The Fourth of July

It was the fourth of July. Fireworks were blasting over the town of Hollywood. At Danny Cat's house, a huge celebration was being held. Danny and all of his friends were there. Pudge, Woolly, Tillie, Cranston, Frances, and Sawyer, Danny's girlfriend. Everyone was laughing and having a good time... except for Sawyer. She sat on Danny's porch, away from the barbecue, with a faraway look in her eyes. Danny noticed her absence from the party, and went looking for her. When he found her, he sat beside her with a look of concern.

"Hey, are you ok?" he asked.

"Oh, I'm fine." Sawyer replied, looking to the ground.

Danny smiled and put an arm around her.

"I don't believe you. Come on. You can tell me."

She looked at him and sighed, a sign that she would tell him all that was troubling her.

"Fourth of July's have always been a little hard for me..."

She trailed off. Danny was silent, listening intensely.

"They've always been hard because my father died on one."

She hugged her knees and looked still to the floor. Danny's mouth went wide. He stroked her hair and urged her to continue. She looked up at the glittering fireworks and spoke distantly, as if she were a million miles away.

"Fourth of July's were always special between me and my dad. I can still remember the first time he took me to the fireworks. I can remember the park, the colors the sounds clear as day. It seems so long ago..."

The little white cat looked at her surroundings with huge brown eyes, full of awe and innocence.

"Daddy?" she turned to her father, who was tall, white like herself, and who had the same brown eyes, filled with kindness.

"Yes, Presh?" It was his nickname for her.

"Is this the fireworks?" she asked, indicating the huge crowd.

"No, the fireworks haven't started yet. All these people came to watch."

"Oh. I bet they're real important. That's why they're watching."

Her father smiled. For four years old, Sawyer was very bright, and very observant. He spread a blanket out on the ground. The two of them sat together. Sawyer had a little American flag with her and her kitty doll, which, despite it being worn and threadbare, was her favorite toy. She hugged the doll, and stuck the flag in it's hand. She made it dance around the blanket. The sun was setting in the west. She noticed the brilliant reds, oranges and pinks of the sunset.

"Daddy, you said the fireworks would have lots of pretty colors.

Pretty like this?" she asked.

"Well, maybe not quite as pretty, but they will be beautiful."

Sawyer seemed satisfied with this answer. After awhile, though, she had another question.

"Why didn't Mommy come with us?"

"Because she has to stay home with Harley."

Harley was Sawyers little sister, younger by three years.

"Why didn't she come too?"

"Oh, she's a little too young right now. One day, she'll come too."

"Ok." Sawyer resumed playing with her doll.

Nearby, the band struck up, playing a jazz number. Sawyer turned to the music, swaying to the beat. Then, five pairs of dancers emerged in glittering costumes. Sawyer was entranced.

"Daddy look!" she exclaimed.

"You like the dancers?" he asked with a smile.

"Yeah!" she laughed ecstatically.

She began dancing around the blanket. Even though she didn't know any real steps, she moved with a grace you wouldn't expect from a four year old. Her father watched with amusement.

"You're very good!" he said.

"This is fun!" Sawyer laughed, as she twirled around.

Suddenly, the jazz number stopped and the dancers left. The band began the Star Spangled Banner and Sawyer's father told her to look up at the sky, which was now black and littered with stars. Eventually, a huge burst of pink light shone, accompanied by a loud thunderclap. Sawyer flinched the first time, but her fear was short lived, and she looked up in wonder as she sat in her fathers lap.

"Daddy, this is the best fourth of July ever!" she mused.

"That it is, Presh. Say, how do dancing lessons sound?"

Four cats emerged from the car. The first, a tall, white gentlemen cat, then, a pretty blue eyed cream colored lady, after her, a giddy ten year old, with fur and eyes that matched her father's, and last a bouncey seven year old, with all of her mother's traits. They set up a blanket and sat down, enjoying the sunset. They'd been doing this for years. Only, the lady cat couldn't remember it being quite this difficult.

"Harley! Sit down now!" she cried.

She hated raising her voice, but Harley was being a perfect brat. She was currently pulling her sister's hair.

"Mo-om! Make her stop!" Sawyer yelled.

The little tyrant let go, and sat beside her mother, who scolded her quietly.

"Brat." The older sister mumbled.

"Hey Momma!" Harley cried. "I want a pinwheel! Can I have one? Pleeeeeeeeese?"

Her mother frowned.

"Only if you promise to be good."

"Ok, I promise."

She took her mother's hand and the two went off to find the seller of the pinwheels. Sawyer and her father were alone.

"How are the lessons coming, Presh?" he asked her.

"They're great! I love it! Ms. Clara said maybe I can have a solo this year! I have to go to an audition Friday." she beamed.

"That's great!" her father beamed back. He loved to see his daughter dance, and went to every rehearsal he possibly could.

"Yeah. I'm pretty nervous though. I don't know if I'll make it."

"Oh, you'll make it. You're one of the most talented and dedicated dancers there is."

"Oh, no. There are a lot of people better than me."

"No way, Presh. You're the best. And someday, this will take you somewhere." her father assured.

"You think so?" she asked.

"I know so." he looked to the sky, full of stars, like it had been every fourth of July either of them could remember. She looked as well.

"You're gonna be a star, Presh. The brightest one in the sky."

Sawyer plucked at a blade of grass and consulted her wristwatch.

"When will they get started?" she thought.

She was alone on the blanket. Her father and mother had gone to get something to eat, and Harley had titterd off with her other eleven year old pre-adolescent peers as soon as she was out of the car.

There was a huge argument before they came here, between Harley and their parents. She had dyed her long hair and her beautiful tail bright orange, and everyone knew it would be that way for months. Her mother had almost fainted, and she'd never seen her dad that mad, but Harley dismissed it. She liked her hair. It was what all the movie stars were doing, she claimed. Her parents still didn't agree, but they had no choice now. Everybody settled down and agreed to have a nice fourth of July. Sawyer would much have rather stay home this year. Her big recital was in a week, and she had a lot of preparing to do. After all her years of dancing, Ms. Clara had finally decided she was going to have and entire dance to do, all by herself. When she told her parents, they were bursting with pride, especially her father. After all, he was the one who got her started. She sighed and rolled onto her back. At fourteen, she didn't seem to be pleased with anything anymore, except for her dancing. Her mother called it a phase.

"What's wrong, Presh?" Her father asked, walking over with her mother and sister.

"Huh, she probably wants to go home and work on her dumb dance." snorted Harley.

"As a matter of fact, I do. And it isn't dumb. Like you." Sawyer retorted.

"Oh, shut up you--"

"Girls, please." their mother intervened.

Sawyer's father sat down.

"You don't want to be here?" he asked.

"Well, it's not that, it's just......I can't stop thinking about the dance. I need to practice some more."

"There will be plenty of time for that." he smiled. "Don't forget what's important to you, Presh. Remember, we're gonna be around for a long time, even after your dancing."

Sawyer nodded, but still wished she was home, in her costume, practicing for the recital.

Sawyer sat in the hallway of the hospital, wringing her hands nervously. Her mother sat next to her, gulping back tears furiously. Harley emerged from the room ahead of them. Her head was bowed, and she sat solemnly next to her mother, tears streaming down her face. It was one of the few times in all of her thirteen years that she had cried. Sawyer got up, and looked to her mother. Her mother nodded. She opened the door and closed it behind her. She cautiously examined the room. Her father lay on the bed, an IV tree next to him. He had gotten real sick over the years, and now the doctors predicted these would be his last hours. He was only allowed one visitor at a time. Sawyer walked quickly to the bed. She took her father's hand. He opened his eyes.

"Hiya, Presh." he said with some difficulty.

"Daddy..." she began, but couldn't finish.

"Look at how big you're gonna be such a beautiful lady." he coughed. "Promise me something?"

"Of course, Dad." she was starting to cry.

"Never give up your dancing, Presh. It's gonna take you somewhere. You're gonna be big. One day..." he coughed again, "Promise me?"

"I promise."

"Love you, Precious."

"I love you too, Dad."

Outside, the fireworks blasted overhead.

Danny sat quietly, at a loss for words for the moment, as Sawyer sobbed softly in his arms. After a few minutes, she spoke.

"I've tried every fourth of July to have a good time... because that's what he would have wanted, right?"

Danny nodded.

"Of course."

"For awhile it worked, and I'd simply say I missed him... but this year it just all got to me." She dried her eyes.

"Sawyer, you have to remember that he's always gonna be with you, no matter what. And hey, he was right."

"About what?" she asked.

"You're a star now, Sawyer. The brightest one in the sky."

She smiled and leaned on his shoulder, watching the rest of the fireworks blaze up above.

By Shellie Chiavetta

"Danny," "Sawyer," "Tillie," "Cranston," "Frances," "Woolly," "Pudge," and "T.W." are © Warner Bros.
"Harley" is © Speck.

This page was last modified on 22nd July 1998

[an error occurred while processing this directive]