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     "I guess I should tell you a little about myself," the werecoon said. "Yes, that's what I'll do, the very first thing. But where to start, where to start."

     Daffy duck quacked, ducks2 "My mother, Daisy duck, always said the best place to start anything is at the beginning."

     "Well, the first thing you should know is that I'm not an ordinary raccoon," Randolph said with a sheepish grin.

     "No!" Hortense purred disdainfully, cribby "you don't say."

     "I was born like any other racoon. I still remember my dear mother carrying me about..."


     "Don't go THAT far back," Hortense meowed.

     Well, let's see...a few months ago I lived like other ordinary ring-tailed raccoons. I had a good life, and was a well respected member of the 'Animal League' in the far valley."

     "How did you get like that?" Hortense meowed bluntly. "Where did you get those big teeth?"

     Randolph was dismayed by the question. "I'm not sure, but I think the trouble started one day when I finished eating a nice, fat, juicy grasshopper..."

     "Grasshopper...yech," Hortense wrinkled her nose.

     Daffy quacked, "What's wrong with grasshoppers? They're quite the delicacy actually."

      "But you must know," I said, rolling my tongue with the picture of a half eaten grasshopper in my mind, "that not all of us enjoy eating hoppers."


      "You don't say," said Daffy. "There's no accounting for taste."

     "Indeed," sighed Hortense, shoving her nose in the air. “No filthy insect would ever pass my lips.”

     Randolph continued. "I wanted to wash the grasshopper down, so I drank from a wolves footprint, and that was it."

      "That was it," Daffy echoed, looking puzzled.

     "Drinking from the wolves footprint brought the curse of the werewolf on me," Randolph said. "Little did I know then what a horrible price I would have to pay."

      "What does he mean?" Daffy quacked, obviously frustrated. "You're talking in riddles, raccoon." He waddled back to the rest of us for support. "Does anybody know what he means?"

     I nickered at Daffy and shrugged, "I'm sure I don't know."

      Barney shook his wrinkled body in bewilderment, "Got me."

     Hortense swiveled her head, raising her nose further in the air with a knowing, what did I tell you look. "I'm sure I don't have a clue," she purred.

      "I didn't know either," the werecoon roared, glancing around to see who listened, "but Oliver told me drinking from a wolves footprint is what made me a werecoon."

     "Oliver?" I said, furrowing my brow.

     "Oliver owl. He’s the smartest creature this side of the Mississippi...least that's what Oliver tells me. I had no idea what he meant until the first full moon, but there's no doubt now. Drinking out of a wolves footprint had brought a magic spell on me."

     "Do tell," Hortense meowed, looking bored. "Magic spell eh," she said, and once again she dug her claws in my back. "Don't werewolves eat people...and other animals?"

     "Animals...does that include ducks?" Daffy honked, crossing his wings again. He looked from Randolph to Hortense, then back again to the werecoon.

      "Naw," Randolph said, pausing to wail at the moon coming over the hill. "I won't eat any of you. That's the idea that got me in trouble with the 'Animal League' in the far valley. I'm a werecoon, not a werewolf."

      Daffy quacked up a dander, shaking his white neck. "But you are different, right?"

      "Yes,” Randolph said, “turning into a werecoon has made me different, but I didn't change inside."

      "Sure!" Hortense purred. "You expect us to believe that?"

      Randolph tried to look reassuring. "Inside beats the heart of the same lovable raccoon I’ve always been. I just look different, that’s all."

      "You are different!" Hortense spit at the raccoon as the moon passed behind a cloud and randolph again took on the appearance of a normal coon. Hortense looked most skeptical.

      "That's why I came to this valley from my home range," Randolph sighed forlornly. "My friends, and fellow members of the 'Animal League,' grew to be afraid of me."

      "Do you blame them," glowered the cat.

      "Not really, I guess. I'm too different for them to accept. It wasn’t anything I did, but they started to shun me."

      "At least you're honest," Hortense meowed. "I'll give you points for that."

     "They turned you away simply because you're different?" Barney yapped. "Since I came to the farm as a pup, I haven't met anyone who isn't different.

Why, look at Hortense and that’s different."

      "You should talk, Barney,” Hortense meowed with a superior air. “you bag of bones. The words different, Daffy and Barney are synonyms. They all have the same definition," she hissed and spat in appreciation of the joke.

      Daffy squawked. “There’s no need for insults. Barney's a bit off center, I agree. He may have kibbles and bits for brains, but he's my friend. I know he's not quite in my quacking order, but my old friend has a point -- even if you don't like how he wraps his ears around it."

      "You just proved my point Daffy Duck,” Hortense said. “When I think about it, maybe you have a little werewolf in you. IYou act like a full-fledged wereduck when you gets your dander up."

      "Come down off Clarence's back and I'll show you different," Daffy shrieked, sputtering and flapping his wings. "This wereduck'll show you a thing or two."

      Hortense lept down, hissing and clawing the air, on the verge of a hissy fit. But I interrupted, moving between the two animals. "Now, now, you two, remember you're domesticated animals...try to act like it."

      "But Clarence, don't you see, " Hortense cooed, "we may be different, but we're all different in the same way. We're not different like him," she purred, pointing her paw at the raccoon.

      "Cool your fur, Hort," Barney said. "The only difference I can see here, is the difference that difference does."

      "What are you talking about?" Hortense rumbled in a superior air, and curled up again on my stately rump.

      “Hrumph,” I neighed my approval, rearing in the air and pawing at it with my hooves. "I think Barney's trying to say, and it's a most noble thought indeed, is that though we may be different, we can still be friends."

      "Aha," Hortense hissed, her almond eyes fixed on Randolph raccoon. She hadn't heard a word anybody had said. "How do we know he has only changed on the outside?"

      rockycoon "What do you mean?" Randolph gulped.

      "I mean," she cooed in a syrupy, sarcastic voice, "maybe you've changed on the inside too."

      "Well, I told you," the coon chattered. "If you can't take my word for it, then only time can bear me out."

      "That's what I thought," Hortense looked smugly. I only clucked my tongue at her for being so snobbish, but I felt like bucking her off my proud rump.

      "If you think you can't trust me," Randolph eyed the cat, "I'll tell you what to do. I've discovered three ways to bring me back to raccoon form..."

      "What are they?" Daffy duck inquired, "not that I'm worried or anything, cause this duck ain’t afraid of nothing."

      "No, that's all right," the werecoon said, as his mask got bushier and his fangs curled from under his lip when a shaft of moonlight came from behind the clouds. "If you're worried for any reason, do these three things. One -- call me by my name, Randolph. Two -- strike me three times on the forehead. And the third you can do is to make the sign of the cross. Any of these three ways will return me to my earthly form," the werecoon said, growling in spite of himself.

      "Something's fishy," Hortense whispered. "A little sleuthing will find out what." Hortense always stuck her paw in where wiser animals feared to trot. "Randolph, how did the, uh, what did you call it, the 'Animal League,' take to your becoming a werecoon?"

      "Oh, they didn't like it. They got quite upset. 'We must keep the riffraff out,' said the leaders. They said, 'you can stay Randolph, but the werecoon in you has got to go."

      "Tut, tut, tut," Daffy shook his head.

      "What did they want me to do, part of me go and part of me stay," Randolph said. "I did my best to walk like the leaders, talk like the leaders, and be like the leaders, but still I didn't fit in. They said my nocturnal werecoon behaviour was an addictive, indecent habit that can lead you right down the garden path to moral decay."

      "Sounds like bigotry to me," said Daffy.

      "Sounds like a clique," growled Barney.

      “I guess it was,” Randolph said, “but the leaders required us to be the best animals we can be. For instance, Flora skunk can't spray her perfume within the valley limits during dayhlight hours because of the fear that air pollution might disturb the other animals. And the 'animal league' allowed Gertrude opossum only three baby possums every other year..."

      "No doubt to deal with overpopulation," Hortense purred.

      "But I kind of like the idea of that skunk-perfume gag order," I whinnied.

      "I had to be cautious because being the werecoon ruffled feathers among the beautiful animals,” Randolph shrugged. “Still, they said I could stay if I shaved off my excess hair, kept my mouth closed to hide my fangs, and muffled my roars. Whatever you do, they said, stay hidden when the moon shines."

      "Don't tell me," Daffy quacked, "dress codes."

      The werecoon looked longingly to his beloved valley. "The honorable Judge Horatio Buck did warn me to keep up appearances with normal raccoons in the valley. He told me, ‘Think of how your actions might reflect on them.’"

      "That sounds terrible," Barney bayed.

      General wolverine told me I looked like a long-haired hippie freak. He said sissies like me lower the good animals morale. "'First impressions are everything,' he said. ‘Look in the mirror, you young whippersnapper. you should be ashamed. You look positively unkempt in that bristly pelt."

      “But that wasn’t the worst,” he continued. “Homer squirrel pelted me with nuts, and chattered, 'Think how you make us look, young man.' Young bunnies, kits and fawns started to throw sticks and stones and call me names, and their adults merely looked the other way."

      "I'd show that place my gander tail," Daffy said, “and quack on outta there.”

      "That's what I did,” said Randolph. “The last straw came when I came around a dead log and heard Caldwell Bear the III, the president of the 'Far Valley Savings and Loan.' All the animals said Caldwell Bear the III was dishonest, and couldn't keep his paws off other animals honey and nuts. All the animals disliked him, but he had the brazen nerve to tell me I wasn”t welcome in The Far Valley. He said I didn't look like a regular raccoon, and ought to have the decency God gave a grizzly to keep myself shut up in my den."

      "Those snobs," Barney growled.

      "Judge Buck told me that the 'Animal League' would deal with me soon. He announced that he had recommended banishment. He snorted about banishing me for the children’s sake, for appearances, and the better good of the fine, upstanding citizens of the far valley."

      "The absolute gall of some animals," daffy quacked.

      "Whenever I came near the others stopped talking, and smiled too sweet candied smiles. Caldwell Bear said, 'shame I had to hear it this way, but it was high time they took proper measures,' whatever that means."

      "Most rude indeed," I agreed.

      Randolph rubbed his eyes, and brushed away a tear as he turned away. The werecoon didn't look nearly so ferocious anymore as he vanished into the forest. I called after him, "You're free to be yourself here, Randolph."

      "What are you saying," Hortense sputtered. "let him go. The last thing we need is to get involved with his problems."

      "Oh, Randolph's all right," I said. "I think he's cute.

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