A Surprise in the Oven
Illustrated By: Jesse Einhorn-Johnson
Listen while you read along! Thanks to Elderberry Tales
Once upon a time a plump old woman name Tante Adela lived in French Canada. She lived all alone with her big grey cat and the cows in her barn.
One morning she got up very early as it baking day and there was much to do. She took a load of wood outside to her oven.
“Now why would oven door be open?” she said. She poked a stick inside to see that no leaves or twigs had blown in. But the stick would not go far – something was in there!
The old woman bent over to look in. When she saw what she saw, Tante Adela slammed the oven door shut.
She ran out of her yard and down the road as fast as she could.
At Felix Bell’s farm, she saw the neighbor drawing a bucket of water from the well.
“Felix, Felix!” she called out. “Come quick! There is a skunk in my oven!”
“Are you sure?” said Felix. “Maybe it is your cat.”
“Of course I am sure!” said Tante Adela. “Does my cat have a white stripe down his back?”
“I will come as soon as I draw this bucket of water,” said Felix.
Tante Adela turned and dashed back to the road. She headed for the next farm, the farm of Louis Ross. After all, three heads are better than two.
“Louis, Louis!” she cried, out of breath. “Come right away! There is a skunk in my oven.”
“A skunk?” said Louis. “Are you sure it is not a scrap of old fur coat you may have thrown away by mistake?”
“Why would I throw away a fur coat?” said Tante Adela. “Am I the kind of person who would do that?”
“You have a point,” said Louis Ross. “I will come over as soon as I have finished feeding the chickens.”
The old woman turned to the road and limped to the farm of Samuel Roy.
“Samuel, Samuel!” she cried out. “You must come to my farm. There is a skunk in my oven!”
“Are you sure?” said Samuel. “Maybe you saw a shadow inside as you opened the door.”
“Does a shadow have a bushy tail?” said Tante Adela. “Does a shadow grit its teeth at me and snark? I don’t think so!”
“I will come right over,” said Samuel. “Just as soon as I finish weeding the garden.”
So Tante Adela went from farm to farm looking for help. By the time she made it back home, Felix and Louis were already there. Soon after, Samuel came too, and others who had heard about the skunk in Tante Adela’s oven.
“Yep, there’s a skunk in there all right,” said Madame Ross, who had opened and closed the door.
“I know that!” said Tante Adela. “The question is, what to do about it?”
“I will run home and get my gun,” said Felix. “That will take care of that!”
“No, no!” cried Tante Adela. “Think of the smell!”
“She will not be able to bake bread in there for a month!” said Madame Roy, and everyone agreed.
“And it would spoil the pelt,” said Samuel. He trapped for furs and knew what he was talking about.
“What if we got a dog?” said Alice, the daughter of Samuel and Madame Ross. “A dog will bark. Maybe that will scare the skunk out of the oven.”
“If the skunk gets scared,” said Tante Adela, “think of what it would do!”
“What if we get a piece of meat and tie it to a string?” said someone else. “The skunk will come out on its own when it smells it.”
“I have no meat,” snapped Tante Adela. “And if I did, I would surely not waste it on a skunk!”
So this plan was dropped. No one else cared to use their own meat to lure the skunk out of the oven if Tante Adela wasn’t going to use hers.
“Oh, woe is me!” wailed Tante Adela.
By then, everyone was getting bored with the question of the skunk. And it did not look as if Tante Adela was going to serve any food or drink for everyone who had come. Soon Felix Bell and his wife remembered they had to milk the cows. Louis Ross said he must get back to clean the barn. And one by one, everyone found a reason to head home.
At this time, Tante Adela saw Jules Martel come into the yard. The young man may be simple-minded, she thought. Still, who else could she turn to for help?
“Jules!” she said. “Jules Martel. There is a skunk in my oven. Can you get him out without scaring him?”
Jules nodded his head. He walked over to the oven. He opened the door and leaned inside. He spoke in a low voice. No one could tell what he was saying.
At last he stepped back. Then the sharp face of the skunk stuck out of the oven doorway. Everyone stepped back a few feet. The skunk wiggled its way over the edge, and dropped to the ground.
Slowly the skunk made its way through the yard, holding its head high. And it headed into the woods, where it disappeared.
Tante Adela was thrilled. All the others were amazed.
“How did you get him to come out?” said Samuel to Jules.
“What DID you say to it?” said someone else.
“I just told him,” said Jules, swinging his arms back and forth, “that if he stayed in the oven any more, he would begin to smell like Tante Adela’s bread. And if that happened, none of the other skunks would come near him.”
“Who would have guessed?” Samuel Roy shook his head. “That a low creature like a skunk cares about what others creatures like him think of him.”
“I suppose all creatures must have some sense of self-respect,” said Alice Roy, “no matter who they are.” Alice Roy and the others nodded in silence.