2nd Place – April 2019

Just A Girl

By Robert Taylor

I read somewhere that there are writers who can work under the most strenuous of circumstances, blessed with the ability to ply their trade regardless of the distractions around them. Be this fact or fantasy, let me assure you, I am not a member of that elite club. I require a measure of privacy and a modicum of silence in order to do my best work. Thanks to television, pets of various species and genders, and a precocious eight-year-old granddaughter, I am rarely blessed with these ideal conditions in which to work.
One evening, a few days before Christmas, I was at my computer, doing some editing work, when Sabrina walked up and stood peering over my shoulder. “Hi Grandpa,” she said, “Can I watch you type?”
Turning to face her, I replied, “It’s may I watch, not can I watch, and I am very busy right now This work requires total concentration, so I suggest you go bother Grandma and I’ll talk to you when I’m finished.”
“I’ll just stand here and watch. I promise I won’t say a word to you, okay Grandpa?”
Shrugging my shoulders, I turned my attention back to my keyboard, and was blessed with a good minute-and-a-half of silence before I once again heard Sabrina’s voice. “He’s my Grandpa, he writes stories, and he’s very busy. I don’t think you better bother him right now.”
Turning to see who was behind me besides Sabrina, I discovered she was holding a stuffed toy skunk. “You promised not to say a word,” I reminded her. “I didn’t think you were the type to break promises.”
“I promised not to say a word to you,” she explained. “I was talking to her.”
Realizing I was fighting a losing battle, I decided to go along with her game. “And who, may I ask, is she?”
“Just a girl,” she replied, “and it’s whom may I ask, not who.”
“Well, tell your little black-and-white friend to keep her voice down,” I quipped, and to my surprise she turned and walked away. This time I was allowed a good five minutes of privacy before she was back, standing beside me, the skunk in one hand, and a stuffed pink rabbit in the other.
“I see the skunk has found a friend,” I said.
Actually,” Grandpa, this is her mother.”
Knowing Sabrina well enough to realize I was in this game to the end, like it or not, I continued to play along. “How does that work, Sabrina, a skunk having a rabbit for a mother?”
“That’s easy to explain,” she said, “she’s adopted.”
Fighting off the urge to laugh, I once again turned to my literary task. This time I wasn’t even allowed thirty seconds before the pink rabbit…I mean the skunk’s mother, I mean Sabrina, tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me, Sir, I was wondering if you could watch my little girl. I have to go somewhere.”
“Okay, lady,” I said with obvious irritation in my voice, “I’ll watch the skunk, but she has to sit right here on this desk and not utter one word until you return, because I’m very busy here, and I can’t get any work done with all these distractions!”
“Whoa!” Sabrina said, “now look who’s getting all upset for no reason!”
“You’re giving me every reason to be upset Sabrina. Just sit the skunk down and go take care of your business.”
“Never mind,” the rabbit replied with an exasperating sigh, “I’ll see if I can find someone else to watch her.”
Sabrina turned and walked away, again, but for how long? I decided to count to ten before I returned to my work. Alas, I only made it to six before she was back, plopping the skunk down beside my keyboard. “I’m gonna have to leave her with you,” she said, “I can’t find another sitter.”
This time Sabrina and the rabbit went into our bedroom and struck up a conversation with her grandma. The skunk behaved herself in a very mannerly fashion, enabling me to get some work done at last. When my daughter came to pick her up, Sabrina hugged my neck, told me she loved me, and thanked me for babysitting the skunk.
End of story, right? Not quite. The following evening I drove to my daughter’s to give her and Sabrina a ride to the store, and when I pulled into the drive Sabrina came running out to the car, still holding the skunk in her hand.
“Hi Grandpa,” she said, climbing into the back seat, “it’s almost Christmas.”
“Yes it is, Hon. I bet you can’t wait, huh?”
“I can’t wait, and neither can she.” She was referring, of course, to the skunk.
As I motored along Highway Four, a familiar acrid odor wafted through the windows, permeating our nostrils. “Damn,” my daughter remarked,” that skunk stinks.”
Peering into the rear-view-mirror, I saw Sabrina, making a horrible face while sniffing the toy skunk. “Shame on you,” she said, “you know you’re not supposed to spray in Grandpa’s car.”
“By the way, Sabrina,” I asked, “how is the skunk’s mother getting along, you know, the pink rabbit?”
“Actually, I’m her mother now,” she explained, pulling the skunk away from her nose and hugging it against her chest.
“What happened with her adopted mother?”
Staring out the window with a forlorn look on her face, she replied; “the adoption didn’t work out.”
I knew I should have dropped the subject, allowed the conversation to end right there, but what can you do? I mean, inquiring minds need to know, right? “What was the problem with the rabbit?” I asked.
“She kept going out at night and leaving her daughter with strange men,” she replied.

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