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Lila and the Pillow Problem


by ch0c0lat3kik0

--------

"DARLENE!"

     "What?"

     A pink Kacheek sprinted into the living room where her owner, Darlene, was sitting on a Blue Bean Bag Chair, a book held in her hands.

     "It's happened again," the Kacheek said, positioning herself on her owner's lap, head bowed.

     "What's happened again? Atlanta -- you don't mean --?"

     Atlanta howled, "Yes, Dar, yes!"

     Darlene leapt off of the Bean Bag Chair, her Kacheek toppling off her lap and landing in a crumpled heap on the floor. Darlene shot up the stairs to the room of her other pet, a red Grarrl named Lila, and her Kacheek straightened and followed suit.

     "You could have helped me up!" Atlanta grumbled as they reached the threshold of Lila's room. The door was a dull pink, with flowers painted in pastel colors by the room's owner herself. Darlene grasped the brass doorknob, opened the door, and walked in.

     "LILA! NOT AGAIN!" roared Darlene as she entered the room. Lila was standing in the middle of her room, bits of cotton plastered to her mouth. Darlene rushed to her pet's side and wrenched open Lila's jaws. She examined Lila, and saw that she had fluff, feathers, and cotton sticking to her mouth.

     "Go rinse your mouth," sighed Darlene. Lila obeyed without question, looking quite happy to depart the scene. Darlene turned to Atlanta.

     "What are we going to do about her?" she asked her pet, a hint of plea in her voice.

     "Well," Atlanta said, considering the matter, "She eats pillows, right? Maybe just... take away the pillows?"

     Darlene blinked, surprised by this abrupt sense of logic. "Atlanta, you are a genius!" Darlene rushed to Lila's bed, snatched up three of her Pretty Pink Pillows, and rushed out of the room.

     Let's see Lila eat her pillows now, she thought, grinning, as she tossed the pillows in the garbage.

     - - -

     "So Li," Darlene asked Lila during dinner, while Lila was wolfing down her Wocky Spaghetti Ball. "Did you notice anything -- er -- different, about your room?" Atlanta looked up from her spaghetti, which she was swirling daintily onto her fork, looking curiously from Lila to Darlene.

     "Different? Different how?" Lila inquired, staring at her owner.

     Darlene twirled her short blonde hair absentmindedly in her fingers, looking apprehensive.

     "Didn't you notice? I removed the pillows."

     Lila stared at her for a minute, then cleared her throat and said, "Why?"

     "Because you keep eating them, Li!" said Darlene in exasperation.

     "I know, but --" Lila's voice trailed off. She couldn't think of any reason for her to have her pillows back; not when she kept devouring them.

     "I sleep better with my pillows," was Lila's lame excuse. Atlanta snorted, but managed to disguise it as a sneeze.

     "You'll survive, Li," Darlene said indifferently, slurping a noodle.

     "Dar, that's impolite," Atlanta chastised, as she picked up a meatball and popped it into her mouth, chewing noisily with her mouth open.

      - - -

     "Ready for bed, guys?"

     "Olmush," Atlanta said, through a mouthful of water. She gargled and spat the water into the sink; water splattered onto the mirror, which was directly above the sink, and a bit got onto Lila's toothbrush.

     "EW! Atlanta! Don't do that!" Lila wailed, disgusted. Darlene scolded her Kacheek and lectured her about personal hygiene, and then ushered her into bed. Lila waited in the bathroom, speculating about what it would be like without sleeping on a soft, comfortable pillow.

     "Come into bed, Li," Darlene said, her voice sounding a bit distant, and Lila figured she was already in her room. She hopped out of the bathroom, walked into the room, and curled up in a ball on her bed. Darlene tucked Lila in, clicked off the light, and left the room, chiding before she left, "No pillows to devour tonight!"

     Lila rolled over and sighed. She felt uncomfortable without the presence of her warm, cushy pillow. She stared at the wall opposite her, which was lined with moonlight escaping from the window above, trying to sleep. She closed her eyes and thought of leaping Babaas. But that was no good, because somehow her mind thought of Disco Babaas, and she imagined a roomful of Babaas doing the disco Mallard, lights from the disco ball flashing onto the walls. That, of course, only made her wide awake, and somehow her thoughts fell again on pillows, and she remembered a few happy moments when she had digested the plush and cottony interior within the pillow.

     The door was ajar, and only a few yards away was the garbage where Darlene had disposed of her pillows. Oh, poor things; all alone in the trashcan, never to find solace in her stomach again, with all the digested remnants of their siblings, parents, and friends -- all, of course, pillows Lila had owned previously.

     And anyway, how horrible would it be for Lila to just have a taste? She couldn't see the harm in that; after all, Grarrls consumed all sorts of things all the time, and it's not like it did them any harm! And besides, they were just going to go to waste anyway; they were just going to go to the Rubbish Dump.

     Her stomach rumbled loudly; she was starving. Pillows popped into her mind again, and before she knew what she was doing, she had her claw gripping the doorknob and was scurrying down the stairs...

      - - -

     "Good morning, Atlanta," said Darlene cheerfully the next morning at breakfast, sitting down onto a chair, accompanied by her pets. She straightened a copy of this week's Neopian Times, placed it in front of her, and smoothed it out. Lila served them breakfast and washed the breakfast dishes, something she never ever did. In fact, Darlene couldn't remember the last time Lila had done this, and felt a bit suspicious that Lila was doing all these acts without being asked to.

     "What's the catch?" Atlanta said with a suspicious glint in her eyes. Darlene was relieved her pet had worded her thoughts for her.

     "Catch?" questioned Lila, "What d'you mean, 'catch'?"

     "You know very well what I mean."

     Lila turned her guilty face from Atlanta to Darlene, averting her eyes from either of them, and then muttered something incomprehensible.

     "What?" said Atlanta, rather rudely. "What didja say?"

     "I said," said Lila, louder this time, "I ate my pillows again last night. I didn't -- I didn't mean to, but... I couldn't help it." Lila looked away, her eyes brimming with unshed tears.

     Darlene felt a surge of sympathy for her pet; but Atlanta, on the other hand, gasped and cried, "AGAIN? Oh, my gosh! Can't you control yourself for one night, Li?"

     "N-no!" Lila choked, tears pouring from her eyes. "I d-don't want to eat pillows, but I can't help myself! I'm just so hungry, and pillows taste so good!"

     Crinkling up her nose at the thought of munching on fabric, Darlene said quickly, "Honey, it's alright, we understand." She shot a reproachful look at Atlanta, who said hastily, "Yeah, yeah, of course we do. I'm sure we'll think of something." Atlanta smiled encouragingly at her sister, who sniffled.

     "Well... alright. But what can we do about it?" Lila asked the room at large. There were a few moments of silence, broken by Atlanta snapping her fingers and exclaiming, "I got it! Lila, you eat pillows when you're hungry, right? Well," she beckoned Lila and Darlene closer, pausing for dramatic effect, "how about we just give her a bedtime snack?"

     Lila and Darlene stared at her, Darlene once again befuddled by Atlanta's abrupt logic.

     "Atlanta," Darlene said, rather slowly, "Once again, you have displayed your ingenuity."

     Atlanta nodded and said, "I know. Um, but what does that mean?" she added, looking puzzled.

     "Never mind," Darlene said quickly; this was not a time to explain. "Now, what should we feed Lila?"

     "Well, that's easy," laughed Atlanta. "Just ask Lila!"

     The other two looked expectantly at Lila. Lila fiddled with her fingers for a while, looking thoughtful. Atlanta got impatient and was tapping her paw on the table, looking annoyed. Just then, Lila's face brightened. She grinned and announced, "I like to eat cardboard."

     "Cardboard?" the others cried in unison.

     "Yes," Lila said matter-of-factly. "Cardboard is the second best thing to eat. Next to pillows, of course," she added. Her face suddenly looked reminiscent, as though she was once again reliving in her mind moments with her pillows.

     "Right," said Darlene, almost laughing. Atlanta suddenly leapt up from her chair while the others stared at her.

     "I know what to do!" Atlanta ran to the closet, disentangled her jacket from the clutter within, than skipped out the door without another word. Darlene and Lila looked at each other, bewildered.

     Atlanta ran across the street like a blur of pink, pushing away innocent bystanders and acting oblivious to their cries of indignation. As she reached a white, quaint-looking Neohome on the end of their cul-de-sac, she ran to the threshold and rang their doorbell, panting and gasping.

     "Coming, coming, coming!" a voice said. A moment later, Atlanta saw a silhouette of a Gelert through the blinds on their door. A figure emerged as the door was opened, and Atlanta saw Minnie, her best friend and neighbor.

     "Atlanta, what are you doing here?" the yellow Gelert yawned. Her eyelids were drooping, and she lifted her paw and stifled another yawn. She was wearing a magenta bathrobe with matching slippers.

     "Oops, sorry, Min. Did I wake you up?" queried Atlanta, looking sheepish.

     "Yeah, but that's alright," Minnie replied. "So what brings you here, Atlanta?"

     "Well," Atlanta burst out, "I need all your empty cardboard boxes, Minnie. It's important. Please can I have 'em?" She looked endearingly at her friend, who smiled kindly and said, "Sure."

     Minnie came back a minute later, carrying at least ten huge cardboard boxes. She put the boxes down next to Atlanta, who looked delighted.

     "Here you go. Our dad orders a lot of food, especially from the Heath Food store. Here are our empty Toffee Brussel Sprout boxes," she explained. When Atlanta looked at her quizzically, she added under her breath, "Don't ask."

     "If you don't ask why I need the boxes in the first place."

     "I won't," assured Minnie, giggling.

     "Thanks a lot, Min," grunted Atlanta as she picked up the boxes, which were at least half her size. "Well, goodbye!"

     "See you, Atlanta," murmured Minnie, yawning and closing the door, her bathrobe swooshing as she departed.

     Atlanta hoisted up the boxes, staggering slightly under their weight. They were quite heavy for a Kacheek her size and it took her a little while to trek down the sidewalk and back to her Neohome.

     "There you are, Atlanta!" said Darlene as she spotted her beloved Kacheek. Atlanta put the boxes down on the porch momentarily, wiping beads of sweat off her forehead.

     The three clambered inside their Neohome. Darlene placed the boxes on the kitchen table, and they all sat down. Darlene crossed her fingers behind her back for good luck as Lila flexed her powerful fingers and tore off a piece of cardboard. She considered it for a moment, staring at it with mixed curiosity and apprehension, then screwed up her face and took a bite. Atlanta and Darlene watched as Lila chewed.

     "Hmm," she said, through a mouthful, "This is..." Her voice tailed away as she swallowed, and the others stared at her eagerly.

     "Yes?" pressed the impatient Atlanta.

     "Delicious!"

     - - -

     At 9:00 P.M. that night, Darlene was sitting on the Blue Bean Bag Chair she was so fond of, reading a book titled 'The Old Mynci and the Sea'. As she was just getting to the exciting climax, Atlanta burst in the living room, spotted Darlene in the corner, and bounded over to her.

     "We're ready for our snack, Darlene!" she chided, snatching the book from her owner's hands and throwing it out the window.

     "Oops," she said sheepishly, as Darlene glared daggers at her pet. "I was aiming for the sofa."

     Darlene gave Atlanta a brief but heated lecture, then ordered her to fetch the book.

     "Oi," Darlene muttered as she collapsed onto the sofa, rubbing her temples.

     When Atlanta returned with the book clutched in her paws, Darlene told her to get Lila and tell her to come down. Atlanta obliged, and Darlene went into the basement to collect the boxes, where she had decided to store them. It was too much of a hassle to maneuver around them in the kitchen, not to mention it turned off dinner guests.

     She walked up the wooden staircase with the boxes in her hands and found Lila and Atlanta in the kitchen, where they were sitting at the table and wearing napkins tied around their necks.

     "Here you go," Darlene said, putting the box in front of Lila, who took a large bite and devoured it in a microsecond.

     "Hungry, aren't you?" Atlanta commented, bemused, as Lila asked for seconds.

      - - -

     "Alright, Li, ready for bed?"

     "Yes indeed," Lila answered, already huddled in her blankets.

     "Good," said Darlene. She had a Yellow Faellie Pillow in her hands, and she dipped the pillow into Lila's arms while saying seriously, "You're not hungry, right?" She cocked a brow at the red Grarrl, who nodded, giving the pillow an affectionate hug.

     "Not at all," Lila replied. It was true; she usually went to bed starting to feel slightly ravenous, but not this time!

     "Good," Darlene repeated, smiling coyly at Lila. "I sure hope this works." She padded to the door, clicked off the lights, and looked back at her Neopet. Lila's head was lying on the pillow, and she was gazing glassy-eyed at it with complete adoration. Darlene smiled and left, leaving Lila alone.

     Lila's eyelids drooped. She was very tired, and she felt warm and sleepy curled up on her mattress, covered with her comforter. The presence of her pillow was most noticeable after she had been deprived of it for so long. If she could recall correctly, it been five sleepless nights she'd been without them. It seemed like five years.

     Pleasant thoughts drifted in her mind, and they coaxed her to sleep, where she dwelled on pillows, blankets, and various soft, cuddly things in her dreams.

     In no time at all -- or so it seemed to her -- Lila was waking up, blinking back the sunlight that shone through her eyelids. She lifted one of her claws and sat up while shielding her eyes from the rays of sun attempting to blind her.

     Suddenly, Lila felt a sharp pain at the back of her head, and she heard a voice chime, "Lila?" Lila blinked. She saw a familiar pink blob, and when she blinked again she saw Atlanta, who was poking her with a twig. Lila gave a start and leapt up, bouncing on her mattress, which sprang to life as Lila hobbled on it.

     "Don't do that!" howled Lila. Atlanta giggled and started jumping on Lila's bed, asking between great bounces, "So -- did -- you -- eat -- your -- pil-l-l -- ow?"

     "Nope," said Lila proudly, holding her head up high.

     Atlanta now leapt into the air and did a backward pirouette. Lila snatched the twig off the floor and brandished it at her. Atlanta emitted a piercing shriek and started running around the room, flailing her arms as Lila chased her. The ruckus attracted their owner, and Darlene came running into the room. She took a look at the scene and began to shout at her two pets, and they both cringed as Darlene shouted, "You could have poked an eye out! What were you thinking?!"

     After many accusations and recriminations, Darlene went down into the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee, with Lila and Atlanta shuffling nervously behind her. After they all situated themselves onto their chairs, Darlene asked Lila if she slept well.

     "Yeah, I slept great!" Lila exclaimed. "And I didn't eat my pillows."

     "I'm so glad, Li," Darlene said, grinning as she buttered her toast. Lila nodded happily, then as an afterthought added, "Well, I slept good until this Slorghead came into my room and started poking me with a stick!" She shot an angry glance at Atlanta, who kicked Lila in the shin. Lila retaliated by using her spoon as a slingshot and shooting jam onto her sister's forehead, which was a cue for them all that breakfast was over.

      - - -

     A few days later, Darlene looked up from 'The Old Mynci and the Sea', and gave a start when she saw Atlanta shooting into the living room, looking frantic.

     "Darlene!"

     "What is it, Atlanta? What happened?" Darlene said urgently, crouching down next to her pet and looking her straight in the eye.

     "Lila ate her bedsprings!"

The End

 
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