Flush green leaves rustled in the gentle late-summer wind as the morning sun warmed the air. Some of them were already preparing for the onset of autumn, with ridges of gold, brown and red appearing. Inside a modern, neo-eclectic suburban house, an eight year old raccoon cub stirred and opened his eyes. He sighed sadly as he felt the front of his diaper, knowing from the familiar squishy feeling around his waist that he had wet in his sleep.
"I'll never wake up dry." sighed the raccoon, pushing aside his duvet and making his way over to the white dresser where he had hung his shorts on one of the drawers, his soaked diaper crinkling loudly and lending him a considerable waddle.
Just then, the bedroom door opened and Timothy's dad stepped into his room.
"Timothy... oh, you're awake. Need some help, buddy?"
The raccoon sighed and nodded, blushing a little.
"Aw it's okay buddy, don't be upset." said Timothy's dad, kneeling on one knee to help his son out of his diaper and giving him a reassuring hug.
"Friendly wants to see you, he phoned a few minutes ago to ask if you were up."
Timothy smiled at the mention of his fox friend.
"He wants to know if you can go swimming today. I told him to come over."
"Thanks Dad." Timothy answered, reaching for his orange flame shorts with blue Harley motorcycles on the legs and putting them on, sliding them up until they fit snugly across his waist.
"Your shirt is hanging in the wardrobe, buddy. I'll get rid of your diaper."
Timothy didn't say another word, he reached for his blue t-shirt and pulled it from the hanger.
A little later, Timothy waited outside with his red bike for his friend to arrive. He didn't have to wait very long.
"Friendly!" Timothy cried happily, as he saw his friend riding his own big, blue bike up the path towards him.
"Hi Timothy!" Friendly yapped, instantaneously dismounting his bike and letting it fall to the ground before pouncing towards his friend, embracing the chubby little raccoon with a hug.
"I missed you so much, Timothy."
"I missed you too! Mom and Dad said you can come with us next time." answered Timothy.
"Well now that we're together, shall we go to the park for a while? Jake's coming too, he should be here soon."
"Yeah, okay!" squeaked the raccoon, excitedly.
As Friendly and Timothy waited for Jake to come, they talked a little about what had happened while they were apart.
"So, did anything exciting happen? Did you make any new friends?"
"Yes, I met a couple of new friends who live near the chalet - Corky and Duwayne. They were younger than me and didn't need training wheels, but they didn't laugh at me or Justin. They seemed quite interested actually... I don't think they've ever seen training wheels before."
"Nice! Jake and I met a few new friends too. We might all go and play down the park sometime soon. Acie and Ashley. They're kinda like you and Jake, really. Often I was thinking Acie and Jake were long lost brothers or something."
"Weird..." Timothy commented.
"Yeah, but we did have fun. I was feeling quite depressed when you left. I didn't know what to do with myself until Jake suggested we go out and make some new friends."
"Oh! I met a friend much younger than me as well! Seamus. On our way back we stopped at my grandparents house - that's why we arrived back so late last night. He needed training wheels, but he'd never been stuck before. He found it fun! Honestly I did too when we were stuck together..." Timothy continued, but was cut off as Jake arrived.
"Hey guys! Ready to go down the park?" he asked.
"Uh-huh!" Timothy squeaked happily, riding along the sidewalk with his bike's training wheels clattering along behind him. Jake rumbled along just behind on his skateboard, and Friendly ran to keep up with them.
When they arrived at the park, Friendly and Jake found their new friends Acie the squirrel and Ashley the skunk hanging out by the chain-link fence with their skateboards, watching some older cubs playing basketball.
"Acie! Ashley! Over here!" called Friendly, waving to the cubs whom hadn't yet met Timothy.
"Oh, hi guys!" answered Ashley, sauntering over to the three newcomers and shyly waving to Timothy. Timothy returned the shy wave, feeling a little awkward.
Friendly helped introduce the two cubs - whom were similar in age. Acie bounded over and introduced himself, though he couldn't help but chuckle as he noticed the training wheels on the raccoon's bike. Ashley however shot Acie a stern look and Acie instantly became a little more empathetic to Timothy.
Jake - having noticed the older cubs had finished their game of basketball, took out his own ball from his backpack and invited Ashley and Acie to join him.
"Sure, okay!" Acie grinned, "Wanna be on my team, Ashley?"
"Yeah... but we need a fourth, who will play with Jake?"
"What about Timothy? He's kinda similar in build to Ash..." suggested Acie.
"B... but I've never played basketball!" protested Timothy.
"It's okay Tim, just do what I do." reassured Jake, quietly talking to Timothy to explain what he had to do.
"Well... okay." Timothy agreed, though he still wasn't really sure of himself.
"I'll be the ref." said Friendly, taking a pea whistle from his pocket and promptly walking down the center line of the basketball court adding, "Now I want a nice, clean and friendly game - from all of you!" in a rough, stern - but playful, voice.
Acie and Ashley flexed their muscles as they waited for the whistle, Jake did the same - Timothy stood anxiously.
As Friendly blew hard on the whistle, Acie and Ashley ran for the ball. Acie picked it up first and dribbled it towards Jake and Timothy's hoop.
"Ash!" he called, as he threw the ball over to the skunk. Jake intercepted it however and dribbled it towards Acie and Ashley's hoop.
"Timothy!" called Jake, as he passed it over to the raccoon - whom had ran as fast as he could over to the hoop as soon as Jake had caught the ball. He caught it, pausing for a moment to regain his breath before throwing it with all his might at the hoop.
Acie and Ashley had almost reached Timothy when he threw it, they watched in awe as the ball landed on the hoop, rolling around the perimeter before falling in.
"Yes! We scored! Great shot, Tim!"
"Well done Timothy!" Friendly exclaimed, promptly running over to his best friend and wrapping his arm around the raccoon's tummy, and giving him a little nuzzle.
"I did it! I did it!" squeaked the raccoon, "I don't believe it!"
After playing basketball for a little while, the boys rode around the park on their bikes and boards. Ashley rode his board behind Timothy, but as the tarmac ended and the path became dirt, Ashley found his board couldn't keep up. With a slightly frustrated sigh he picked up his board and ran to catch up to Timothy. He didn't have to run far, the dirt was giving Timothy's bike some trouble too. Ashley watched as Timothy pedaled his bike, but the back wheel just spun. The skunk had never seen this happen before, he couldn't help staring at the back wheel as it just kept spinning.
"Timothy, what's wrong?" asked a perplexed Ashley.
"I... I think I'm stuck." said Timothy, uttering a similarly frustrated sigh as he pumped his pedals but his bike just sat, stationary and propped up on the training wheels despite Timothy's efforts. The back wheel spun, and spun, and spun. Timothy suddenly farted loudly.
"Jet power!" laughed Ashley, as Timothy blushed deeply.
Timothy recovered and tried again, but his bike still struggled.
"Here, I'll give you a push." said Ashley, "Looks like you could do with one."
The skunk leaned forward, resting his paws on the seat of Timothy's orange flame shorts before pushing as hard as he could. Despite Ashley's pushing and Timothy pumping his pedals, the bike didn't budge.
"Does this happen a lot to you, Timothy?" panted Ashley, feeling slightly exhausted from his efforts to help.
Timothy nodded and sighed as he stopped turning his pedals. "All the time."
"Um... I have an idea. Can I try riding your bike? It might come unstuck."
Timothy wasn't sure, but he relented and dismounted his bike to let Ashley try. The skunk mounted the red bike and looked over his shoulder at the raccoon. "I'll pedal, and you push, okay?"
Timothy placed his paws on the saddle of his bike, under the seat of Ashley's green and white striped shorts and pushed as hard as he could as Ashley began to pump the pedals. As hard as they tried, the bike remained stationary with the high-centred back wheel unable to gain any traction. Timothy tried his hardest to push, but like Ashley he wasn't strong enough.
"Having trouble, guys?" came a familiar voice.
Ashley and Timothy ceased their efforts and looked over at the fox standing behind them, who chuckled noticeably at his two friends.
"I'll push you, Ashley."
Ashley actually went to dismount the bike, but Timothy stopped him.
"It's okay, you can ride for a while if you'd like."
"You sure?" asked the skunk.
Timothy nodded, and he put his paws on the seat of Ashley's shorts to help Friendly push.
Friendly smiled and stood alongside Timothy, playfully nudging him.
"Stuck - Just like you, huh?"
Timothy uttered a nervous chuckle, though he turned his attention to Ashley as the skunk pumped the pedals on his bike - helping Friendly to push on the saddle to free it.
Ashley tried hard to ride in a straight line, but he weaved and wove around on the path despite his efforts. As such he rode very slowly and occasionally uttered squeaks of dismay when he veered off-course.
"Are you okay, Ashley?" asked Timothy.
"I uh... I'm not used to this. I much prefer my board..." Ashley said quietly, before whispering to Timothy, "I never learned how to ride a bike... my bike still has training wheels and I haven't rode it in ages."
"We could ride together sometime." suggested Timothy, "Riding a bike is fun! Well, when you don't keep getting stuck anyway."
Friendly smiled as he watched Timothy and Ashley talking to each other about their bikes.
"That'll be fun, I'll be sure to be on hand if you need any help."
Ashley looked slightly nervous, but Timothy reassured him.
"It's okay, your secret's safe with me and Friendly."
Jake and Acie had walked on ahead of Friendly, Ashley and Timothy and hadn't realised they were missing. Both of them were bantering about who was the best skateboarder.
"I've been boarding since I was old enough to climb a tree!" Acie crowed.
"Yeah, so? Well, I've had a board since I was potty-trained!"
Acie giggled, "So not very long at all then." he retorted. "Poopy-pants!"
"Hey! That's not cool!" snapped Jake.
Just then, Acie realised that the other three members of their group were absent.
"Hey, where'd Ashley get to?"
"Yeah, and where's Friendly and Timothy? Oh... I guess his bike got stuck on that dirt path, he always gets stuck."
It wasn't long before the trio joined them again.
"Ah, there you are!" Acie grinned. "Got stuck in the mud, did'ya Ash?"
"Nah, Timothy did. His bike slips in midair sometimes, but it's even worse in mud." chuckled Jake.
"It's not my fault!" Timothy squeaked.
"Of course it isn't. Jake's just teasing." reassured Friendly, nuzzling his young raccoon friend.
The boys were approaching the road on the other side of the park. Just then, their ears picked up the sound of an ice-cream truck jingle.
"Hey! Fancy an ice cream, guys?" asked Friendly.
"Yeah!" replied Timothy eagerly.
"Uh-huh!" Acie, Ashley and Jake said in unison.
"Come on then!" called Friendly, leading them over to the road to fetch a tasty, refreshing treat.
At the ice cream truck, there was already a relatively short line. All five boys joined the queue as they watched other cubs getting their ice creams, lollipops and freezie tubes from the ice-cream truck. Soon, it was their turns.
"What'd you like, buddy?"
"Uhh, a double scoop strawberry cone please! My little friend would like a chocolate one."
"Raspberry Ripple cone, please!" Jake yipped.
As the ice cream attendant handed the boys their ice creams and took their payments, Ashley fumbled in the pocket of his shorts for the spare change he was carrying, hoping it would be enough for his ice cream.
"How about you, buddy?"
"Oh... er... just a single scoop vanilla cone please."
"A cyclone for me, please!" Acie called out.
The attendant handed Acie his Cyclone and then took Ashley's coins, counting them.
"You're a bit short, buddy." he said.
"Oh... uhhh..." Ashley began to look flustered. Friendly came to his rescue.
"Here, I've got it." he smiled and patted the seat of Ashley's shorts with his left paw, sneaking a bill into the skunk's pocket at the same time and handing over the two coins he had left in change from his own ice cream.
Ashley blushed, but smiled back at Friendly and took his ice cream over to where Acie, Jake and Timothy were already sitting, in a nice shady spot under a huge sycamore tree.
As the boys finished their ice creams, they stood up and wondered what they were going to do for the rest of the afternoon. Friendly had an idea.
"How about we go swimming? All together, as friends?"
"That sounds great!" Acie and Jake commented, in unison. "Jinx!"
"But... but I don't have any money." Ash sniffled. "I can't just go in the pool without paying, I've already been in trouble once."
"Hey, don't cry buddy. Let's have a look and see what we'll find."
Friendly crouched down behind Ashley, playfully looking around and glancing at the seat of Ashley's shorts. Ashley was most confused.
"What are you doing, Friendly?" he inquired. "I didn't drop any money... or is there something on my butt?"
"Hmmm..." Friendly answered, putting his paw in the left pocket of Ashley's shorts. "Hey, lookit! Ashley has some money after all!"
"Wha?!" Ashley squeaked, staring in awe at the crisp $5 bill that Friendly had retrieved from his pocket. "Where did that come from?"
"I put it in there, I'd really like you to join us." whispered Friendly, "Just play along."
Ashley couldn't bring himself to say anything, he blushed heavily and just smiled at the older fox. "Thank you. Thank you so much." he finally managed to say, embracing Friendly in a hug.
About an hour later, the boys all met up at the pool. Friendly helped Timothy out of his t-shirt as Acie and Ashley just put their boards and towels in the locker and went straight to the pool.
"Meet you guys out there!" Acie called.
Once they were out of sight, Timothy timidly took out his yellow floaties and Friendly helped him to inflate them.
"I hope they don't laugh at me." Timothy mumbled.
"They won't buddy. I promise." Friendly smiled, kissing Timothy's cheek and sliding his floaties up to his friend's shoulders.
Jake chuckled and gave Timothy a nudge of encouragement. "Come on Tim, let's go play!"
Acie and Ashley had been splashing one another in the shallower water, gradually heading in deeper. Ashley spotted their three friends on the pool deck and waved to them. "Here they come!"
"Finally" Acie commented, turning around to face Friendly, Jake and Timothy. He saw Jake and Friendly, but he couldn't believe what Timothy was wearing.
"F... floaties?!" he stammered, his jaws open in surprise.
Ashley saw Acie staring at Timothy and gave him a reprimanding nudge.
"Timothy can't swim, he needs them. I needed them not too long ago, remember?"
"Yeah, but... oh fine." Acie shrugged. "Come on in, guys!"
After several moments of swimming around one-another, splashing each other and racing from one end the pool to the other, Acie was starting to get a bit bored. Just then he noticed the staff had brought out an inflatable slide and were inflating it.
"Hey, let's go over to that big slide!" Acie suggested.
"Yeah! Awesome!" Jake agreed.
Acie, Ashley and Jake all swam over to the edge of the pool. Timothy tried to follow his friends, but as he tried to swim his feet just spun uselessly in the water. Friendly smiled and momentarily watched Timothy struggling, before swimming alongside and taking hold of Timothy's paw, helping his friend to the edge of the pool.
Acie clambered out, and called out impatiently to his friends.
"Come on, the lineup's getting longer!"
Jake, Timothy and Ashley tried to climb out of the pool, but they were all having trouble. Timothy was finding it hardest to get out, his floaties were squeaking loudly as they slipped and slid around on the soaked pool deck. Jake was trying to lift himself out of the water, but he just couldn't hoist himself high enough. Jake sighed and looked pathetically at Friendly, his ears and tail drooping in embarrassment
"Friendly, help" he whimpered, continuing his futile struggle to climb out.
"I got you, buddy." Friendly answered, putting his paws beneath the seat of Jake's shorts and pushing him up, so he could clamber out.
Ashley too was having similar troubles, he just wasn't strong enough to lift himself out of the water. He looked at Friendly in a similar, pleading manner as he kept trying to get out.
"Come on buddy, up you go." said Friendly, putting his paws beneath the seat of Ashley's shorts and giving him the boost he needed to get out.
Then it was Timothy's turn. Friendly smiled and lifted his best friend off the wall and into a hug, giving him a nuzzle before turning him sideways and holding him up with all his might, putting him on his back onto the pool deck.
"Thanks Friendly." Timothy squeaked, as he stood up and went to join Acie, Jake and Ashley.
A couple hours later, it was time for the friends to all head home. They decided to walk to Timothy's house - since it was the closest. Timothy's dad was more than happy to take all of the friends home in the minivan. They were all buckled in and talked happily amongst one-another about the day's adventures, and some ideas about more adventures to come.
"We could all go to our vacation home in the mountains!"
Timothy's dad chuckled. "Maybe not all of you. It all depends on what your parents think."
"My folks would like to come - well, if they can get the time off." said Jake.
"That'd be fun. I like Zoey, she's the sort of person I feel I could trust almost anyone with." agreed Timothy's dad.
"Yeah, your parents are really really busy all the time." remarked Friendly, "Still, at least we all get to have fun."
"Uh-huh!" squeaked Timothy, an audible crinkle coming from the seat of his shorts as he bounced in his booster seat excitedly.
"So, we're all friends now." Friendly smiled.
"All friends fur'ever!" Jake commented, causing good-hearted laughter among all five cubs as they rode along in the van.
-- The End --