The Working Girl
Hunnybee sighed as her daughter's voice rang
out for the seventeenth time that hour. Plodding down the hall and yanking open
the door, she stumbled through the sea of plushies covering the rug and arrived,
alive, by the side of the bed. "What now?"
LightningBabe, or Ming, as she preferred to be
called, was sitting in bed, reading a comic book, munching on a cherries jubalee,
and yet managing to look like a martyr for the cause. Masking her irritation,
Hunnybee asked again, "What do you want?"
Ming looked up. "Oh, hi. I want a smoothie. Make
it a mega super lemon grape one, okay? Thanks." Her mother clenched her fists,
but kept a stiff smile on her face as she headed to the kitchen. As she dropped
the fruit in the blender, she reflected on the past week. Last Monday Ming had
come down with the Neopox, and consequently missed out on the class trip to
Terror Mountain the following day. To make it worse, her siblings had gone,
so it was just the Kougra and her mother, since the others wouldn't be back
for a few days.
Hunnybee gritted her teeth, grabbed the smoothie,
and made her way back to Ming's room. Practically tossing the drink to her daughter,
she managed to say, "WHAT?" Ming smiled sweetly. "I'm done with my book. Buy
me another? Thanks."
Hunnybee let out a full-throated scream and flipped
the mattress over. Ming's squawk of surprise was muffled by the sheets. Thrashing
around, and finally managing to extricate herself, she asked, "What was that
Her mother glared daggers at her. "I am so sick
and tired of you lying around all the time! You're perfectly healthy, but you're
still trying to use the benefits of a sick…oh…I have had more than enough!"
Ming blinked. Mom had never become angry before
- she just stuck kelp in the unfortunate's food. "Well, I'm sorry, all right?
I'll do better next time. Now, are you going to get me a new book or what?"
Another scream split the air. "I am so tired
of this! If I didn't have so much to do around here, I would be sitting around
too. But I don't have that luxury, do I? Since you won't do anything around
here, maybe you'll do something for someone else for a change. You're going
Her daughter cheered. This was an unexpected
treat…erm, punishment. Right. Punishment. Hunnybee silenced her with a malevolent
grin and finished, "…to get a job."
* * * * *
Staring up at the massive building, she swallowed
hard. This would not be fun. Turning to Hunnybee, she took the proffered Pink
Job Coupon and stepped through the glass revolving doors. Half-expecting to
find prone forms on the floors and screaming taskmasters cracking whips, she
was shocked to discover that…it looked perfectly normal. Almost like the office
where Mom worked. Except she would actually have to work here, and she had the
feeling no one would coo over her and smother her with love and chocolate.
Ming slowly approached the front desk, clutching
the job coupon in her clammy paws. The light faerie sitting behind it was hurriedly
stamping papers and licking envelopes. When the Kougra cleared her throat, the
faerie jumped a full foot into the air.
"Oh! You surprised me! I'm really busy right
now. Can it wait? But then, I suppose it's usually best to deal with one crisis
at a time. What do you need?" Ming held out her coupon, paws shaking, not trusting
her voice. The faerie flipped through her papers. "Let's see…no, we don't have
any jobs at present that need a pink job coupon. Sorry."
Ming's face must have shown the confusion she
felt, because the faerie smiled. "I take it this is your first time here?" Pulling
a folder from the bottom of a pile on the floor, she spread the papers on the
desk and slipped a pair of reading glasses on. "Let's see…something easy, I
think…here, why don't you keep the coupon for now and do a Basic Job? Those
are quite easy, and I think you'll enjoy it. Hmm…ah, here's one! Five Cheese
Tortillas. The time limit is twenty-three minutes. Think you can do it?"
Ming nodded, and the faerie took out a large
stamp and pounded a piece of paper. "There. Now, you're allowed to use the Shop
Wizard, so try that and see how you do. Have fun!" Turning around, the faerie
was lost in a flurry of envelopes, folders, and letters.
Pushing open the door and blinking at the bright
sunlight, Ming looked around. Calculating quickly, she found she had just enough
NP to catch the ferry and buy the items. Hopping aboard, she settled down to
wait. She couldn't quite believe it…she was doing a job! And…it actually felt
pretty good. Staring out the window, she gazed down at the rapidly shrinking
buildings and people. What were they doing? Most likely going shopping for groceries,
or they were just tourists, there for a season. But they all worked…and seemed
not to mind.
What was so horrible about work, anyway? She
had always had a bias against anyone that did work for fun, or had a special
liking for work, or even just did it regularly. But why? This wasn't so bad…really,
it wasn't. The definition of work was, after all, sustained physical or mental
effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result. She did that
in school, and she liked school. What made work different?
With a hiss and a squeal, the ferry pulled to
a stop in Neopia Central and Ming alighted. A few steps later, she found the
Shop Wizard and told him of her job. Flipping a book so fast that she was sure
he couldn't even really be reading what was in it, he planted a foot on page
4,558 and triumphantly stated, "There!" Ming's eyes focused on the names, and
at the top - luck of all luck! - was a shop with 14 Cheese Tortillas. More than
Paws pounding the pavement, she sprinted through
alleys, splashing through puddles and kicking aside garbage. Twice she nearly
got lost, due to outdated maps posted here and there, not to mention the twisting
and curving roads. Finally she arrived, panting and sweating, at her destination
- a small, brightly colored shop with a cheerily decorated sign and bright decals
in the windows. Dashing into the shop, she paid for the food, grabbed the package,
and ran for the depot, barely catching the last ferry of the hour.
Back in Faerieland, the light faerie glanced
at her watch and sighed. Only a minute and forty-three seconds left. She always
felt so guilty whenever first-timers failed. Just then, Ming burst through the
door and slammed the bag of food down on the desk.
"Excellent work! You have earned 65 NP!"
Ming gaped. "That's it?"
The faerie laughed. "Jobs like this don't pay
too well, honey. You need to be more experienced before you can get the really
good jobs. But don't worry; all it takes is time and patience. Just like anything
else in life."
Ming slowly nodded. "I guess you're right. Now,
can I have another job?"
* * * * *
Hunnybee looked up as her sweaty, dirty, but
radiantly triumphant daughter walked through the door. Smiling softly, she teased,
"Well, I knew it would take you a while to finish a job, but I had no idea it
would take you four and a half hours!"
Ming laughed and shook her head. "Oh, Mom, you're
so funny. I did five jobs! I would have done more, but that's the limit for
Plopping down on the sofa next to her mother,
she told of her mishap with a Buzz shopkeeper, of the faerie in charge, of the
first shop she had gone to, of the unfriendly shoppers, of the seemingly useless
items she had to fetch… "Man, I'm tired. Think I'll hit the sack. G'night, Mom."
Long after her daughter had left the room, Hunnybee
stared at the wall. When she wasn't doing things for her kids, she felt…well,
useless. Now, Ming didn't need her anymore. Would the others follow suit and
become independent? She knew she couldn't bear that. Her "babies" were her whole
life. Switching off the lamp, she curled into a ball and fell asleep.
The next morning was unusually quiet. Ming was
still sleeping off the effects of a working day, but would no doubt be up in
an hour, ready to head off to Faerieland. Hunnybee sighed. Each day would be
exactly the same, she was sure - getting up early, making pancakes, feeding
her daughter and shipping her off to Faerieland. The others would soon catch
on and want to work as well, and it was only a matter of time before they became
self-sufficient…and she would be all alone.
Ming's voice sounded tired, but held an edge
of panic. Hunnybee appeared at the door and asked, "What is it?" But she could
see right away what it was. The usually deep blue and gold fur was covered in
red blotches of various sizes. Somehow, it seemed wrong. These spots weren't
quite the same as the ones from earlier in the week, but who cared? She was
needed! Trying to cover a smile of relief, she grabbed her purse and announced
she was going to the pharmacy.
As soon as her mother left the room, Ming pulled
a red marker from under her pillow. Touching up her spots, she allowed a grin
to creep over her face. This was going to be fun.