered with broken jars. He spotted two unbroken jars and slipped one into each of his coat pocket. He had one more plan to complete.
Chester knocked on the door at the first floor of the building closest to the entrance. He didn’t have to wait long.
Schmidt, red around the eyes and stomach hanging out under his undershirt, came to the door. The pig clutched the baseball bat.
Chester tipped his hat. “Morning Schmidty.”
“It’s 2 a.m.,” the pig said. He sniffed and clasped his free paw over his nose.
“Yes, two in the morning,” Chester said. He spread his arms out. “So, what’s the verdict? Can I stay?”
“No!” the pig said. “Get out before the stink fogs the whole place up!”
Chester shrugged. “Well, isn’t that a shame. I’ll just have to take this with me to drown my sorrows.” He pulled a jar from his pocket and turned.
“Lemme see that,” Schmidt said, lowering his bat. “Is it any good?”
“I wager it’ll get the job done,” Chester said. He held the jar closer to his body. “I really do. I don’t drink, but I’d hate for this to go to waste. If only I were, I don’t know, allowed to stay in the warmth of my apartment, I may be so overcome with joy, I would give you this jar as a token of appreciation.”
Schmidt ripped the jar from Chester’s paw and smiled. “I’d kiss a stinker like you, but I’m not that kind of guy. Welcome back!”
“And how about another gift?” Chester said as he pulled out the other jar. “Perhaps in exchange for a month’s rent?”
“Deal!” the pig said as he grabbed the other jar. His smile dropped. “Now scram! I was trying to sleep.” He slammed the door.
Chester tipped his hat and then walked to the staircase. “Always a pleasure doing business.
On his way up the stairs, a few other residents poked their heads out of the door, sniffing the air. Whenever they did, Chester would turn, wrinkle his nose, and say. “Awful isn’t it? I wonder where it’s coming from.”
After the weasel made it back to his apartment, he sniffed his jacket. He thought he smelled a faint twinge of tomato and skunk, but he knew his nose was still out of commission. He stripped and clipped his clothes to the clothesline outside his window. Fresh air would do his clothes some good.
Chester wrapped himself in an old blanket and watched his trousers wave in the light breeze. A month-long break from work would do him some good. It would at least give him time to fully rid himself and his clothes of the skunk odor, but he knew he couldn’t stop working. It wasn’t in his nature. He would go looking for new items to sell after the apartments and businesses had time to fill their trashcans again. He poked his head out the window, glanced at the dumpster, and wondered if anyone had thrown out a briefcase.
This is my first story involving one of my characters and I hope to have more up in the future. It's a little long, so I hope it's not too daunting. I encourage critiques because I want to improve as a writer.
Chester gets skunked and must overcome his landlord, the police, and bootleggers in his journey to get rid of the stench.
Rated moderate for skunk spray, nudity (there are no vivid descriptions of his genitals), violence, and swearing.