Painting Up a Problem
The grey Gelert gazed helplessly up at the full moon. His reddened eyes were dull and listless. The moonlight outlined his tangled fur silver. I loved how I painted him. He was so adorable when he was sad. I sighed as he bowed his head heavy-heartedly.
I left the the unhappy pet outside, and walked away from the window. I smiled to myself, proud of my accomplishment.
* * * *
I woke up the next morning to find that he was still outside, laying on his side in the rain. The wind ruffled his fur, and his sides rose and fell slowly. I opened the door.
“Come in, Terry!” I called to him.
He heaved himself to his paws and dragged himself towards me. He slowly walked by, casting me a glance full of pain. He looked as if his best friend was put in the pound.
“Aw, cheer up, Terry!” I giggled.
“There ain’t no more cheerin’ up for me,” he sighed.
“It’s breakfast,” I said, “though wipe yourself with a towel or something. You're soaking wet! You could’ve caught a cold outside!”
Terry sighed heavily and dragged his paws into the bathroom. My other pet, Maurice, the Darigan Skeith, clambered down the stairs.
“Did I hear someone say breakfast?” he chuckled.
“Why is Terry so sad?” I asked. “I thought he’d be really happy he’s painted! I thought he was bored of being red.”
“Uh, are you blind?” Maurice retorted. “He’s grey! No duh.”
“Oh... I thought he was happy,” I mumbled.
“If he were, he’d say so.” Maurice shrugged. “Besides, I thought he wanted to be checkered. I can’t remember.”
Maurice ran into the kitchen, letting his nose lead the way. Terry came back out, snuffling pitifully. I reached out and rubbed his shoulders. He usually loved this, but instead he wearily pulled away. I watched as he joined Maurice at the table.
“Yay! Breakfast!” exclaimed my third pet, Saber, the Tyrannian Kougra.
He slipped into his seat beside Maurice. The two young pets began to talk about their neodecks. They were always fighting over who had the better cards.
“Eggs, anyone?” I asked cheerfully.
“Me!” Saber replied.
“Me too!” Maurice laughed, shoving Saber.
Terry just slowly nodded his head. I felt like I was losing the first neopet I ever owned. I piled eggs onto everyone’s plates. Saber and Maurice began to eat right away.
“Hey, Saber?” Maurice snickered. “Do you like seafood?”
He opened his mouth, revealing chewed up eggs.
“Eww, gross!” Saber laughed, pushing Maurice away.
Terry just quietly poked at his eggs. This was his favorite breakfast. And he was usually quite interactive with his two brothers. He sighed and took a small bite.
“Let’s go to the basement!” Maurice exclaimed.
“Hey, yeah!” Saber agreed. “You coming, Terry?”
Terry slowly shook his head. Saber and Maurice glanced at each other, shrugging their shoulders. Then they raced off to the basement, clambering noisily down the stairs.
“If you’re not hungry, you can go play,” I said, trying to keep the concern out of my voice.
“No, I’m... I’m fine, I guess.” Terry sighed miserably.
Every word seemed to be dragged out of him. I knew grey pets were always sad, but did I make the right choice in painting him grey?
* * * *
I was in my room, running a comb through my hair. The bedroom door suddenly slammed open, and Maurice fell down. Saber fell on top of him, grunting as Maurice’s spikes dug into his chest.
“What are you doing?” I demanded.
Maurice shoved Saber off and folded his wings. “Terry’s outside again, soaking in the rain.”
“Yeah, we told him to stay in,” Saber added, “but he wouldn’t listen to us.”
“That Gelert’s gonna catch a cold!” I sighed heavily. “And by the way, have you two heard of the word ‘knocking’?”
“Yes, we have!” Maurice chuckled. “I ‘knocked’ Saber down!”
I rolled my eyes and put my comb down. “Go do something else, okay?”
“Fine.” Saber shrugged as the two young pets dashed off.
And sure enough, when I opened the front door, there was poor old Terry, lying in the drenched lawn. He was staring at a wilted flower ahead of him, eyes dull with emptiness.
“Er, Terry?” I called out, biting back the fear in my voice. “Can you come in?”
Terry glanced my way, but turned back to the flower. In a way, that flower was like him. A couple days ago, when it was sunny, the flower was up right and beautiful. But now in the rain, it was soggy and drooping. Terry’s ears drooped even further as I approached him.
“Cut it out with this act of yours!” I demanded. “You’re beginning to worry me!”
“What act?” Terry asked sadly, confused. “There is no act. And there never will be.”
“What does that mean?” I asked through a choked up voice.
“I’m not happy,” Terry explained miserably. “I wouldn’t act if I weren’t happy.” The grey Gelert slowly rose to his paws. “Fine. I’ll go inside.”
I felt totally helpless and lonely as I watched my neopet slink back into the house. It seemed to me that he no longer cared for anything.
* * * *
Days grew into weeks. Terry only got more upset as each hour dragged on. Even the energetic Maurice and the excitable Saber were beginning to change, getting more suspicious about their grey brother. Terry seemed to be changing the atmosphere. Changing the family.
“Okay guys, sit down!” I called at dinner.
My three pets eagerly scampering to the table. Or I thought Terry did. I couldn’t tell anymore. I served them their omelettes. We weren’t poor, but all my boys loved eggs. Especially Terry.
“We gotta talk,” I sighed once I had sat down too.
“Listen, if it’s about the toilet incident, I-”
“No, it’s not that.”
Recently, Maurice found an usuki lying in the streets, so he brought it home to Saber and they flushed it down the toilet. Then it got stuck and I had to unplug it myself.
“Terry, I’m going to paint you again.”
Terry looked up, reddened eyes glazed with pain and loss. He didn’t utter a word.
“Ooh! What color?” Saber urged, flicking his long Kougra tail.
“That’s for Terry to decide,” I answered simply.
“Yeah, gee, Saber!” Maurice snickered, shoving Saber out of his chair. I shot him a stern look.
“I dunno,” he sighed.
“Didn’t you want to be checkered or something?” Maurice asked, through a mouthful of omelette.
“No, he wants to be pink!” Saber joked. The two pets cracked up and began to laugh loudly. “Like a girlie doll!”
“Really, I dunno,” Terry answered, giving me a long, sad look. More scornfully, he added, “Anything but pink.”
“Come on, you’ll love it!” Maurice giggled. “It’ll really bring out your personality!”
“All right, enough, both of you!” I snapped at the two laughing pets.
“Well, maybe not red again,” Terry mumbled. “How about-”
“Pink? Good choice!” Saber snickered.
“No! How about checkered, like Maurice said?” Terry asked hopefully. “I’d really like that.”
“No, you’d really like pink!” Maurice joked, giving Saber an amused glance.
“It’d be a lot more fun than grey.” Terry sighed. “Anything will be a lot more fun than grey. Even red.”
“And especially pink!” Maurice laughed.
“Enough with the pink jokes!” I groaned.
Terry gave me a gloomy, yet thankful glance. He shoveled some omelette into his mouth. Even though he seemed happy, I wondered why he didn’t even finish his whole plate. He always did when we had omelettes.
* * * *
As I was saving up for his checkered paint brush, I took him to the doctor. He hardly ate a thing anymore, and I was beginning to get concerned.
“Remarkably,” the green Gelert doctor concluded after a short exam. “he’s getting along well, despite his gloomy nature.”
“Really? He’s hardly eaten a thing since I painted him,” I said, relieved by the good news.
“However,” the doctor said suddenly, “if he keeps these habits for long, chances are he’ll get sick more often. You must do something before this gets way out of hand.”
“Well, I’ve been saving up for a checkered paint brush.” I shrugged.
“That’ll probably help,” the Gelert doctor replied. “It’s probably because he’s grey. I’ve seen many grey pets in the past, but none with any eating problems.”
“Well, maybe he’s so upset that he can’t stomach anything,” I murmured, watching Terry dully roll a cotton ball under his paw. The doctor shrugged.
“Other than that, he’s doing just fine,” the doctor said, more cheerfully. “I’d recommend you get that paint brush.” And leaning forward so only I could hear, he added, “Before it’s too late.”
* * * *
Finally, I opened the door with the checkered paint brush in hand. Obviously, this had cost me a fortune. But it’s for the good of my pet’s health.
“Have you seen Terry?” I asked as Saber ran by, his favorite beat-up Darigan eyrie plushie in hand.
“No.” Saber shook his head. “Hey, cool paint brush!”
With that, the young Tyrannian Kougra dashed off. I sighed and rolled my eyes. Terry was the oldest and the most sensible. I wished he were with me at the moment. But I couldn’t find him.
“Maurice!” I shouted.
“What?” Maurice called from the top of the stairs.
“Have you seen Terry?” I asked.
Maurice shrugged. “I dunno. Hey, neat paint brush! How much did it cost?”
“So, you haven’t seen him anywhere?” I sighed.
“No.” Maurice walked back into his room.
Gosh, this was annoying! I walked swiftly towards the backyard window. Once again with the spring weather, it had just stopped raining. And there, lying in a mud puddle, was Terry.
“Terry!” I called, opening the back door. “will you stop lying in puddles? It’s probably a waste to wipe yourself clean all the time!”
Terry mumbled and didn’t look up. I showed him the paint brush. “I got what you wanted.”
“Really? Wow! For me?” he gasped in his dull, gloomy voice.
“Wanna go get painted now?” I prompted him.
Terry suddenly seemed rather dejected. Well, more than usual. My smile faded as raw worry clouded my face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked gently.
“What’s the point?” Terry sighed, a tear streaming down his cheek. “I probably will still be unhappy, as I always am.”
“Of course you won’t.” I giggled softly. “This is a checkered paint brush, not a grey one!”
Terry gave me a long, dull look. He turned away, resting his chin on his front paws, staring down miserably at is reflection in the puddle. Dismay overwhelmed me. This wasn’t my Gelert. He was so different, he seemed alien to me. What was I supposed to do?
“Look, whether you like it or not,” I said in a shaky, but stern voice, “you’re gonna get painted!”
“Why bother?” Terry’s voice came in a trembling whisper. He closed his eyes tight, as another tear came out. He shook his head and let out a shaky breath.
“Terry, we’re going, now!” I was so close to tears myself, it wasn’t funny. Like the doctor said, I had to do something soon. Every pet I knew would be delighted to be painted. Even grey ones. I was starting to think I bought more than just a grey paint brush.
* * * *
“Why didn’t you paint Terry?” Saber asked at dinner that night.
“I... I don’t know.” I sighed. “He didn’t want to.”
We had vegetable soup. Saber, Terry, and I didn’t mind it, but this was Maurice’s least favorite dinner. Maurice disdainfully fished out some broccoli. He made a disgusted face.
“Just eat it,” I groaned. “It’s not gonna kill you.”
“Where is Terry, anyway?” Saber asked.
“In his room,” I answered simply.
I wish I could live life normally, and not have to fret over my beloved pet’s health. I had put the paint brush in the deposit box. I’ll paint him when he’s ready, I guess.
Maurice stared with a hated look down at his soup. I rolled my eyes. “Maurice, please.”
The Darigan Skeith glared at me, and took an unwilling spoonful. He instantly gulped it down with some milk. Saber let out a soft giggle. I shot both of them a warning glance.
“Oh, there’s Terry!” Saber exclaimed.
Terry dragged himself to his spot, and stared down at the bowl of soup that was waiting for him. He took a spoonful of the soup, and opened his mouth to eat it. He thought twice, and put it back into the soup.
“How come he doesn’t have to eat his soup?!” Maurice protested.
“Maurice, just eat!” I snapped. More tenderly, I asked, “Terry, are you sure you don’t want to be painted? Trust me, you’ll be happier.”
“Yeah, really!’ Saber encouraged.
“I’d be happier if we didn’t have vegetable soup,” Maurice muttered.
“Terry, please trust me,” I assured him. “You’ll be a lot better off being checkered than being grey. Seriously.” I put my hand on his paw and stared hard into his depressed eyes.
“Fine,” Terry answered. I sighed with relief.
* * * *
Terry came out of the Rainbow Pool the next day, checkered. His eyes weren’t red anymore. He actually smiled for the first time in ages. He ran forward and gave me a hug.
“Thanks so much!” He laughed.
“See? I told ya it wasn’t so bad!” Maurice smiled.
“No! I told him that!” Saber insisted.
My heart almost skipped a beat with pleasure. For once, Terry passed by a mud puddle. He didn’t miserably slump into it. He didn’t even stare woefully down at his reflection. He walked right through it.