Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 113,881,443 Issue: 159 | 24th day of Gathering, Y6
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Trash or Treasure?


by bqueen6430

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Maria, a tall, teenage blond, was famous for two things in her neighborhood.

      One was her collection of Osiri's Pottery. She owned every last piece in existence, and could identify each one in an instant with a single glance. By running her fingers over the ornate designs and engravings, she could tell immediately what the symbols meant. Her impressive collection was stored on shelves (she dusted them twice a day) in a room in her NeoHome, a room that always remained locked.

      The second thing Maria was known for was her family. She had twelve pets, and each had his or her own Petpet. Not only that, her pets had friends who often came to stir up more chaos at Maria's NeoHome, which was located in a busy suburb of Neopia Central. Indeed, Bracknell Road was swarming with pets who loved to invite themselves over, and then track mud on her luxurious carpets or spill NeoCola on her fancy furniture. Although it was exasperating, Maria tolerated it. Most of the time, at least.

      "GET OFF THE ROOF!" She hollered up at her Green Wocky, Vivian. Vivian had taken six friends up onto the roof, while four more stood on the ground. They were tossing a Gormball back and forth, and Maria was in the middle, trying to snatch the ball while scolding Vivian.

      "VIVIAN!" she screeched. "OFF THE ROOF, NOW, OR ELSE I'LL-"

      SPLAT!

      Vivian had thrown the Gormball, but miscalculated and hit Maria in the face. She and her friends stared, waiting for Maria to blow up. She did, and then sent all ten friends home and Vivian to her room.

      "We never get to do anything fun," Vivian muttered grudgingly on the way to her bedroom.

      Maria's patrol of her house did not end there. In the kitchen, her rowdy Lupe, Leo, had started a food fight. Actually, it was more like a war, only the weapons included a wide variety of food, ranging from rotten berries, to Tigersquash, to last night's meatloaf. Leo hurled a spoonful of mashed potatoes at his friend (or in this case, his enemy). His opponent ducked skillfully, and Maria got hit instead. After she yelled herself hoarse and shooed everyone out of the kitchen, she noted that her potatoes could use more salt.

      When she had cleaned up, Maria had to comfort three crying baby pets (one being her own), scold five more pets for plotting to sell their siblings in order to raise Neopoints for Battledome weapons, confiscate a suspicious-looking potion from her Peophin and Lenny, and convince her Acara's friends that firing oneself from a cannon was not a decent means of transportation. As soon as she had finished all that, Maria collapsed onto her sofa, exhausted. Noticing the cushions were wet and smelled like grape juice, she leapt up, looking disgusted.

      "This has got to end," she murmured, wandering down the hall to her favorite room out of the twenty-five rooms of her NeoHome: Her pottery room.

      Her brainy Gelert had installed a lock on the door that would only open if Maria entered the correct numbers. Of course, he let Maria choose the code. None of Maria's dozen pets-or their Petpets-was allowed to enter the pottery room; it was the only zone in the house that was off-limits.

      "Two…six…three…eight…four," Maria whispered to herself as she pressed the buttons. A beep confirmed it and the door swung open to admit her.

      She closed it behind her and simply stood there, admiring her collected works fondly. She meandered over to her favorite pot out of them all-her Delicate Terracota Jug. It was one of her rarer pieces, but that was not the whole reason why she adored it. She thought it was beautiful, and it had taken her months to save up for it. It had the most security out of the entire collection. It was on the same shelf, but was situated inside a lighted glass case, atop a small metal pedestal. Covering the pedestal was a piece of red velvet. The case only opened with a key.

      Maria inserted her key into the lock and opened the case. Gently she lifted the jug off its stand and held it. She picked up a cloth and was about to polish its already shiny surfaces when she heard the shatter of breaking glass, a thudding sound, and, loudest of all-screaming.

      The girl sighed, rolling her blue eyes, and set the jug back on the pedestal. She did not bother locking the case; she strode out of the room as quickly as she could to find the source of the noise. In her rush, she forgot to give the door the extra pull it needed to be fully closed.

      ***

      Maria spent the next half hour lecturing her pets. All twelve of them sat in the living room. Most looked guilty-others looked rebellious. After her speech, Maria could scarcely talk at all.

      "Mommy, what's wrong with your voice?" J.T., the youngest, a Zafara, asked inquisitively.

      Maria tried to answer, but her voice had become raspy. It hurt her throat to speak. "I don't know, J.T.," she wheezed. "But I'm going to the pharmacy for some medicine for my throat. I'll be back in about an hour." Her eyes traveled to her eldest pet, a red Usul. "Eliza's in charge."

      Most, if not all, of the pets protested.

      "No, not Eliza!"

      "Mommy, she's mean!"

      "Don't leave her in charge."

      "According to my careful observations Eliza is power-hungry and in need of mental help."

      "She always makes us work!"

      Maria held up her hand to stop the objections. "She's the oldest. You listen to her. Be kind, Eliza."

      The Usul smiled, but her eyes seemed to glint strangely. "Of course, Mother…you can count on me."

      With that, Maria departed.

      "All right, here's how it's going to work," Eliza announced bossily as soon as the door had closed. "We're going to clean…I'll go grab the brooms and rags. Wait here…"

      The instant Eliza's back was turned, her siblings scattered. She froze and whirled around. "Oh, no you don't!"

      She chased after them. The stampede was headed for the pottery room.

      Vivian, at the head of the pack, was astonished when the door swung open. She beckoned for the rest of her siblings to hurry in so she could slam the door in Eliza's face, but Eliza was too quick. She darted in before Vivian could close the door.

      "Nice try!" she shouted. "I-" But the shiny wooden floor was slippery, and Eliza could not stop. She bumped into Leo, who bumped into Misty, who bumped into J.T….and J.T. bumped into Maria's shelf.

      Despite all the pots, jugs, vases, and bowls on it, the shelf was not heavy. One hit was a sufficient amount to make it wobble.

      "No!" Leo shouted, rushing forward. But he had the same problem Eliza had had. He rammed into the shelf much harder than J.T., jolting it roughly. It was enough to send the whole thing crashing to the floor, including Maria's favorite piece-her Delicate Terracota Jug.

      The pets watched, transfixed with horror, as Maria's entire collection was smashed to smithereens.

      "What have you done?" Eliza whispered, staring down at the glass shards, seeming paralyzed with shock.

      Leo recovered enough to say, "Well, it wasn't my fault! I tried to stop it."

      "Well, it wouldn't have wobbled in the first place if J.T. hadn't bumped it," Eliza retorted.

      J.T. started crying.

      "You can't blame him!" Lila, a sweet, kind Aisha, made it her job to care for J.T. "Besides, Misty bumped into him."

      "And Leo bumped into me!" Misty, a yellow Kougra, protested.

      "Well, Eliza bumped into ME!" Leo said defensively, his voice rising. "It's all her fault!"

      "No, it isn't!" Eliza shouted. "You ran from me-"

      "Because you were going to make us clean-"

      "Well, this house is a mess, and Maria left me in charge-"

      "She lost her voice because you made her shout-"

      "You started the food fight-"

      "QUIET!" Lila bellowed suddenly. Everyone stared at the normally quiet Aisha.

      "It doesn't matter whose fault it is," Lila continued. "You can argue later. Right now, we've got to…I don't know, but we've got to do something! If Maria sees this…"

      She left the sentence dangling; she did not need to finish it.

      "She'll go ballistic!!" Vivian yelled. "We're dead meat!"

      "I don't wanna be meat," J.T. wailed. Lila embraced him in a motherly fashion and talked to him soothingly.

      "It's just an expression, J.T." Eliza said. She turned to Vivian and spat, "Give it a rest, Viv. We won't be dead meat...but there's no telling how mad Maria will be…"

      "Let's clean it up," Leo suggested. "Then…I don't know, maybe we can replace them."

      "All of them?!" Misty asked in disbelief. "There's no way we can afford to replace them all…I mean, we don't even know which ones she had!"

      "Lookit!" J.T. said suddenly. He was holding a pot in his paws. It was cracked, but still in one piece. "This one didn't broke," he said in his babyish voice. "Remember? We made this one for mommy on Mother's Day…"

      Eliza scowled at the pot, which had no particular shape. The clay was an ugly green-ish gray color. "She doesn't want that old thing…besides, it didn't break because she had it hidden behind the shelf, which means she didn't want it. Throw it away."

      Tears welled up in J.T.'s large brown eyes. "B-but we g-gave it to her…"

      "Who cares, it's hideous!" Eliza stated, starting to collect the pieces of broken glass. "It's the other pots that matter." All of her eleven siblings (except J.T., who would not release the pot) followed suit. Together they lifted the shelf and cleared the floor.

      Lila looked at the shelves sadly. "They look so…empty." She sighed. The others stared at the blank shelves silently.

      "I've got an idea," Vivian declared, so abruptly that the other eleven jumped. "Let's pool our Neopoints, head to Osiri's Pottery, and buy some of the pots that Maria had." She thought for a moment, then asked, "Which one was her favorite?"

      "Delicate Terracota Jug," the others answered in perfect unison.

      "It's no secret." Leo mumbled. "I think she keeps-kept-that one under lock and key…"

      "Well…I've got some Neopoints stored up," Lila offered helpfully.

      "Me too," Misty chimed in. "I was going to buy some more stamps…but this is more important."

      Soon everyone was talking at once.

      "All right, we ought to have enough," Lila said thoughtfully. "But Maria's going to be home soon…she'll come in here and see all her pots are gone, she'll think she's been robbed…"

      "Wait, I know what we can do," Eliza proclaimed. "Ebenezer, can you change the code for the lock on this door?"

      Ebenezer, an extremely intelligent Gelert, came forward. His name wasn't really Ebenezer; actually, his name was Sam. But he liked to be called Ebenezer because he thought it sounded more sophisticated.

      "Of course," Ebenezer answered. A few minutes later he said he was done. "That was exceptionally easy…now listen carefully, this is the current code: one, two, three, four, five."

      "Brilliant," Eliza said quickly. "Now, let's get our Neopoints and go!"

      ***

      It took some doing for all twelve pets to get their Neopoints and then travel to the Lost Desert, but they managed. Fortunately, they were able to leave the house before Maria returned.

      They entered the tent that contained all of Osiri's fine pieces. Eliza, leading the group, hurried up to the counter to speak to Osiri.

      "Hello," Eliza said breathlessly. "We'd like to-"

      "Make a trade," J.T. interrupted. "This pot for that one," He pointed to an expensive vase nearby, holding up the pot he and his siblings had made.

      "That old thing?" Osiri scoffed, snatching the pot from J.T. "I wouldn't give you even a Mis-shapen Pot for this…in fact, I wouldn't even give you a bottle of sand. This is trash." She threw the pot, and it landed outside the tent, in the sand with a flump.

      "Hey! That wasn't very nice!" J.T. pouted, leaving the tent to grab the pot. He returned and frowned at Osiri resentfully.

      "What I was trying to say," Eliza continued, "is that we'd like to buy a pot. You wouldn't happen to have a Delicate Terracota Jug, would you?"

      "As a matter of fact," Osiri answered after a pause, "I do." She bustled over to one of the shelves, slid a few pots to the side, and pulled out a Delicate Terracota Jug. "It's super rare…I've kept it hidden because I want a lot of Neopoints for it."

      "I…I think we can afford it," Eliza said, sounding weak. She spread their Neopoints out on the counter. Osiri counted them greedily.

      "I accept your offer!" She shouted out of the blue.

      Eliza looked surprised and picked up the Delicate Terracota Jug. "Th-thank you!" She turned to her siblings. "Come on, we have to get home before Maria!"

      ***

      Maria was sitting on the living room sofa when her dozen pets entered.

      Eliza, leading the group, stopped short. "H-hi, Maria…" she stammered, trying to conceal the jug behind her back.

      "I know what happened," Maria cut in, her voice sounding no different than when she left earlier that day. "You broke into my pottery room, shattered my pots, and-"

      "How do you know?" Ebenezer asked. "I changed the code-"

      "Well, you should've changed it to something less obvious," Maria snapped huffily. "I guessed the code AND guessed what happened…and I'm right, aren't I?"

      "Yes," Eliza replied in a small voice. "We did break your pots…but it was an accident, and we replaced one. Your favorite-the Delicate Terracota Jug." She strode across the room and handed it to Maria, who stared at it, shocked.

      "You-you spent your Neopoints on this?"

      "Yes," J.T. said, still holding the pot Osiri had rejected. "We found this one in your pottery room behind the shelf, the one we made you for Mother's Day. I was going to trade it, but Osiri said it was trash-"

      "So we bought you a treasure instead," Eliza finished, smiling.

      But to their surprise, Maria didn't look satisfied. She shocked them all by shoving the Delicate Terracota Jug aside. "I don't want that one," she stated, taking the homemade pot from J.T. "This is the true treasure."

      "What?" Vivian whispered.

      "That's right," Maria confirmed. "I don't want the jug. I'll sell it and you can have your money back. In fact, I don't want any more pottery. All I want is this one pot, and the loving family that gave it to me." She reached for all twelve of her pets; soon the family was tangled up in a group hug.

      "You mean this pot isn't trash?" J.T. asked hopefully, pointing to the pot in Maria's hand.

      "That's exactly what I mean," Maria responded, grinning at the adorable J.T. "It's a treasure, along with my family."

      "Well, since you're in such a good mood, I have to tell you something," Vivian said brightly. "This Saturday I'm having some friends over for a party…"

      Maria closed her eyes and took a deep breath, praying for patience. "Oh boy…here we go again…"

The End

Author's Note: While I don't have twelve pets, the pets in this story are slightly based on mine…loud, weird, messy, always filling my NeoHome to the brim with chaos. And when their INSANE friends are over…head for the hills!

 
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