THE MEANING OF FRIENDSHIP
C. L. Furlong
December 10, 2001
December 16, 2001
December 16, 2001
A season’s shorty dedicated in special to those who can’t have a Christmas celebration like most of us do.
SWAT Kats and anything related to the series is the property of Hanna-Barbera. No infringement is intended and no profit is gained with this fiction.
Something I never expected to write – a story related to Christmas. Hmph… Perhaps it’s related to anytime,, but I think it gains a deeper meaning in this season. Anyway, this was something I just *had* to do after having a few days of excruciating doubts about the guys friendship. Do forgive me if I sound unrealistic or childish in my weather descriptions but I’ve only seldom seen snow in my life. In my region it usually rains instead of snowing so… Anyway, this is one cliché I kinda like: a white Christmas… Whoa, I’m trailing off! I, however, hope this little story turns out to be enjoyable. Cheers to all of you, SK fans! And have yourselves a merry little Christmas… This story is, thus, unrelated to my “Final Resistance” series.
“Together we stand, divided we fall.” – Pink Floyd in “Hey You”
THE MEANING OF FRIENDSHIP
The snowflakes descended slowly from the plumbeous skies. An occasional gust of wind made some swirl in a broad vortex before they gave in to the irresistible attraction of gravity and gained way to mingle with the white garment of the ground.
It was Christmas Eve and the fading daylight gave way to the darkness of the night that slowly nuzzled Megakat City into its black cloak. The city’s lights were already on, making it glitter like a Bethlehem Star of despotic materialism and consumerism. Thousands of kats filled the streets, some walking home to spend the rest of the day with their families, some others bustling into convenience stores and malls in order to buy that last gift they forgot or intended to buy earlier but couldn’t because of an overfilled agenda.
Among them walked a kat equal to any other, perhaps with the only exception that this kat was one of this city’s guardian angels. Dressed with an army-green jacket pulled close to his snout, Chance Furlong crossed the street and headed for the parking lot where he had left the tow-truck. Small clouds of frozen vapor streamed out of his nostrils with each breath he gave. Under his left arm was a brown paper packet with some sausages and a six-pack of milk.
Fumbling with the keys, he opened the tow-truck’s door and threw the groceries to the hitchhiker seat. Putting the truck into gear, he drove out of the parking lot and off to the Salvage Yard. The traffic was somewhat intense at that hour, but it flowed well. Chance caught a glimpse of the shiny illuminated figures hanging above the boulevards. Passing by a transversal street he caught a fast glimpse of the huge Christmas tree of Katefeller’s Center. A smile spread out momentarily on his snout.
Half an hour later, he arrived at the Salvage Yard. The snow was falling harder now and the ground had a plain white garment of a few centimeters high already. He had to get out of the tow-truck to open the garage door.
“Gotta tell Jake to make a remote sensor for this door one of these days…” – he thought as he lifted the door and returned to the tow-truck. Once inside the garage, he closed the door again and headed for the kitchen, where he laid down the groceries he bought.
“Last hour gifts?” – Jake asked Chance as he entered the kitchen.
“Nah, not really…”
“C’mon, leave that there and go get ready.”
“Jake… We’ve talked about this…”
“You’re *not* stayin’ alone on a night like this! Come with me to my folks’! You know you’re welcome there!” – Jake said, placing an arm over the burly tom’s shoulder.
“I’m not going, Jake…” – Chance said in a whisper – “They’re *your* parents! *Your* family! I’m just a stranger…”
“You’ve *never* been a stranger! You know that!”
“I’m not going, Jake. It’s your family; you want to have some time together… I’ll just be in the way…”
“That’s the biggest nonsense I’ve ever heard! Besides…” – Jake grinned mischievously – “… Mom’s makin’ baked tuna for the Christmas supper…”
“I’m not going. End of conversation.” – Chance said as he left the kitchen, passing by Jake, who just dropped his arms and waved his head in frustration.
Every year was the same. Since they were partners in the Enforcers, Chance would always stay behind, alone in his quarters, during Christmas Eve. Jake was heartbroken every time he went to see his parents for the season’s celebration and left Chance behind. But, he couldn’t force Chance to go with him. If he wanted to be alone during Christmas Eve, then he would just have to respect his decision, even though that made his heart bleed.
The slim kat headed upstairs to finish dressing up. He looked in the mirror and put on his coat. As he adjusted it to his torso, Jake’s mind was a thousand miles away.
“It must be so painful to be alone on a night like this…” – he thought – “I think he must be used to it… He’s spent many nights like this alone since he was a kitten, since his parents died… Nevertheless, he doesn’t have to be alone… He’s got me – he’s got my family! My family’s *his* family! *He’s* my family… But, he doesn’t want to open his heart…”
Minutes later, he came down and heard water running. He opened the bathroom door. Chance was in the shower.
“I’m off, buddy. Are you sure you don’t wanna come?” – Jake asked from the door.
“I’m sure. Have fun with your folks and give them a hug for me, will you?” – Chance stated out from the shower area.
Jake just sighed inaudibly.
“I will… See you soon, bud!” – Jake said before closing the door.
Chance headed for the window of the bedroom and peered outside, to the black night. He saw that the snowfall was fading out. Grabbing his jacket, he put it on and left the body shop in his car. He headed for the glimmering city. At that hour, the streets were still filled with traffic and the snoozing ride presented him with enough time to appreciate the situation.
“What are these people still doing on the streets on Christmas Eve? Don’t they have a family waiting for them?” – he mumbled.
He looked to the car beside him. Inside was a tom looking nervously at his wristwatch. The traffic was momentarily stopped due to the red flare of a traffic light. He watched as the kat took out his wallet and retrieved two small cards from inside, kissing two fingers and placing them over each card. Chance knew then that those were pictures, probably of the tom’s sons, and not cards.
“He’s all nervous ’cause he’s late to join his family for Christmas… Indeed, he’s *very* late…”
The green light shone up, and the cars started moving. He entered Megakat City and parked the car in a parking lot near City Hall. He headed for Katefeller’s Center. He always liked to see the giant Christmas tree there. He didn’t know why, but, every time he looked at it, he felt all warm inside. Every year it was a breathtaking sight to see the Katefeller’s Christmas tree, and this year was no exception.
The plaza was almost empty. At that hour, most kats were at home, with their families, dining and smiling. The few kats Chance saw there were homeless. They too liked to see the Christmas tree, as though it brought some comfort to their hearts. Chance’s gaze quickly moved from the glistening tree to the scarce kats on the other side of the square. Some were nuzzling themselves the best they could with newspapers and cardboard boxes for the night. In the meantime, a snowflake fell on top of Chance’s snout. It’d started snowing again. Chance pulled the overcoat closer to his snout. Suddenly, the glittering Christmas tree wasn’t so comforting anymore.
“Poor people… Their Christmas night is just another night… It’s darn cold, and they don’t have anywhere to go or a decent muffler to keep them warm… And, some of them are so young…” – he thought.
Suddenly, behind him, he heard a muffled thud. He turned around and saw someone fallen on the ground. Chance hurried to the kat and turned him around.
“Sir, are you okay?” – Chance asked as he looked at the elder tom in his paws.
The old tom coughed twice and opened his tired eyes to stare at Chance.
“I-I’m… I’m okay, young tom…” – the elder said in a weak and tired voice.
Chance helped him up.
“What are you doing outside now in weather like this?” – Chance asked softly. Meanwhile, the snowfall had gained a new strength as sudden gusts of wind lashed the air and flogged their bodies with icy snow. – “Why aren’t you with your family?”
The graying tom sighed and looked down before responding. – “I have no family. My sons have ditched me, and I live all by myself in a room two blocks away from here. I was getting home after I had gone to the market for some supplies when it started snowing. My legs aren’t what they used to be anymore and…”
“It’s okay. I’ll escort you home.” – Chance said.
“Oh, no! I don’t want to be trouble for anyone!”
“It’s not trouble at all! Say, you’re spending this night alone?” – Chance asked as he helped the elder.
“Yes. As I told you, my sons don’t care for me and my wife’s been dead for five years now.” – a tear trickled down the old tom’s facial fur.
“What about your friends? I’m sure you have some friends who could…”
“Most of my friends are dead already.” – the aging tom simply responded.
“I see…” – Chance said, pensively – “Listen, I know a place not too far from here where you can stay for the night. You’ll meet a lot of friendly people there. I’ll take you there. Just wait a second here, okay?”
The old tom nodded and lingered against the wall. Chance covered the distance of the square in a few seconds. He went to the homeless kats on the other end of the plaza. A few minutes later, five other kats accompanied Chance as he headed for the elder tom waiting for him.
Together, they went to a nearby shelter that housed homeless and abandoned people and took care of them for a short time. The doors were opened and Chance guided them inside.
“Now you guys wait here and I’ll see what I can do, okay?” – Chance said and headed for an attractive young she-kat with auburn hair and dressed in a light blue wool shirt.
“How are things going, Suzy?” – Chance said from behind.
The she-kat turned around with a surprised look on her face, which rapidly transformed into a shiny smile.
“Chance!” – Susan Anderson said, lunging herself into Chance’s arms and kissing him on his cheek. – “It’s been a while since I’ve last seen you! Let me get a look at you!” – she said, backing a step and inspecting Chance – “You’re better than ever, hon…”
“You’re not so bad yourself, Suzy! You’re more gorgeous every time…” – Chance purred.
The she-kat blushed a bit.
“You’re always saying that, Chance. I’m not buying it anymore.” – she peeked over his shoulder and saw the kats Chance had brought with him – “But, as usual, you didn’t come here to see me… What can I do for you, furball?”
“Those kats…” – Chance started, pointing over his shoulder – “…are homeless kats I found near Katefeller’s Center. The old tom is not homeless, but his family abandoned him. He has no one to spent this night with, and I thought you might…”
“You’ve brought them to the right place, Chance! Here they’ll be well treated! We’ll give them some hot food and a Christmas party with music, food, drinks and gifts. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing, right?”
“I think they need some friendship too. Especially the old kat. You’ll warm their stomachs, but if you could warm their hearts too, that would be great!”
“That’s one of the purposes of the party. We want them to make friends. Let’s go. We don’t want our new friends to wait out there where the action is *not*, now do we?”
After the kats had been conducted to the contiguous room, Susan closed the door for a moment after them and looked to Chance.
“What about you, Chance? Don’t you want to join us during the Christmas celebration?” – Susan asked.
Chance just looked to the other side.
“No, Suzy. Maybe next year.”
“You’re still alone on nights like this, Chance?” – she placed both paws on his head and turned it to her – “That’s not good for you, Chance! Everybody needs some affection sometimes… Stay with us tonight…”
“I… can’t… Sorry, Suzy… I wouldn’t fit… I’m sorry… Maybe next year!” – he said as he backed away from her, turning to leave the building.
“Chance…” – she called him, but he was already gone.
Chance walked along the nearly deserted streets, which bore a white garment a few centimeters high. The snow was still falling but the wind had stopped. He suddenly heard a siren behind him. It was a firekats’ truck speeding down the avenue. It passed by Chance in a flash. The burly tom had just enough time to observe the expression of the driver. He had a worried look on his face. By the time Chance had thought of this, the truck had disappeared around a corner.
On his way to the parking lot where he had left his car, he passed by a hospital, having to stop to let an ambulance pass by him and enter the hospital grounds before stopping at the urgencies bay, where they retrieved a kat lying on a stretcher. Apparently, the kat had had a car accident and was definitely no sight for sore eyes.
Chance finally got to the parking lot and entered his car. On his way back to the Salvage Yard, he found three Enforcer cruisers in hot pursuit of another car. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the yellow burst from Commander Feral’s blaster as he aimed it at the tires of the escaping car, which glided for some seconds in a crazy spiral before immobilizing itself against a phone booth.
The ride back to the Salvage Yard was a swift one, since there was practically no traffic at that late hour. The snow continued its fall towards the ground. It was a half an hour to midnight when Chance reached the body shop and pulled the car over inside the garage.
Once inside the house he headed for the first floor, to their bedroom. He dropped the keys on top of his nightstand and looked out the window, to the umbrella on top of the garage’s roof. He grabbed a blanket and went outside. He shook off the snow that had fallen on the lawn chair and adjusted the umbrella so that the snow wouldn’t fall on top of it again. He sat in the chair and covered himself with the blanket.
He looked up, to the black overcast skies. He watched as the snowflakes descended indolently to the ground. There was just a soft breeze that hardly ruffled his air. By the golden light from the interior of the house, he could see the immaculate white frosted flakes land gently on the roof of the garage. It wasn’t much time later that he was lost in his own thoughts.
“So it’s Christmas Eve… It’s a night when families are reunited, when joy and happiness shines upon everyone, when love and warmth are the best condiment for any Christmas supper…
“So it’s Christmas Eve… And, it’s a white Christmas. A cold and white Christmas… Tomorrow every mother’s child will run to the room, to the Christmas tree and their little faces will shine up with their beautiful smiles when they see all the presents Santa’s left for them… And, the parents will be happy to see their sprouts happy and together they will play…
“So it’s Christmas Eve… It’s a special night for everyone…
“No… Not to everyone… There are many people for who this is just another night… Many people indeed… Homeless kats, who have nowhere to go, who have to sleep under this blistering cold, without a warm meal, without a warm blanket to comfort them…
“Abandoned people… Kats of all ages abandoned at their own fortune… They don’t have families to care for them… They also spend this night alone, in their accommodations, without a Christmas party, without the warmth of the family, of friends…
“Then there are the true heroes of this city… Firekats, doctors, nurses, paramedics… Even enforcers, who risk their own lives to protect this city, to make Megakat City a safer place… They don’t celebrate this evening too, at least, not those who are in the middle of performing first aid, or rescuing some people from a fire or even dealing with a criminal…
“The villains… I wonder if they celebrate this season… True, I can’t imagine Dark Kat or Viper with a Santa’s cap but it’s kinda sad… They too must have been abandoned by their families due to their wrongdoings… I imagine they must be spending this night alone too…”
He sighed and lowered his look to the roof level, to the white, cold and wet blanket of snow covering the rooftop.
“Why can’t everybody celebrate Christmas with their families? Why can’t everybody be happy at least one night in the whole year?” – Chance asked aloud, rhetorically.
“I think it’s not in our paws to make everyone happy…” – a voice said from behind Chance. He jumped out of the chair, startled, and turned around, tensing his muscles. What he saw made him blink in surprise. – “… But, we can make the ones we love happy… We have that duty…”
“Jake? Wha… What are you doing here? Weren’t you supposed to be with your folks, celebrating Christmas?” – Chance asked.
Jake came over to him.
“I phoned and told them I wasn’t going this year.”
“I needed some time to do some thinking on my own…” – Jake said as he looked out of the roof, to their domains covered in snow. – “What were you doing out here in this cold, anyway?”
Chance sat on the lawn chair again, covering himself with the blanket. He stared once more at the falling snow.
“After you were off to see your parents, I went to the city, to see the Katefeller’s Center Christmas tree. What I found there made me think about a lot of things. I came here, to the quietness and solitude of the Salvage Yard. I dunno, I guess I was entranced by the snow… I think I still am…” – he lowered his gaze to his chest and muttered in an almost inaudible tone – “Fact is, I saw I’m not the only one… And, I may very well end up like them… There are too many people to whom Christmas Eve is nothing but just another night in their lives… And, that’s sad…”
Suddenly, he heard Jake sneezing. He realized that the slim kat was in the snow still.
“Come here, buddy. Sit by my side before you get yourself a cold.”
“Of course. Come on.”
Jake sat on the chair beside Chance. The burly tom covered them both with the blanket.
“There… Is it better?” – Chance asked.
“Say… You never did tell me why you didn’t go see your folks…”
Jake lowered his head to his chest.
“I told you I needed to do some thinking… Well, I did… You know, I always saw you as much more than just a friend… I always saw you as part of my family… Like a big brother, always there for me… I always saw you as my family…”
“What can I say to that, Jake? Only that I always saw you as much more than a partner, much more than a simple friend… I always saw you as my family… my little brother…”
“That’s exactly my point! I always saw you as my family but I never thought that *I’m* your family… And, if I’m your family, then my place tonight is here, with you, Chance…”
“No! You shouldn’t have left your family because of me! I could never…”
“Chance!” – Jake called his friend, cutting him in mid-sentence – “I’m here because I *want* to be here! *We’re* family! My folks can pass without me for a day. I’m with you much more time than I’m with them. I see you more as my family than them – you’re always here when I need you. *You’re* my family! Chance. I like you very much, and I *want* to be with you on this night! Please, don’t deny me this!”
Chance looked to Jake with a surprised look on his face. Jake was leaving his family behind because of his friendship to him.
“This… This is the first time someone has given up something for me… Usually it’s me who has to give up…”
“I’m not giving up anything, Chance! My family will still be my family whether I go to the Christmas supper or not. I just can’t bear you spending a night like this alone. I like you too much to bear such a thing. I don’t want you to be alone anymore!”
The slim kat sneezed again.
“Is it just me or is it darn cold tonight?”
“Come closer to me, buddy!” – Chance said as he passed an arm over Jake’s shoulders.
Jake did the same and approached the big tabby.
Chance pulled the blanket close to their snouts. – “I like you very much too, buddy…”
“You know, if someone saw us right now, he’d think we’re…”
“Do you care?” – Chance asked back.
“Then, I don’t care either.”
They both stared at the snow falling indolently to the rooftop. A few seconds later, Chance broke the quietness.
“Thanks… Thanks for being my friend…”
“Anytime, buddy… Anytime…”
As the two friends admired the gentle snowfall in silence, above the overcast skies, above the clouds, a pale star started shining with renewed vigor, pulsating a brilliant light…
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