Quotes in parenthesis like so, ((“”)) signal the characters are talking in English. Regular quotes signal the Swedish language.
Characters © me
((“You ok, Sterling?”))
Ferdinand tapped his son’s shoulder, who has been spaced out for a while. It was nearing almost seven hours in their plane en route to Stockholm, the Bengtzings’ original hometown, one that Sterling saw seldom, and the first time the mustelid would return as a professional athlete, and positioned as one of the most notable personalities of Swedish descent in recent times.
((“I admit I'm… kinda nervous…”)) the young polecat said, the GPS map on display on the screen in front of his seat displaying that the transatlantic flight was soon to end, the simulation showing they were a few kilometers from mainland Europe. ((“It's been so long and hoping they would receive me well…”))
((“It's gonna be alright, Sterling…”)) Michelle, his mom, assured. ((“Your two years in the league have been nothing but amazing. I'm sure this will be unforgettable!”)) she exclaimed, as she could see mainland Norway from her window.
It didn't take long for the plane to land on Arlanda Airport, as the multitude of furs made a beeline to their way outside, some recognizing the marbled polecat family, who were always willing to take a second to sign or take selfies with those who went up to them.
((“Gotta take a piss, wait a sec guys…”)) Sterling told his parents, while on the way to the departures area.
Ferdinand nodded. ((“Same here, kid. You wait for us, Michelle?”))
((“Yeah, I'm good. Take your time…”)) she replied. The elder polecat got her smartphone out as her family got out of earshot. Michelle remembered the TV sponsors of her son’s latest venture, checking up on the channel’s website and live streaming of different events. A click on one that looked heavily like the airport peaked her curiosity, opening up and streaming the content, looking at a young and overexcited hyena reporter.
“We’re here live from Kanal 5! Waiting to welcome the Royal Family of Swedish basketball back home! Today, however, it's all about the younger generation, current basketball star and free agent Sterling Bengtzing’s first touchdown to Sweden! And we ain't alone!” the camerafur pulled back to a packed crowd, with flags, posters and all kinds of memorabilia, cheering and waiting anxiously for the athlete to cross those doors. They approached some of the overtly excited furs, to get quotes and pad up some time.
“All of Sweden is so proud of Sterling! What he did so far in his career has been stellar, and he's making the legacy of his surname justice. I can't wait to meet him up!” a teenage canine responded to the mic. Followed by an elk in his mid-forties standing next to him. “He is a true son of Sweden, he makes us all real proud of being Swedish, and carries the motherland the best out of anyone out there!”
“Hejsan, Sterling!” a small kid with his parent cheered with a poster of the polecat.
“We have reports the plane has landed successfully, so it should only be a matter of minutes until he comes through the door! Viktor Langström, Kanal 5...”
Michelle smiled, closing the phone window as the polecat pair made their way out of the restrooms, her initial statement she told to Sterling confirmed. “I think it'll be just right, I said.” the female mustelid told herself. As they got their luggage and papers sorted, they made their way to the exit, the crowd going wild when they caught a glimpse of the mustelids. Sterling couldn't believe his eyes as he caught a glimpse at the crowd on the floor below, turning to his dad, somewhat speechless.
“I have never seen anything like this! You ready?” Michelle asked.
Sterling was still shaken. “...Nej..." he chuckled, wide-eyed, struggling to believe the scenario. “...Vad?”
“Enjoy, son..." Ferdinand said to him, patting him on the back as the door opened, the deafening cheers hitting the family, cameras flashing as the young polecat made his way in the crowd, shaking off the disbelief as much as he could of his expression, taking pictures and signing portraits. This wasn't anything new to the mustelid, used to being recognized in the crowds by fans, but the thought that his last trip to Sweden was anything but this celebrative of an event was still tough to assimilate at first.
“Mr. Bengtzing, how does it feel returning to Stockholm after all these years?” the correspondent of Kanal 5 asked the polecat, who was trapped in that emotion high, not catching he was being interviewed at first.
((“Fucking surreal…”)) Sterling laughed, overwhelmed by the response as he tried to respond to every fan in the crowd that wanted to shake hands or greet him, to the point it was tough to make the language switch in his brain at first, forgetting that he could talk Swedish freely in this place. “Am… am I really in Sweden?” the mustelid laughed at the camera, uncharacteristically taken aback, smiling, He quickly made his way out of the feeling, back into signing stuff fans asked for and posing on any pictures he was asked to do.
”Tusen tack, Sverige, tack så mycket!” Sterling yelled to the crowd, who excitedly returned the greetings. The crowd was quickly directed to make the way for the mustelids to reach the respective taxi; not stopping them for asking for autographs or pictures, which Sterling in his bliss couldn’t deny. The Bengtzings managed to depart from the airport without incident, the young polecat busy with his phone, about to explode between mentions and messages.
“We going to your house, dad?” Sterling asked. Admittedly, it was tough to get used to other furs’ Swedish, despite constant use with his parents, but he was sure to shake it off in the coming days.
“Yup, should be enough for all of us to spend some days together before you fly to Gothenburg.” Ferdinand nodded.
“How are you handling yourself, honey?” Michelle asked, making the driver chuckle.
“C’mon mom… I’m a star, keep it together!” the mustelid chided.
“I don’t care, you’re still my baby and I’m proud of you!” Michelle mockingly replied.
“Whatever, I guess...” Sterling ceded, chuckling. It wasn’t long after the family made it up to the house. The elder polecat inhaled, a sense of relief and heartiness as he opened the door to his old living grounds, the insides pitch dark. Sterling felt a sense of pride, yet suspicion. “Why are there so many car-”
The polecat was taken aback, the room full of fellow marbled polecats, all family members. The athlete could not believe his eyes, quickly going over all the people in the room, from his distant Turkish cousins, to his grandparents, to even the feral dog the household had, who quickly went to greet Sterling, remembering him from last trip when he was 18.
“What the hell, dad?!” The polecat said, laughing as he struggled with the large feral German Shepherd that belonged to one of his cousins, greeting him excitedly.
“We are all here to show you we support you and that we are proud of you!” Ferdinand responded, not wasting time in catching up to everyone. In the middle of the celebrations, the elder polecat directed Sterling to the younger polecat’s great-grandfather, soft spoken, yet still lucid at 98 years of age.
The elder held Sterling’s hand tightly, the usually boisterous polecat overcome with awe, silent, wanting to catch every word. “What you are doing for Sweden and this family… it’s incredible. I want you to keep… bringing that energy, because it is what… makes you stand out on this world. You are a Bengtzing through and through, and let it be known that whatever happens, I love you and you're making everyone in this country proud.”
“Thank you...” Sterling hugged the elder, overcame with emotion, not able to describe the weight of the situation in words. “I'll make all of you even prouder of me, believe that.”
“GUYS! STERLING’S AD IS ON TV!” his cousin Roland shouted, making the whole room direct to the flatscreen TV in the living room, in midst of cheer and anticipation.
“You have to make your mark...now or never… ”
“I’m Sterling Bengtzing, prime swedish baller, ready to give back to his incredible nation! Let’s give Sweden a Guinness World Record!”
A quick display of home videos of young furs receiving a call from Sterling fill up the screen. “A nationwide search, a day to celebrate the talent that this country might not how it has. Hundreds of young people hungry to partake, and the final cut has been made!”
“You have been accepted in the Vägen T-”
Jannik Sävfenbom (Paris, France): “OH MY GOD YOU’RE KIDDING ME?!”
Sirbina Thorsson (Kalmar, Småland): “Tack, tack tack så mycket, aaaaaah!”
“Walk up to the camera, your most stylish dribble!”
Anna Lisa Hedlund (Linköping, Östergötland): “Woooooooo!”
“You have been accepted in the World Record!”
Sven Johan Ljungkvist: “Thank you so much!” the Malamute said, starting to cry.
“Tearing up, huh? How do you say ‘This is gonna kick so much fucking ass!’ in Sami, Sven? ...What?... Holy shit, whatever you just said right back at ya...”
“Some special invitations have been made as well...”
“I heard you two have declared for the draft… So here’s the deal. You have an open invitation to participate in this world record.”
Sakarias Ekholm (Norrköping, Östergötland) “I was gonna get you if you didn't let me in!”
Vendela Malmqvist (Malmö, Skåne) “Oooh my god, thank you so much!”
“Fifteen games, fifteen cities, twenty-four hours, all these young, ambitious furs… One World Record for Sweden. The Route to Tokyo starts here.”
Somewhere in Sweden
The badger sighed, looking despondent at the flashing advertising of the world record, something he considered pretty inescapable.
“What the fuck?” he sighed. “Just… why I didn't make it? I wanted this more than any of those… dumbasses who qualified.”
An older badger entered the room. “What are you doing up so late? Please go to bed, remember we need to make the trip to Eskilstuna really early. You can't be sleepy in the doctor’s office.”
The mustelid sighed. “Alright, mom…”
“Listen… I know you're disappointed that you didn't make it. But I'm sure there will be a lot more chances, honey…”
“I don't know if that's the case here, mom…” he chided. “But I'm not gonna give up, I'm not giving up, that's not the kind of badger I am.”
The female badger sighed. “It'll all be fine, honey. Just go to bed.... I love you, never forget that.” she departed.