There once lived three raccoons who were desperate for their own fairy tale. All the most famous creatures in the forest have their own fairy tales, the raccoons complained, and it simply isn’t fair. The three billy goats gruff were famous just because they knocked some old troll off a bridge. The only thing the three little pigs had really done was hide from a wolf. And you didn’t want to get them started on the bears. Seriously, three bears against one little girl?
Hardly the stuff of legends, the raccoons thought, and yet, all the same, those animals were treated like woodland royalty. Everyone bowed and scraped and said yes sir and no sir when one of those guys came by.
The raccoons decided that, if they wanted in on this, they had better come up with their own story. But it had to be good. So they studied up on the goats and the pigs and the bears, and wrote all the common points on a big chalk board.
“What do we got so far?” the biggest raccoon asked her smaller brothers.
“There are three of them!” said the littlest brother.
“They are all of different size or architectural ability!” said the middle brother.
“Yeah, yeah, we’ve already got that stuff,” said the biggest. “If that was all it took, we’d already be famous. What are we missing?”
“They stay awake during the day?” suggested the littlest.
“They have a bad guy?” suggested the middle.
“That’s it! They all have a bad guy. That’s what we need. We need some conflict,” said the biggest. “Now, what kind of bad guy should we have?” she asked.
“A troll?” suggested the littlest.
“A bossy little girl?” suggested the middle.
“No, no. Those have already been done. We need our own. What should our problem be?”
“Locked trashcans?” suggested the littlest.
“Rabies?” suggested the middle.
“No, no; too abstract,” the biggest raccoon complained. Back and forth they went, until they were too hungry to argue any more. They sent out the littlest raccoon for food.
He skittered out of their hollow log into the night. They lived in a little wooded park at the end of a neighborhood lane. He crawled over the fence into the backyard of the nearest house. It was a place he had come many times before, and he knew they had a well-stocked bird feeder, but something was different this time. It felt wrong, like someone was watching him, so he checked carefully to see if there were any lights or movement in the house. Once he was sure the coast was clear, the littlest raccoon began to climb the bird feeder pole with his nimble paws.
“Hello!” said something suddenly from below. The littlest raccoon chittered in surprise, let go of his pole and fell hard on his behind. He scurried on to his paws to find a black-furred baby with a long white stripe down its back looking at him. “Hello!” it said again.
“What are you?” asked the littlest raccoon.
“I don’t know!” replied the black and white baby. “What are you?”
“I’m a raccoon, of course!” said the littlest pointing to his cunning black mask. “Why don’t you know what you are?”
“I can’t find my family,” the baby whimpered. “But I think I’m a raccoon too! We’re both black and white. And I don’t know what’s in that box up there, but I know I want to eat it.”
“No, I’m not black and white. I’m gray. And this is my bird feeder. Go find your own food,” snapped the littlest raccoon and began to climb the pole again.
“How do I find food?”
“I don’t know. Go figure it out,” said the littlest raccoon, batting at the bird feeder so it sprayed out seed like a piñata.
“I found food!” called the baby, running around with its mouth wide open to catch the seed.
“Stop eating that! It’s mine!” yelled the littlest raccoon.
The baby sat on the seed pile.
“I’ll share if you let me come home with you,” it offered.
“No! Go away!” the littlest raccoon demanded as he descended.
“I can’t live you with you?” the baby asked pitifully.
“No. Now get off my food,” the littlest raccoon growled and tried to swipe a handful of seed, but, before he knew what had hit him, a foul gas blasted out of the baby’s behind. The littlest raccoon would have given anything in that moment to trade in his bandit’s mask for a gas mask, but all he could do was run away, reeking of rotten eggs the whole way home.
When he returned to his fallen log, his siblings barred the opening.
“What happened to you?” they said through pinched noses.
“I was attacked! Let me in!” the littlest raccoon pleaded.
“Ooh, attacked?” asked the biggest raccoon. “Maybe we can work with this. Tell me everything.”
The littlest raccoon recounted his story, but his siblings were less than impressed.
“A baby skunk?” the biggest raccoon scoffed. “Our enemy can’t be a baby.”
“Well, it had claws and poisonous gas!” the littlest whined. “That stuff is scary.”
The raccoons argued among themselves to no avail, until they finally went to bed hungry with the littlest left to sleep on the ground outside the entrance. The next night, they sent out the middle raccoon to get some grub, literally, if he could find them, because grubs are delicious.
The middle raccoon stepped over his brother, who was no less stinky after a whole day. On his way to forage, he steered clear of the first yard to avoid the skunk, and hopped over the fence into the neighboring yard instead. He was happily surprised to see the humans here had started composting. He could smell the delicious aroma, a blend of brown banana peels and onion skins under rotting leaves, from within a wooden plank box built hastily over top of the pile. He circled it to inspect the best way inside.
“Hello! I’m a raccoon!” piped a little voice behind him.
“Oh no.” He knew it would be no raccoon. And he was right.
“Can I come home with you?” the baby skunk asked. It wore a badly ripped mask around its eyes that looked torn from a gray T-shirt.
“No. My sister says you’re a skunk. Why don’t you find some smelly old skunks to live with, huh?”
“No, I’m a raccoon. I like to eat the stuff in this box, just like you. I found a way in! Do you want to see?”
“Well, actually, if you wouldn’t mind.” He followed the skunk around to the box’s back corner where a freshly dug furrow had been made under a board that didn’t extend as far down as the other boards.
“Did I do good?” the skunk asked eagerly as the raccoon wriggled his chubby body through the small gap.
“Stale french fries!” sang the raccoon as he swam through the rotting pile and shoved furry fistfuls into his pointy snout.
“Am I in your family now?” the baby skunk asked when the middle raccoon’s behind finally began to back out through the hole.
“What? I’m busy! Go away kid,” The middle raccoon said as he tried to yank a watermelon rind under the board. It was still stuck half way when he was suddenly swamped by an unholy toxic cloud. He dropped the watermelon rind, wriggled free, and ran home as fast as he could.
Now two raccoon brothers sat outside their home begging their sister to let them in.
“No way, you guys are gross,” said their sister. “How could you let yourself be sprayed after you knew what happened to the little one?” she asked.
“That skunk is sneaky. It really is a villain,” the middle raccoon complained.
“Okay, fine. The skunk’s a villain. Maybe we can just bypass the fact that it’s a baby. So what happens in the story next? After the first two, how does the third end the story?”
“I think you have to outsmart it,” said the middle.
“Or find it sleeping in your bed,” said the littlest.
“Ew, I hope not,” said their sister. “Well, I’m not going to sit here and wait for it to blow down my house with its butt. I think I have a plan.”
And that is why that night, when the biggest raccoon waddled out between her brothers, she was dressed for success. To craft her armor, she had combed through every trashcan on the terrace. A belt buckled one Frisbee to her front and another to her back. Baby socks covered her feet, and her head was wrapped in tin foil, except for two little holes for her beady black eyes.
“You look great!” said the littlest raccoon.
“Yeah, you look like a pile of trash,” agreed the middle raccoon.
She scampered through one yard after the next, fully prepared to claim her fairy tale victory or at least find something good to eat.
In the first yard there was no skunk, and they had installed one of those awful plastic cones around their bird feeder pole. She might have been able to get around it on a good day, but not in her gear. In the second yard there was no skunk, and they had reinforced their compost barricade and secured the lid on top with a lock.
Into the third yard she went, climbing over their fence to search for skunks. What she heard instead was the hum of hundreds of bees coming out of white stacked boxes, and what she smelled instead was sweet, sweet honey. She scurried over and poked and prodded the boxes, diving out of the way of the drones going to and from their hive. If she could break off some of that honeycomb, she would be in heaven.
As she explored, she noticed something even sweeter in a metal mesh box nearby. Jackpot! It was a whole candy bar, unwrapped even! She sniffed for poison, but it smelled fine. She looked for humans, but there were none to be seen. She wiggled inside, but precisely when she got her paw around the chewy chocolate bar, the front of the box came down with a crash. Spinning around, she saw that she was trapped. There was no way out.
“Hello! I’m a raccoon!” said the skunk.
The biggest raccoon sighed. This was not at all how it was supposed to be. She was supposed to be in charge here. She was supposed to be in armor when she finally faced her foe, not stuck like a rat in a trap.
“I’ve heard all about you,” the biggest raccoon said. She could see the skunk had colored his white stripe in with gray paint.
“Can I live with you?” the skunk asked.
“What, here in this trap? Can’t you see I’m in a bit of trouble?”
“Oh. Maybe I could help! I’m good at digging!” the baby skunk suggested.
“No.” The raccoon stomped on the floor of her cage. “Solid metal. But maybe you could open the cage from out there?”
The skunk scraped at the metal with its unfortunately useless long claws.
“I don’t think I can,” the skunk said sadly.
“My brothers could. Can you go get them?”
“Yes! Does this mean I can go to your home?”
The biggest raccoon hesitated, but there was no other choice. They could always move later, she thought. She told the skunk how to find their fallen log, and then ate her candy bar bait while she waited.
When she heard scuffling, she chittered out to her brothers, but it was no raccoon. Instead, from the house came the big booted thumps of a man.
“Well, well. What do we got?” an old man said with a whistle. “Looky here. You sure are a big one. You been causing all sorts of trouble around this neighborhood, haven’t you?”
The biggest raccoon panicked. She thrashed and screeched at the man and clawed her cage, but nothing worked. He just told her to hush up as he came closer. Trapped, she couldn’t a do a thing except stare helplessly at him.
“What is that? Is this thing wearing socks?” the man asked.
That was when three raccoons burst out of the bushes. Well, two raccoons and a skunk with a bad mask. The skunk ran right for the man and spun around, butt-first, with a blast full in his face. He thumped his big boots back in to the house while her brothers used their crafty fingers to push and pull the pieces of the cage until they had yanked the door back up to free her.
“Quick, let’s get out of here before the skunk follows us!” her brothers said.
“No, that’s not fair!” the skunk cried. “I want a family. I’ll do anything you want! Can’t you see I’m useful?”
“Anything?” asked the sister, with sudden inspiration.
The biggest raccoon adjusted the feather in the skunk’s cap and it gave her a puzzled look.
“Are you sure I look like a prince?” the skunk asked.
“Yes, now don’t forget the true love’s kiss, that’s the most important part in the stories,” she explained.
“Wait, why am I the princess?” yelled the middle raccoon from the top of the fallen log while the littlest fanned out his brother’s dress.
“Quiet down! I’m the director, and you’re supposed to be asleep, remember?” yelled his sister. “We did the research; Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, you know how this goes! Now do you want us all to live happily ever after or not?”