Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 111,981,549 Issue: 223 | 13th day of Sleeping, Y8
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The Ups and Downs of Kindness


by imagiknight

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"Enjoy your new Warf!" Keith called out to the slowly disappearing Neopet trailing a football-shaped Petpet behind her. Keith sighed contentedly. His low prices had just made another Neopet happy. But generosity has its downfalls. Worry creased Keith's brow. His Bank Account was not happy at all. Keith's owner could barely sustain one Neopet, but Keith couldn't help lowering the shop's prices when his owner's back was turned. It was just the way he was. He only hoped he wouldn't have to sell Lance, his Gruslen.

      Keith glanced at his Petpet, asleep on a tattered Blue Beanbag Chair. Unfortunately that Bean Bag was the only kind they could afford. Keith smiled ruefully as he remembered his reaction when his owner had brought home that particular dirty bean bag, back when their money was already starting to trickle away. That is the saddest looking Bean Bag Chair I have ever seen, he had said, and his owner had laughed with him. Now that chair seemed more like a luxury.

      He shook Lance. "Wake up…" he murmured. "We're sold out. Time for some restocking."

      The Gruslen opened one eye, and promptly closed it as he decided the Red Lupe standing before him was not worth the effort of keeping his eyes open. Yes, Lance was a lazy Petpet.

      Keith laughed. "Fine. Be that way," he said, pretending to be offended. "You stay here. I'll be back soon." Keith reset the cans above the door (his homemade alarm) and was on his way.

      Thoughts and emotions buzzed through his head at Mach 5 as Keith strolled through Neopia Central. Everywhere he looked he saw painted pets. I'd only be happy if I was a painted pet… Keith thought sadly. He looked down; he didn't want to see any more rich pets. But as he moved his head, he saw a little Island Xweetok and a Striped Xweetok scurrying past. When he looked up, he saw Fire Shoyrus and Rainbow Eyries chasing each other playfully, bright against the clear blue sky. Tears were squeezed from his eyes as Keith shut them. He promptly bumped into the Money Tree.

      Could it be? His chest tightened, and hope, longing and maybe a touch of insanity played inside him.

      But no. The thing Keith had spotted had not been a genuine Paint Brush, merely a Paint Brush Plushie. A Paint Brush Plushie. He could have sold that for quite a bit of money. Anyway, it was gone now, snapped up by some snotty, rich Faerie Kacheek. Tears fell openly from Keith's eyes. Sniffling, he settled himself in front of the book shop, waiting for the next restock.

      He did not have to wait long. Two minutes later, a Blue Nimmo stood in front of the door, shouting at the top of his lungs, "GET YOUR BOOKS HERE! HUGE SELECTION! UNBEATABLE PRI-" But the Shopkeeper did not get to finish his sentence, as he was quickly stampeded by crazed and eager restockers.

      Keith was, and had always been, against the trampling of innocent Neopets, and felt bad for the Shopkeeper. He extended a paw and helped the Nimmo to his feet.

      "Why thank you, young 'un! Thanks for helping an old timer such as myself. Or, as the younger generation would say, an oldy moldy!" the apparently deranged Nimmo exclaimed.

      "You sure are old," Keith agreed, his mind elsewhere. He was operating on autopilot, something he had to be very careful with, lest he go giving away all his belongings.

      The old Nimmo studied him with kind grey eyes. Keith realized he was being watched, which jolted him back to Neopia. When he looked up, the wrinkled face was smiling. He didn't seem upset about the fact that Keith had just insulted him. In fact, the Nimmo seemed to understand. He knew the youth was thinking about money issues. And the Shopkeeper also knew from experience that most decent Neopets were poor.

      "Is there anything I can do for you, sir?" Keith said, uncomfortable. He was unused to being looked at. The only two people who had looked at him so earnestly were the only ones in the whole world he loved: his owner and Lance.

      "Come with me, young man. And, please, call me Jack!" the Nimmo said.

      Curious, Keith obeyed. They pushed and shoved their way through the store, where Jack's two new helpers seemed dazed at all the commotion. Pandemonium would be the correct word to describe the store. Or chaos, for those who can't handle five syllables.

      "I'm going to reward you for your kindness!" Jack shouted above the din.

      Keith wondered what his reward would be. Would he receive a Paint Brush in a random event? If only, Keith thought. But no one in all of Neopia goes around just handing out Paint Brushes!

      Keith had fallen back into automatic mode when he felt Jack's slim fingers on his shoulders.

      They were in a gigantic room. Keith craned his neck but still couldn't see the ceiling. A fire crackled in a stone fireplace at the other end of the room. Fancy chairs were arranged in a circle. But the rest of the room was full of books. Books stacked in corners. Books on shelves that extended up into the darkness. Books were everywhere.

      Keith's brown eyes glazed over. Imagine all the money Jack could make if he just sold everything in the room!

      "I'd never get rid of these," Jack said, reading Keith's mind. "I've been collecting 'em since Neopia was as young as you! Besides, who needs money?"

     I need money, Keith thought.

      The Nimmo was lost in reminiscence. Keith waited.

      Jack shook himself. "Sorry about that, youngster! Now here's what I'm gonna do for you. You can pick out one book and I'll sell it to you at a discount!"

      Keith's face fell. He'd been hoping he'd get a book for free. A second later, he couldn't believe he'd thought that. He was Keith, generous, helpful Keith. He was not supposed to be selfish.

      Trying to shake all the thoughts from his head, Keith browsed through the shelves. Finally, he pulled out the one book he had always wanted to display in his shop window: Secrets of the Money Tree.

      As he paid Jack 1,000 Neopoints, the importance of what Jack was doing hit him like a Steel Gormball. Jack was selling one of his treasures, one of the things he lived for, for much less than it was worth.

      Happiness welled up inside Keith. He couldn't believe his good fortune. But then, it wasn't fortune that had made him who he was.

      "Thank you very much," Keith said, ever polite.

      "It was nothing. Now, go give the world all ya got!" Jack said, smiling. "I'm rooting for you," he added softly, but the Lupe had already vanished in the crowd.

      Keith skipped back to his shop, feeling as light as a feather, happy as a freshly-painted Neopet. He stopped to buy some items from the Main Shops that were about to sell out. He opened the door, ignoring the jangling of the cans. He didn't even greet Lance (who was now awake, gnawing on the leg of a table with his long tusks). That was a first. He always said hi to his beloved Petpet. Keith set his new book on the counter, right in front of the window, for all the world to see. Of course, he had to be careful not to fall victim to his own thoughtfulness. He set up the other items and began to wait.

      Soon a scruffy-looking Blumaroo hopped past his shop. Slowly she turned around, unable to believe her eyes. She wriggled her paw out of her owner's hand and she dashed into Keith's store.

      Keith watched the young Blumaroo with an amused expression. She reminded him of himself when he was very, very little. His owner had taken him to the Marketplace for the first time ever. He had looked at everything in the display cases with wide eyes, barging into almost every shop. He had never known such a large amount of items existed. That was when he had fallen in love with business. The feeling of actually buying an item from the Main Shops and reselling it was overwhelming.

      "May I help you in any way?" Keith said, feeling jovial.

      The customer pointed a wobbly hand at the book smiling at all the Neopians outside. "How much is that?" she said in a trembling voice.

      Keith's heart fell. Now he had to test his self-control. "That's… that's not for sale."

      The Blumaroo was crestfallen. "I had just wanted to buy Secrets of the Money Tree for my little brother. He was born yesterday, you know. He's a tiny little thing, and my mommy said he might not make it… I was gonna keep it so when I get old enough to read, I can read it to him," she whispered.

      Keith cracked as easily as a walnut would under the weight of a Skeith. "Fine. Fine, I'll sell." Good job, Keith, he thought to himself sarcastically.

      "How much?" The hazel eyes gazed up at him hopefully.

      Keith thought for a moment.

      "Hurry, my owner's calling me."

      Indeed she was. "KAY! COME OUT NOW! WE NEED TO GO SHOPPING BEFORE IT GETS DARK!"

     "Eleven thousand Neopoints," Keith said confidently.

      Kay's eyes practically bugged out of her head. "Eleven thousand Neopoints?!"

      Had Keith's friend Lorcan been there, he would have said in biting, sarcastic tones "No, eleven thousand muffins. What do you think?" But Keith was Keith, not Lorcan.

      "Yes…"

      "But… I only brought two hundred. That's all my family has. And we have to buy food…" Kay was crying softly now.

      So she's also poor like me, he thought.

      A battle raged inside Keith's head. He was on the brink of letting the one item that could (if he could bear to part with it) bring his family enough money to actually afford some decent items. But Keith's personality wouldn't let him turn away, wouldn't let him shoo the poor Neopet out of his shop. Lance was biting his leg now, and that wasn't making it easier to think. He couldn't take it anymore.

      "Free," he managed to gasp.

      "What?"

      "Take it," Keith said, his chest heaving. Would he regret this?

      "Oh thank you thank you thank you thank you!" Kay yelled. She hugged Keith and he blushed. Then she ran out of the shop, waving the book wildly in the air. The owner raised her pet in the air and swung her around, their bodies dark silhouettes against the setting sun. The happy pair dissolved as tears of joy and bitterness filled Keith's eyes.

     ***

      Two weeks later, Keith was sitting in his shop, twiddling his thumbs as he waited for customers. Lance slipped out the door and returned with a fat Neomail Message in his mouth.

      Keith took it absently, not even checking to make sure Lance had brought in mail that actually belonged to them. He tore the flap on the envelope open with one claw, pulled out a letter, and began to read.

      Kay has told me all about you.

      Keith's eyes widened. He remembered the little Blumaroo. The heavy package was definitely for him.

      She describes you as generous, kindhearted, and handsome.

      Keith blushed, although being called good-looking by a little kid should mean nothing to him. But everyone else always called him ugly. It was a nice change.

      Kay loves that book you gave her. She begged me to read it to her every single night for a week after she received it. But now she knows how to read it herself. You don't know just how happy that makes me feel, to have my first Neopet learning to connect sounds and pictures to letters at such a young age. However, I have even better news. I know Kay told you a bit about her ill little brother. This may seem ridiculous, and it makes me embarrassed even to write these words, but I do believe that because Kay now reads Secrets of the Money Tree to him every day, he has actually pulled through what will be the roughest time of his life.

      Keith's chest swelled with pure joy.

     And for that, I want to thank you with all my heart. Enclosed is a little reward.

      Keith laid down the letter turned the envelope upside down. He gasped. What fell out of the package was a Faerie Paint Brush. Keith stared at the glittering Paint Brush, its thin wings flapping gently. This can't be real. I must be dreaming. Or maybe it was a mistake! Yeah, it probably was. A mistake is all it is, Keith thought, but he couldn't help hoping it wasn't. He continued reading.

      I know what you're thinking. But don't send it back. The day after Kay brought the book, we won the Buried Treasure jackpot. And we figured we should help you out, since you helped us. You know, it seems only good has resulted from your kindness. And kindness should always be rewarded. We'll keep in touch ;)

      Sincerely,

      Kay's owner

      P.S. Kay sends her regards.

      Keith sighed contentedly. Why had he ever fought his thoughtfulness? It was a part of him. A part of who he was. Making people happy was what he lived for. And the Paint Brush? Well, that was just an added bonus.

The End

 
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