June 23, 2014

    After a long دن of training, dealing with Julien, and protecting the zoo, Skipper busied himself on a top-secret solo mission. . . .

    “You think you’re smooth, Hans, but you’re not as smooth as me. Especially not like . . . this!” Skipper کہا to the mirror as he held the fake mustache to his beak. He straightened his cowboy hat and shined his sheriff badge. “Now, that’s what I call a rugged Belvidere if I do say so myself.”

    Skipper turned at different angles to the mirror as he admired his complexion and how he looked in his western getup. He turned again and nearly jumped out of his feathers at what he saw; behind him, Marlene was standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame.

    With a gasp, he whipped around on his heel, threw the mustache across the room, and knocked his hat backward onto the floor behind him.

    “I’m not doing anything!” he کہا lamely. Then he crossed his flippers to hide the badge.

    Marlene chuckled and raised an eyebrow. “Mm-hm,” she replied quizzically.

    “Heh . . .” Skipper scratched the back of his neck. “Exactly how long have آپ been standing there?”

    Marlene smiled broader. “Long enough,” she کہا with a laugh. “I had no idea آپ fantasized about being a cowboy,” she added, stepping into the HQ.

    Skipper cleared his throat and looked away, rocking back and forth on his heels. “Well, I don’t know if I’d call it fantasizing,” he کہا awkwardly.

    Marlene coyly tried to meet his eye. Putting on a Southern accent, she said, “Would آپ call it woolgathering?”

    Skipper turned his gaze back to her and narrowed his eyes. “For the record, آپ ‘woolgather’ about being a pop star,” he pointed out.

    “What?” Marlene کہا incredulously. “How did آپ know about that?”

    “That’s classified,” Skipper answered, finally cracking a smile, causing Marlene to smile bitterly.

    “I don’t think I even want to know. And, just so آپ know, I don’t think any less of آپ because of something like this. If anything, I’m shocked that I’ve finally discovered a different way آپ relax that doesn’t involve fifty push-ups,” Marlene joked. “So, آپ don’t have to be so embarrassed.”

    “Well, yeah, but I do have a reputation to maintain. The last thing I want is the whole zoo to greet me with —” he took on a Southern accent— “‘Howdy, partner! آپ headed down to catch some rotten varmints?’ It’s annoying enough when Ringtail greets me with ‘Hello, neighbor!’

    “Yeah, well,” Marlene started as she stooped over to pick up his hat, “your secret’s محفوظ with me,” she said, smiling as she placed it on his head. “On one condition.”

    Skipper rolled his eyes with a laugh. “Oh, fishcakes. What is it, Marlene?” he asked, peering at her from under his hat.

    Marlene crossed her arms and beamed slyly. “I want آپ to say bye to me in Western slang,” she said, refraining from a laugh.

    Skipper looked away and felt some heat rush into his cheeks. “Fine,” he کہا with a laugh. He took a deep breath to gather some guts and grabbed her سے طرف کی the waist. “Well, little lady,” he کہا in a Southern accent, “I guess it’s time we parted ways. I know not when we shall meet again, but I bid آپ farewell for now, and hope we see each other very soon.” He thought for a moment, and then smiled and added, “Y’all come back now, y’hear?”

    Marlene laughed and held his gaze. After a few moments of growing intensity, Marlene broke away first.

    “I should — go,” she کہا as Skipper released her.

    Skipper nodded. “All right. See آپ later, Marlene,” he replied with a warm smile.

    Marlene headed for the exit, stopped in the doorway, and turned back. “And, for the record, I agree with what آپ کہا earlier,” she کہا with somewhat of a bashful smile.

Skipper furrowed his brow. “What?” he asked.

    Marlene gently bit her lip. “About آپ being a ‘rugged Belvidere’ in that getup,” she answered. Skipper’s eyebrows raised and Marlene refrained from laughing before she left him.

    Skipper looked back into the mirror and smiled. “Got that right.”

— § —

Note: “Belvidere” is Southern slang for “a handsome man.” “Woolgathering” is Southern slang for “daydreaming” یا “imagining” یا the like.