A FAIR TO REMEMBER
An original fanfic
TaleSpin and its characters are the property of
Buena Vista Television/Walt Disney Co.
The rest of the characters are created by me, and may not be used
without permission. As usual, my
deepest gratitude to Ted for his fabulous AND honest feedback and support. A big thank you to Cody for reading the
drafts I was unsure of. (Rated PG for
mild coarse language and occasional violence.)
Kit and Baloo were returning from their last cargo run of the day. The cub was amused by the way Baloo kept checking his pocket watch, then finger-combing his hair, glancing at the rearview mirror as he did so.
“How’d I look, Kit?”
“Fine,” Kit answered. “Just like the last fifty billion other times you asked me. Watch your turn here – you’ll get us off-course again. If Joanna’s waiting outside Higher for Hire we should hurry. Look at those clouds… it might rain.”
“Sorry. Got stuff on my mind. I’m kinda nervous.”
“What for? Joanna seems okay. I never thought I’d see anyone stand up to Miz Cunningham. And she did it for you, too.”
“Yeah, she sure did, didn’t she? ” Baloo grinned. Then he looked worried. “Hope Becky ain’t too sore about that.”
“Just don’t push your luck, Papa Bear. And I don’t need another surprise in the next bed when I wake up, either.”
Baloo threw up his hands in exasperation. “How many times do I hafta say I’m sorry? I didn’t know what else ta do with her!”
“Forget it.” Kit decided to let that one pass. “So… how many people are going to this party?”
“The usual.” Baloo frowned.
“What?” Kit asked.
“Um…me, you, Joey, Wildcat and Clementine…”
“Don’t forget Miz Cunningham,” Kit reminded him.
“Oh, yeah. Ol’ Beckers, too. That makes…uh…”
Baloo fell silent for a moment. Kit glanced at him curiously. “What’s the matter?”
“Just thinkin’. Imagine ol’ Beckers and Joey in the same room. Why’d ya tell me ta invite the boss lady ta Louie’s? Those gals do not get along.”
“Come on, they’re big girls. It’s not like Miz Cunningham doesn’t know how to behave in a restaurant. And Joanna liked it at Louie’s.” A thought passed through Kit’s mind and he paused. “Uh, you did tell her that Joanna was coming, too, didn’t you?”
“Um, no…not exactly.”
“Did you tell her that Joanna’d be waiting at Higher for Hire for you today?”
“Musta slipped my mind…” the big pilot muttered.
“Oh, boy, this is gonna be interesting…”
“Aw, man!” The big pilot’s face was panic-stricken. “We’d better hurry before they kill each other!”
“Don’t worry, Papa Bear,” Kit said, hiding a smile, “I’m
sure they’ll get along fine.”
* * *
Higher For Hire
Joanna arrived at Higher For Hire on foot. As she remembered Rebecca's chilly reception before, she sighed with exasperation and turned the corner to the side of the building. When she found a spot, she sat on the ground, then pulled out a Nancy Clue mystery and began to read.
Ten minutes went by when the first couple of drops struck the pages of her book. She ignored them. A rumble of thunder caught her attention. Storm clouds had gathered in the darkening sky. When lightning flashed in the distance, she snapped the book shut and shoved it back into her purse.
“Great,” she muttered. Another bolt of lightning flashed, closer this time. Then a heavy spray of rain hit her, leaving Joanna drenched to the skin. Dripping wet, she stood up, wrung out her hair, and strode toward the front of the building, making squishing sounds as she went.
Tough beans, she thought. Here I come.
“Come in!” A cheery woman’s voice floated back to her. Joanna wrinkled her nose. She wondered if Rebecca had hired a receptionist. It sure didn’t sound like the same woman who had given her such a hard time on Sunday morning.
Shrugging, she entered. Rebecca’s eyes widened as she recognized her. Then she frowned at the wet footprints behind her visitor.
“Uh, Joanna… what a surprise.”
Joanna grinned at her and spread out her arms in a ‘here I am’ pose. “It’s a girl!”
Joanna dropped her arms. No sense of humor, she thought. Aloud, she said, “Sorry to intrude, but I was supposed to meet Baloo here. I waited but it’s nasty outside. Mind if I step in for a few minutes until he shows up?”
“Well…” Rebecca could not help eyeing the way the rainwater kept dripping on her office floor.
“Come on,” Joanna lisped in a little girl’s voice. “Pleeeeeease?”
“Fine. Just, uh, stay over there. You’re wet.”
“And don’t touch anything.”
“Baloo could be late. Are you sure…?”
Suddenly Joanna sneezed, making Rebecca jump.
“Oh, dear. Maybe I should get you a blanket.”
“Oh, don’t worry about me. I’ll dry out and be on my way as soon as Baloo comes along.” Then Joanna sneezed again. “Excuse me.”
Rebecca regarded her thoughtfully. Somehow, the painted flapper at the fair and the tousled, insolent young woman she disliked so much did not seem to the be the same person. This dripping wet, bedraggled creature before her seemed so… vulnerable.
When Joanna coughed, Rebecca couldn’t take it anymore.
“Oh, for goodness sakes!” she said, exasperated. “Stay there, I’ll find you something. You’ll catch pneumonia.”
“Please don’t go to any trouble.”
“I’m not.” Rebecca gave her a crooked smile. “I just don’t
want my one-and-only-pilot catching anything.”
Joanna didn’t say anything.
Reluctantly, Rebecca said, “Maybe you should give me your clothes to dry out. You could wrap yourself in a blanket or something.”
“Thanks, but I don’t think I should greet Baloo at the door wearing nothing but a blanket.”
“Oh… right!” Completely flustered, Rebecca felt her face grow warm with embarrassment. “Listen, I can’t stay here much longer. I have to relieve the babysitter.”
Joanna sighed. “Okaaaay. I’ll wait outside.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t leave an unauthorized person in the office alone.”
“It’s okay. Don’t worry about me.” As Joanna turned toward the door, she sneezed again. She looked at Rebecca forlornly. “Could I please have a crust of bread?”
Suddenly, Rebecca realized that she had been duped.
“Ooh! You big phony!” Rebecca was angry. Just as she was beginning to feel sorry for her! Imagine trying to con me…it’s just like a stunt Baloo would pull! Where is that bear!
“Oops. I laid it on too thick, didn’t I? Was it the ‘crust of bread’ part? Too much?”
“Out!” The businesswoman opened the door. The rain came down in sheets, splattering the ground. Puddles rapidly began to rise, spread and merge into tiny pools.
“Okay, okay, I’m going. Honestly, can’t you take a joke?” Joanna scowled. “And me without my galoshes. Thanks for the hospitality, lady. Tell Baloo I went home.”
She had just stepped outside when Baloo came running out of the Sea Duck, with Kit bringing up the rear. By the time they reached the office, both were drenched.
Joanna saw them and started to laugh. “You look terrible!”
Kit grinned at her. “I know. Pathetic, huh?”
“Sorry, Joey,” Baloo gasped. “Am I late?”
“Actually, you’re right on time.”
“We are?” Baloo couldn’t believe it.
“That’s impossible!” Rebecca checked her watch. “Hmph. Well. Six o’clock exactly.”
“You don’t sound too happy about it,” Kit commented.
“I’m just… surprised, that’s all.” Late for everything else but her. How typical. How…Baloo.
“Where ya goin’ Joanna? Ain’t we goin’ out?”
“I was,” Joanna said sweetly, casting Rebecca a sly look, “but she had to close the office, so I had to wait out here.”
“I have to go home to Molly…” Rebecca tried to explain.
“Ya mean yer lockin’ up the joint an’ shooin’ poor Joey into the pourin’ rain?” Baloo was outraged. “Ya’ve always been a tough cookie, Becky, but this…”
“But I…” Rebecca was speechless.
Joanna spoke up. “No, no, you don’t get it, Baloo. Rebecca here wasn’t kicking me out. She was inviting me in… weren’t you, Becky?”
“I was? Er… yes, I was!” She took Joanna’s arm and hustled her inside as the other two bears followed. “Get in here, you silly goose. Imagine, going out there on a night like this…”
“Why, thank you, Becky. How unexpectedly nice of you.”
“Well, goodness, we can’t have you getting sick, can we?”
“No, we sure can’t,” Joanna agreed. They smiled fiercely at each other.
“May I brew you a nice cup of tea?”
Kit spoke up. “Don’t you have to go home, Miz Cunningham?”
She ignored the hint. “Kit, you’d better run up and change into something dry.”
When Kit gave her a hard look, she nervously looked away. She’s up to something, he thought. He did not know whether to be amused or worried.
“I’ll just run up and change into a dry shirt, then.” Baloo said to Joanna. “I-I’ll be right back.”
“Oh, take your time, Baloo,” Rebecca said cheerfully, “I’ll take care of Joanna.”
Joanna gulped and caught Kit’s eye. The message was clear: Don’t leave me alone with this lunatic.
But he was too cold to stick around. All he wanted was to dry off and eat dinner. He shrugged and tried to give her a reassuring smile. Don’t worry, she’s crazy but harmless. He went upstairs.
“Why don’t you sit down?” Rebecca suggested. “I’ll make you that tea.”
“Um… that’s okay. You’d better hurry home to your kid.”
“Don’t be silly. I’ll just call the babysitter and tell her I’ll be a few minutes late.”
Baloo and Kit came downstairs to find Joanna sitting in the old armchair, shivering. Her hair was pasted to her skull, sticking to her neck and forehead. They heard Rebecca banging pans around and the sounds of metallic scraping.
Baloo was confused. “What’s she doin’ in there?”
“Making me tea,” Joanna answered, glancing apprehensively towards the kitchen. “I think.”
Something’s going on, thought Kit. I’d better check up on her.
Just as Kit was about to enter the kitchen, Rebecca came out with a steaming mug and handed it to her.
Joanna blew on it and recoiled, making a face as the steam cleared, revealing a dark, brownish liquid with odd globs of yellowish goo floating on top.
What is this stuff? she wondered.
“Go on,” said Rebecca, watching her. “It’s my own special recipe.”
And it’ll make one of us feel better.
“I’ll bet,” Joanna muttered, but aware that Baloo and Kit were also watching her, decided to be polite. I don’t think she’d poison me in front of them. She raised the cup to her lips and obediently sipped. Suddenly, a pained, strange expression crossed her face. Oh, God, It’s so oily --- and it’s coating my tongue! Coughing violently, she spat it into the mug and set it down, gasping.
“Could I please have a glass of water?” Her voice sounded strangled.
“Sure, Joanna. I’ll get it for ya,” Baloo said.
Kit called, “That’s okay, I’ll get it.”
Immediately, Kit went to the kettle and lifted it by the handle. It was still hot, so Rebecca had boiled the water.
Remembering the odd metallic scraping noises from before, he went to the sink and checked the frying pan from that morning’s bacon and eggs. Baloo, true to his nature, had never bothered to wash off the disgusting globs of fat and grease, promising to do it later.
Kit examined the surface. It was not clean, but the blobby mess he recalled was missing. He checked under the sink for the soup can they used to contain the drippings. Empty.
Rebecca. She wouldn’t… yeah, she would.
“What an… interesting flavor,” he heard Joanna say to Rebecca. “What is it?”
“Just an old family recipe. It tastes pretty awful, but it’ll stick to your ribs and warm you right up.”
Time to enter the war zone. “Here you go, Joanna.” Kit handed her the glass.
“Aw, Joey, yer soaked. Lemmee bring ya a blanket.”
“Oh, that’s okay, Baloo,” Rebecca practically sang, hurrying away. “I’ll get her one.”
Kit stared after her. Oh boy. This is getting ugly.
When she returned with a mustard-yellow blanket and wrapped it tenderly around Joanna’s shoulders, Kit groaned. That thing feels like scouring pad!
“Is this new?” Joanna asked. “It looks like it’s never been used.” Then she threw it off, scratching her neck and arms. Holy cow! Why don’t you just cover me with fire ants!
“Um, no, we don’t use it much,” Kit said, avoiding eye contact.
“What’s wrong, Joanna?” Rebecca asked innocently. Good old industrial-strength wool.
“I’m not as cold as I thought,” Joanna said, gritting her teeth, glaring at her.
Uh-oh. Kit cleared his throat. “Wow, it’s late! You two better go.” He elbowed the big pilot in the ribs, making him expel a startled “Oof!”
“Uh, yeah! Hey, come on, Joanna, let’s get goin’. There’s a great hamburger joint downtown.” Baloo opened the door. It was still raining hard. “Man,” he gasped. “It’s practically floodin’ out there. Maybe we should stay in tonight.”
Great, thought Kit. I suppose they expect me to play chaperone. He glanced at Joanna, soaked, shivering with cold and drinking her water, making a terrible face. She looked miserable. He began to feel sorry for her.
Rebecca shook her head. “Baloo, we talked about this. It doesn’t look right.”
“Well, doggone it, can’t a man do what he wants in his own house?”
“Not when it’s a place of business, mister. Sorry.”
“Just forget it,” Joanna said, rather peevishly, “I feel crummy. I just want to go home and climb into bed.”
“Aw, I’m sorry about this, Joey. I’m an idiot. I’ll take ya home.”
Rebecca looked at her and then at Baloo, who was gallantly trying to conceal his disappointment. She could not help but feel partly responsible.
“I have an idea, everybody. Why don’t you all come to my place and we’ll order a pizza? I’ll throw Joanna’s things in the dryer and lend her something of mine to wear. And when it stops raining, you two can go out on your own.”
“No-no-that’s okay…” Joanna said hastily, but Baloo’s hopeful expression made her pause. She rolled her eyes. “Well…”
“Ya sure about that, Becky? I don’t wanna put ya out…”
“Oh, stop it. It’s the least I can do.” She addressed Baloo, but cast a sheepish look at Joanna, who stared back stonily.
* * *
Baloo helped Joanna out of the taxi while Rebecca paid the driver. Holding an umbrella over them both, Kit waited impatiently. Pizza sounded better than a homemade meal so he decided to accompany them. Baloo and Joanna huddled under another umbrella as they followed the other two to the apartment building. Because of Baloo’s bulk took up most of the umbrella, she ended up getting soaked anyway. The one that Rebecca and Kit shared completely hid them from view.
When Rebecca closed the umbrella, Joanna saw the elevator for the first time. With widening eyes, she watched the elevator car slowly descend and settle at their level.
“Um… where are the stairs?”
“Molly and I live on the top floor,” explained Rebecca as Baloo and Kit boarded. “I don’t think you’d want to walk all the way up twenty-one flights.”
“No… I suppose not.”
“Come in outta the rain, honey.” Baloo urged, shaking the umbrella he ‘shared’ with Joanna and closing it. “I’m starvin’!”
“And I’m wet.”
“Oh… sorry, Joey.”
Reluctantly, Joanna allowed the big bear to gently escort her inside the elevator, then the glass doors smoothly slid shut. Immediately, it began to rise. Joanna felt her stomach lurch as she watched the world shoot upward, carrying her with it.
Oh, no. She leaned against one of the walls for support and closed her eyes.
“Hurry up, Marie,” her best friend Patty called up to her. “Can’t you just sneak out the window? You’ve done it a million times.”
“You can’t go,” Judy told her smugly. “Mother says you have to play with me.”
“We’ll see about that, poo-poo head.” Marie slung one leg over the sill and carefully reached for the long, heavy branch that she always used as a handhold. Good thing the solid oak tree grew next to their playroom window, or else she’d never get out of the house. Looking down at the young vixen impatiently waiting for her, Marie mentally estimated the distance between the grass where the tree grew and the stone path that lined the house. If she fell, she supposed that the grass would cushion her. Being even this high could play tricks on your eyes and cause dizziness. She felt no fear, but did possess a healthy respect for caution. “Be right down, Patty.”
“I’m coming too,” Judy announced.
“No, you’re not! Leave us alone. You can’t keep up with us anyway.”
“Marie, hurry up.”
“Okay, okay!” Firmly gripping the branch, she confidently made her way to the trunk, hand-over-hand until her feet dangled over a heavier branch.
Judy leaned out, her blonde curls brushing her cheeks. “I’ll tell Mother.”
“So go ahead. She punishes me for breathing.”
Suddenly, Judy’s voice sounded near tears. “Please let me come? She never lets me do anything!”
“Aw, let her,” Patty said. “It’s better than having her tattle on us.”
Marie sighed. “Fine. But if you can’t keep up, we’re leaving you behind.”
Thank you, thank you!” Her eyes
shining with delight, Judy pulled up her stockings and smoothed out her
pink-and-white pinafore. Then
carefully, so she would not tear her dress, daintily raised her leg over the
“Joanna? Are you alright?”
“Huh? What?” She opened her eyes to find all three bears staring at her. Casting his mind back in time, Baloo suddenly remembered how she had done the same thing on the flight to Louie’s.
Rebecca noticed that she was very pale and felt even guiltier. “Are you alright?”
“Yes. Fine,” she almost snapped. Gingerly, she let go of the wall and managed to follow them out of the elevator. Baloo and Kit exchanged a worried glance. Instinctively, the big bear stepped behind her in case she lost her balance.
“I’m okay, really.” Joanna tried to laugh, but it came out as a croak. “I’m just not used to glass elevators.”
Rebecca unlocked the door and immediately called, “Mrs. Poppins, Molly, we’re here.”
“Hi, Mommy.” Molly limped out of the living room to greet them. “Mrs. Poppins says she’s been disposed,” she said importantly.
“She’s in the bathroom.”
“Hey there, muffin. Ain’t ya gonna say howdy to ol’ Baloo?”
Giggling, Molly lifted her arms and Baloo picked her up. She peered over his shoulder “Hi, Kit! Hi, Joanna! Kit, can you play with me? Mrs. Poppins just sits around and knits.”
“Hey, kid. Maybe later. I’m kinda bushed.” Kit went to the living room and flopped into an armchair.
“Come on, Molly,” Rebecca scolded gently as Baloo set the child down. “Let Kit rest. It’s been a long day.”
A wrinkled, elderly ape in a housedress came into the foyer. She carried a large carpetbag with knitting needles protruding from the opening. Rebecca went to the coat rack and helped her into her coat. “Thanks, Mrs. Poppins. Here’s a little extra for staying. Oh, here --- you can borrow my umbrella --- it’s nasty outside.”
“Thank you. Now, I’d better get home. My Bertie sometimes forgets to eat when he gets busy in his studio. I bet I’ll find him covered in chalk dust.”
When the door shut behind her, Rebecca turned to Joanna. “Come on, I’ll find you something to wear. Baloo order the pizza, will you? The usual.”
After he made the call, Baloo sank into another chair opposite Kit.
Kit leaned forward and whispered, “Baloo, what was wrong with Joanna in the elevator back there? She looked like she was gonna faint.”
“She don’t like flyin’, either.”
“That’s so weird. How can anyone not love to fly?”
“I know, don’t that beat all? I can’t believe it, either. Kit, she could barely walk when we landed at Louie’s. It was like her legs was rubber or somethin’.”
“Wow.” Kit still could not believe it.
“It’s like she said, Lil’ Britches. She ain’t used to elevators. I guess some folks get sick on ‘em.”
“I don’t think she was sick, Baloo,” Kit said quietly. “She looked scared to death.”
* * *
“It’s in here,” Rebecca said, walking in. “Come on in.”
Somewhat timidly, Joanna followed her into the large bedroom, terribly self-conscious of her bedraggled state. Then she caught her breath. “Oh!”
In the center of the room was a fine mahogany furniture and canopy bed with luxurious blankets and pillows. However, it wasn’t the bed that impressed her so much as the space surrounding it. The soft white carpet cushioned her feet and she almost sighed out loud with sensual pleasure. The trailer did not have carpeting like this.
Noticing that the other woman was shivering, Rebecca reached into her closet, extracting a fluffy baby pink bathrobe and handed it to her. “Here, put this on while I find you something. You’re a couple of inches taller than me, but we’re about the same size, I think.”
“Thanks.” Doubtfully, Joanna regarded the aggressively feminine robe in her hands. “Wow. It’s so… pink.”
“Yes. It’s my favorite color too.”
With horrified fascination, she watched as Rebecca contemplated her wardrobe; the rest of the clothing hanging in the closet was mostly variations of pink and purple. Many were decorated with flowers and hearts.
So this is what hell looks like…
With distaste, she noticed a particularly girlish, light pink ball gown. It had long, puffy sleeves and a prim, frilly neckline.
Ick! That’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen!
She quickly stripped down to her underwear and put the robe on, tying the belt around her waist. For a few minutes, she tried on Rebecca’s clothes as the other woman pawed through the drawers, not looking at her. Being slightly taller and curvier, Joanna found them either too short or too tight.
“I can’t lift my arms in this one. It’s too tight across the shoulders.” Grunting, she tried to pull a flowered top over her head.
“Here.” Rebecca turned back and handed her a turtleneck sweater. “How about this? At least that should stretch to fit you.” As she did so, she almost gasped.
High on Joanna’s right hip, a jagged, angry-looking white scar glared in stark relief where fur did not grow back. Too late, Rebecca averted her eyes and pretended to continue to search for clothing.
“Guess I should have changed in the bathroom,” she heard Joanna mutter.
“N-No. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean... ” Embarrassed, Rebecca grabbed a pair of slacks and blindly handed it to her. “I’ll just leave you alone to get dressed.”
“Wait… It’s nothing, really… just an accident that happened when I was a kid. I was playing hide-and-seek with my friends in a construction site and fell on some jagged metal.”
“And no, Baloo doesn’t know.” Joanna added, “So don’t mention it, okay?”
“But--!” spluttered Rebecca. “D-doesn’t he… already know?” As soon as she said it, she felt her cheeks burn. Clumsily, she began to gather Joanna’s wet clothing from the floor.
“Why would he?”
“Um… no reason. I won’t tell him.” Reluctantly, she faced Joanna, who put the sweater on, smoothing it past her hips, concealing the scar once more. “Look, I’m really sorry about… everything. Please, just wear whatever you want. I’ll put your things in the dryer.”
Rebecca nodded and started to leave, but Joanna’s voice stopped her. “Me too. Sorry, I mean.”
“Well, I might have gone too far with the grease and the blanket.”
“Grease? Is that what was in the tea? That was disgusting!”
Rebecca looked at her feet. “It's really not like me to pull such a childish prank. I don't know what came over me.”
“Oh, that's okay.” Joanna tried to assume an air of noblesse
oblige. “It was a misunderstanding,
that’s all. It can happen to anyone.”
I’ve got to try it on somebody. Pearl? No, she’d squeal on me. Lance? Maybe Alphonse... I owe him for that streetlamp crack…
She stuck out her tongue. “Doeth my tug look black to you?”
“Uh, no… it looks fine.” Rebecca smiled uncomfortably. “We’d better get out there or Baloo will eat all the pizza.”
“Great. I’m starving.” Somewhat hesitantly, Joanna added, “It doesn’t hurt, you know. Only when it rains.”
“That’s… good. I
mean, I’m sorry.” Gathering the wet
clothing, Rebecca hurried out of the room.
Joanna smiled to herself.
As she loaded the dryer, Rebecca thought about the jagged white scar. For some reason, it bothered her more than it should have. Imagine, playing in a construction site! If Molly ever did that…
Oddly, it pricked her memory. As a child, her parents had taken her to visit her cousin’s farm. It was smelly, dirty and depressing. At eight years old, Rebecca had been afraid of the cattle and refused to learn to milk them, thinking that they were the ugliest, dumbest creatures she had ever laid eyes on. Even worse was when Uncle Robert branded the beasts; he had taken a branding iron, heated the end of it and matter-of-factly pressed it into their flanks. Their braying moos had been horrible to hear. The sight of the black, smoking circle of scorched flesh had sent Rebecca scurrying behind the farmhouse to vomit.
Joanna’s scar was strangely even and symmetrical… a perfectly etched letter M.
Rebecca slammed the dryer door shut. Good heavens, it was a burn! That was no accident --- it was done to her!
End of Part 9