Illustration by Kally.
The Prodigal Parents
Chapter 5 -- Surprises
James whistled. "Wow! What did you guys do? Buy the whole store for them?"
"Just about!" Quentin chuckled.
"You're going to spoil those kids rotten," he sighed.
"And why shouldn't we?" Judith countered. "After all, we have a lot of birthdays and Christmases to make up for!"
"They have a point, James," Jessie conceded.
It was the twenty-third of November. Three days since Quentin and Judith had reconciled with James. The two of them were determined to make up for lost time, so they'd been spending every day with James and his family. Since Sunday, they'd seen their son's home and property, and Jessie, James, and Meowth had also told them all about their days as Team Rocket members. Quentin and Judith had always been mortified that their only child had taken up a life of crime, but now that they knew he'd only joined because Jessie had been born into the organization and he'd wanted to stay with her...and that he, Jessie, and Meowth had given up stealing once they'd had a choice about what to do with their lives, they respected the choices he'd made. (If anything, they were more disgusted with Ash Ketchum and how sadistic he'd been in his dealings with them than any "wrongdoing" on their part.)
They'd enjoyed hearing about Jessie's family, how she and James had fallen in love and become a couple, how Meowth had taught himself to talk and befriended the two of them, how they'd become friends with Gary Oak, and all of the other adventures and misadventures they'd shared during their teenage years. The stories of how Jessie's old friend, Blissey, had laced Ash's food with laxatives and given him a case of explosive diarrhea as revenge for blasting them off, James's misadventure as the mighty Moltres, how Jessie, James, and their friends had humiliated Ash in a game of Dungeons & Dragons, and the "fake" wedding that Meowth had arranged for Jessie and James had them roaring with laughter, while the stories about Jessie and James being attacked by rival Rockets Bonnie and Clyde in the Safari Zone, James, Meowth, and Gary banding together to save Jessie from the undead spirit of Queen Ayesha of Yew, and how Jessie almost lost her life in the Arbor Forest because of Ash's selfishness and cruelty had them in tears. And the stories of how Jessie and James had rescued Growly from Jessiebelle, how they'd saved an Articuno and her babies from a poacher, how James had rescued his Donphan, and James's Haiku reading on Professor Oak's radio show filled them with pride.
And now, they were all at the Viridian City Mall. Today was Gary's birthday, and they were planning to treat him and his family to dinner that evening. But in the meantime, Jessie, James, and Meowth had been getting in some early Christmas shopping, and Quentin and Judith had been keeping the children busy by taking them to FAO Schwarz. While they'd been at the toy store, the two of them had bought a complete set of plush Eevee-lutions for Miya, a life-sized Moltres plush for Eric (they'd also gotten a kick out of hearing about the misadventures Meowth and Wobbuffet had had, babysitting Eric and Rose almost four years ago...especially the part about Eric trying to emulate his father by being a Moltres), an elegant rocking Rapidash for Rose, and a set of plush pokemon that could be reversed into plush poke balls for Charms. There were so many toys, they were having trouble carrying them all!
James shook his head and sighed. "Mom, dad, why don't we take those toys out to the car, and then we'll go have some lunch?" he suggested.
Quentin nodded. "Good idea."
"Where do you want to have lunch?" Judith inquired.
James grinned at them. "It's a surprise. Let's just say it's somewhere you've probably never been before!"
"Well, you were right, James -- we've certainly never been to this place!" Quentin remarked as the family filed into the McDonald's in the mall's food court.
"Yes. It never would've occurred to us to eat here," Judith added.
"I figured," James chuckled. "So you two are in for a treat!"
Jessie turned her attention to the children. "What are you four going to have?"
"I wanna McNuggets Mighty Kids Meal with a chocolate shake!" said Eric.
"I wanna McNuggets Happy Meal with a strawberry shake!" Rose replied.
"I wanna Fillet O'Fish value meal with a Cherry Coke...and a hot fudge sundae for dessert!" Charms exclaimed.
Miya perused the menu for a moment. "I think I'll have a grilled chicken salad with the honey mustard dressing and a strawberry fruit and yogurt parfait from the dollar menu...and a Vanilla Coke."
Jessie licked her lips. "That sounds good, Miya! I think that's what I'll have, too." She looked back at Quentin and Judith. "What about you two?"
"I'll have what you and Miya are having," Judith answered.
"And I guess I'll try one of those Whooper-Burgers," said Quentin.
Miya, Eric, Rose, and Charms burst out laughing.
Quentin raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"You're so silly, gramps!" Rose giggled.
"I believe you meant to order a Whopper, dad. And that's a Burger King sandwich, not McDonald's," James corrected him.
"The closest thing dey got here would be a Quarter Pounder or a Big Mac," Meowth told him. "Speakin' a which, I think I'm gonna have one a dem Big Mac extra value meals...super-sized, of course! And I think I'll have me a hot fudge sundae, too!"
Quentin winked at his grandchildren. "I guess I'll have a Quarter Pounder value meal, then."
When they went to the counter, James gave everybody's order to the cashier. "....And a Chicken McGrill value meal with no mayo and a Cherry Coke for me."
The cashier entered the order into the computer. "That'll be $30.32."
As James reached for his wallet, Quentin placed a hand on his arm. "I'll take care of it, son."
"That's okay, dad. I...."
James smirked. "You're not going to take no for an answer, are you?"
"Not this time," he replied. "You and Jessie and the children have been so hospitable with us these past few days -- I figure treating you all to lunch is the least we can do."
Meowth grinned. "Can't argue with logic like dat!"
"Alright, dad. If it'll make you happy," James conceded.
Quentin brought out his own wallet and handed the money to the cashier. "Yes, as a matter of fact, it does."
Once they had their order number and drinks, the nine of them sat down together at a long table near the center of the restaurant.
"Mommy, can Eric and I go in the playroom while we're waiting for lunch?" Rose asked.
"Of course you can, princess," Jessie told her.
Just as Rose and Eric were about to get up from the table, however, two more people entered the restaurant. When Jessie and James saw who they were, they took the children by the hand and made them sit down again.
"On second thought, you'd better stay here with us," James whispered.
Quentin and Judith exchanged confused looks. "What's going on?"
Before Jessie or James could reply, one of the newcomers spoke. "What would you like for lunch, poopie-kins?"
"I want ten MIGHTY KIDS MEALS with CHEESEBURGERS! Cheeseburgers RULE!!!" came the reply.
Quentin and Judith turned and saw a woman in her early fifties standing at the counter (though she looked much older, since all of her hair was gray and her face was etched with lines of distress). A middle-aged man with greasy black hair and a scraggly beard was with her.
"Did...did that man just order ten children's meals? For himself?!" Quentin sputtered.
"I'm afraid so," Jessie sighed.
"Oh, for pity's sake!" Judith gasped. "What is wrong with him?!"
James sweatdropped. "He's Ash Ketchum. That's what's wrong with him."
Miya buried her face in her hands. "Oh, no. Not him again."
"This guy is such a loser!" Eric groaned.
Rose put her arms around James. "Daddy, I'm scared."
James returned his daughter's embrace. "Don't worry, princess. We won't let the bad man bother you anymore."
Rose buried her face in his chest and sniffled.
"Ashy-poo, don't you think ten meals is a little much?" Delia Ketchum asked her son.
"But moooommmm, I'm huuuuuuungry!" Ash whined.
"You don't want to spoil your dinner, do you? I'm making your favorite -- chili dog and pizza pot pies!" Delia told him.
Judith blinked. "Chili dog and pizza pot pies? Is that even a real food?"
"It is to Ash," Jessie replied.
"Sounds like the kinda crap Cartman's mom would make for him on South Park," Meowth commented.
"But I still want ten cheeeeeeeeseburgers!" Ash shouted. He began to jump up and down and throw a tantrum. "I want ten buuuuuuuurgers!!!!!"
Delia placed a hand to her temple. "Oh, okay, Ashy. Mommy will get ten Mighty Kids Meals for you."
"Can I get some McFlurries, too?" he asked.
"But I want some McFluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuries!"
"Oh, alright, alright," Delia sighed. She walked up to the counter. "I'll have ten cheeseburger Mighty Kids Meals with Cokes, one of each flavor McFlurry, and a bacon double cheeseburger with a small Coke."
"That'll be $43.94."
"Good lord," Quentin muttered as Delia swiped her credit card and signed the receipt.
"Good lord, indeed," James muttered back.
"Mom, after lunch can we go to the Poke-Mart?" Ash asked as he and Delia seated themselves at a nearby table. "Team Rocket killed my Pikachu, and I want a new one."
"Now Ash, I've told you a thousand times, that wasn't a real Pikachu -- it was a stuffed toy," Delia answered. "Professor Oak had to take your real pokemon away when your license was revoked because you were always making them attack people, remember?"
Ash hadn't been listening to a word she'd said. "But I saaaaaw them!" he whined. "I wanted it to Thundershock that stupid mini-Jessie, mini-James, and mini-Gary, and then the big Jessie ripped its head off! It's just like that time stupid Gary ran over my Bayleef with his car! They're a bunch of evil bastards, mom!"
"Ash, what have I told you about using naughty words like that?" Delia admonished him. "I spoke to Gary and Arwen on the phone the other day -- they told me how you barged into their house and then threatened Sam and his friends. How many times do I have to tell you to leave the Oaks and the Woodsons alone?"
Again, Ash wasn't listening to his mother. While she was reprimanding him, he was looking around the restaurant. Suddenly, his eyes went wide. "AUGH!!!!! It's TEAM ROCKET!!!!!!" he screamed.
Jessie, James, Meowth, Charms, Miya, and Eric tensed. Rose hugged her father more tightly than ever.
Ash jumped up from his table and charged towards them...and then he ran straight past them and stopped in front of a cardboard cut-out of the Hamburglar that was standing next to the playroom entrance. "I see that big bag of cheeseburgers you're carrying, Team Rocket! I know you're trying to steal food, but you're not gonna get away with it! Snorlax! Hit him with your Hyper Beam!" he shouted. He lobbed a plush Snorlax toy at the cardboard cut-out and knocked it over. He then adjusted the lapels of his dirty blue vest and struck a dramatic pose. "No need to thank me, everybody. I am Ash Ketchum from the town of Pallet -- the world's greatest pokemon master! Being a hero is what I do best!"
Jessie, James, and Meowth rolled their eyes.
"Jeez, I knew this guy was stupid, but...holy crap!" Miya gasped.
"Whatta freak-show!" Charms remarked.
"What's he going to do next? Try to capture Ronald McDonald, Grimace, and Birdie because he thinks they're some new kind of pokemon?" Jessie muttered.
"Wouldn't surprise me -- the apple don't fall far from the tree, ya know!" Meowth laughed.
James nodded. "That's for sure."
Sure enough, as Ash went to go into the playroom, he caught sight of the Ronald McDonald, Grimace, and Birdie cut-outs that were standing next to the Hamburglar. "Hey, mom, did Mimie evolve, or something?" he asked.
"Ash, Mimie is at home in Pallet," Delia reminded him. "That's Ronald McDonald."
Ash gave her a confused look. "Ronald Mc-what, now? Is he some kind of pokemon? And what about this purple thing? It looks like a shiny Wobbuffet!"
"That's not a shiny Wobbuffet, poopie-kins, that's Grimace," Delia corrected him. "Now come and sit down."
"Grimace? That must be a new evolution for Wobbuffet, just like this clown thing is a new Mr. Mime evolution!" Ash exclaimed. "And I bet this bird is a new evolution of Pidgeot! I just discovered three new pokemon! I'm gonna catch them!" With that, he snapped some plastic poke balls from his belt and lobbed them at the cut-outs, knocking them over as well. "Poke ball, GO!!!"
"Oh, now this is just sad," James grumbled.
"Very sad," Jessie agreed.
"And yet, I can't stop laughin'!" Meowth snickered as he watched Ash continue to throw his toy poke balls at the cardboard cut-outs and wonder why he couldn't catch the three new pokemon.
Quentin, Judith, and the children said nothing -- they were so shocked by Ash's behavior that all words failed them.
At length, the cashier came from behind the counter and went over to Ash. "Excuse me, sir, but if you don't stop messing around, we're going to have to ask you to leave," she said.
Ash frowned at her. "But I'm trying to catch these pokemon!"
The cashier frowned right back. "Sir, those aren't pokemon -- they're the McDonaldland mascots."
"AUGH! You're just jealous because I saw these new pokemon first! Well, you can't have them! They're mine, mine, MINE!!!!!" Ash shouted.
The cashier threw her hands up into the air. "That's it. I'm calling the manager."
Ash ignored her and continued throwing poke balls at the cut-outs.
Delia sweatdropped. "Don't do that, miss -- we'll just take our order to go," she told the cashier.
"Fine," the cashier replied. She gave the Woodsons an apologetic look. "Sorry. It's gonna take a little longer with your order -- we've gotta get their food and get this guy outta here first."
James nodded. "Please do."
"Yeah. He's killin' our appetites," Meowth added.
"Not to mention scaring the kids," Jessie grumbled. She put her arms around Rose, who was still shaking.
For the next few minutes, Delia tried to calm Ash down...but once again, he ignored her and kept wondering why he couldn't catch the "pokemon."
When the cashier finally returned with their order, Delia took her son by the arm. "Come on, Ashy. Let's go eat our lunch out in the food court. Then we'll go to Toys R Us, and mommy will get you some new Pikachu and Bayleef toys."
Ash stopped lobbing poke balls when she said this. "A new Pikachu? And a new Bayleef?"
"Yes, poopie-kins. Now let's go have lunch before your cheeseburgers and fries get cold and your McFlurries melt."
"Okay, mom," Ash sighed. "I just wish I coulda caught those Mr. Mime, Wobbuffet, and Pidgeot evolutions."
Delia opened a few of the Mighty Kids Meal bags and produced the Ronald McDonald, Grimace, and Birdie toys that were inside. "It looks like you did, honey."
Ash grinned and snatched the toys from his mother. "ALL RIGHT!!! I caught three new pokemon!" he cheered. He struck a dorky pose and made a vee-sign. "This brings me one step closer to being a pokemon master! Gary's gonna be sooooooo jealous when he finds out about this!"
"Yeah. I'm sure he'll be devastated," Meowth chortled.
As Ash and Delia left the restaurant, Jessie rubbed her temples and buried her face in her hands. "Good grief. Now I know how momma and daddy must've felt when they ran into Delia and Ash Sr. at McDonald's all those years ago!"
"No kidding!" said James. "Ash's little performance today was almost an exact replay of what his dad did!"
"You mean this has happened before?!" Quentin and Judith gasped.
"Yes, it has, I'm sad to say," Jessie told them. "My parents met Ash's parents back in 1980 -- his dad caused a scene just like the one Ash did. He even thought the McDonaldland toys from his Happy Meals were real pokemon and challenged my parents to a battle...and threw a tantrum when he lost."
"Disgraceful. Utterly disgraceful," Quentin muttered.
"Heh. If ya think dat's bad, ya shoulda seen what ol' Ash-wipe did the other day!" Meowth replied. "Eric and Rose was playin' outside with dere friend, Sam, and who should show up at the house but Ash! Rose and Sam was in the middle of a game of Candy Land, and Ash tried ta eat the game pieces and the cards cuz he thought dey was real candy!"
"Oh, my God! Are you serious?!" Judith cried.
"It's true, nana," Eric said.
"Yeah. The bad man ruined our game," Rose sniffled.
Judith took Rose from Jessie and James and set the little girl on her lap. "Then I guess your gramps and I will just have to buy you a new game now, won't we?"
This made Rose smile again. "Really?"
Judith nodded. "Really."
Rose gave her a hug. "Thank you, nana."
"Well, that wasn't the half of it," Jessie continued. "When Ash saw Rose, Eric, and Sam, he thought they were miniature versions of me, James, and Gary and tried to attack them...which is why I ended up ripping the head off of his stuffed Pikachu."
Judith hugged Rose. "He tried to attack the children?! He's even more of a monster than I thought!"
"Has he always been this way?" Quentin inquired.
"Not really," James answered. "When we first met Ash, he was just really clueless and dorky...but he got more and more stupid and obnoxious as time went on, and he soon began to show a real sadistic streak, too. That was why Jessie, Meowth, and I had to transfer to a new assignment -- he was putting our lives in danger, and we just couldn't follow him anymore. And now, he's degenerated into the delusional man-child that you saw today. He's like the opposite of a fine wine or cheese -- he keeps getting worse with age. I feel sorry for his mother, having to put up with that freak day in and day out...."
Before James could say another word, Quentin and Judith were standing on either side of him and wrapping him in an embrace.
He raised an eyebrow. "What's this about?"
"Seeing Ash Ketchum in person again reminded us of how lucky we are to have a son like you," Quentin explained.
"You're wonderful, James. And we mean that!" Judith added.
"We love you, son!" they said in unison.
James placed his hands over theirs. "Thanks, mom. Thanks, dad."
"Hey, Gary! Happy birthday!" Meowth exclaimed as he jumped out of the Jeep and raced to his friend's side.
Gary leaned down and scratched behind the cat's ears. "Thanks, Meowth."
Charms, who'd followed her dad, climbed up Gary's arm and perched on his shoulder. "Happy birthday, Mr. Oak!"
Gary reached up and stroked Charms's velvety cream-colored fur. "Thanks, kitten."
Jessie, James, and the children piled out of the Jeep and greeted Gary, Arwen, Sam, and Devon as well.
"So, how does it feel to hit the big three-oh, Gary?" James inquired once the two families had finished exchanging pleasantries.
"I don't feel that different, to tell you the truth," Gary answered. "It's just the number that's changed."
Arwen nodded. "That's right. You're only as old as you feel!"
"So very true," Jessie agreed.
Gary smiled. "So, James. You said you were gonna have a big surprise for me when we came to dinner tonight?"
"I certainly do," came his reply. "We have a couple more guests!"
"Really?" he asked. "Who are they?"
Now James was smiling, too. "My mom and dad!"
Gary's eyes went wide. "You're kidding!"
"I kid you not."
"How did this happen?"
"Apparently, when the kids were playing together on Saturday afternoon, Eric left the yard and wandered onto my parents' estate. They realized that he was their grandson, so they came to talk to me on Sunday," James explained.
"You mean those old people you told us about were your grandparents?!" Sam gasped.
"Yep!" Eric replied.
"Well, to make a long story short, I worked things out with mom and dad, and they've been spending the last few days with us. I can't tell you how wonderful it's been for the kids to have grandparents...and for me to have the kind of parents I always wanted!" James concluded.
Arwen's dove-gray eyes sparkled. "That is wonderful, James! We're so happy for you!"
Gary nodded. "Yeah! I always felt bad that you never had a good relationship with your parents the way I did. I'm glad to know that things are finally starting to work out with them."
"Yeah," James agreed. He looked and saw a black limousine pulling into the parking lot of the restaurant. "Speaking of which, here they are now!"
After a moment, the limo pulled into a parking space, and the chauffeur stepped out and opened the door for Quentin and Judith.
James waved to them. "Hi, mom. Hi, dad. Glad to see you found the place okay."
"Well, you gave good directions -- it'd be kind of hard to get lost!" Quentin replied.
"Yeah. You'd hafta be a complete moron, like Ash, ta not be able ta find dis place!" Meowth snickered.
Jessie snickered, too.
"I believe some introductions are in order," James continued. "Mom, dad, these are our friends, Gary and Arwen Oak and their sons, Sam and Devon. Gary and Arwen, meet my parents, Quentin and Judith Woodson."
"It's so very nice to meet you," Judith said as Arwen shifted Devon to her left arm and shook hands with her. "James has told us what great friends you all are."
"Jessie, James, and Meowth are great friends, too," Gary answered as he and Quentin shook hands. "Did they tell you how I became friends with them?"
Judith nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact, they did. It was so brave of them to save you from that awful Clay and Allison the way they did."
Arwen smiled. "They're heroes!"
"And modest, too," Gary chuckled.
"So, Gary. We hear that you're a pokemon researcher?" Quentin ventured, changing the subject.
"Yes, sir," Gary answered. "Following in my grandpa's footsteps."
"Your grandfather. He's Professor Samuel Oak, isn't he?" Judith inquired.
"Yes, ma'am," Gary told her.
Judith smiled. "I thought so. My parents were good friends of Samuel and Vivien's. They were friends with Vivien's parents, Gary and Epona Devon too, if I'm not mistaken."
"That's right," Gary affirmed. "Our families go way back." His smile grew even wider than it already was as he looked over at Sam, Eric, and Rose. "And it looks like we'll continue to be friends for generations to come."
"I certainly hope so," Quentin remarked. "Judy and I are happy that James has such good friends...and we're happy that we can be a part of this now, too."
"So are we," said Arwen.
"Yeah," Gary agreed. "Seeing my friends happy makes me happy...and I can't ask for a better birthday present than that."
"Well, I hate ta break dis up, but it's gettin' cold out here," Meowth broke in. "And we ain't had anything ta eat since lunch -- I say we go inside and get some dinner!"
Gary winked at the cat. "An excellent suggestion, Meowth!"
"So, what is this place, anyway?" Judith inquired as they all entered the restaurant.
"Yes. We've never been here before either," Quentin chimed in.
"It's called Casa Bonita," James explained. "It's like the Disney World of Mexican restaurants."
"This place rules! It's got rides, and games, and all sorts of fun stuff!" Eric exclaimed.
"Not ta mention some damned good food!" Meowth added.
"This is one of my favorite restaurants," Gary said to Quentin and Judith. "It was so cool of Jessie, James, and Meowth to treat us to dinner here."
Jessie placed her hands on their shoulders. "Just like lunch at McDonald's this afternoon, you're in for a real treat! Hopefully, Ash won't ruin it this time, though."
Arwen arched an eyebrow. "Ash? Don't tell me he's still causing trouble."
"Okay! We won't tell ya!" Meowth laughed.
Gary rolled his eyes. "Oh, for crapsake. What did he do this time?"
"What, indeed," James snickered as the hostess led them to their table.
Once they were all seated, a waitress brought them some menus, along with a bowl of nacho chips and salsa and some glasses of water.
Jessie took one of the chips and dipped it into the salsa. "Well, we ran into him again this afternoon while we were at the mall," she began.
"Uh, oh," Gary and Arwen chorused.
Rose tapped Jessie on the arm. "Mommy, can we go play, since we didn't get to at lunch?" she asked. "I don't wanna hear about the bad man again."
"Sure, princess," Jessie told her. "Just let me know what you want to order, so that I can tell the waitress when she comes back."
Rose nodded. "Okay!" She picked up her menu and looked at it for a moment. "I wanna chicken taco salad!"
"And I want the bean and cheese tostadas," Eric said after perusing his menu.
"Charms and I will go with the kids and keep an eye on them," Miya volunteered. "So when the waitress gets back, will you let her know that I'll have the lettuce wrap fajita platter with grilled mahi mahi, please?"
James placed a hand to her cheek. "Of course we will, angel."
"And I think I'm gonna have a chicken burro," said Charms.
"Kitten, the burros are about four times the size of a regular burrito," James told her. "Are you sure your eyes aren't bigger than your stomach?"
"I can eat it, uncle James!" Charms assured him.
Meowth winked. "Dat's right. And even if she can't, she can always take it home in a doggie-bag...or I can finish it for her!"
"What about you, Sam?" Arwen asked. "What are you going to have?"
"I'd like the chicken soft tacos, please," he answered after going over his menu.
"Okay, then. You kids have fun!" Gary told the children as he took their menus.
"Yay!" The five of them chorused.
"Come on, guys!" said Eric. "We should definitely go to Black Bart's Cave first -- we're gonna wanna go through there about seven or eight times!"
"And after that, let's go on the Rio Grande flume ride!" Sam suggested.
"And then we can go to the Cancun sandbox!" Rose cheered.
"I want to watch the cliff divers, too," Miya told them.
"And I wanna explore the Aztec pyramid!" said Charms.
"Wow! This really does look like a fun place," Judith remarked as she watched the children heading for Black Bart's Cave.
"It is," James replied. "Grand-mama and grand-papa and grandma and grandpa Woodson brought me here a couple of times when I was a tot."
Quentin placed a hand on his shoulder. "Well, for what it's worth, we're sorry we never brought you, too."
This made him smile.
"So, you were saying you saw Ash again today?" Gary prompted, getting back to the original subject.
Jessie nodded. "Oh, yeah! James, Meowth, and I had finished up our Christmas shopping, so we took Quentin and Judith to McDonald's for lunch. Apparently, Ash and Delia were out doing some shopping too, because they showed up at McDonald's while we were waiting for our order."
Arwen placed a hand to her temple. "Oh, no."
Gary smirked. "I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that Ash caused a big scene?"
"Ya got dat right!" Meowth laughed. "Did Jess ever tell ya the story of how her parents met Ash's parents at McDonald's back in 1980?"
Now Gary was laughing, too. "Oh, my god! Ash was following in his dad's footsteps, right?"
Meowth folded his arms across his chest. "You've heard dis story before!"
"Uh, oh. What did Ash's dad do?" Arwen asked.
While everybody munched on nacho chips and salsa, Jessie proceeded to tell Arwen the story of her parents' encounter with Ash Hull Ketchum nearly thirty-seven years before. "....And Ash was doing almost the exact same thing today -- he ordered ten Mighty Kids Meals and tried to catch the McDonaldland characters because he thought they were pokemon. He even attacked the Hamburglar because he thought he was in Team Rocket! When he screeched TEAM ROCKET!!! at the top of his lungs, we were afraid he was going to give us trouble again, but he ended up going after the Hamburglar instead. Sometimes, I'm thankful he's such a raging idiot, but at the same time, it's pretty disturbing...."
By the time Jessie had finished relating the tale, Gary and Arwen were nearly falling out of their seats with laughter.
"Oh, my god! You've got to be kidding!" Arwen gasped.
"It's no joke, I'm sad ta say," Meowth told her. He looked up at Gary. "When the twerp got the prizes outta his Mighty Kid Meals, he even bragged about how jealous you was gonna be dat he'd caught all dose new pokemon!"
"Yeah. I'm sooo devastated," Gary snickered. "Ash captured a little plastic Ronald McDonald -- he's sure to beat me in a battle now! Whatever am I gonna do?"
"I figured dat'd be yer reaction!" Meowth laughed.
Gary shook his head and laughed, too. "Jeezus. Ash gets more and more stupid every day, doesn't he?"
"It sure seems that way," James sighed.
"Well, what can we expect with all those Noober genes he's got?" Gary continued.
Judith covered her mouth with her hand. "You mean Ash is related to the Noobers?!"
"He sure is," Gary affirmed.
Quentin arched an eyebrow. "Who are the Noobers, love?" he asked.
"Daddy told me about them," Judith began. "Back when he used to live in Viridian City, there was a guy named Noober Noober, who was a village idiot, of sorts. Daddy used to run into him sometimes when he and Gary Devon went to the silent movies."
"His name was Noober Noober?!" Quentin said incredulously.
Judith nodded. "And he was a real piece of work, from what I heard. He sometimes went to the silent movies, too, or them movin' pitchur shows, as he called them...only he was illiterate, so he always made a big fuss because he couldn't read the dialogue. I heard horror-stories about how he always hassled Mr. Devon and caused trouble around town, too," she continued. "And then there was his son, Noober Noober Noober -- he followed in his father's footsteps and became the Pallet Town village idiot. I actually met him in person once when I was a little girl, and my parents and I had gone to Pallet to visit Sam and Vivien Oak. If I recall correctly, Noober had wandered onto the Oaks' property because he thought he was on a pokemon journey. Now that I think about it, I'm not all that surprised that Ash is related to them."
"Yeah. Noober Noober was Ash's great-grandfather, and Noober N. Noober was his mom's uncle," Gary explained. "And Ash's middle name is Noober!"
Quentin smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand.
"My sentiments exactly," Judith sighed.
Gary looked over at the children, who were coming out of Black Bart's Cave, and snickered. "Ol' Ash definitely carries on that proud Noober tradition of wandering through life with his head up his ass. When we were kids, I heard that his mom brought him here for his ninth birthday, and he ended up getting lost in Black Bart's Cave. Delia said it took him three days to find his way out. Of course, it's equally disturbing that she saw him go in there, and it took her three days to figure out where he was."
"Heh. Why am I not surprised?" said Jessie.
"Yeah. When Ash was on his pokemon journey, he was always gettin' lost and wanderin' around aimlessly for days, even on the most straightforward routes!" Meowth snickered. "I swear, dat twerp couldn't find his own ass with both hands and a road map!"
"You can say that again," James agreed.
Presently, a waitress arrived at their table and brought them more water and nacho chips with salsa. "Are you ready to order?"
Everybody picked up their menus.
"Yes. I'll have the tequila-lime prawns, please," Gary replied.
"And I'd like the bean and cheese enchiladas," said Arwen. "And our boys will have the chicken soft taco platter and a child-sized order of cheese quesadillas."
The waitress nodded and took down the four orders. "And what about you?" she asked the Woodsons.
"I'll have the carne asada steak," Quentin told her.
"And I'll have the lobster quesadillas," Judith answered.
"I'd like the chicken and shrimp fajitas, please," said James.
"And I'd like the margarita chicken," said Jessie. "And a chicken taco salad, the bean and cheese enchilada platter, and the lettuce wrap fajita platter with grilled mahi mahi for our kids."
"And I'm gonna have a chicken burro, and so's my daughter," Meowth replied.
"Oh, and we'd also like a flan for dessert!" James added. He knew that Gary loved custard dishes.
"Okay! Your order will be ready in about forty-five minutes," the waitress told them. "Until then, enjoy yourselves!"
"We will," James promised. Then, to his friends and family, "Well, I don't know about you, but I don't think the kids should be the only ones having fun tonight. What do you say we check out some of the attractions while we wait for our dinner?"
Gary grinned. "Sounds like a plan to me!"
"Yeah! That was awesome!" Eric cheered as the Oaks and the Woodsons left the restaurant. "I coulda gone through Black Bart's Cave about seven or eight more times!"
"And did you see those cliff divers? They were amazing!" Miya exclaimed.
Charms held up the doggie-bag with her half-eaten chicken burro inside. "And the food was really good, too!"
Gary nodded. "Yeah. My prawns were delicious, and the flan just melted in my mouth! Thanks again for bringing us here -- we had a great time."
"Yeah! Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Woodson!" said Sam.
"Tank you," Devon echoed.
Arwen smiled and tousled her sons' hair.
"It was our pleasure," James told them.
"We just might have to reciprocate and bring you here on Jessie's birthday next month!" Gary chuckled.
"I certainly wouldn't have any objection to that!" Jessie replied.
"Yay!" the children chorused.
"So, what are your plans for Thanksgiving tomorrow?" James inquired, changing the subject.
"Ari's parents are coming from Florando, and we're all going to have dinner at my mom and dad's," came Gary's reply. "What about you?"
James smiled at his parents. "We invited mom and dad to have dinner with us. Jessie's grandma and grandpa Parker and my grandma and grandpa Woodson will be coming, too."
"It'll be so nice for our families to get together!" Jessie remarked. "I'm kind of sorry my granny and grandpa Rochester and uncle Brad couldn't make it for Thanksgiving, but they'll be here for Christmas."
Gary smiled and held out his hand. "Sounds wonderful. Have a happy Thanksgiving, guys."
James shook his hand. "You, too. And happy birthday!"
Jessie and Arwen hugged each other. "You take care," they said to each other.
As the families finished saying their good-byes and went to their cars, Miya caught a glimpse of movement from the corner of her eye. She paused and looked over at the alley between the restaurant and a neighboring building.
"What is it, angel?" James asked.
"I thought I saw something," she told him. She looked again and saw a pair of glowing eyes staring back at her from the darkness. "I did. I think it might be a stray pokemon."
Jessie nodded. "It probably is. There are lots of strays here in the city."
"Poor thing," Miya muttered. "Mom? Dad? If I catch it, can we bring it home...or at least take it to the pokemon center so that Nurse Joy can look after it?"
"Of course, sweetie," Jessie told her.
"Just be careful," James said.
"I will," Miya assured him. She then began making her way towards the alley and slowly held out her hand. "It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you," she said quietly.
The pokemon didn't move. And as Miya drew closer, she saw that it was a Meowth. The cat was shivering and looked as if she hadn't eaten in days, and her cream-colored fur was so dirty, it was gray.
"It's okay, kitty," Miya repeated as she knelt next to the Meowth.
The cat inched closer and sniffed Miya's hand. "Meow, meow?"
Miya smiled and took off her denim jacket. She then wrapped it around the cat and scooped her into her arms. "That's a good kitty. I'll take care of you. I promise."
"What kind of pokemon is it?" Jessie asked as Miya left the alley and rejoined her family.
"And is it okay?" James wanted to know.
"It's a Meowth," Miya answered. "And I think she'll be fine once she gets warmed up and has something to eat."
James nodded approvingly. "Well, we can certainly take care of that."
Jessie placed a hand on Meowth's shoulder. "That's right. No Meowth is going to be left out in the cold if we have anything to say about it!"
Meowth smiled at her. As Miya drew back her jacket and showed the stray to her parents, however, his expression shifted to one of complete shock. "Oh, my god!" he gasped. "Dat ain't just any Meowth -- dat's Meowsie!"
To be Continued....
As with nearly all of my stories, I've gotta give a big thanks to Shigeru1313. In addition to the technical assistance (she decided what Gary, Arwen, Sam & Dev would order for dinner), she also gave me some inspiration. The scene where Judith talks about Noober Noober going to the silent movies is a reference to her beautiful story, Finding the Way (go read it now, if you haven't already! ^_^), and the part about Gary having his birthday dinner at Casa Bonita was her idea, too. (Casa Bonita is from a hilarious episode of South Park, in case anybody is wondering. hehe)
And another special thanks to Kally for the cute illustration of the Woodson family doing their Christmas shopping! ^_^
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