“What was that?” Grandma Ruby asked?
“I didn’t hear anything.” Dee said.
Everyone else looked at my grandmother with a question on their faces.
I dug in my pocket and fished out Mom’s credit card, handing it to Danu.
Grandma and I headed to the other side of the store.
“Why can’t I smell pretty?” A skunk raised its tail, eyes squinting.
We stopped in our tracks, ready to escape. But when nothing happened, we moved closer.
“Hi,” I tentatively said, ready to run if needed.
“Oh, don’t bother. I can’t spray you with a lovely perfume.” The small black and white animal sashayed over to the corner of the pen and sat down, her head hanging low.
“Why can’t you spray?” Grandma Ruby asked.
“You can hear her?”
Grandma Ruby looked surprised for a second, but then shrugged. “Apparently.”
Choruses of “Me!”, “Pick me!” went up around the room. I slapped my hands over my ears, but it was no use. I couldn’t get all the voices out of my brain. It was deafening. Bending over, I cradled my head.
A perplexed expression crossed Grandma Ruby’s face before comprehension dawned. She grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the animals. Once out of their sight, the voices slowly faded, and I relaxed.
“We’ll have to figure out a way you can control that,” my great-grandmother said.
“We’re done,” Danu called.
I nodded again and walked toward them.
“You girls go on to the car. I’ll be right there.” Grandma Ruby headed back toward the animals.
Once the supplies were loaded into the back of my Kia, we took our seats.
“What’s Grandma Ruby doing?” Dee asked.
I pulled my seat belt on. “There was a skunk in there she could hear.”\Quiet descended before Danu and Dee started talking at once.
“Yeah. We heard her complaining because she can’t make a skunk scent.” I started the vehicle, hoping the air would cool down quickly.
Dee gasped. “Why not? It’s defenseless without its scent.”
“I don’t know. All the other animals started yelling that they wanted to be chosen and I couldn’t take it. Grandma had to help me out of the area — it was so overwhelming.”
Grandma Ruby opened the door, the skunk in a carrier and a reusable cloth bag on her shoulder. She slid into the passenger seat.
“What—” I stopped at her glare.
“Apparently, I have a new familiar.” Grandma Ruby placed the bag on the floorboard between her legs and the carrier on her lap.
“Okay…but a skunk?” I asked.
“Rude!” The animal in question shrieked. “Did I comment on your species?” She shimmied around inside the container. “It’s hot in here.” Grandma Ruby opened up the carrier, and the skunk flounced out. “Better.”
I shook my head. “No. I’m sorry. It’s just, I thought it was illegal to own skunks in Texas.”
She screeched again. “No one owns me!”
“Sorry again.” I looked at my grandmother who smirked at me. “I just meant Grandma Ruby could get in trouble for having you.”
Ruby buckled her seat belt as I pulled away from the curb. “Lily here was born without her scent glands. So she can’t live in the wild. There are some exceptions to the laws.”
“I didn’t know that was possible.” Dee spoke up.
Grandma Ruby lifted a shoulder. “I guess anything is possible. Especially where familiars are concerned. They’re not always like other animals.”
True enough. Mom’s familiar Babette was a good example. She didn’t grow bigger like other miniature pigs.
Danu burst out laughing. “A skunk.” She doubled over, her guffaws making it hard for her to breathe. “Your familiar is a skunk.” She grabbed her stomach. “It fits you so perfectly.”
“Rude!” Grandma Ruby and Lily yelled in unison.