The One that Got Away
“I wonder what my first day as a candy-striper at the Neopian
Hospital is going to be like,” Xweetiepea the Xweetok wondered aloud as she put
on her pink and white striped apron. She didn’t think the colors went well with
her vivid green hair and eyes, but she wasn’t here to look pretty – she was here
to help people, and, more importantly, to earn her Xweetok Scout Volunteerism
Badge before any of the other Xweetoks in her troop did. Then maybe they’d like
her and be her friends.
Dr. Yelp, the Gelert who oversaw the hospital, popped
his head into the break room. “Ready?” At Xweetiepea’s nod, he smiled. “Good.
As Dr. Yelp led her down the sterile halls, Xweetiepea
noticed that there weren’t very many patients; most of the rooms were empty
except for rows of beds fitted with clean white sheets.
The Gelert laughed ruefully when she asked him about
it. “Most Neopians only come here to get diagnosed, then go to the Pharmacy
and buy their cures over-the-counter. Or they go to the Healing Springs without
ever bothering to come here. The only patients we usually get are those that
have fallen victim to some accident, like the spike trap in the Deserted Tomb
at the Lost City of Geraptiku, for instance. And even then they usually bypass
us and head straight for the Water Faerie and her healing potions. We really
don’t do much business at all. In fact, you’re the first volunteer we’ve had
here in a long time – luckily, today we actually have something for you to do!”
No wonder the other Xweetoks had giggled when she’d
announced her choice for the Volunteerism Badge! If there weren’t any patients
here, she’d never be able to complete all the requirements for the badge! She
wasn’t going to get her badge first – she might not even get it at all!
“You’ll be working in the Kiko Ward today,” the doctor was saying. “Not much
for you to do, just one old Kiko in there who’s been spending a little too much
time with his negg detector. He only has one bandage here,” the Gelert pointed
to a spot on his forehead, “and it should be easy to change. The only hard part
will be listening to the oldtimer tell you about the one that got away!”
Xweetiepea didn’t join in the Gelert’s good-natured
laughter. All she could think of was what a waste of time this was going to
be. She’d agreed to spend an hour a day here for the next week, and it would
all be for nothing if she couldn’t get her badge.
“So why is this Kiko even here?” she asked, curious
in spite of herself, though all she really wanted to say was Forget it! I’ll
do my volunteering somewhere else!
Dr. Yelp stopped smiling.
“It’s sad, really. He’s in here all the time, always
getting injured when some bad neggs explode in the negg field. He spends all
his Neopoints on admission into the fields, so he can’t buy healing potions,
and he’s so obsessed with finding some mythical negg that he won’t even take
the time to go to the Healing Springs, where he could get healed for free. So
we just bandage him up a couple of times a day and let him go back out there.
What else can we do?”
Before Xweetiepea could respond, they had reached
the Kiko Ward.
“Here we are. There are gloves, ointment and fresh
bandages in the cart next to the bed. I’ll be back in a bit to check on your
The old Kiko looked up from a book as Xweetiepea entered
the room. She saw the title: The Negg Faerie’s Guide to Neggsweeping.
The poor thing really was obsessed!
“Hi,” she said, giving him a big smile. After all,
it wasn’t his fault she’d made a poor choice and now she’d never get her Volunteerism
Badge and none of the Xweetoks would like her. She’d already committed to being
here; she might as well make the best of it. “I’m Xweetiepea. I’m here to help
you with your bandages.”
“Hmph,” the old Kiko replied, and went back to reading
Nonplussed, Xweetiepea walked over to his bed and
“I have to take your old bandages off. It might hurt
The Kiko, engrossed in his reading, ignored her.
With a sigh, Xweetiepea set out everything for the
new dressing, put on her gloves, and then took a deep breath. She tried to figure
out a way to peel the bandages off of the Kiko’s head without getting in between
him and his book, but it was impossible.
“What are you doing?” the Kiko cried, swatting her
hands away as she reached for his head. He glared up at her. “Can’t you see
I’m trying to read?”
“But I’ve got to change your bandages,” Xweetiepea
explained, flustered by the Kiko’s rudeness.
He pulled away, using the Guide as a shield.
“Go away! Where’s Dr. Yelp?”
“Dr. Yelp is the one who asked me to do this. Please.
I’m just trying to do some volunteer work. It will only take a second, then
you can go back to your book.”
The Kiko clutched the book to his chest. “No! I don’t
have a second! I’ve got to get this book read so I can figure out how to find
the fish negg again!”
“What’s a fish negg?” Xweetiepea asked.
At that, the old Kiko’s face creased into a wide smile.
“Only the most lovely, most elusive negg ever to sprout
up in the negg fields! Oh, there are other neggs, blue ones, purple ones, even
rainbow ones, but not one of them can match the sheer beauty of the fish negg!”
Xweetiepea had an idea.
“It sounds incredible! Why don’t you tell me all about
it, Mr. – uh, Mr. –”
“Why don’t you tell me all about the fish negg while
I change your bandage? Maybe talking about it will help you get an idea of where
to look for it, so it won’t be a waste of your time, and we can both get our
Clarence looked at her dubiously.
“Please? I really would like to hear about the fish
Xweetiepea turned on the charm, and the old Kiko couldn’t
resist her smile – Xweetoks weren’t known as the cutest Neopets around for nothing!
“All right,” he said, putting his book down and allowing
Xweetiepea to change his bandage. “I’ve only ever seen a fish negg once. I was
sweeping through a negg field with my detector, just trying to get through it
without setting off any of the bad neggs – boy, do those things stink!”
If he’d had a nose, Xweetiepea was sure he would be wrinkling it. “Anyway, all
of a sudden, my negg detector went wild – there was a patch of bad neggs up
ahead, blocking my way out. One misstep, and I was going to be laid up here
in the hospital for a week!”
Xweetiepea found herself so caught up in Clarence’s
story that she almost forgot to put the ointment on his new bandage before sticking
it to his head.
“What happened next?” she asked breathlessly, finishing
up with the bandage and peeling off her gloves. She hurriedly threw the used
gloves and the old dressing away before pulling up a chair next to Clarence’s
bed and leaning forward, eyes gleaming. “Go on! Don’t stop now!”
“Well, I knew I had to go forward, no matter what
the obstacles were. I just had to trust there would be a safe path through the
bad neggs. So I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and stepped forward.”
The old Kiko paused dramatically.
“Well?” Xweetiepea demanded, completely enthralled.
“Well, I wasn’t blown out of the field on a cloud
of stinking gas, so I opened my eyes, and there, in front of me on the ground
was the most beautiful negg I had ever seen. It was light blue – crystalline,
even – shaped like a fish, and it sparkled in the sunlight like Coltzan’s Gem.
“I was so entranced by its beauty that I stepped towards
it and – BOOM!”
Clarence brought his hands together is a clap that
echoed throughout the room, and Xweetiepea jumped at the loud noise.
“I don’t really know what happened; I must have stepped into a whole patch
of bad neggs, but the next thing I knew, I was here. Without the negg. I went
back out to the negg fields as soon as Doc Yelp patched me up, and I’ve been
going back every day since, but I’ve never found that fish negg, or another
like it. For all I know, it was the only one, and it got blown clear up to Kreludor
when those bad neggs exploded, but I keep looking, just the same. Keep hoping.”
He looked at Xweetiepea and there were tears in his
blue eyes, and a fierce determination.
“It was hope that brought me to the fish negg in the
first place, and hope will bring me back to it again. I just know it!”
Just then, Dr. Yelp stuck his head back in the room.
“All bandaged up, Clarence? Good. I hope you didn’t
give our candy-striper too much trouble.”
Xweetiepea laughed. “No, Doctor, Clarence was wonderful.
I really enjoyed my time with him.” She winked at Clarence. “In fact, he may
have convinced me to take up neggsweeping myself!”
“Well, then it’s a good thing I’ve found some other
work for you then! I looked at the requirements for that Volunteer Badge of
yours, Xweetiepea, and I think we can find enough for you to do around here
to earn it, even without any patients. So say goodbye to Clarence – though I’m
sure you’ll see him again tomorrow, after another hunt for that elusive negg
ends badly, eh, Clarence?”
The old Kiko just smiled up at him. “Maybe not, Doctor.
Maybe this time I’ll find it. There’s always hope.”
As Xweetiepea followed Dr. Yelp out into the hall,
she thought about Clarence’s words. He was right – there was always hope. Hope
that he’d find his fish negg, the one that got away, and hope that she’d finally
make some friends – like she had today.