Author's Note: I imagine that Max is speaking in his post-pubescent voice at this point. This won't affect the story in any way, just trying to give a clear indication of my vision.

This is actually an "interim" story, partially intended to bridge the show with the movies. I put it in the A Goofy Movie section because Bobby's name is dropped (and Peg and Pistol's are not), but it's probably more interesting to people who are also Goof Troop fans.

My Darkest Year

1994. I'll always remember 1994 as my darkest year. 1992 and 1993 were tolerable, and before then, not so much. But nothing before or since could compare to the darkness of 1994. It was then I was sentenced to five years.

My mother had been fighting with my father again. It was happening more and more often. My sister didn't maybe understand as much as I did that something was bound to break. I'm surprised Mom was willing to put up with him for so long. I certainly wasn't. But as a kid, there was nothing I could do about it.

The moment Mom said those words, "I want a divorce," I forgot myself. Usually I'm a pretty pessimistic guy, but in this moment I briefly thought nothing could go wrong. That I was finally getting something to go my way. My mistake was being optimistic. Never again.

I jumped around my room happily, and I'm sure I must have rattled the house, but in that moment I didn't care. In just a little while, I would be free from my dad's evil clutches. Or so I thought… but of course, the one time, the one single solitary time that I don't think through the consequences of an event, I really, really should have.

I planned to tell the courts that Dad was an unfit parent. But he would have none of that. He told me that I had to say he was a good parent or else. I didn't know what was on the end of that "else" but I certainly knew I didn't want it.

I was conflicted then. Should I tell the courts that Dad is an unfit parent, which is true, and risk him doing something awful to me after losing custody? Or worse, if he won it anyway? Or should I lie… under oath… against my best interests… in order to avoid the terrible thing? One thirteen-year-old shouldn't have to make this kind of choice.

On the day of the hearing, it seemed like Mom was getting most of the stuff. She ended up getting the house and the boat. Well, okay. She also got the dog. At this rate it looked like Dad would be left with nothing, and still have to pay alimony and child support. Assuming he didn't get custody of us, which I thought for sure he wouldn't. I was half right, but not in the way it should have been.

My sister… he loved her. I could tell he loved her. He doted on her constantly. Gave her encouragement. Spoiled her a little. Never, ever screamed at her, insulted her, pushed her around, or took advantage of her like he did with me. Could he have had custody of her safely? Probably. Yet, he didn't get her. He got me.

And it was my fault. I decided to give him a series of backhanded compliments. They weren't lies, but they didn't sound overly negative. I thought that the officials would be able to pick up on the true meanings of what I was saying even though it would go over my dad's egotistical head. I was wrong. It seemed like every adult in the world (except Mom) was either an idiot or a jerk. Maybe it was because meek little cowards like me had all fallen by the wayside by the time they reached adulthood. I know how fortunate I was to have a friend at this point in time.

My sister begged Mom's lawyer to try to get me back. She could tell how upset I was, and since I was part of the reason Mom wanted the divorce in the first place, it was fresh in her mind. The lawyer unfortunately could do nothing more. The decision was final. He got me.

I was the only thing he got. It made him very angry. I didn't think he loved me much before, but the day he got custody of me he started to hate me. And I didn't think the abuse would or even could get worse. But it did. Not much in intensity—the only time he hit me was a fluke I'll get to shortly—but in continuousness. He never said he loved me again. When we were moving into our new house, which he had to sell his car dealership to pay for, I told him that I was going to kill myself. He didn't care. Yes, he did respond, "You're bluffing". But I wasn't.

I found a gun in the garage and I was going to go through with it. Or was I? I called my best friend Max on the phone.

"Max," I said, "I don't want to live anymore! I'm going to end it all!"

"What?" he shouted. "Don't move. Don't do anything until I get there." I complied. Max was my best friend. He wanted to help. He arrived by skateboard a half an hour later. He ran into the house and found me, sitting and staring despairingly.

"Give me the gun," he demanded.

"I don't think that's such a good…" I said.

"I mean it, Peej!" he said. "Give me the gun, now!"

"But if I do then…" I said.

"It's your dad's, isn't it?" Max asked. I nodded. "Hand it here. Please. I don't want it with you."

I complied. Max put it in his bag.

"What were you thinking, PJ?" Max asked. "Killing yourself? Are you crazy?"

"I… um… Max, it's awful. I lost my house, my dog, my sister, and my mom. My dad is even worse than usual. I told him I was going to kill myself and he didn't care. And the worst part is, you and I aren't even neighbors anymore!" I started crying, though I tried not to.

Max wrapped his arms as far around me as he could. "There, there," he said. "It'll all be okay in the end. You'll see."

"Really?" I asked.

"You bet," Max said. "I'll tell dad about your predicament and we'll try to move closer to you."

"You're the greatest!" I said. I wrapped my arms around Max and maybe squeezed him a little too tightly.

And Max, true to his word, did come and move in near me. It was actually really nice. Dad was actually happy to see Mr. Goof. He still hated me, but it was something of an improvement. The first day that they moved in, my father told me to get some beer for him and Mr. Goof. I did exactly that. It seemed like an ordinary day. Mr. Goof and my dad were getting along better than ever before. After their drinks were done, I attempted to bus the mugs out. Unfortunately for me and for the beer mugs, I tripped. I fell. The glasses broke. Dad rushed in. He gave me an enormous slap across the face and hit me in the stomach so hard I fell over. I started to cry. This was the last time I cried openly.

Mr. Goof walked in, saw me sitting on the floor and crying, and looked at me with a saddened expression. Max followed the sound of my voice and was stunned by the time he reached the door. Dad started to cry too, and pulled me close to him. "What did I do?" he kept asking. "What did I do?" He was obviously remorseful of the attack. But he never apologized. Nor did he assure me that he loved me. But he did assure me it wouldn't happen again. There were things I knew not to believe him about, but this was the one promise he kept.

Max and I were in a new neighborhood. A new district. We started going to high school, but we didn't know who anyone was. I was used to being made fun of, but for Max it was new. It jaded him until he was practically as jaded as I was. And then he got more jaded. We got called gay a lot. Considering how much time we spent together and how little time either of us (but especially me) spent with other people, I understood where they were coming from. Nonetheless, Max thought that we needed a third friend to quell the suspicions. That's how we met Bobby.

Bobby and I were as different as night and day. He was confident, loud, nonchalantly bizarre, and to be frank, a little annoying. And since high school jaded Max, he wasn't very similar to him either. But he was a freak. He was willing to befriend Max. It took a little longer for me. But by 1995, everything had settled. I had gotten used to living alone with Dad. Max and I were neighbors again. Bobby was our friend. I had survived my darkest year. And I couldn't have done it without Max.

Since 1992 when we first met, Max has always been the most important person in my life. And I will continue to be his friend. He may use me from time to time, and not listen when I criticize his plans, and not give me much respect, but I know that deep down, he does care about me. And for being the person who cared the most about me, I'll care more about him than I do about anyone else.