There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 111,611,307 Issue: 221 | 22nd day of Celebrating, Y7
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A Christmas Gift


by silent_snow

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Petpets, though incredibly adorable, could really make a mess.

     Archie, shopkeeper and owner of Wintery Petpets, didn't particularly want to sweep up the shop that day. He had already wiped all the Jinjah crumbs off of the counter, dusted all of the variously-colored hairs off of the shelves and windowsills, and cleaned out the Bika stables in the backyard. As a matter of fact, he had finished all of his other chores, from combing the Raindorfs all the way down to making sure the Snowickles were all safely in their ice-made boxes, so that they wouldn't melt overnight.

     Everything was done, except that one chore: sweeping. He had yet to sweep all of the snow, Petpet fur, and slush off of his floor and into the outside. But all Archie wanted just then was to lock up his shop and head outside, to Happy Valley. Once the store was closed, he could go and frolic in the snow, and have the most incredible time skating and throwing snowballs at his friends. With a sigh, Archie glanced out of one of the shop's windows. Outside, snow was starting to lightly fall as the sun set, a few tourists were heading over to the Slushie Shop, snowballs were being hurled at some poor Faerie Acara as she sped away from the Snow Wars game, and a young pink Ixi was leading a line of Firs to his shop.

     Archie stared at the line of Petpets. What was this? He didn't remember putting in an order for more Petpets. And even if he had, that Ixi wasn't the usual deliveryman. Strangely enough, however, Archie did know who the pink Ixi was. As a matter of fact, the Ixi had worked for him at one point in time. Archie stepped away from the window and walked over to the door, reaching it just as it was opened and the Ixi trotted in. A string of bells that had been attached to the door jingled welcomingly, completely contradicting the hostile glare on Archie's face.

     "Ukki? By Fyora, what d'ya think you're doing with those Firs?"

     The pink Ixi, apparently called Ukki, stepped away from the doorway and started ushering the Petpets in. "Don't worry, Arch. I'm not asking for a refund, since I didn't buy these." He chuckled as if this was funny.

     The scowl line on Archie's forehead deepened as he watched the Petpets continue to walk in. "Explain. Now."

     "Alright, cool down already. Look, Archie… you know those trees over by the Advent Calendar that burned down yesterday when that Scorchio got mad at his prize? Well, I found out that these little guys were living there, and now they don't have a home. I figured you could sell them off to some nice owners, so that they could have a family again."

     Archie stared down at the line of Petpets. They had all gotten inside by that point in time, and were all staring up at him in interest. Counting down the line, Archie realized that Ukki had managed to find seven green Firs, two blues, and one brown one. Ten in all. Archie shook his head, the scowl line on his brow easing out. "Ukki, it's nice of ya to want to help these little guys, but I can't guarantee they'll get sold."

     "Come on, Arch, just try. It's Christmas, after all. Consider it a Christmas gift, from me to you."

     At this, Archie grinned. "It's not Christmas for another week, ya optimist. But fine, I'll take 'em on."

     Ukki cheered, laughed, and praised Archie for his generosity, but the Bruce wasn't listening. Archie was carefully looking down the row of Firs, analyzing their curious faces. All seemed equally cheerful and spunky, the perfect Petpet for a younger pet. They would probably get bought quickly. Archie smiled, and then looked over to the still-ranting Ukki.

     "I'll take them on… if you agree t'sweep the shop for me today."

     *****

     Archie leaned against the back wall of his shop, rubbing a flipper over his head. With Christmas came the Advent Calendar, and with the Advent Calendar came frantic shoppers looking for last-minute gifts. There were only three days left until the 25th, but his stock of Petpets was depleting at an alarming rate. If he wasn't careful, he'd be out of Petpets before Christmas came, which meant he'd have to order more Petpets in and take care of the ones who weren't bought after the holidays were over. The Bruce grumbled under his breath unhappily. He just wanted to get out of the store for a while, and fool around outside. Just a bit of relaxation… that was all he needed.

     "Chrrrrpp chrrrrp?"

     Surprised, Archie instinctively looked over to the doorway that led to the back part of his shop, where he kept the Petpets who weren't on display. A brown Fir had wandered into the main part of the shop, and was looking around in interest. It took Archie a moment to remember that this Fir was one of the wild ones he had recently taken in. He had already managed to sell six of the ten little Petpets, and he fully expected to sell the other four before Christmas came around.

     But this little Fir… he was the one that Archie always noticed. The little Petpet was always overly curious, and had already wandered out of his pen several times. He was the one who had spilled all of the Tasu's food onto the floor the other day, while apparently trying to dislodge a Christmas Fir Ball from the shelf in the back. It had taken half an hour for Archie to clean up the mess, but he'd found it hard to get angry at the little Petpet. He had felt that he couldn't yell at the creature when it just stood nearby, eyeing the spilled food in such a forlorn way. It hadn't seemed right.

     Now Archie managed to smile in the Fir's general direction, even though his eyes were still fixed on the big window in the front. This close to Christmas, he always had to be on the lookout for customers. "Now, ya better get back in your pen, little guy. It's not your turn on display yet."

     He flicked his eyes back over to the Petpet's direction and shook his head. The brown Fir had chosen to ignore him, and was now wandering towards his desk. Archie eyed the Fir's quivering branches and decided that the little guy had been pent up too much. He was probably due for a bit of time out, anyway. Archie waddled over to the Petpet and picked it up, then started flip-flopping back to the counter. The Fir twisted around in his flippers, trying to look fully around his shop.

     "Hold up a minute, now." Archie absentmindedly told the Fir as he dodged an icy spot on the floor, careful not to lose his hold on the wiggling Petpet. Reaching the counter, he gently deposited his burden on top of it and then took his usual position: behind the register. After checking to make sure that no buyers were coming close to his shop, Archie looked back at the brown Fir.

     "Now, listen up. Since you're so eager to see what goes on out here, I'm gonna make a special effort to get you sold. Just try to make a good impression on the shoppers, 'kay? If you do, I'm sure you'll have a nice owner in no time."

     The Fir rustled its branches in response, but Archie still looked the little tree over slowly. He was never quite sure whether or not the Petpets understood what he told one, but this Fir at least looked willing to cooperate. Archie sighed- and then snapped his attention straight back to the doorway. He had just heard the sound of jingling bells.

     "Good afternoon!" he told the Wocky who had just walked in cheerfully, mentally hoping that the pet had not tracked any more snow into the shop. "Welcome to Wintery Petpets, where you can find Furry Frozen petpets for you or a friend! How may I help you today?"

     The Wocky slowly strolled forward, a bag of Neopoints clutched in her paw. She looked around the shop curiously as she approached the counter, taking in every Petpet that was currently on display. Archie waited as patiently as he could until she got to the counter, and eagerly looked up at him.

     "Yes, um, I'd like to find a nice Petpet for my brother for Christmas. But, um…"

     Archie smiled gently. "You're not sure what to get?"

     "Yeah. Do you have any suggestions?"

     "Well…" Archie glanced over at the Fir sitting on the counter, and then back at the Wocky. "Would he perhaps like a nice Fir? I have one right here that you could consider." To his surprise, Archie realized that he was holding his breath and hoping that she would want to buy the little Fir. She seemed like a nice little girl, after all.

     The Wocky looked over at the Fir, and then frowned in concern. "Um, it looks very nice and all," she mumbled after a moment, "But… do you have something that's not in brown?

     Archie let out the breath he had been holding in a whoosh of air. "Yes, I do." He said, a tinge of unhappiness in his voice. Glancing over at the brown Fir again, he quickly headed back to the back of the shop. There would be more customers, after all.

     *****

     Christmas Eve.

     Archie looked around his shop, surprised at how quiet everything seemed. Thanks to a huge rush of customers, he had sold almost all of the Petpets, happily giving them to their buyers and imagining what their owners would think when they saw their new Petpets on Christmas morning. He had even found time that afternoon to clean up the shop, so that once he had closed, he could head straight out to go caroling with a few of his friends. Yes, everything was perfect.

     Well, almost perfect.

     Archie gloomily watched the brown Fir walk around the shop, wondering how it could be that the last Petpet left was the one he had taken a special interest in. For the past few days he had constantly brought the Fir to notice when the customers were deciding, trying to get the buyers to see the Petpet's energy and never-ending curiosity. But no one had ever been interested in buying a strange Fir that was brown. They wanted more festive or unusual colors, not something that just didn't stand out.

     Now it was swiftly approaching nighttime, and Archie highly doubted that he would get any more potential buyers. Absolutely no one would leave buying their presents off this late. In ten minutes he would have to close his shop, and he would have no choice but to leave the Fir in the back of his shop with some food and water for the night, with no one to keep him company. It wasn't something he was looking forward to, to say the least.

     Archie was so absorbed in his thoughts that he didn't notice when the bells attached to the shop's door jingled merrily. In fact, he didn't even notice that someone had walked into the shop until that someone coughed audibly. Rather surprised, Archie looked up.

     Another customer? It seemed far-fetched that this Island Kacheek, shivering inside her coat, would want to buy his one remaining Petpet, but there was still hope. Archie straightened his shoulders and smiled as brightly as he could at the Kacheek, mentally adopting the 'business voice' that he always used around customers. "Good evening, and welcome-"

     "Is it true?" The Kacheek cut him off abruptly, peering around the shop suspiciously. "Is there a brown Fir in here?"

     Archie blinked in surprise, and then began to smile. It seemed like the one remaining Petpet was in luck after all! "Why, yes, I do have one brown Fir in stock. Are you interested in buying it?"

     The Kacheek suddenly found the Fir (it had been blowing on one of the side windows to make the glass cloud up) and swooped down on it, carefully running her paws over the Petpet's branches. "Hmm… nice color, strong branches," she murmured absently. The Kacheek glanced back over to Archie, distrust written on her face. "It is a true brown Fir, not merely a muddy white one, correct?"

     Archie was taken aback. There was something very business-like about this Neopet that did not seem like a normal eager pet at all. Had she even noticed that the Fir was chirping inquiringly up at her? "Yes, it is a true brown." He paused, glanced down at the Petpet, and then looked back at the customer. "Why do you ask?"

     "Simple," the Kacheek said dryly, looking the Fir over again. "I own a Brown Gallery. I heard you had a brown Fir here, so of course I came over right away." She nodded, and then straightened up and swept over to the counter, pulling a large bag of Neopoints out of her coat's pocket. "How much will it cost?"

     Archie paused, and then looked back over to the Fir. The little Petpet was shuffling back over in his direction, its tiny black eyes sparkling with interest. Archie knew that this was a Petpet who would never be happy in a gallery, where all he could do was sit around and be looked at. He needed an owner who would play with him, and make sure to keep his curiosity from getting him into trouble. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that he didn't want the little Fir to go in this Neopet's gallery. But this Kacheek would undoubtedly be his last customer. If he didn't let her buy the Fir, then the Petpet wouldn't get bought at all.

     "Well?" The Island Kacheek was obviously getting impatient. "I'm a busy Neopet. Is it a sale, or not?"

     Archie let himself look at the Kacheek one last time, and then drew himself up and looked down at his customer. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I'm afraid I've made a mistake. This Fir is not for sale."

     The Kacheek rolled her eyes in exasperation. "You could have just said that in the first place and saved me some time. Well, if you restock another brown Fir, send me a message. I'd still be interested."

     Archie watched as the Kacheek swept out of the shop, sending the bells into merry jingling. The Bruce simply stood still for a moment, listening to the bells ring. Then he smiled and walked over to the brown Fir, picking the Petpet up and smoothing a few of its ruffled branches down.

     "Awright, little guy. Let's go caroling."

The End

 
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