Tales from a Lost Grundo
A wide-eyed baby Xweetok stood in front of her second grade class, smiling happily. Every child in the class had the chance to talk about their winter vacation, and Leslie was the first to jump up in her seat. “No one believes the tale I’m about to tell you,” Leslie said. “Maybe it’s because I’m just a little baby Xweetok. But I promise this tale really did happen.” Leslie had caught the class’s attention. Many of the small neopets craned their heads forward so they could hear her better. The teacher, Ms. Singer, looked up from her pile of papers. She was an elderly blue Gelert with soft features. She heard the same type of stories year after year. Maybe this story would be different.
“It all started when my parents told me we were going on vacation to Faerieland,” Leslie continued brightly. “They told me we would go shopping in all the faerie stores, visit the Hidden Tower, and watch the poogle races, but they never told me I’d meet the most interesting plushie in the whole of Neopia.” She paused and looked at the class. They were exchanging glances. How could a plushie be interesting? Sure, they were fun to play with every once in a while, but they couldn’t talk or move on their own. All the children had plushies. Besides the plushie’s different appearances, how could one be more interesting than another?
“I know what you’re thinking,” Leslie said cheerfully. “I was skeptical, too, at first when I thought about what happened after we left Faerieland. But believe me, once you hear me out you’ll be as thrilled as I am!” The class settled down and they, as well as Ms. Singer, watched Leslie curiously. In second grade the neopets did not usually get all excited about one plushie, so something must be different.
Leslie resumed talking. “On the second to last day of vacation my parents scheduled a tour of Faerieland. We whizzed through the clouds, stopping at all the places we’d never been. I got some lovely new books and even glimpsed the faerie queen doll!” The class ooed and awed. Every child wanted to see a faerie queen doll.
“No, that wasn’t the best part of my vacation,” Leslie said, beginning to become impatient. “Hold on, the real fun is coming. So, we were on our way back to the hotel when I spotted a little bright blue patch on the cloud below me. ‘Excuse me,’ I called, ‘May we stop on that cloud?’ The driver agreed and landed. I jumped out of the vehicle and ran toward the blue speck. I have to say, clouds are surprisingly strong. When I reached the speck, I saw it was an old, blue abandoned Grundo plushie. ‘Poor thing,’ I said as I picked up the plushie. It was light in my arms. Out of instinct I asked the plushie how it got to be left alone on a cloud. I heard a faint whispering and looked around, surprised. My parents and the driver were just stepping out of the racer and were talking among themselves.
“I heard the sound again and looked down at the plushie. Its tiny lips were moving. ‘What?’ I asked, pressing my ear against the plushie. ‘I fell out of a hot air balloon,’ it said. I was taken aback. I thought, plushies can’t talk! I stared at the little Grundo and it smiled at me. My parents appeared behind me and the smile vanished.
“‘Mom!’ I yelled with excitement, ‘this plushie can talk! Listen!’ The Grundo didn’t say anything and my parents looked at me like I was crazy before concealing their feelings. ‘Darling,” my mom said, ‘you know toys can’t talk.’ I started to protest and begged the Grundo to say something, but it wouldn’t. ‘Honey, we have to get to the hotel soon. I’m awfully tired,’ my mom said after looking at the toy disapprovingly. She yawned and walked back toward our racer. I followed, carrying the plushie in my arms. It talked to me. I was sure. I couldn’t just leave it behind.”
The class looked at Leslie with mixed feelings. Some of her classmates looked at her uncertainly, but others were enthralled by her story. Ms. Singer, for a change, was listening intently, a mix of joy and confusion on her face.
“That night after everyone but me was asleep, I tiptoed onto the balcony outside our room, carrying the Grundo in my arms. The air was pleasant and soothing. I sat the Grundo down on the table in front of where I sat down. ‘I know you were talking to me earlier,’ I said, ‘Tell me about yourself. Please!’ The Grundo’s button eyes just stared at me expressionlessly. I thought I was crazy. Leaving the plushie on the table, I began walking back into the hotel room.
“‘Wait!’ a small, male voice called. I turned around quickly. What a relief, I wasn’t crazy! The Grundo was smiling at me helplessly. ‘Why didn’t you talk before?’ I asked it, slightly annoyed. ‘My parents thought I was nutty!’ ‘I don’t know,’ it said uncomfortably, ‘I... don’t usually talk to people anymore.’ I asked it why it talked to me. The Grundo said it was very lonely, lying on the cloud for years. It just needed to talk. I felt sympathy for the little guy. ‘What’s your name? Mine is Leslie.’ ‘I’m Ping Pong.’ He repeated his name. ‘Ping Pong.’ When he said his name the second time, he seemed more confident. His voice became louder, he looked around with searching eyes. I yawned, out of no offense. I was just tired. Seeing that I was sleepy, Ping Pong asked, ‘Would you like to hear a bedtime story? The story of my life?’
“I wondered, how interesting could a plushie’s life be? Their lives consisted of being played with, being sold, and being bought. But, as I studied Ping Pong, I realized that he was no ordinary plushie. For one thing he could talk intelligently. When I looked into his button eyes, I could see thoughts and experience in them. ‘I’d love to hear your story,’ I said. Ping Pong smiled broadly. I could see pure joy on his face.”
The whole class seemed interested now, even if some students doubted her story. Every eye watched Leslie attentively, especially Ms. Singer’s.
“As quietly as I could I pulled a pillow and blanket onto the balcony. I didn’t want my parents to wake up. Once I was comfy I told Ping Pong he could begin his story when he was ready.” Leslie paused. “Ping Pong’s story is even harder to believe than mine. But I’m sure he was telling the truth.” The class said nothing and she continued...
“All right then,” Ping Pong said sincerely. “You won’t believe this story, but it’s true. I would never lie.” Ping Pong paused and gathered his thoughts and memories. “As far as I know, I was created a normal plushie, in a factory. I must have been sold in the Plushie Palace. I can’t remember my beginning, because regular plushies don’t have feelings, or memories. At the time I didn’t know what the words I used were, but as I learned words and speech, I began to understand. One day I felt texture and saw color. I was lying face down on a scratchy, brown wooden table. I heard noise, a voice. A long, furry paw turned me over. I looked up into the eyes of a green Zafara. She was wearing a funny black hat and was smiling gleefully. The room smelled like a mix of all these different substances. Some smelled delicious, some putrid.”
“You were with Edna?” Leslie asked, confused. “I thought she was a bad witch.”
“Edna, yes, that was her name. I didn’t stay with her for long, so I can’t say if she was bad. Anyway, she picked me up - I couldn’t and still can’t move for myself - and ran through the dark rooms of her house until she reached the front door. A small green Cybunny was sitting there, looking quite scared. Edna handed me to the Cybunny, Julia, and thanked her for some important ingredient for her potion. After a quick ‘your welcome’ Julia walked as fast as she could away from Edna’s house. Julia was my first real friend. You remind me of her; you are young, sweet, innocent.”
Leslie smiled. “Wow, I feel special now.”
Ping Pong continued on. “She was an only child, so she spent all her time with me. She taught me to read and speak. We’d travel all over Neopia together, enjoying the sights. Our favorite place to visit was Faerieland.”
Leslie smiled as she listened to Ping Pong. He sounded so happy, recalling these old memories. “That sounds wonderful,” Leslie said.
“It sure was,” Ping Pong continued. “As we got older we grew closer. One day a new member was adopted into the family; a tiny blue Gelert. Her name was Winky and she was just adorable. Julia let her play with me and we became close friends too. One day Julia, Winky, and I were strolling around the Ice Caves when we heard a screeching from inside a cave. Cautiously, we entered the cave. A baby snow monster lay on the floor. Winky asked it what was wrong. It said its toy was stolen and it wanted it back. The poor snow monster looked so sad. I said it could play with me, until we could find it another toy. Winky and Julia didn’t like this idea very much, but they went to buy a new toy for the monster as quick as they could. All the while they were gone the monster would bury me and dig me up, toss me in the air, and so on. I found it fun. Even though I was intelligent, I was still a plushie.”
“Wait,” Leslie said. “Are you talking about the Snowager?”
“Why, yes,” Ping Pong said. “I know he seems mean and rotten, but that’s just because people kept stealing from him. And they still do. Well, we remained friends and we visited each other often.” Ping Pong paused and sighed. “One day Julia, Winky, and I were going for a ride over Neopia. We wanted to see the world from a new angle. That’s when I fell out of the hot air balloon, and landed where you found me. Many people saw me, but I never talked. I was afraid that if someone discovered that I was intelligent, they would take me to their house and I would be sold, or stuffed in their safety deposit box. Most of all I worried that I would never see Julia or Winky again. When I saw you, I thought you would be the perfect friend. You reminded me so much of Julia and I was so lonely. I just knew you would believe what I’m telling you now. Most people wouldn’t. So, friends?”
“Friends,” Leslie said.
Leslie stopped talking for a second. “And that’s what he told me. I spent the whole next day with Ping Pong. We went cloud jumping, we watched the faerie cloud racers, read some books, and just talked. It was so much fun, the most fun I’ve ever had in my life! Oddly, Ping Pong wouldn’t talk around anybody else, so I’m the only witness of a talking, feeling plushie besides his old friends.”
The class looked at her amazed, transfixed. As far as Leslie could tell, much of the class believed her. She smiled and sat down at her seat. Ms. Singer walked over to her desk and pulled out a worn, old book. She sat down and flipped through the pages. Voices rose up all around Leslie.
“Wow, I want a talking plushie!”
“Maybe I should go do Edna’s quest and ask for one of those!”
“They would be really fun to play dress up with.”
“Someone I could read my stories to!”
“Where’s the plushie now?” Dazzle, a sweet yellow Lenny asked her.
“I brought him home with me,” Leslie answered.
“Can I meet him one day?”
“Sure,” Leslie said. “Maybe he’ll talk to you.”
The bell rang and the class slowly exited the room, excitedly talking about the tale they just heard. “Leslie!” Ms. Singer called, “May I speak to you a moment?”
“Of course,” Leslie said, walking over to Ms. Singer. “What is it?”
“I believe you,” Ms. Singer said. Her blue Gelert paw picked up the old book and passed it to Leslie. “Will you show this to Ping Pong? Tell him that Winky says hi?”
Leslie opened the book, or photo album rather, and flipped through the pages. A young green Cybunny, blue Gelert, and blue Grundo plushie, filled the pages with smiling faces. “I will. I promise!” Leslie said happily, running out the door. Ping Pong would be so happy to know that his old friends still cared about him and that he would be able to see them again!