I had some trouble getting this chapter done, due to some kind of glitch on my computer. For some reason, the file disappeared for a while so completely that even a scan for deleted documents found no sign it had ever existed. Then when I finally broke down and went to start from scratch, there it was like it never left. Don't ask me to explain it (I gave up trying to understand computers ages ago, and even my younger brother can't explain it). I'm just glad it's finished and ready for you all to read… and that it didn't take another month to reach this point.
That's all the news for now, except to mention my new side projects Rendez-Bleu, OC Albums: Xavier, and my first foray into Zootopia fan comics, Daze at the Beach (viewable on DeviantArt and Furaffinity). Happy reading!
Proofread by HawkTooth
"No other success can compensate for failure in the home."
Carlos Ray Norris
They say time flies when you're having fun, but sometimes fun's not what does it. At any rate Nick wasn't exactly having much fun at present. The day before had seemed a hundred hours long after the blowout with Finnick, even with Taelia's little pep talk and Judy's follow-up. After the follow-up, though, things just seemed to shoot by so fast that poor old Nick could almost feel the building motion sickness.
The sense of lost time really caught up to him, though, when he found himself the following day in the back seat of the cruiser, parked outside a familiar-looking apartment building. Along with that sense came a rock-in-the-stomach feeling of dread.
"Well, here we are," Catano announced with all the enthusiasm and heart of a granite statue. She put the cruiser in park and rolled down the windows, letting in the scents of the city. Old wood buildings, hints of dirt and floral essences from window boxes, and a stray whiff of someone cooking eggs and beetles in a crock pot caught his nose. A whiff of apple pie or blueberry tarts wouldn't have been out of place, but Nick didn't catch any. Truth be told, he was a little too sick to his stomach with unease to stop and smell the neighborhood.
Judy had opted to ride in the back with him for moral support, despite the fact that the back seat had no seat belts. Now she laid a paw on his side, as near his shoulder as she could easily reach. "You going to be okay?" she asked. "I can still go with you, if…"
"Hopps," Catano interrupted stonily. She had stepped out to open the door for Nick, and now gave Judy a tired look that seemed to say something along the lines of 'stop babying him,' though a more precise take on her meaning might have been, 'Quit being a crutch already.' All she said out loud, though, was, "He said he'd go in alone."
Judy looked up at Nick, who swallowed a little and nodded. "Yeah, I think I'd better fly this one solo," he remarked, managing a smile. "Might give the wrong impression if I walked in there with you hanging all over me."
A tiny hint of a scowl passed over her face, and she lightly punched him on the arm. "Very funny," she carped. Leave it to Nick to be glib about something which, if possible, was more serious than even police work. She knew it was a defense mechanism, but that didn't make it any less upsetting to see him this way.
Nick got out of the car and did his best to maintain a slow, confident walk up the short path to the door. A lifetime of bluffing had instilled in him a habit of faking it til he made it, and that knack had never been more helpful than at this moment. Truth was he still felt like he'd left his stomach behind him in the cruiser. Scenario after scenario played through his mind, each painting some fresh image of how this might go wrong. The best possibility he could think of was that he'd have changed so much since he and they last spoke that she wouldn't recognize him at first. The way he figured it, that was his strongest chance of getting a few words in edgewise before she got mad – which, he suspected, she would. He dared to guess he would be if he were in her situation.
Swallowing hard, he knocked at the door.
"Hang on a moment," sounded an all-too familiar voice inside. Was it his imagination, or did she sound… older? Of course she would be older (duh), but his heart sank at the thought of seeing her starting to turn gray now. It was one thing to talk to her as an adult when he'd last done so as a teenager, but seeing the years on her face… well, in some ways that was almost as bad as if he came back and found her dead.
Cripes, Nick, stop overthinking it! he scolded himself. You'll psych yourself out and lose your whole cool before you even-
The door opened, and a courteous "Hello" died only half-spoken on the lips of the vixen inside. She wasn't as old as he'd feared, though there was a touch less energy in her stance and a bit more gray around her muzzle. She stood slightly shorter than him, and stared up into his eyes with a pair so similar it was like looking in a mirror.
A split second of that look was all he needed to know what he should have guessed. She remembered him, alright.
"Nick?" she asked in disbelief. "Nick, what are you-?"
In looking down – probably at where his eye level used to be – she caught sight of the cruiser parked by the curb and the two officers inside it intently watching their exchange. Catano eyed them quietly, but Judy, having moved to the front, was now standing on her seat to watch out the window with her nose twitching.
Quick as a flash, Marian Wilde's whole demeanor changed. Her paw shot up, grabbing Nick's ear and yanking him down so hard that the part in her grasp almost left the rest of his head behind.
"Ow! OW!" He lifted his paws to try to free himself, but whatever else time had done to her it sure hadn't weakened her grip.
She pulled his ear to her mouth and hissed into it with a level of tension that would have sent cobras slithering for cover. "What in the world is going on here? What have you gotten into this time?"
Nick struggled not to gasp or cry out as her claws dug in. "Mom, Mom, it's not what it looks like. Ow! Leggo of my ear!"
She did, and stepped back regarding him with a look of mistrust. "What is this, Nick? I don't see you for about a decade and a half, and now police are dropping you off? Have you been in prison all this time?"
He raised his paws defensively. He'd known this wouldn't be easy. He was ready for that… or so he'd thought. "No. No hard time for this fox, I swear." He took a deep breath and pushed ahead. "Look, Mom, this isn't as bad as it looks. Just let me explain, and I'll tell you everything."
Uh-oh. There went her paws, locking onto her hips in that, 'I'm about to spank you so hard' look. She gazed from him to the cruiser and back again, then sighed in resignation to whatever twist of fate had brought her son back to her door. "Come inside, then," she said decisively, stepping back and putting a paw on the doorknob. "I hate talking at the front door; feels like a sales mammal stopped by."
Resisting the urge to point out that technically that was true, Nick stepped inside – and almost instantly yelped, jumping a foot in the air as a sharp pain shot through his backside.
His mother glowered at him, grasping an umbrella in the paw he thought had been reaching for the doorknob. Pushing the door shut, she returned the umbrella to its accustomed place. "That's for never calling," she scolded, jabbing an accusatory finger towards him. Her voice quivered with intensity, and the anger in her eyes would have been implacable if not for the tears that brightened them. "Now tell me what's going on before I give you another for not writing."
Clearly, this was not going to be easy. "Living room?" he asked weakly, pointing with a thumb.
She seemed to be thinking about insisting that they settle the matter in what passed for the front hall, but then she nodded. "Alright."
As they entered the small den, Nick reflected that it was almost exactly as he remembered it. Most of the pictures of him, or with him in them, were unsurprisingly absent, but his mother still had the same old knick-knacks and keepsakes. Her furnishings were spare and modest, but tasteful and lovingly cared for. An heirloom tea set in a cabinet here, his dad's coat hung on the hook there… there was no doubt that his mother still loved her assortment of old memories.
I wish I'd given her some better ones, he reflected guiltily. Then he remembered Judy's advice: Make the next right choice. That was what he'd come to do. He had to change course.
"Well, I guess the simplest way to say it is, those cops dropped me off here to help me make things right with you," he said, deciding to plunge right in.
Well, at least her look of hurt and anger changed to one of confusion. That wasn't much of a victory, but in his position he figured he'd have to take what he could get.
"Alright, what's the complicated way to say it?" she asked after a moment.
Seeing that he had her ears now, he decided to do something he'd diligently avoided for about twenty years now: lay it all on the table, just like that. So with a swallowing of pride he did exactly that, telling her every last detail about tagging up with Judy, solving the Missing Predators case, falling out with Judy at the press conference… every last piece. It took about half an hour just to get up to the part where he was trying to become a cop and needed to prove himself to make it into the ZPD. It hadn't really caught up to him just how crazy the last part was until he tried to tell it all to someone else, and it didn't help that on a lot of it he was pretty much under a gag order. Several times he caught himself starting to lapse into his old habit of making things up to cover bizarre or unpalatable truths, and he could tell his mother was wary of these fumbles. At long last, though, the tale was all told, and he sat there looking at her, waiting for her to accept his explanation or refuse it.
She stared at him with a gaze as impenetrable as his own. "That's a lot to swallow, Nick. You know that, don't you?"
He nodded. "Look, Mom, I know it's a lot to take in, but I wouldn't lie about something like this; not to you… again."
She bit her lip and remained silent for several moments, then seemed to resolve herself and rose from her chair. She crossed the distance between them, then gripped the arm rests of his chair and stared him in the face.
"Tell me you're not lying, Nick," she pressed.
It was strangely unnerving, and for a split second he flicked his eyes away. No! he thought, fixing them back on hers again. He needed her to believe him, and more importantly she deserved to know that he was telling the truth. If he was going to get one thing out of this whole messed-up case, he would at least make this one thing right. All the success in the world couldn't make up for botching this. No way, no how.
He could still hear Taelia's admonition about knowing he did the right thing, and Judy's about making the next right choice. With those encouragements ringing in his ears, he looked his mother in the face.
"Its true. All of it."
For a long moment she continued to regard him, as if not entirely sure she believed him. Then he saw a tear trickle down her face.
She all but literally fell on him, latching her arms around his neck and sobbing. Whatever she meant to say, it came out in an incoherent mix of 'thank you, God's and 'is this real's and a several 'I can't believe this is finally happening's.
For Nick, it was like a dream… well, almost. Usually his dreams about his mom crying were guilty ones, full of isolation and emptiness. This was so much the opposite, steeped in the very unfamiliar weightlessness of a clear conscience, that he barely knew how to take it in. It had the same sense of surrealism, though, and if it wasn't for his mom's weight on his shoulders and chest, or the salty scent of her tears, or the too-long-forgotten smell of her fur, he would have expected to wake up any moment and find that his brain had simply played a cruel joke.
It was real, though… and honestly starting to get a little uncomfortable. With some difficulty, he managed to get up so that they were both standing. How long he patted her back, he'd never know. At last she managed to back off enough to wipe her eyes.
"You have no… no idea… how long I've been waiting for something like this," she choked, eyes still streaming.
He fished in his pocket and pulled out the old neckerchief. "Here," he offered, holding it out to her.
She moved to dab her eyes, then stared at it through the blurring liquid. "Oh, Nick. You kept it all this time?"
The moment would have been crazy embarrassing if it wasn't such a relief, like a shipwrecked sailor feeling sand between his fingers and toes when he was just ready to let the sea have him. Now he had to work hard not to cry. "Yeah. I… it's a long story."
When at last she got her tears under control, she looked at him again. "I'll have to thank those two officers for bringing you here. It was very nice of them, especially with so much else to do, I'm sure."
Nick realized this was as good a chance as any to lead into the other reason for his stopping by. "Well, I think I can arrange that," he began, "but there's one thing you need to know first. They didn't just bring me here for a social call."
She stared at him in confusion, her nose twitching ever so slightly and her ears flicking as if against buzzing gnats. "You mean this is about the case?" she asked.
He nodded, defaulting to his usual measure of glibness before he could lose his nerve. "I'm not really supposed to talk about it. You know, confidential need-to-know investigative type stuff. So I can't tell you that it's about a possible supplier of the Night Howler scheme, and I'm not going to say I need something I left here, and I definitely did not tell you that-"
She clapped a paw on his shoulder. "Nicholas, if you're not supposed to tell me anything then don't. I don't want you messing something up on my account."
Stunned, Nick might have tried to argue that they wouldn't know and that she deserved some explanation no matter what they said. All rationalization was lost, however, in the simple fact that she was placing that much faith in him. Fighting back a tear, he said quietly, "I need Dad's old business plans."
She stared at him in shock. "Suit-topia?" she asked, baffled. "What on earth would the police want them for?"
"That's the part I'm not supposed to tell you," he explained, "but you can ask them about it if you want. All I'm going to say is that I need those plans in order to help them; the business model, patterns, the whole shebang. They know I need it, so they brought me here to help me help them."
Even with the best delivery he could muster, she stared at him for a long moment. It didn't help in the least that there were still tears leaking down the corners of her face.
"I'll do it," she said at last, wiping her eyes. "If it gets you out of this business of conning, then I'll do it."
Nick bit his lip, reflecting that if this worked he could laugh at the irony later. "Well, that's where it gets complicated," he confessed, turning his paws pads-up. "They kinda need me to con someone."
Judy sat outside, chewing on her lip and looking towards the house roughly every other second in between trying absently to drum her foot on the floor well out of reach.
"Stop fussing, Hopps," Catano advised, as flat and detached as ever.
The lapine officer turned towards her incredulously. "Excuse me?" she asked, scrunching her face and squinting. "Yesterday you were pretty serious about getting those two back on speaking terms."
Catano stared straight ahead as fixedly as if she were wearing a neck brace. "I said it needed to be done. That doesn't mean worrying about it will change what happens. Either she wants him back, or she doesn't. It's that simple."
Even with her hearing, Judy couldn't detect any emotion in her temporary partner. Heck, she'd heard text-to-speech programs with more feeling in them. "Don't you even care that this is part of the case, not to mention he's trying to patch things up with his mom?"
That, at least, got a reaction. Quick as a flash, the cheetah's eyes turned toward Judy and locked on her with laser-like intensity. Then, at the most fluid and deliberate pace you could ever wish to see, the cheetah turned her neck to follow her eyes. She said nothing, but the look on her face couldn't have been clearer if she'd used a microphone and loudspeakers.
'Don't. Ever. Ask. Me. That. Again.'
The temporary paralysis caused by that look ended at the sound of a door opening. Judy's eyes were scarcely slower than her ears in whipping towards the house, and her heart seemed to shrink within her at the sight of Nick stepping out. Then it gave a great leap when Mrs. Wilde stepped out after him, paws clasped and an inscrutable look on her face. Spurning any sense of prudence, she darted right across Catano's lap and out the open window, hitting the ground with enough force that she had to run a step or two on impact.
"Nick?" she asked anxiously, looking from him to the vixen. The latter gazed back at her with a look of surprise and wonder, as if Nick hadn't told her he was working with the famous – or infamous – Officer Hopps.
Nick cleared his throat as Officer Catano, dusting off her pants with an irritated expression, stepped out of the cruiser. Then he turned back to the porch… to his mother.
"Uhh… allow me to introduce officers Judy Hopps and Callie Catano. Officers…" and here he turned back to the cops. "… meet my mom."
Judy stepped forward, a sense of earnestness spurring her pace until she reached Mrs. Wilde at the bottom of the steps. "Ma'am, it's very nice to meet you. Nick's been…"
She didn't even know how to finish. There was little need, though, because the paws which clasped hers in mid-sentence said it all.
"Pleasure's all mine," the vixen all but gushed. Then, seeming to catch herself, she let go. "Dear me, excuse my manners. I'm just so excited. That's all."
Judy nodded, understanding completely – in an 'I can't begin to picture myself where you are' kind of way. "It's okay. So, you and Nick worked everything out, I take it."
"Thanks to you, yes," Mrs. Wilde answered. Her voice was decisively affirmative, but she looked as if she had been crying or might cry any moment, if not both. Nick, standing a little behind, patted her on the back.
"It's okay, Mom," he said softly. "Carrots won't mind, and Spo-"
The sound of a throat clearing above their heads pulled them all back to the larger setting at hand. "Oh, Officer Catano," Mrs. Wilde added hastily, stepping forward to hold up a paw. "Thank you so much for your part in all of this."
The cheetah, true to form, pumped the paw once and it let go, clasping her own paws behind her with the crisp air of a military officer running an inspection. "Just doing our job, ma'am," she answered calmly, seemingly unaffected by the significance of what they were seeing.
Judy, for the life of her, couldn't understand it. Mrs. Wilde had gone years without so much as a word from Nick, without even any indication whether he was dead or alive, and Catano was acting like this was as routine as a traffic stop or something. What had happened to the officer who so earnestly pressed that this reunion had to take place?
Apparently, that officer had simply checked an item off the day's to-do list. "I hate to cut this short," she went on, "but may we use the papers of which Mr. Wilde told us? It's rather urgent."
Mrs. Wilde looked puzzled at the cheetah's brisk demeanor, but nodded. "Well, yes, I can get them right now," she answered. Turning to Judy, she clasped her paws and hesitated for the merest of moments before making a peculiar request. "Could you come inside with me and Nick, please? I have a few more questions. Might as well ask them while I find those plans."
Judy duly followed them inside, glancing back at Catano where she stood by the cruiser as impassive as ever.
When they were inside, Marian looked from one to the other. "I hope you all realize," she told them gravely, "that this is all a lot to take in. If it wasn't for you, Officer Hopps, I don't think I'd let Nick out of my sight for a week."
There's an old saying, 'This son of mine was dead and is alive. He was lost, and has been found.' Judy could see that the phrase summed up Mrs. Wilde's feelings perfectly right then. She might as well have gotten Nick back from the dead, the way this all was going.
Nick, apparently, felt the need to take control of the course of discussion. "I'm fine, Mom. Really."
"I see that you're fine, but this is the first I see you in more years than I want to count, and now you want to just whisk off again."
Judy stepped in. "Mrs. Wilde, I understand. Once we're done with work for the day, I'm sure Nick can come by for a visit."
He nodded at this, doing his best to look reassuring.
"You'll have to excuse the mess, I'm afraid," Mrs. Wilde offered helplessly as she began to dig through a closet. Most of the floor was laden with boxes stacked four or five high.
"Quite alright, Ma'am," Judy offered.
"Please call me Marian," she replied. "All my friends do. Um, could you take this?"
Without further ado she handed a box to Judy and then one to Nick. The two of them stared at one another as Mrs. Wilde plunged her head into the depths of the space.
"Put them anywhere," she called, her voice slightly muffled. "I think some of the items in them are Nick's."
Nick glanced at the boxes, wondering if she still had his baseball card collection or his old drawings.
"I want you to promise me something, Nick," Marian added, her voice muffled among some coats. "You come back and talk, alright? Sometime in the next few days at least. I don't want to keep the officers waiting, but you get your tail back here or so help me, I'll drag you back by it and nail it to the floor."
Judy looked at Nick, unsure what to make of this rather vivid word picture – or rather, of the fact that Marian sounded like she was half serious about it. Nick's unsettled look didn't encourage her, and neither did the way he absently reached a paw back to rub his behind as if it were sore.
"Will do, Mom. I, uh… I guess I owe you that much."
"You guess?" Her voice spiked as she fairly flung the next box out at him. She didn't meet the gaze of either of the two behind her, but her tone was becoming more and more unsteady by the second. "If this story of yours weren't so crazy, Nick, I wouldn't believe a word of it. You have no idea… how long I've…"
Nick found himself looking helplessly to Judy, who nudged him forward. He entered the closet, knelt by his mom, and did the only thing he could think of: hugged her.
"Nick…" she whispered, the tears unmistakable now.
He had to say something; anything. Stepping up and dropping to his knees, he laid a paw on his mother's shoulder and guided more than turned her to face him.
"I was… I was scared, Mom. Scared to own up and scared you wouldn't let me."
"Like that's any excuse?" she asked, burying her eyes in his shoulder.
He bit his lip. "No. No it's not," he uttered solemnly, laying his paws between her shoulder blades. "I don't have an excuse."
She pushed him away and held him at arm's length. "Do you really mean that?"
All he could do was nod. Then it was her turn to pull him in.
"Then I guess you've finally grown up."
Out in the cruiser, Officer Catano had begun to get decidedly annoyed by the time Nick came out with a thick paper parcel in his paws, bound in old twine.
"What took so long?" she asked, sounding slightly testy.
For some reason, Nick was feeling defensive at the moment. Maybe it was the way Catano sounded so accusatory over his having a reunion with his mom, or maybe he was still feeling tender from the reunion itself. Whatever it was, he snipped back, "What can I say? I had catching up to do."
Catano eyed him for a long time, then looked away. "Where's Hopps?"
Nick had been bracing for something along the lines of 'Do your catching up some other time. We're busy.' In answer to the question at paw, however, he glanced back at the house. "I don't know. Mom wanted to ask her something."
The cheetah looked up, following his gaze. "Well, I hope they make it snappy. We're already dragging our feet."
It was another minute or two before Judy emerged, looking to be in a very chipper mood. A very strangely chipper mood. "Alright," she announced, climbing into the back seat. "We can go now."
"About time," grumbled Catano. Then, seeming to relent a little of her grim demeanor, she asked, "How did things go with the family reunion?"
Nick sighed. "Well, I'm back in the will if that's what you want to know."
She shot him a look in the rear-view mirror, and for a split second Nick thought he caught a flash of indignation in her gaze, as if she couldn't believe he'd make such a glib joke about something like this. Then the look passed.
"What was the hold-up about, Hopps?"
Judy answered in an offhanded tone, as if trying to downplay the significance of her answer. "Well, she wanted to know a few things she thought Nick might fudge. Whether everything was okay with him, what kind of crowd he was running around with, whether he had anyone she should know about…" she trailed off, sensing Catano's annoyance and answering with a shrug. "Look, I know we're on a schedule here, but she deserved to know that much. I couldn't say no."
Nick eyed his bunny buddy suspiciously. "Anyone she should know about?" he echoed.
She chuckled. "Yeah, she seemed especially interested in whether she had any grandcubs."
At this question, he wasn't sure whether to roll his eyes at his mom… or turn pale over Judy. "And what did you tell her?" he asked.
She smiled reassuringly and gave him a light punch on the arm. "Relax, Slick. I told her you're not a dad yet." Pausing while he waited in silent expectation, she added, "And I didn't tell her about Taelia."
He sighed with relief, masking it as annoyance. "Thank you."
The reassuring smile gave way to a sadistic grin. "But I also promised to keep on your back until you told her that part yourself."
His groan of exasperation made it easier for them not to notice the conversation's effect on Catano. Stopping at a red light, she quickly raised a paw and rubbed her eyes.
The sooner I finish this assignment and lose these two, she thought, the better.
Well, finally a chapter gets a truly happy ending. They're back on the trail and Nick's family is back together (well, what's left of it). Not quite out of the woods yet, though. Will the plan work? What gives with Catano? Will Nick survive Judy's teasing… or his mom's reaction? lol
One other bit of news: my summer job has presented me with a curious dichotomy. On the one hand, I've got plenty of time (so far, anyway) to write out my thoughts on paper during slow periods at work. On the other hand, between my job and summer projects irl, I'm usually too tired to put most of my scribblings on the computer at the end of the day (last night as I write this I barely managed two paragraphs total). So we'll see how things go as the simmer – er, summer – marches on. In any case, happy reading! Keep the Faves, Follows, and Reviews coming!
Guest: Yo sé lo que quieres decir. Es muy fácil tratar de ayudar y terminar haciendo más daño que bien. A veces nos sentimos demasiado celosos o simplemente no sabemos lo que estamos haciendo, y las cosas se nos salen de las manos con mucha facilidad. Eso no es una excusa para no hacer nada, por supuesto, pero la acción debe guiarse por el buen juicio ... y, a veces, por una fuerte dosis de fe.
Guest (2): Nick indicated that he learned that mantra during the fiasco with the Junior Ranger Scouts, but Fin could have easily been the one to give him the words that went with it. If nothing else, Finnick must have reinforced it to some extent.
Justin Durfee on Chapter 34 (better late than never): Actually, that was somewhat disputed among the makers and in related material. It's true that one of the makers did say Grizzoli was a bear, and that he was depicted as such in the video game. However, in the movie it's unmistakably a white wolf – most likely Arctic – who responds to Bogo's mention of "Grizzoli." The most realistic explanation I've found in situ is that there are two Grizzolis, probably brothers by adoption, who both took their names from a grizzly bear. I might tap that later on, since you bring it up (could be kind of fun), but for now I'm just looking at the movie itself.
Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair
Easter Egg Answers:
Judy's thought about preferring to have a wasp in sight if it's around (comparing Vanya to said insect) is a nod to Voyage of the Dawn Treader when someone makes the same analogy in reference to a dragon. On the whole, I'd pick a dragon over Vanya myself.
The secretary's name is a nod to Stangason, one of the persons of interest (all I can say without spoilers) in the first Sherlock Holmes mystery, A Study in Scarlet.
It seems I outdid myself, so to speak, on the Home Alone 2 Easter Egg, which has somehow given me the slip.
The mention of starving piranhas is pretty vague, but it's a nod to the stunt which gave the fish their voracious reputation. When Theodore Roosevelt visited South America, some locals decided to impress him by barricading a section of river and stocking it with piranhas. The fish, normally fairly docile, naturally became mad with hunger (high concentration plus no incoming food), so when food was thrown to them they put on a feeding frenzy which put sharks to shame. that said, swimming in the Amazon river... not a good idea anyway. Appropriately enough, Vanya also put on a misleading show for authorities.
Also, a How to Train Your Dragon line I forgot to mention, when Nick sarcastically tells Judy "Thank you for summing that up." Kudos to niraD for catching that one. Also, am I the only one who thinks a crossover would have some epic banter between Nick and Hiccup?
And in case anyone wondered, the Carlos Ray Norris I quoted is better known as Chuck Norris. Yes, he's the one you've heard all those jokes about, and yes, he really did say that. I took a little license with the quote, the full length of which is found in his 12 Principles for Life (you can find them under Chuck Norris Fact #6 in The Official Chuck Norris Fact Book), which is actually much more upbeat when read in context and sounds like something Judy might say. I abbreviated it for this context because I felt that the full version, which talks of developing love, happiness, and loyalty would be the wrong tone for the beginning of the chapter. I chose to use it over other options because honestly, I couldn't think of any better quote to sum up this scene - and besides, Chuck Norris.