The Ugly Child
Cleo smeared peanut butter on a baby Zafara's peanut butter and banana sandwich as she cradled a tiny baby Acara in her arm and told a baby Aisha to calm down as she cried over the loss of her pink balloon.
The Zafara, Todd, smiled at her. "Cleo, can you cut my crusts off?" he asked sweetly.
Cleo nodded. "I just have to set Winnie down for her lunch and get Krisha another balloon, then I'll be right back to cut them off," the Faerie Xweetok said, setting the Aisha, Winnie, down in her high chair as she set a bowl of Kauvara O's, which was Winnie's favourite cereal.
She snatched a balloon off the counter, blew it up, and handed it to Krisha.
Krisha made a face. "This is red, I wanted pink," she instructed.
Cleo sighed in exasperation. "Can you keep a red one for now?"
Krisha shook her head.
Cleo sighed, grabbed a marker, then quickly doodled spirals and happy faces and hearts all over Krisha's balloon, then snatched a knife from the drawer and began hacking at Todd's crusts.
"Um, Cleo?" Todd said politely.
"What is it, Toddie?" Cleo asked.
"Why are you cutting off the crusts with a spoon?" Todd said, and Cleo looked down and burst into laughter as she snatched a knife and sawed his crusts off.
Just as Todd licked the rest of the peanut butter off his paws, Ms. Polsha walked into the house rocking a small baby in her arms. The baby was hidden in a mass of blue blanket, but Cleo knew it was a baby because Ms. Polsha was cooing and speaking gibberish to whatever was in the blanket.
"I just finished getting him used to the neighbourhood! I created him about ten minutes ago, then finished showing him to all the neighbours. Now all I have to do is name him." Ms. Polsha boasted about how lovely he was for a few moments, and Cleo wondered what it was; a Korbat, a Poogle, a Wocky, or perhaps a Lenny?
"Sweeties, can you manage by yourselves for a few moments while I converse with Cleo?" Ms. Polsha asked.
Three blank stares looked at their mother.
"I mean, can you be by yourselves for a little bit while I talk to Cleo in the den?" Ms. Polsha corrected, and the babies nodded.
Ms. Polsha sat down on the couch, and Cleo sat down next to her. "I hope it's not too much for you to look after four kiddies tonight? I have a meeting at work tonight, and I have to work late again because I missed work today while I was buying clothes and supplies for the baby."
Cleo, who was Ms. Polsha's babysitter, sighed but nodded. "Yeah, okay," she agreed.
Ms. Polsha smiled and patted Cleo's shoulder. "Thank you, honey. Your mother's so lucky to have a little gem like you!"
Cleo smiled back. "Maybe, but she's so busy with my two other siblings that she doesn't really have time for me."
Ms. Polsha glanced at her sympathetically. "Well, whenever you feel like you need a mom, you know you can come here. I'm officially an expert, what with my fourth child." Ms. Polsha snapped her finger. "I know what I'll call him! Ralph, my little Ralphie." She cradled him and kissed Ralph's forehead. "Would you like to hold him?"
Cleo smiled and reached out for the blue bundle when she saw what Ralph was - an ugly little baby Grundo. She was disgusted, but she didn't want to say so because Ms. Polsha was so proud of her little newborn. "He's so adorable," she managed to squeak.
"I'm glad you think so! Well, I'd better get going. I left his food and instructions - you know, if he cries, when to put him to bed, that stuff - and my Neomail address in case anything goes wrong. Bye, Cleo!" And with that, Ms. Polsha was gone.
When Cleo came back into the kitchen, she set Ralph in a brand new high chair and grabbed some baby food as well as a spoon, bib, and a towel for his drool. Once he was fed, it was time for his nap.
"Eww!" Krisha cried from across the table as soon as Cleo came back from setting him down for his nap. "He's disgusting! He's not beautiful! He's not my brother!"
Cleo secretly agreed - all the other Polsha children were absolutely beautiful, and Ralph was pretty ugly - but she found herself sticking up for the little child. "Well, whether you like it or not, Ralphie's your brother now. So deal with it."
Todd nodded. "Ralphie makes Mommy happy, so let's make Ralphie happy."
Krisha shook her head. "Uh-uh. I won't do it. He's a Slorg!"
Quiet little Winnie looked up from her picture book. "He might be ugly on the outside, but on the inside he's prettier than you." Cleo found Winnie to be speaking like Cleo's mother.
"Eww! You mean his guts are prettier than my guts?" Krisha squealed.
"Krisha, stop picking on your brother," Cleo instructed. "He might not be beautiful, but he's your brother. It's what's on the inside that counts. Maybe it will turn out like the story, The Ugly Eyrie. You know, when the Lennies said he was ugly, and then he became a beautiful and strong Eyrie."
Krisha rolled her eyes. "Maybe, but unless you've got a Transmorgrificatition potion, it he's gonna be ugly."
"It's called a Transmogrification potion," Cleo corrected. "And he's your brother."
Cleo took all of the children out in one big stroller and strapped Ralph in his little seat that strapped across her chest. Everyone cooed and smiled as they waggled their fingers at Krisha, Todd, and Winnie, but they all grimaced at Ralph.
"He's hideous! Drop him at the pound!" an old woman suggested, glaring at the giggling Grundo.
A girl who attended Cleo's school sniggered and insulted him, too.
"Shush, Tonya! He's just a baby!" Cleo said, and she ran back to Ms. Polsha's home.
When she had finished putting them to bed one night, Ms. Polsha waltzed into the den where Cleo was flipping through a Fashion Pet magazine.
She held out a little pink blanket. "There was a mix up; apparently Ralph was getting a check-up at the NeoHospital. This is my little snookums!" Inside the velvety blanket lay a sleeping baby Korbat. "I've already named her. She's my little Sarah."
Cleo bit her lip. "So what are you going to do with Ralph?" she asked.
"That little child? Oh, he's from the pound. He's going back there first thing tomorrow morning. He's not ugly, but he's not beautiful, either."
Cleo stood up. "Ms. Polsha, would it be okay if I took Ralph home with me?"
Ms. Polsha looked at her as though she had just sprouted a Chia out both her wings. "Certainly, but why?"
"He's kind of cute, and he's very sweet," Cleo offered as she gathered her stuff. "He's my little Ralphie."
You may ask yourself what happened to Ralphie. He grew up, went to school, and got a job at the Neopets Search Department. You can find him whenever you want; whenever there's no search results, it's Ralphie there telling you to try again. Don't believe me? Try it yourself; it's really him.