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The Mysterious Customer


by harsan_09

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I woke up last Saturday morning and looked around at the bare, cardboard walls of the tiny bedroom I shared with my sister and brother. The first thing I noticed was that my sister Shesta's bed was empty. Then I saw my brother, Arribon, a green Kougra, sitting in the corner of the room and counting coins from a green box. He looked up and saw that I was awake.

     "Morning, Jube."

     "Morning, Arribon." I yawned and stretched. Arribon carefully placed another coin in the box.

     "Is that your birthday money from Aunt Gretti?" I asked him. My brother nodded. Our owner's sister always sent us each five hundred neopoints for our birthdays, and having our own money to spend was a big treat for my siblings and me.

     "I've already spent almost half of it on a heavy blocking shield, so I'm saving the rest for something important." Arribon treasured the shield he had bought himself very much; it was his only defence item, and receiving new Battledome equipment was a rare and exciting event. We didn't really have the money for expensive Battledome items, our owner constantly reminded us; paint brushes of any kind, even petpet ones, were also a luxury we couldn't afford. It took enough neopoints to have all three of us enrolled in the Training School.

     Stumbling out of bed, I asked Arribon one more question. "Do you have any idea where Shesta went? She always sleeps in on Saturdays." Arribon shrugged distractedly, so I went to find her myself; when no one knew where Shesta was it usually meant she was getting into trouble.

     I found my sister and our cousin Cylvana sitting behind a big table they had set up in front of our house, and I saw that Shesta had her petpet, Middy, with her. A large sign taped to the front read "Bake Sail," and the table was covered with lumpy brownies and several varieties of cookies the girls had obviously baked themselves, probably over at Aunt Gretti's. The two little Xweetoks were very excited to see me.

     "Hey, Shesta, hey, Cylvana," I greeted them. "What are you guys doing?"

     "Hi, Jube! We're having a bake sale!" Shesta replied enthusiastically, "And Middy, stop getting all tied up in your leash!" She carefully untangled the magaral from the piece of rope tying her to Shesta's chair.

     "Yeah, we're raising neopoints to give to the pound, so the pets there can have good food and… and stuff," added Cylvana.

     "And I thought of it, 'cause Arribon was in the pound, and he said it was real bad." Shesta concluded, setting Middy on her lap. I nodded absentmindedly and looked at the price list. "Browneez and Kookies, 15 neopoynts," it said. I probably had fifteen neopoints I could spare.

     "Oh, goody, you're our first customer!" Cylvana exclaimed when I handed over my money. "You can have any brownie or cookie you want!" I took my time choosing a brownie and then sat dragged a third chair outside. I sat next to Cylvana, munching on my ultra-chocolate-y fudge brownie, waiting for someone to come along and buy something. It wasn't very long before an elderly Uni approached the table.

     "Oh, a bake sale, how nice," she said, taking a few coins out of a bag. "And your sign says you're raising money for the… the pond?" She looked slightly confused.

     "No, no, the pound!" said Shesta, handing her two chocolate-chip cookies, "'Cause my brother came from the pound, and he said they didn't get good food and stuff."

     "Yeah, we got my sister Carrie there too," Cylvana chimed in.

     "Oh, yes, of course, the pound. My niece's friend's step-brother was adopted from there. Well, I wish you the best of luck." The Uni carefully placed the cookies in her bag and continued on her way.

     At first the girls had no trouble finding ways to amuse themselves between customers. Shesta showed me and Cylvana a new trick she had taught Middy, and Cylvana wished she had brought her floud along with her. Shesta told about an exciting battle she had witnessed in the Battledome, and Cylvana wished her owner would let her go watch battles too. I told them a few stories I had made up, but the time passed slowly. The sun climbed steadily higher in the sky, and I could tell that both of the girls were getting discouraged. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a cloaked figure appeared in the distance, but was coming towards the table. Shesta saw it too.

     "Look, who's that?" she cried, pointing. The mysterious customer approached the table, stopped to read the sign, and examined the display of baked goods.

     "My, my, what have we here?" That voice sounded familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. I looked at the customer's face, but it was hidden behind a black mask so that only his eyes showed.

     "We're having a bake sale, to raise money for the pound," Shesta explained.

     The cloaked person nodded. "Let's see what I have." And he produced from his pocket a bag of neopoints, which he spilled out onto the table. "What can I buy with three hundred and thirty-five neopoints?" he asked.

     Shesta and Cylvana stared wide-eyed at the pile of money, and then started to figure it out, each one anxious to solve the problem before the other. I looked up curiously at the customer. He winked and gave me a little wave with a white-gloved paw.

     "You can buy twenty-two cookies or brownies," Shesta exclaimed triumphantly.

     The customer scooped the coins back into the bag and handed the whole thing to Cylvana. "I'll take five of these then," he said, indicating the plate of sugar-cookies, "Ten of these chocolate brownies, and... how about seven chocolate-chip cookies. Oh, no, you keep the change," he told Shesta, who was trying to give him a gold coin. He turned to leave, and suddenly the girls remembered their manners.

     "Thank you, sir!" they called after him.

     "My pleasure," the customer replied with a twitch of his green, striped tail. All three of us followed him with our eyes until he rounded a corner and was out of sight. Even after we could no longer see him, the three of us kept staring after the customer.

     "Wow!" said Cylvana, breaking the trance, "Look, Jube, he bought twenty-two cookies!"

     "Yeah," said Shesta excitedly, "Who was he, Jube?" Shesta had a tendency to ask me questions regardless of whether or not I would know the answers.

     "I don't know, Shesta," I told her. Both she and Cylvana looked slightly disappointed that the mystery would remain unsolved, so I added, "But whoever he was, he was very generous." At that moment my brother came running around the side of the house and trotted up to the table.

     "Hi guys, how's the sale going?" he asked casually, and as the girls told him the story of the mysterious, rich customer, I met Arribon's gaze. He winked, and gave me a little wave.

     "What've you been doing all morning, Arribon?" asked Shesta.

     "Oh," he replied, nonchalant, "I was just out shopping. I found a great way to spend the rest of my birthday money."

The End

 
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