One morning Skunk was in his burrow brushing every last straw out of his fur with his claws. He did want to look his best before he took his walk in the woods. It wouldn’t do to go about like a ragamuffin. Skunk wrinkled up his nose; some of the woodland creatures showed no sign of self-respect. Like the porcupine. What a mess!
He hoped the broad stripe down his back was spotless. After all, no other animal had such a neat white stripe that contrasted so pleasingly with the blackness of his fur.
The raccoon had that silly mask – and the rings on his tail that he often bragged about. Skunk didn’t find them one bit appealing, but he always agreed with Raccoon that his tail was attractive. No point in being rude.
He left his burrow and ambled along the path through the woods; soon he met up with one of the rabbits.
“Hey, Skunk. Where are you off to?”
“Just taking my morning walk. Good to get some fresh air you know. Keeps a body in good form.” Skunk fluffed his tail and waved it front of Rabbit. He knew all the rabbits were jealous of his beautiful long tail.
What a pity rabbits had only a stump. Oh, well, some of us have it and some don’t, Skunk thought to himself. I must be charitable.
“I’ll join you,” said Rabbit. “I haven’t been around the woods this morning myself.” So the two wandered along the trail together, though it took Rabbit some effort to plod at Skunk’s slow pace.
They came around a curve in the road and there they saw Grouse preening himself in front of his three sisters. When Grouse saw them, he spread out his tail fan and strutted around quite vainly.
“Are you ever beautiful today,” Rabbit told him.
“Well thank you! I think so, too,” Grouse replied.
“Good day,” mumbled Skunk, and kept right on walking.
“Disgusting display of pride,” he thought to himself. He was rather annoyed at Rabbit for his silly gushing. After all, Rabbit hadn’t said anything nice like that to him.
Once they were out of earshot of the grouse, Skunk told Rabbit, “He’s not so beautiful at all. He’s just a bird – and the way he shows off is repugnant.”
“Well… maybe you’re right.”
Fox happened by right then. “Where are you two off to?”
“We’re just out for a walk. It’s such a nice day, even if some creatures do spoil it with their obnoxious vanity. If you continue down this path you’ll come across the grouse clan and see his Highness strutting his stuff.”
“Acting like a peacock, isn’t he, Rabbit?”
“Rabbit thinks so, too,” said Skunk. “He’s just too mousy to say it.”
“I should run along then, and see what you’re talking about.”
“Here comes Groundhog,” said Rabbit. “I wonder how he’s doing with his new burrow?”
“Hi, fellows. What have you been doing this morning?”
“We met up near my place and decided to walk together. Then we came upon a very interesting sight.”
“Oh? What am I missing?”
“Grouse parading around and crowing about his beautiful self. We couldn’t watch him for long; it was too nauseating.” Skunk rolled his eyes.
“Well, maybe it wasn’t…” Rabbit began
Skunk cut him off. “Anyway, soft thick fur like we have is better than feathers any day.” He fluffed up his coat and swished his plumy tail emphatically.
Two crows were sitting in a tree above them eavesdropping. One of them croaked to the other, “How revolting! Do you think we should warn Grouse that Skunk is saying nasty things about him?”
“No. Why ruin his day? And what could he do anyway: run around and tell people they shouldn’t believe the stories Skunk is spreading about him?”
“I guess that wouldn’t accomplish much.”
“Skunk’s harsh tongue will tell on itself. The woodland folk know the truth, or will find out soon enough. They say it’s those who are vain themselves who find it so repulsive in others.”
“Isn’t that the truth,” the other replied. “And for all that, poor Skunk can’t even fly.”