(from Fables for the Clarinet)
It was a raccoon that broke into the Maxwells’ home and ran up their telephone bill to an astronomical amount. Or so they told the lemon-scented woman at the counter of the telephone office.
“Really and truly, that’s the way it occurred,” maintained Mr. Maxwell, the brains of the family. “We don’t know anybody in Duluth.”
Mrs. Maxwell nodded, as did the three young Maxwells. The woman at the counter walked off in the general direction of her immediate supervisor. She decided to pass this problem along to someone paid to handle such things.
Selma was the supervisor at the office that day. She knew enough to find the Maxwell file and take it with her to the front counter and the waiting Maxwells.
“I find the story about the raccoon hard to believe,” Selma told the Maxwell clan. “It says here that two months ago you claimed that $430 in phone bills was attributed to a buffalo that snuck in through your kitchen window and called his brother in the Antelope Valley. December of last year, you claimed that an antelope had knocked down your front door to make eight hours of calls to his nephew in Buffalo. And now this raccoon. How stupid do you think we are?”
Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell speculated on the stupidity level of the phone company staff without reaching an appropriate conclusion. The discussion returned to the raccoon situation after about five minutes.
“A raccoon could not have broken in your house and used the phone,” explained Selma. “A raccoon would have immersed the telephone in water before having anything to do with it. The water would have rendered the telephone useless. Instead of a high phone bill, you people would be bringing in the telephone for repairs.”
Mr. Maxwell thought for a moment.
“A badger! That’s it! It was a badger that broke into our home and called Duluth,” said the patriarch of the Maxwell family.
Selma thought for a moment and signed an approval for a refund for the calls to Duluth. The Maxwells were happy and went home. They were greeted by a mountain lion who was sitting in their kitchen talking to relatives in Saginaw.
“What do we do now?” asked one of the younger Maxwells of her equally concerned father. He thought for some time before bringing out his camera. A photograph might be needed for their next visit to the telephone company counter.
“Some people are so suspicious,” Mr. Maxwell thought to himself.
The photographs of the mountain lion came out so well that extra copies were sent to several magazines. The money the magazines paid for the photos was used by the Maxwells to install bars on all the windows and extra locks on all of the doors.
After that, any animals wanting to use the Maxwells’ telephone had to resort to extreme cleverness to get into the house. They would dress up as Girl Scouts selling cookies or more often as telephone repairmen. The Maxwells were pretty sharp and always seemed to be one step ahead of these would-be long distance telephone call makers.
One day, a reporter came by to do a story about the struggle of the Maxwell family against the members of the animal kingdom that sought to run up their telephone bills. Once inside the house, the reporter was attacked by the Maxwell clan who mistakenly thought he was a lynx. The entire Maxwell family was sent to prison for the attack.
These days, the members of the animal kingdom are free to use the Maxwell telephone for calls to anywhere they want. No Maxwells are there to defend their home, but no animals come around. Somehow, it’s not fun anymore.