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The Miracle of Christmas


by pandabearb

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I am but a humble musician. It's possible you've seen me limping down the street with my clarinet gently leaning on my shoulder as I walk home. Or perhaps you've noticed me standing on a corner in Neopia Central, smoothly blowing out sweet melodic notes.

     I watch over a child, a little blue Kacheek, whom I can barely provide for; she is my golden jewel. My beautifully carved wooden clarinet is second in my life. Even though I can barely scrape a hundred neopoints together in a week, my life is filled with laughter and music. I will tell you how I lived before...well, before everything I was used to was turned on its ears.

     It wasn't always like this. There was a time when I was a poor, lonely, bitter old Draik. There was a time when the music I played was missing something special. Those were hard, awkward times to be sure. As a lad, my mother always used to tell me, "Pets can only truly change during Christmas. Keep a sharp eye, and you too will witness the miracle...."

     I remember laughing in her face.

     * * * * *

     "The holidays," I said bitterly to myself, "are absolutely mental."

     I gazed around me as I slowly picked up my worn, faded black hat and poured out the couple of neopoints people had spared for me that day while they listened to me play that soppy holiday music. Thank you for your generous donations during the giving season, I thought sarcastically to myself as I counted out 10 neopoints.

     I pocketed the money and pushed the hat firmly down on my head. It would be omelettes for dinner tonight again, as it had been for the last nine months. Swinging my clarinet over my shoulder I began to limp down the road in the heart of Neopia Central.

     Mothers pushed past the crowd of people, almost knocking me over, as they tried to snatch the best toys for their greedy little kids. Pets were practically falling out the windows and doors of the stores I passed because every place you went was stuffed with Christmas crowds.

     You could tell which ones were the pets that used neopoints as furniture, just because they could. One Kyrii was pushing out two of the latest ten thousand neopoint bicycles for his children, talking about how he wasn't sure that this would be enough for his little darlings.

     Even the thought of the holiday season put a sour taste in my mouth.

     * * * * *

     By the time I had made it home, my fingers were frozen stiff around my clarinet and my yellow Draik nose tingled when I wiggled it.

     If I had to guess, I'd say that my home is about the size of a king's refrigerator. Of course, I wouldn't know for sure. There was one room, and it acted as the bedroom, living room, kitchen, and entrance all in one. I did know that in the winter, the house was definitely as cold as a refrigerator, with only a small fire barely burning in the kitchen to heat the whole house. My home was right in the heart of Neopia Central, so it was always noisy and bustling outside.

     I carefully pried my clarinet from my curled up fingers and placed it on the distressed-looking table. Kneeling down in front of the flames, I rubbed my hands furiously to warm them up.

     After a few minutes I grabbed a crusty old omelette that had been saved for a long time, and threw it on a chipped blue plate. Before I realized that I had started to eat it, the whole omelette was gone. Sighing and not bothering to wash the plate, I stuck it back in a cupboard. I limped over to my bed by the window, passing a scraggly Christmas Tree with broken ornaments hanging off of it. You had to give me credit for at least trying to be in the spirit.

     Right on cue big snowflakes started dancing and twirling down the sky, blowing directly into my glassless window as if they planned to make my life miserable. Clutching my blanket closer around me, I turned away from the window and curled up, trying to forget about my empty stomach, increasingly wet blanket, and icy house. After all, there were pets that had it worse than me. Maybe.

     * * * * *

     Two days until Christmas. I woke up early, beating the sun by about 10 minutes, and took a cold shower. Quickly I grabbed my clarinet and put a reed in my mouth to wet it so I could play. I placed my hat on my freezing yellow head and buttoned my coat, then staggered out the door as fast as my bad leg would let me.

     I had not gotten far when I felt something small latch onto my arm. I stopped and blinked, then looked down. A little blue Kacheek, with one brown eye and one blue, was staring up at me.

     "Excuse me, sir; do you have any food for me? I'm really hungry," she told me.

     "No I don't," I responded, my speech a little slurred because of the reed.

     "I'd clean your house or something for it," the Kacheek offered, staring at me with those odd eyes.

     I shrugged her off. "I've got to be somewhere and I don't have time for this."

     "I'll wait!" she said cheerily and plunked down in the snow right in front of my house.

     What could I do? She couldn't possibly sit in the snow for so many hours, so she would probably be gone by the time I got back. I decided not to worry about it and kept walking down the road to my usual corner.

     I played especially well today, spinning out Christmas songs so perfectly that people might believe that I could play in my sleep. But at the end of the day, I still only made fifteen neopoints.

     Upon returning home, I felt sick when I saw the little Kacheek still sitting in the exact same spot that she was in about ten hours ago. She was shivering right down to her toes, and her blue lips were an even darker color. Sighing, I nudged her to get her attention and motioned inside. She nodded and followed me.

     I wasn't really sure what to do with her after that. You wouldn't exactly call me Mr. Babysitter. I decided to put her in one of my old kitchen chairs in front of that little fire. I splurged and used an extra big piece of wood so that the fire would be big enough to warm her.

     I checked my cupboard. All I had left was an omelette and a biscuit. I cut the omelette in half and ate it, then gave the other half and the biscuit to the Kacheek. Just call me a softy. She looked at me, with a tight smile on her face--I guess her cheeks were frozen-- and took it.

     I turned around to close the cupboard door and when I looked back at her, the food was gone. I've never seen anybody eat faster than me in my life, until now. She must have inhaled it.

     "So what's your name?" she asked me suddenly.

     "Uh, Warren," I told her, trying to figure out what to do to keep myself busy.

     "I'm Lezlie. Thank you for the food, Wart." She slid out of the chair and pushed it back to the kitchen table.

     "I am not a wart, diseased lump on a Neopet indeed! My name is Warren," I responded briskly.

     Lezlie giggled. "You're silly, Wart. Now, what can I help you with since you helped me?" she asked.

     "Nothing. I only did it because I didn't want a giant ice cube sitting in my front lawn. It would have been unattractive," I told her, adding a few more sticks to the fire.

     Lezlie put her little blue hands on her hips. "I'm not useless like a jar of pickled olives, you know. I can do work too. Here, why don't you let me clean up? Your home has yucky dust everywhere, no offense." She grabbed a broom that was almost twice her size from the corner, and started sweeping up.

     I didn't stop her. Hey, if she wanted to clean my house, how could I argue? I watched her for a while. She didn't stop sweeping; her little mismatched eyes were full of determination.

     I climbed onto my bed and looked out the window. A blast of cold wind hit me in the face, bringing a cloud of snow with it. It was freezing outside again; I'd feel bad making her go back out there. But, on the other hand, I didn't ask her to sit on my lawn in the first place. I had no desire to care for a little imp like her.

     I sighed, and started pacing the room, deciding what to do. Finally I said to her, "I don't know what your sleeping arrangements are, but if you need to...you can stay here for tonight."

     A wide grin lit up the blue Kacheek's face like a light bulb. "Thank you! That'd be great! I promise I won't be purposely annoying. You'll barely know that I'm here."

     I waved her off. Gratitude embarrassed me. "You can sleep on that couch over there, I suppose. I don't have another blanket...." Looking around I nodded and went over to the kitchen table. "You can use this tablecloth for now...I guess."

     Once I got Lezlie settled, I crawled back into my own bed. I didn't know why I had just stuck myself with being responsible for this munchkin, even if it was only for a day. I glanced over at the little lump covered by a ripped red and white checkered cloth and shook my head. A snore erupted out from under it suddenly and I groaned. Perfect.

     * * * * *

     Christmas Eve.

     "Why can't I go, Wart?" Lezlie whined after I refused to take her with me to the corner that morning.

     "Because I said so, and because you'd just get bored, cold, and whiny like you are right now. But at least you can do all that here where I won't have to be near it," I retorted, swinging the clarinet onto my shoulder and throwing my hat on.

     Lezlie crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. "I do not whine!"

     "You do. I was never this annoying when I was a kid," I told her smugly.

     "I'd rather be an annoying kid then an old, crabby Draik," she muttered and went to go sulk on the couch.

     Nodding cheerfully, I hobbled out the door before she could say anything else.

     There were tons of pets milling around Neopia Central, and a fair share of them stopped to listen to me play the clarinet. But there still must have been something out of place, because neopoints weren't exactly rolling into my hat.

     It must've been around noon and I was a little way into my favorite song, when I suddenly heard the unmistakable words behind me to the song I was playing.

     "...Ding dong, ding dong, that is their song,

     With joyful ring all caroling...."

     I stopped playing abruptly and spun around, trying to find out who was singing my song. In the crowd came out-- "No," I whispered. Lezlie. I covered my face with a hand and she came to stand next to me.

     "What are you doing?" I hissed to her.

     "Helping you! Play!" she ordered.

     Looking around at the gossiping crowd around me, I sighed. This wasn't the time to argue. I started playing a different song, which Lezlie jumped into instantly. I had to admit, for such a little Kacheek, she was great. Her voice rang out like sweet, chiming bells over the crowd, and she drew shoppers in like crazy. Looking out of the corner of the eye, my old worn hat was housing more money than I had ever pulled in before.

     When the time came for Lezlie and I to wrap it up, there was actually an applause for us. I had never gotten that kind of reaction before, and I was amazed.

     "Lezlie, um...." I stammered, unsure of how to say what I was thinking.

     Lezlie waited patiently for me but when it seemed like I didn't plan on saying anything else, she prompted, "Lezlie, I was wrong."

     I made a face. "Yes, that's what I meant to say. I was w-w-wrong. You should have come to the corner with me this morning. And thank you. Your voice is unbelievable."

     "You're not too bad at that clarinet yourself, Wart," she told me with a little skip in her step.

          I almost scolded her for calling me that, but the whole Christmas thing was making me unusually cheerful. Instead I looked at all the money in my hat--I couldn't fit it in my pocket-- and smiled. "Come on, let's go this way."

     "But your house is over here," she protested, puzzled.

     "You'll see, Lezlie."

     * * * * *

     That Christmas Eve, the table was filled with roast turkey, a heaping bowl of potatoes, corn, cranberries, and three different kinds of bread. Both Lezlie and I had watched it with hungry eyes--and mouths--while it was cooking. We had already dug into the food before we set it on the table.

     It was a feast like I had never tasted before, and after I remember almost feeling weird with a stomach that wasn't growling all the time.

     Lezlie and I had some kind of weird bonding experience that day. I learned her life's story, and she definitely didn't need a 'Mr. Babysitter'. Lezlie was a good kid who had been through a lot, and it didn't take me long to decide what I had to do.

     It was on that day that I gave Lezlie her own, new fleece blanket. In return, I got a friend--who became basically like a daughter to me--and I got a lot more joy in my life.

     And so it seemed that, in fact, my mother was right. That little blue Kacheek, with one blue eye and one brown, turned out to be my Christmas miracle.

The End

 
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