The chapter that follows is an excerpt from Book I: Roy & Tracy.  This part of the story takes place in 1929, nearly 40 years before our two main characters meet.

Swim Team

October 1929

The young lynx sat on the edge of the pool, his footpaws dangling in the water.  At age 16, the high school sophomore was already one of the best swimmers on the squad.  Although he hadn’t taken first place yet in one of his events, he was a contender at every meet.  The same couldn’t be said of his teammate backstroking through the water in front of him.  The bear was at home in the water and worked his tail off in every practice, but competitive swimming didn’t come naturally for him.  Both boys knew it.

Roy always insisted on “one last lap” at the end of practice.  As eager as Marco was to shower the chlorine smell from his fur, he always indulged his best friend and waited patiently for the bear to emerge from the pool.

“Come on, Roy!  Push it!”  Marco’s voice echoed loudly off the blue and white tiles of the walls and floor.

Ursine muscles straining, Roy gave it his all as he covered the final distance.  He touched and finally ascended the pool ladder which creaked in protest under his weight.  Roy shook the excess water from his fur and padded after the lynx to the locker room.  By now, most of the team had already finished their showers.

Warren Altomore and Chester Pearson were toweling off and snickering about something when Marco and Roy reached their gym bags.  Marco picked up his own towel and held it in front of himself as he took a quick, discrete glance at the nude bodies around him.  His thoughts were interrupted by Roy digging frantically around in his bag.

“What’s up, Roy?”

“I can’t find my towel, have you seen it?”

“I don’t think so,” said the lynx.  “What color is it?”

“Blue and green stripes.”

“I haven’t seen it.  It’s not in your bag?”

A burst of laughter came from the weasel and skunk at the next bench.  Marco turned to them and asked, “Do you guys have some kind of problem?”

Warren’s eyes narrowed behind his black mask.  “No, I was just wondering why slowpoke there,” he jerked a thumb toward Roy, “even needs a towel.”

“And I’m wondering why you don’t just shut your mouth,” said Marco.

Roy put a paw on Marco’s shoulder, “Hey, forget these guys,” he said.  “I’ll ask Mr. Jenkins if he’s got an extra towel.”

“Why bother?” said Warren, “You’re so slow you’ll probably air dry by the time you get home.”

Warren had barely finished speaking before Marco lashed out.  Claws extended, they raked across Warren’s arm and then Marco pounced like feral cat.  Clothing and gym bags flew as the two boys tumbled to the locker room floor.

Marco had the skinny weasel pinned.  He leaned down close, their noses almost touching as he snarled, “I told you to shut up.  Got it?”

Warren’s eyes were wide with fear.  He took a quick glance at the blood flowing freely from parallel scratches on his bicep then nodded.

“That goes for you too, Chester,” said Marco looking up.

The skunk was standing with his back to the wall, mouth gaping open but speechless.  He began trembling visibly at the sight of the bear advancing toward him.  Roy stopped short and picked up one of the gym bags that had fallen at Chester’s feet.  Blue and green terrycloth hung from its opening.

“Well, look here.  I think I found my towel.”

Marco’s claws pricked Warren’s chest.  “How did Roy’s towel get into your bag?” the lynx demanded.

“I dunno,” squeaked the weasel in terror.

Roy confronted the skunk who, by now, had backed into the corner.  “How about you, Chester?  Do you know anything about it?”

Chester, still unable to speak, shook his head frantically.

“All right, boys!  Break it up!”  boomed Coach Jenkins’ deep voice as he emerged from his office.  Marco and Warren scrambled up from their prone position.  “I don’t know what’s going on here, but knock it off, all of you!  We have a meet coming up on Friday and you better start acting like a team instead of a bunch of hooligans.  Got it?”

“Yes, Mr. Jenkins,” the boys said in unison.

The lion surveyed the locker room one last time.  Satisfied, he added, “Now get dressed already and get out of here.  I want to go home.”  With a huff and a twitch of his tail, Jenkins returned to his office.

The fall day was coming to an end and dusk was falling as Marco and Roy walked home from practice.

“Hey, Marco, thanks for sticking up for me like that,” said Roy.

“That Warren is such an idiot.  Thinks he’s such a big shot because he’s a senior.  It doesn’t give him any right to give you a hard time.”

“Jeeze!  I thought you were going to rip his arm off!”

Marco looked thoughtfully at his own claws.  “He’d have a heck of a time swimming his leg of the medley with just the one.”

Roy laughed heartily.  “He’ll think twice about messing with us underclassmen again, that’s for sure.  Chester, too.”

“Chester is a stooge.  He only acts that way because Warren is around.  He probably sucks Warren’s dick when nobody is looking.”

“Holy crap, Marco!”

“Yeah, I shouldn’t talk like that,” said the lynx, “anyway, Chester looked like he was about to piss himself when you backed him into the corner.”

“Phew!  We’re lucky he didn’t.  The whole locker room would have reeked.  Can you imagine?”

“I’m picturing Mr. Jenkins with a bucket and mop cleaning that up,” giggled Marco.

Roy lowered his voice in an imitation of their coach, “Bunch of hooligans!”

The boys burst into laughter. 

When their chuckles subsided, the bear turned to Marco with a serious look.  “Warren is right, though.  I’m the slowest guy on the team.  Are you sorry you talked me into joining?”

“No way!  You’re my best friend and you love to swim.  I just wish I could have talked you into it last year.  Besides, you’re improving a lot.  You hold your own in the backstroke.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Absolutely,” affirmed Marco.  “Would Jenkins have given you that leg of the medley if you weren’t any good at it?”

“I guess you’re right,” conceded the bear.

“So how about you?  Are you sorry you joined the team?”

“I was nervous as heck about it at first.  But you’re right.  I really do love to swim.  And it’s always great doing stuff with you.”

“You aren’t nervous any more, right?”

“After today, not one bit.”  Roy clapped the lynx on the shoulder with a huge paw.  “Hey, how about coming over for dinner tonight?  I think Mama is making spaghetti and meatballs.”

“You know I can’t turn down your mom’s cooking.  Count me in, fellow hooligan.”