Harold and Baxter


By Archinald Filyne, Contributor

There is an airport. Not a very well known or famous airport, but an airport nonetheless. It has a couple runways and a few planes–infernal flying machines. Let’s presume this airport is in Iowa. Des Moines, Iowa–in fact–is where this airport resides. That sounds like a fine place for an airport to call home. An airport needs a good home, much like a child or fichus. 

This airport sees a lot of traffic. Businessmen flying across the country to make big deals, families on already damned vacations and strange, solitary fliers, assumedly terrorists or aspiring DB Coopers, playing with their ratty beards and eating vending-machine trail mix with their mouths twisted in eerie grins. These are our modern Don Juans, their sweatpants pulled seductively over stained t-shirts.

Today, two cats walked into the airport. These cats were close friends, but their friendship was beginning to feel strained. Harold, a lively city cat with a nose for culture, was eager to take his slovenly chum, Baxter, to New York City to begin his education in the arts.

(Before we continue, you must realize that a short story is a glimpse into an alternate universe.  Some alternate universes are powerful metaphors of dystopian realities.  This alternate universe has cats that do people things.)

Harold was a sight to behold as he entered the airport. He had his hair slicked back, a surprisingly chic pant and sweater outfit and the finest luggage to be found in Iowa–in the possession of a cat, of course. And let’s not forget Harold’s impressive snakeskin boots.

Baxter, on the other hand, was wearing a ratty old sweatshirt–and he forgot his shoes!  He didn’t have luggage, only a plastic bag filled with tuna and yarn. Harold, at times, was embarrassed to be seen with Baxter, and one finds it difficult to blame him–Baxter is the epitome of a slob.

But not today. Nothing could get Harold down today.  He was excited and anxious to show his friend the fine city life and all of the artistic glory therein. He marched up to the ticket counter, with his hair slicked back, his outfit dapperly hanging from his body and his glorious boots click-clacking all the way. Harold had planned ahead and purchased his tickets online, so he only had to pick them up from the adorable clerk, and he was on his way, his boots click-clacking down the tiled floors.

Baxter, poor Baxter, he figured there would be plenty of tickets, so he waited until the day of the trip to purchase his. As he marched up to the counter, in his ratty old sweatshirt and without shoes, he realized that it was annual Take Your Friend to New York City Day and tickets were running thin at this small Iowa airport.

So Baxter, despite his urging, had to settle for a ticket to Albany. Harold was upset, to say the least. He had spent months planning this trip, and his imbecilic friend didn’t even have the get-go to purchase his ticket in advance. He shouted at Baxter, “Find your own way to New York!” And he marched off, his dapper hair so perfect and his boots click-a-clacking.

Needless to say, Baxter felt a little guilty. Harold had been such a good friend for planning this trip, and he had selfishly pushed it aside. He even forgot his shoes! He had an introspective moment in front of the escalators and decided to do whatever it took to find a ticket on the same flight as Harold.

Whilst walking around the airport, Baxter spotted a man with a shirt that read, “God Bless Maryland.” Being a cat and wont to curiousness, Baxter approached the obese man and inquired as to whether he was going to Maryland.

“Oh no,” the gargantuan man said, his oafish mouth stumbling over the vanilla wafers caught beneath his tongue, “I accidentally bought a ticket to New York. It was cheaper because of that Take A Friend to New York City Day special, but I sure wish I was going to Maryland. I Just love Maryland. I wish I had a taquito.”

Baxter, after a brief negotiation, convinced the man of substantial girth to exchange his ticket for his bag of tuna and yarn, but it was a loss he was willing to take as long as he made Harold happy. 

The flight to New York was leaving soon, so Baxter rushed to the gate where he found Harold waiting.

Pacing back and forth before a window and licking himself, Harold was the spitting image of big city class–Baxter had never been more happy to see his friend.

Baxter told Harold the good news, and the two had a hearty and healthy embrace. Their trip was on again, and Harold started telling Baxter all about New York. Harold had never been to the city, but he had read a lot of articles regarding the Big Apple, and considering Baxter couldn’t read, Harold was a pretty authoritative source.

The two got in line, with Harold in front. Baxter, being a little nervous, left the line to use the bathroom. Harold–with his hair, his luggage and his great boots–got on board the plane and took his seat, waiting for his good friend Baxter to get done in the bathroom. He had lent him some of the litter he had packed for the trip.

Baxter, feeling refreshed from his trip to the lavatory, got back in line and waited to board the plane. As he handed his ticket to the flight attendant, her face twisted into a frown and she said, “Sir, this isn’t a plane ticket, it’s a McDonald’s receipt. And you can’t board a plane without shoes.”

So Harold waited in vain for his friend, and as the plane took off, he shed a small tear, and, feeling betrayed, swore that he would never speak to Baxter again. Baxter, back in the airport, sat crying in the food court–he had let his friend down and he had no tuna. 

When Baxter returned home, he turned on the news. What he saw made his tail stand upright. Harold’s flight to New York had lost control and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Everyone on board had died. Apparently an overweight passenger on board, upset that he had traded his ticket to Maryland for a bag of tuna and yarn, stormed the cockpit and attacked the pilot, causing the plane to lose control and careen into the ocean.

Moral:  Never rely on a cat to do a man’s job.