Charlie's fists were clenched so tightly that his fingernails
began making tiny imprints in his palms. But Charlie did not care. This was the
day Charlie would receive his first pet ever. And Charlie knew just what he wanted.
After completing all the forms and choosings and such, he was finally about to
get his pet-a blue Lupe puppy. Suddenly, Charlie saw a small figure trotting towards
him slowly. Immediately, Charlie knew this was his Lupe. He was so ecstatic that
he did not even notice the slight limp in his front right leg.
Giggling fiercely, Charlie ran to the Lupe and
scooped him into his arms. "Koen," he said with a grin, "I'll call you Koen."
With that, Charlie and Koen exited the agency, a true match made in heaven.
Charlie gazed into the face of the vet with intensity. The vet only mumbled
and hummed as he looked over Koen's right paw. It was almost two and a half
years later since that fateful day at the pound, and Koen had certainly grown
up. Koen was taller, heavier, and more muscular than any Lupe for miles around.
The one problem, however, was Koen's right paw.
Charlie had not even noticed Koen's permanent
limp until they had gotten home from the agency. But Charlie did not care, so
he let the limp make Koen special. Koen did not think it was so special. Koen
was a Lupe, and Lupe's were not supposed to have limps. A limp to a Lupe was
a curse. Lupes were meant to glide swifter than the wind, and chase Chias down
like mere ants. Koen could not do this.
So as the vet took a final look at Koen's bad
paw, Charlie wished with all his might that things would turn out good. "So,
Doctor, how is his paw?"
The doctor frowned a bit and cleared his throat,
"Well, while running in this race you two seemed so determined to participate
in will not damage Koen's paw any more, I will have to advise you against it.
Koen's paw is very weak and unstable. He will by no means be able to keep up
with any other Lupes, and could never win."
Koen interrupted, "Yes, but will you sign the
permission slip for the race?"
The doctor sighed once more, "I'll have to advise
"But will you sign it?" Charlie urged.
The doctor shrugged his shoulders in defeat,
"Yes, I will sign it. Give it here, but I must ask you to make good decisions
for your own pet's sake."
"Oh, yes sir, I surely will!" Charlie said happily
while pulling out a crumpled permission slip out of his pant's pocket. As he
smoothed it out, Koen exchanged joyous glances with him. The doctor hurriedly
scribbled a signature on the dotted line and thrust it back at Charlie. Charlie
shook his hand firmly, motioned to Koen as he leaped off the examination table,
and ripped off through the vet's door. As the door opened wide, a fresh breeze
greeted the two like old friends. Charlie opened his arms wide to return the
greeting, and smiled widely.
"Mission accomplished," Charlie turned to his
friend. "Now we can compete in that Lupe-Athon next week!"
"I know," Koen danced around. "This will be
my year to win! I won't let any limp paw stop me from achieving my dream of
"That's the spirit, old boy! Come on, let's
go out for ice cream to celebrate! My treat because you deserve it!" Charlie
took off down the lane of Neopia. Koen started to chase after his owner.
Koen felt like a floating Faerie himself as
he streaked down the lane. After slurping up a frigid ice cream, Charlie and
Koen took off walking home, enjoying the setting sun. Soon the moon appeared
as the two reached their NeoHome. "Coming in?" Charlie asked as Koen stalled
"In a minute," Koen offered.
"Suit yourself," Charlie shrugged and continued
inside. Upon hearing the slam of a door, Koen walked around to the back of their
yard and sat in his favorite chair on the porch. The chair's positioning always
gave a clear view of the moon. Koen had always sat there when he was younger,
wishing for a cure to his limp. Lately it had been working. Koen's leg had not
bothered him in months. The change was rather quick and unexpected, but very
Koen had always wanted to run in the Lupe-Athon,
but due to his leg, had never been able to. Now was Koen's chance to prove his
worth. He was going to win, no matter what it took, he was going to win. However,
as Koen was trotting back around to the front door to enter in the warm, cozy
house, Koen stumbled over a rock and fell to the ground… on his right paw. A
jolting pain shot up through Koen's body and electrified him. Koen shook his
head and attempted to rise back up. As he put pressure onto his right paw, it
broke its brace. Oh no, Koen thought.
Koen whimpered, and limped the rest of the way.
Before he nuzzled open the door, Koen knew something was wrong. The fall had
done something. Would he be able to run? Of course he would. He'd make sure
he could. Biting his teeth together, Koen opened the door, walked to his room
and then over to his bed, and collapsed onto the soft blankets, his paw throbbing
"You sure you want to run?" Charlie asked Koen nervously as they walked to
Koen rolled his eyes playfully and sighed, "Of
course I want to run, silly! I've prepared for this for years!"
"Okay, okay, you're right. You've just seemed
kind of put out for the last week." Charlie was right, of course. Koen had not
felt right with his paw, though he could now walk on it again. In fact, he was
even sure he could run on it.
"I'll be fine. Really, I will. Don't worry so
much. Just promise me you'll be there to cheer me on."
Charlie smiled and gazed fondly at Koen, "Of
course I will. What kind of an owner do you think I am?"
"A worried one, that's what kind," Koen answered
playfully. Then he switched his attention, "Oh, look! We're here. There's the
starting line over there yonder that tree. I'll go get in place, okay?"
Charlie nodded and took off for the stands at
the finish line. Koen walked in the opposite direction. As he approached the
starting line, he saw that their were many, many other Lupes in line. Some
were strong, and some were weak. Some were blue, and some were red. Some had
strong paws… and some didn't, thought Koen. Holding his head up high, Koen
took his place beside an older Shadow Lupe who was also very muscular.
Koen turned to wish him luck, but saw that it
was a her. She grinned at him, "Good luck, young one. May the wind run with
Koen nodded and replied, "Aye, as is to you."
Her voice was smooth and mysterious. He was about to say something else, but
another loud voice interrupted.
"Attention runners! The annual Lupe-Athon will
begin soon. Let's keep this clean and fair. The amount to run is one time around
this track which is equal to a mile. I bid all of you good luck." Koen's heart
started to race hurriedly and he felt as if it would jump out of his chest.
"Now, go in 5…4…3…2…1 GO!"
Koen leaped forward with a great burst of energy.
The wind met his face and Koen took a deep breath. His legs pounded harder than
ever with each step he took. He had no idea where his opponents were, though,
because Koen always looked to the ground when he ran. Somehow, it encouraged
him, for it did not remind him of how much farther he had to run. It kept him
going through anything.
In the stands, Charlie peered excitedly at the
runners. He held his breath when he noticed that Koen was in the lead. In fact,
Koen was at a great lead. Around in the stands, Charlie heard a voice gasp,
"Wow, look at him run!" He silently rejoiced with Koen. It was looking good
Koen himself was feeling pretty good, too. His
breathing was steady and paced. The first turn was coming up, and Koen chanced
a look behind him. The Shadow Lupe seemed to be approaching him steadily, but
it did not worry him. He turned his head back to the path ahead of him.
He simply had to win. All his life, Koen had
been put down and told he couldn't do it because of his bad paw. Charlie had
carried Koen mostly everywhere in his earlier days because he thought walking
would make Koen's leg worse. Actually, carrying him had probably made it worse.
His leg had been very weak for a big portion of his life, until Charlie had
stopped babying him. This was Koen's chance to prove that he could do this by
Koen glanced ahead of him again, and noticed
that the second turn was arriving. Koen turned up his speed as he reached the
second turn. But then a jolt of pain shot through his leg as it had only a week
before. It crumpled beneath him for a moment, but Koen recovered swiftly. He
passed the second turn with ease. Again he chanced a backward glance to size
up his competition. The Shadow Lupe was now only about ten feet behind him.
Koen began to worry.
Charlie was also worrying. But not because the
Shadow Lupe was speeding up, but because Koen was slowing down. He was losing
his pace rapidly, and it worried Charlie. Charlie hoped desperately that he
would regain his speed, but it was not to be. Koen only slowed down steadily
as he reached the third turn.
The female shadow Lupe was now side by side
him, and as she passed him she look sideways at him and winked while whispering,
"Just never give up." With that she took off with great speed, leaving Koen
in the dust. This discouraged Koen and finally made him aware that he was slowing
down and of the pain in his paw.
Soon, a yellow, fire, Mystery Island, green,
and red Lupe had passed Koen, who was now barely trotting. With every step,
his paw crumpled beneath him, causing measurable pain. One by one, every other
racer passed by Koen until finally only a skinny, weak Lupe remained behind
him as they reached the final stretch of running track. The shadow Lupe and
most others had already passed the finish line and were receiving awards.
Koen finally halted in his steps. What was the
point of even finishing? His paw was ruined for life, and he had disgraced Charlie.
What really was the point? From behind him, a cheery voice called out, "Why
have you stopped, friend?"
Koen turned to see the final racer, a blue Lupe
like himself. "What's the point, I have to ask? We've both lost. I was supposed
to win, but this dumb paw ruined it all." Koen bowed his head in shame. "We'll
both be the laughing stock of the race."
The blue Lupe only grinned at him and pointed
to the crowd. He had now stopped next to Koen. "Hear that?"
"Yeah," Koen admitted as he referred to the
cheering crowds, which Koen figured was for the winners. "So what?"
"Just look around you, man. They're not cheering
for the winners. They're cheering for the finishers. What do you say? Want to
be a finisher?"
Koen looked to the crowd, and the Lupe was right.
The winners were no where in sight. Surprising even himself, Koen nodded slowly,
and took off trotting with his new friend. Koen and the Lupe finished the race
that day. A huge cheer to rival all other cheers greeted the two as they stepped
over that line. The line meant more than just finishing the race. It was also
a beginning place. A beginning place for Koen and Charlie to begin a new life.
A life based on things more important than winning... and more than perfectly