Respecting Skunks

By Linda Porter Carlyle

MacKenzie Isabelle Evans shut her eyes. “P-r-i-n-c-i-p-a-l,” she spelled out loud. “P-r-i-n-c-i-p-a-l.” There! That ought to do it. She was positive she knew all the spelling words on the list now.

Mac opened her eyes and saw Dad watching her with a twinkle in his eye. “Want to go for a walk and give your brain a little fresh air?” he asked.

Mac did not need to be asked twice. She jumped up. She loved being outdoors at that special in-between time when it wasn’t quite day anymore, but it wasn’t yet quite night either.

“Is Mom coming too?” Mac asked.

“No,” Mom called from the living room. “I’m going to sit here with my feet up and enjoy my book. You guys have a good time.”

Mac opened the kitchen door and took a flying leap off the back porch. Dad took the steps. They walked together across the grass to the street. “Which way?” Dad asked.

“Right!” Mac decided.

It was a lovely evening. Two teenage boys sped down the street on their bikes. A lawn sprinkler hissed back and forth on the next-door lawn. Mac could feel misty drops of water on her face as she danced down the sidewalk.

“Oh, look!” she exclaimed, pointing. The moon glowed in the blue-gray sky. A thin band of pink clouds trailed out beside it. “Isn’t it beautiful? I love the moon! I think it’s so cool how it changes shape a little bit every night.”

Mac and Dad continued down the sidewalk. Light spilled out of house windows. Somewhere, a dog barked. And another one answered him. Halfway down the block, an older man dipped a long brush into a big white bucket of soapy water. He scrubbed at his dented pickup truck. “Mr. Cook!” Mac called, jogging down to his driveway. “Why are you washing your truck in the dark?”

Mr. Cook straightened up. He dropped the brush in the bucket. He put one hand in the middle of his back and pushed his baseball cap up with the other. “Well, now,” he drawled, “I guess it is a little dark to see what I’m doing. But then I can’t see my mistakes either.” He chuckled.

Mac grinned. Mr. Cook was one of her favorite neighbors. He was always in a good mood.

Mac and Dad walked on. Sometimes there was a sidewalk to walk on. Sometimes there wasn’t, and they crunched along on the gravel and dirt beside the narrow streets.

“Stop!” Dad hissed. He reached for Mac’s arm.

Mac froze. What could be the matter?

“Over there by the bushes,” Dad whispered.

Mac turned her head. She studied the deep shadows. She couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary at first. Then a movement and a flash of white caught her eye. “Is that a skunk?” she breathed.

“Yep,” Dad said softly.

Mac and Dad stood perfectly still, watching the skunk. He poked his nose deep into the bushes. Then he looked around and slowly ambled across the street, holding his fluffy tail high. He disappeared behind an old shed.

“Phew!” Mac said, letting out a big breath. “I’m sure glad we didn’t run right into him and scare him or something!”

“Yes,” Dad agreed. “You’ve got to respect skunks.”

Mac giggled. “That’s what my Sabbath School lesson is about this week,” she said.

“Your Sabbath School lesson is about skunks?” Dad asked in a strange voice.

“Not skunks! Respect! It’s about respect,” Mac explained when she stopped laughing. “Respecting God’s authority.”

“Humm,” Dad murmured. After a moment, he continued. “You know, I think just about everybody respects skunks. But there are a lot of people who do not respect God. Isn’t that a shame?”

“If you didn’t respect a skunk, you could be really sorry!” Mac said. “But if you don’t respect God, you will be a lot sorrier. Like Korah, Dathan, and Abihu in my story.”

“Respecting God’s authority is certainly a part of worshiping Him,” Dad declared.

Dad looked up at the sky. Tiny twinkling stars were scattered across it. “We’d better head home,” he said.

Mac took Dad’s hand. It was a big, strong hand. Holding it always made Mac feel safe. She gave a little skip. “Are there any skunk stories in the Bible?” she asked.

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