--- When your friend is far, far away ---
Bright, early-morning sunlight refracted through a condensated window pane in a Mock-Georgian brick house, spilling dazing light across a beige carpeted floor and onto a single-size bed at the other end of the blue-colored room. A red, white and blue patchwork duvet partially concealed the sleeping occupant, a pre-teen fox. Suddenly the fox stirred and his duvet almost slid off the bed altogether, but he managed to catch it. The fox sighed as he remembered what day it was, bundling himself up in his reclaimed duvet.
"It's going to be a boring two weeks without Timothy." The fox thought, remembering his best friend whom had left for a two-week vacation to the woods far, far away with his parents just yesterday. He wondered how his friend was getting on, wondering if Timothy had gone for any bike rides where he was staying - chuckling as he imagined his friend getting stuck in a mud puddle as he usually did, owing to the raccoon's need for training wheels on his bike.
The fox was about to drift off to sleep again, but an interruption came from the old fashioned rotary telephone on his bed-side table ringing loudly, as if it were trying to imitate an alarm clock.
The fox cleared his throat before picking the receiver up, wondering who could be phoning him this early in the morning. How early was it? The alarm clock next to his bed read: "07:59"
"Hello?" the fox managed to speak into the reciever, still wondering who would be phoning him.
"Hey Friendly! It's me, Jake. I know you're probably feeling a bit down because Timothy isn't here, but would you like to come for a bike ride to the park with me?"
Friendly smiled as he recognized his other friend's voice and agreed to his proposal. "Yeah, sure. I'll come round to your place in about an hour, okay?"
"Sure thing!" came the enthusiastic response from his German Shepherd friend. "Bye Friendly."
"Bye." Friendly said simply, setting the receiver down and scratching a slight itch behind his left ear.
Just over an hour later, the fox arrived outside a green prairie-style wooden house, this was where Jake lived. The burly German Shepherd was already outside, sitting on his bike.
"There you are! I thought you'd put training wheels on and got stuck somewhere." laughed Jake.
"Don't be silly, I didn't take THAT long." remarked Friendly, "Besides you know the only one of us who needs training wheels is Timothy."
"Yeah, I was joking, silly." said Jake. "Come on, let's go!"
The pair of friends rode up the dirt path towards the playground. It was still slightly muddy from the previous morning's rain and in a particular area thick with mud, Friendly could still see the tire tracks and training-wheel marks of Timothy's bike, remembering that this was one of several spots that Timothy's little bike had gotten bogged down and kept slipping as the raccoon pumped his pedals, trying hard to free himself but always unable to. The fox sighed and rode on, trying not to think about Timothy too much.
"What's the matter, mud got you bogged down?" asked Jake, with a slight chuckle.
"No, but poor Timothy certainly got bogged down yesterday."
"Yeah, I remember. I had to push him out and I got coated with mud from his back wheel spraying everywhere, Mom wasn't pleased with me." Jake answered.
"I bet she wasn't." chuckled Friendly, turning his pedals faster to keep up with Jake.
It wasn't long before the two friends arrived at the playground in the clearing. There were quite a few cubs playing on the equipment. A wolf and husky were competing with one-another on the swings, seeing who could go the highest. A daddy-fox was watching over his toddler son, as the little fox went up and down the smallest slide in the playground, giggling as he landed at the bottom and then made his way back up to the top of the slide to do it again. Two other cubs were also playing by the jungle gym - a red squirrel and a skunk.
"Come on Jake, maybe we can make some new friends today." said Friendly, heading over to see if the red squirrel and the skunk were willing to play with them.
"I need to use the restroom, you go on." said Jake, leaving his black bike leaning against Friendly's blue bike, which was leaning against a big oak tree next to the playground.
"Hey there, can I play with you two?" asked Friendly, in his naturally soft and calm voice.
"Yeah, sure! Can you climb?" asked the squirrel.
"I can, yeah." acknowledged Friendly, "Name's Friendly."
"I'm Acie, and this is my friend Ashley" said the squirrel, who was wearing a grey t-shirt and light-blue shorts. Ashley was wearing a burgundy t-shirt and green and white shorts. Ashley brushed a tuft of his thick white headfur away from his eyes.
"So, what did you have in mind?" asked Friendly. Acie immediately responded by pointing over to the metal jungle gym.
"Race you to the top!" called Acie, bounding over to the jungle gym and climbing up.
"No fair!" cried Ashley, running after his friend, his slightly chubby form lending him a slight waddle. Friendly sighed, remembering that Timothy walked in the same manner, but then he followed Ashley to the jungle-gym. Jake went in another direction, towards the restrooms.
Ashley clambered up the metal jungle-gym after Acie. Ashley wasn't as agile a-climber as Acie was, and about half-way up the skunk suddenly lost his footing, his feet spinning in the air as he dangled.
"Want some help, Ash?" asked Friendly, placing one of his paws on the seat of Ashley's shorts.
The skunk managed to find his footing again and looked down at the fox. "No thanks, I'm good."
As Ashley clambered up after Acie, Friendly followed behind, listening as the thick polyester material of Ashley's shorts rustled as the skunk climbed up above him.
Acie had reached the top and looked down at Ashley and Friendly. "Come on slowpokes!" he called, teasingly.
Ashley grunted as he clambered up to the top and pulled himself onto the roof of the jungle gym. Friendly followed suit.
"I won." Acie crowed, "I always do."
"I lost my footing!" protested Ashley.
"That's you all over..." chuckled Acie, giving Ashley a playful shove.
Ashley playfully wrestled his friend down, "Just because you're the best climber in the world you don't need to rub it in!"
Friendly watched as the two cubs wrestled and chuckled to himself, keeping an eye to make sure they didn't get too near the edge and risk falling off.
As the two younger cubs settled down, Friendly smiled and asked them a few introductory questions.
"So... how old are you two?" was Friendly's first question.
"I'm in grade three." Ashley said, in a quiet voice.
"Me too." replied Acie.
"My best friend's in grade three too, he's away on a trip right now." said Friendly, looking at Ashley.
"What's his name?" asked Ashley, noticeably perking up a little.
"Timothy, he's a raccoon. You kinda remind me of him." answered Friendly. "So how do you two know one-another?"
"Me and Ash used to play Little League together."
"Jake likes playing baseball." mentioned Friendly. "He's my other friend, the one I rode bikes with. I wonder where he went?"
"Is that him?" asked Acie, pointing down at the German Shepherd making his way to the jungle gym.
"Yeah, well done Acie." said Friendly.
"Do you two like swimming?" asked Ashley.
"Yeah! We often like to go for a swim." answered Jake.
"We do too, don't we Acie?" answered Ashley.
"Yeah. What about your other friend, Friendly?"
"Timothy? Yeah, he often joins us. He can't swim very well though."
"Oh?" said Ashley.
"Yeah, he tries but his feet don't work very well. I always help him though."
"Like a big brother." said Ashley, smiling at the fox.
Friendly nodded. "Yeah, just like a big brother."
"What grade are you guys in?" Ashley asked.
"I'm in fourth grade, Friendly's in seventh."
"Wow, seventh grade?" Acie asked.
Friendly nodded again. "Yeah, seventh grade."
A few minutes later, the four cubs clambered down from the jungle gym, wondering what to do next.
"Hey, let's go climb up inside that slide over there!" called Acie, pointing out the long blue spiral slide attached to the much older wooden apparatus, which stretched out to most of the playground with long, tall rope bridges, wooden walkways and towers with colored pyramid roofs. It was quite tall, there were three spirals on the slide.
The four boys made their way upwards inside the spiral slide. Ashley in front, Friendly closely behind him, followed by Acie and Jake bringing up the rear.
As they neared the top, Ashley suddenly stalled. He tried to keep going, but his feet just kept slipping as he tried to climb and he couldn't make any progress. Friendly stopped and stared at the skunk's butt as he struggled, listening to his shorts rustling as the skunk's fur inside them rubbed against the thick polyester material. Friendly called out to Ashley. "Hey, do you want a push, buddy?"
Ashley grunted as he struggled to keep climbing, but uttered a simple "Yeah" as he realized he wasn't going to move another inch without some help. Friendly watched as the skunk's feet kept slipping, looking up at the seat of the skunk's green and white shorts. He inched up the slide and positioned his head underneath Ashley's butt to push him. Friendly's pushing however didn't seem to be having much effect, Ashley moved a few inches but his feet still kept slipping and he couldn't get sufficient traction to go anywhere. Suddenly as the skunk tried to reposition his handpaws, he slipped over and slid back into Friendly. A chain-reaction ended up happening as Friendly's feet slipped and he slid into Acie and Acie slid into Jake, and all four of them slid down to the bottom of the slide, landing in a heap at the bottom.
"Mmmmfff!" Friendly groaned, his voice muffled as his muzzle was pressed against the seat of Ashley's shorts. The fox slowly regained his sense of balance and stood up, helping Ashley to his feet.
"That didn't go quite the way we planned..." said Acie, brushing himself down and looking over at Jake, whom had fallen the least distance and had actually managed to get up first.
"You're darned tootin'" said Jake, in response to Acie's comment.
"That was fun though!" remarked Friendly, smiling at Ashley.
"Sorry..." Ashley said quietly.
"It's okay, it wasn't your fault." said Friendly, putting his arm around the chubby skunk and smiling warmly at him.
"Let's just go up the proper way this time, huh?" suggested Jake, pointing to the nearest wooden ladder-style steps.
"I wanna go on the zipline!" announced Acie, bounding up the ladder in a flash and making his way to a long zipline that ran a considerable distance between the two largest towers.
"Okay!" agreed Jake, running off with Acie up the wooden ladder towards the zipline, which connected either end of the wooden aparatus.
"Nah-Nah! Heeheehee!" laughed Acie as he flew across the zipline with ease, with the level of confidence only a squirrel could have.
"Throw it back so I can come across too!" barked Jake, once Acie had reached the other side.
When Jake had flown across the gap, it was Ashley's turn. The skunk seemed a little reluctant, but he took ahold of the
zip-line and launched himself off the edge towards the tower where Acie and Jake were waiting. However Ashley had launched himself a little too slowly and he ended up stalling just a couple of feet from the tower.
"Acie, help!" cried Ashley, spinning his feet and gasping as he looked down at the ground below. In reality it was only several feet, but to Ashley it looked much higher.
"Reach out, I'll pull you in!" called Acie, reaching out to his friend.
"I'll help!" yapped Jake, reaching out as far as he could towards Ashley.
Neither of them were within range though and Ashley squeaked in distress as he dangled on the zipline. Friendly jumped down from the apparatus to help.
"Ashley, stop flailing. I'm going to help you." he called up to the panicked young skunk as he came up from behind and reached out with his right paw, resting it on the seat of Ashley's green shorts. Ashley managed to control his feet and Friendly stooped slightly to position himself directly underneath the slightly-chubby skunk. As Friendly stood up, Ashley was sitting on his shoulders.
"Here we go, little buddy." said Friendly, as he slowly paced towards the tower where Acie and Jake were waiting, reaching out with their paws they helped Ashley onto the tower as Friendly clambered up the nearby ladder to join his friends.
"Thanks." said Ashley to Friendly, giving the fox a shy but grateful smile.
"You're welcome." said Friendly, standing next to Ashley with his arm around his shoulder and giving the skunk a gentle pat on the seat of his shorts.
"Aw, I wouldn't have let you fall, Ash." grinned Acie.
After the ordeal on the zipline, the four cubs withdrew from the playground and made their way over to the oak tree where Friendly and Jake had left their bikes.
"Do you guys like to skateboard?" asked Jake.
"Yeah!" responded Ashley, "We left our boards under the picnic table there"
"I brought my board in my backpack." said Jake.
"We live on a hilly street, it's so fun to skateboard down." said Ashley.
Friendly was a little reluctant, he wasn't keen on skateboarding.
"There is something I've wanted to try for a while... sitting on a skateboard and racing down the hill." said Acie.
Friendly perked up, this sounded like something that wouldn't be too far out of his comfort zone and somewhat fun.
"Is it far?" asked Friendly.
"Just a few minutes that a-way" pointed Acie, leading to the tarmac path that led to the street with the hill.
"Okay, let's go!" called Jake, mounting his bike and waiting for Acie and Ashley to follow.
The two younger cubs retrieved their skateboards from underneath the picnic table and rode after Jake. Friendly rode his bike behind them, wondering to himself how far his bestest friend was right now. He hoped he could introduce Timothy to Acie and Ashley when he returned.
"Come on Friendly!" called Jake, looking back briefly at Friendly and noticing the fox was riding rather slowly.
About ten minutes later the cubs stopped a short way up a street that rose upwards as far as they could see.
"I live near here." said Acie, "Ashley lives almost at the top of the hill."
On a side street that went downhill and ended with two cul-de-sacs with roundabouts at the bottom, the boys prepared to have a skateboard race. The only rule was that you had to sit down on the skateboards.
Jake retrieved his skateboard from his backpack and sat on it. Acie and Ashley sat on their skateboards on the sidewalk and waited for Friendly to referee the race.
"Ready? Steady? Go!" called Friendly, watching as Ashley, Acie and Jake all raced down the hill on their skateboards.
As the three skateboarders rode down the hill, Friendly walked alongside, turning his pace up into a jog as the trio gained speed heading downhill.
"Wheee!" yapped Jake, sticking his tongue out as he felt the breeze blowing against the fur on his face and muzzle.
"I'm gonna catch you!" called Acie, leaning his skateboard to the left and changing sides from the right side of Jake to the left.
"Watch out!" squealed Ashley, leaning to the right to avoid colliding with Acie as the squirrel rode his board directly in front of the skunk.
Friendly had reached the bottom of the street now, he waited to announce the winner. Jake had a narrow lead against both Ashley and Acie, but Ashley was travelling faster and had recovered some momentum from having to avoid colliding with Acie.
"It's gonna be close! It's... it's... wow! Well done Ashley!" called Friendly, as Ashley rode past the lamp post where Friendly was standing, with Jake following just a second behind.
"Wow... where did you even come from?! I was winning..." said Jake.
"Well done Ash." said Acie, patting his friend on the back. "One for the home team!"
"Yeah, well let's rematch! This time... Friendly can ride too."
"But... how?" asked Friendly, bewildered.
"Ashley won, right? You can sit on the back of Ashley's board."
"But... but!" protested Ashley.
"I concur..." said Acie, grinning at his friend.
"Oh, alright." said Ashley, pushing his foot down hard on the back of his skateboard to lift the nose up and catching it.
Ashley sat at the front of his skateboard, and Friendly sat behind him.
"Ready Ash?" Friendly said under his breath, so only Ashley could hear him.
"Yeah, you nervous?" asked Ashley.
"A bit..." admitted the fox.
"You'll be fine, don't worry." reassured Ashley, looking over his shoulder at the fox.
With that, the boys set off for the bottom of the street. Ashley and Friendly's skateboard took a little longer to gain speed compared to Jake's and Acie's, but soon the combined weight of both cubs had them catching up fast.
"Yeah, woohoo!" called Ashley as they overtook Jake.
"Wha?!" barked Jake, his mouth wide with shock as the two overtook him without warning. "Come back here!"
Acie was a harder target to catch up to, he was already nearing the lamp post.
"Come on, faster!" Ashley exclaimed to his board, trying to lean further ahead on his board to give it more speed.
"Yeah! I won! I..." Acie didn't get any further, as suddenly Ashley and Friendly collided into him.
"Are you guys okay?" asked Jake, jumping off his skateboard and looking down at the three boys laying in a heap.
"Oh Ashley, you're such a klutz." chuckled Acie, jumping to his feet and brushing himself off.
"Ow... that hurt a bit." remarked Ashley, rolling over and standing up. Friendly shook his head.
"What did we even hit?" commented the fox, jokingly.
"Me..." grinned Acie, "It's okay though, I'm alright."
Several more races ensued between the four boys, the afternoon sun slowly getting weaker as it headed further across the sky.
"I think it's time for us to head home... we have to be back before dinner." said Friendly.
Ashley groaned, both because he didn't want his new friends to leave and also because he had a long uphill trek to endure before he got home. Picking up his skateboard, he looked at his new friends and Acie.
"Come on Ashley, I'll come with you."
"We will too." said Jake, wagging his tail.
"Yeah, we've got just enough time." agreed Friendly.
And so the four boys began the trek up the road to where Ashley lived, almost a mile away near the top of the hill. Friendly and Jake left their bikes outside Acie's house. Ashley carried his skateboard, though he seemed to be walking somewhat slowly.
"Come on Ash, you've usually got more energy than this." remarked Acie, patting his friend on the shoulder.
Ashley continued uphill with Acie, Jake and Friendly following. A few more blocks up, Ashley sat on a bench and sighed.
"Poor Ashley." chuckled Acie, "I guess he's tired."
"I can give you a piggyback if you want." offered Friendly.
Ashley looked up at the fox, his blue eyes showing his fatigue. He gave Friendly a slow nod in agreement.
Friendly stooped down so Ashley could clamber onto his back. Once the skunk was on his back the fox lifted himself up, putting both of his paws around himself and under the skunk's thighs to support him.
"There you go buddy, hold tight now." said Friendly, smiling to himself as he carried Ashley along.
Jake picked up Ashley's skateboard, carrying it for him.
Just as Friendly began walking, a red, blue and white bus drove past heading down the hill. The fox was reminded of his friend Timothy, since his dad drove for that transit authority, but he remembered Timothy's dad wouldn't be driving that bus - he was driving Timothy to the woodlands far, far away where they were going on vacation.
"They should nearly be there by now." Friendly thought, as he continued up the hill, carrying Ashley on his back. The fox curiously felt the material of Ashley's shorts, the thick polyester material reminding him of Timothy's orange flame shorts.
"Friendly..." said Ashley.
"Yeah?" asked the fox, looking over his shoulder at his new friend.
"Thanks for playing with us, today was really fun." Ashley said quietly.
"Thanks for letting us play." replied Friendly, "It's been ages since I had as much fun as today."
Almost half-an-hour later they were nearing the top of the hill. Friendly carefully stooped down and offloaded Ashley onto his own two feet.
"Phew, that was a long way up." commented the fox.
Ashley smiled and gave Friendly a hug. Friendly was a little taken aback but accepted the hug.
"I always wanted a brother, kinda like you." Ashley whispered into the fox's ear.
Friendly wagged his tail and returned the hug, "I... I'm flattered. Whenever you want to play, just let me know." said the fox, pulling a piece of paper from his pocket and giving it to Ashley. "Both mine and Jake's numbers are on there."
"Thanks." Ashley said, putting the paper note inside the pocket of his shorts.
Jake put Ashley's skateboard on the ground and put his foot on the deck, propelling it up to the skunk. Ashley caught it with his own foot.
"I'll stay a little while, Ashley's parents won't be home for a little while yet." said Acie.
"Alright, well we've got to go now. Bye Ashley, bye Acie." said Jake.
"Bye!" responded Acie and Ashley, as they headed inside Ashley's house.
With that, Jake and Friendly made their way down the hill to where they'd left their bikes - at Acie's house. Both of them hoped to see Acie and Ashley again soon.
"What a wonderful day." remarked Friendly.
"Yeah... Timothy missed out on a lot of fun today." said Jake.
"Well... Timothy will be back, he's only gone for two weeks."
Jake nodded. "Two weeks... haha, one day down, thirteen to go."
"Okay, smarty-pants." chuckled Friendly, giving Jake a playful shove.
"Right back at ya!" grinned Jake, giving Friendly a playful shove as well.
-- The End --
Friendly the fox awakes to the reality that his best friend - Timothy the raccoon - is out of town for two weeks. The fox is a little depressed that he can't go on vacation with his friend, and he's wondering what he'll do to keep himself occupied while his friend is away. When an invitation to ride bikes and go to the playground comes from Friendly's other friend - Jake the German Shepherd - Friendly realizes he can make some new friends to help keep his mind off Timothy.
Friendly and Jake are my characters.
Acie and Ashley belong to Christaphorac
Here's a pic of Acie and Ashley for reference - https://www.weasyl.com/submission/853135/living-room-sparring