WORDS TO USE: window – radish – skunk – basketball – rough
Sylvie heaved a sigh, plopped down on her tummy, and looked through the Baxter’s big sliding glass door. It was a window into a magical world out of her reach.
She munched on the radish she’d found on the ground next to their trash cans. Usually, she liked such a tasty treat, and today it tasted… wrong… rough. Skunks weren’t picky eaters. Well, most of them anyway. She had a more discerning palate than her friends or family. And this radish was of a spit-out quality.
Turning her head to the side, she spit the partially chewed radish as far from her as she could.
It was barely light out, and she should be scurrying back to her burrow beneath the family’s deck around the pool. But she just couldn’t go, not yet. Some instinct told her that something special was about to happen, and she didn’t want to miss whatever it was.
A flash of bright lights caught her attention from the corner of her eye. She forgot about the rotten radish. Forgot about the need for sleep growing inside her. Instead, she put her nose to the window and looked inside the house she wanted to go into.
The big tree the Baxters had put up next to the fireplace and decorated with small colorful lights, strings of shiny stuff, and all kinds of decorations had come to life. The lights were flickering and seemed to tell her a special moment was about to happen.
Sylvie stood up and looked closer at the inviting sight inside the house. She’d looked through this window many times, curious about the tree and all the other things draped on the fireplace mantel, wrapped on the stairway railing, and hanging on the walls. All of it is so pretty!
But she didn’t remember seeing colorful bags and fancy boxes beneath the tree before. Where had they come from?
She squinted and tried to make out some things not in bags or boxes. A small rocking chair that she could imagine little Annie sitting in and laughing. A bicycle leaned against the wall beside the tree, perfect for Toby, who would run to it and grin so big you could see his missing front tooth.
Something orangish-brown, round sat nestled between some boxes. A basketball! That had to be for Eric, the biggest and oldest of the kids. She could imagine him bouncing the ball all around the driveway, tossing it up at a basket thing his dad had put up recently.
Her heart swelled with happiness for the kids’ delight. They were good kids. They’d all seen her running around the backyard from time to time, but none of them had screamed in horror like so many humans did when they saw a skunk. Even their parents hadn’t seemed overly annoyed with her being around. She was pretty sure they dropped a few treats for her next to the trash cans sometimes. The occasional blueberry or strawberry. A hard-boiled egg, maybe a part of a hamburger or a hot dog.
She repaid their kindness by being a good tenant on their property. She never sprayed her warning scent anywhere near them or their home.
Even from the other side of the glass, she heard excited voices and pounding feet coming down the stairs. She inched back but not far enough away to miss out on what would happen next. The kids raced toward the fancy tree and started to dive into the many bags and boxes, stopping when their parents called out for them to wait. They sat back, but Sylvie could see how hard that was for them.
Mom and Dad Baxter walked into the room a moment later, still wearing their pajamas. Smiling, they moved toward the tree and their kids, and Mom turned and looked straight at Sylvie before she reached her children.
Sylvie froze, caught looking inside the home that so intrigued her. She almost turned to run away.
Mom smiled at her. Yes, right at her! Then she took something small and round from a plate beside a big, overstuffed chair and walked toward the sliding door. Everyone behind her had stopped and watched quietly.
Fighting the urge to flee, Sylvie stood perfectly still, waiting. If Mom tried to reach out and hurt her somehow, she would run away as fast as her feet would take her. But she wouldn’t spray Mom. No, never.
As Sylvie held her breath, Mom carefully opened the sliding door and bent down to set the small thing in her hand on the patio floor. “For you, little one,” Mom said with an encouraging smile.
Sylvie sniffed at the object. Something sweet. Feeling brave, she bit into it and whimpered in pleasure.
Mom grinned and quietly said, “Merry Christmas.” Then she closed the door and returned to her family.
Tears misted Sylvie’s eyes. Family and these humans were her family. She finished the treat and happily made her way back to her burrow for a good day’s rest.