How Soup Saved Neopia: Part One
Gargarox slumped on his chair with a heavy sigh - today had been even worse than the day before. Since the station had undergone a renovation, the tourists had been flooding the place every day. And since Gargarox’s café was the only one on the station, the Neopets flocked there at mealtimes.
Even a giant mutant Grundo can’t make food quick enough for all those people, thought Gargarox. He cringed as he remembered what had happened in the last few hours.
At breakfast time, a group of young Kacheeks had managed to squeeze Chocolate Éclair Paste all over half the café. Gargarox had had to close down for a half an hour to mop all the sticky paste off the tables, chairs and floor.
Just as the lunch rush had begun, a family of Skeiths had come in asking for twenty orders of Beef Rouladen. The Skeiths obviously wanted their food fast, and Gargarox had known they would get very grumpy if they didn’t fill their seemingly bottomless stomachs. He had had to put all the other orders aside to make the Beef Rouladen.
Next, Gargarox realized that he’d accidentally drizzled Nova Fruit juice over the Galactic Cherry Pie instead of Pixxi Squash juice. This, of course, made the pie taste completely wrong. He’d hoped that no one would notice, but of course they did and a whole new batch of pies had to be made.
Then, an impatient Krawk had demanded some Orangeberry Krawkade. When he was told that that drink was not made on the station, the Krawk and stormed off, muttering something about bad service.
Finally, to top it all off, when Gargarox had been hurrying to finish a batch of Space Rocks, he’d been startled by the station’s announcement speaker. This had caused him to drop a Space Rock on his toe. While hopping around the kitchen, he had knocked into a pile of plates that had just been washed. The dishes had crashed to the kitchen floor and exploded into hundreds of pieces.
This had been the last straw. Gargarox had stormed out of the kitchen, flipped the sign so that it read ‘closed’, ushered everyone out of the café, and then sat down for the first time in hours.
In the kitchen, the Grundo dishwasher was tentatively picking up the broken pieces of dishes off the floor and dropping them down the garbage chute. Gargarox watched as the dishwasher swept the floor, now free of pieces of plates, and began to clean the kitchen.
I should give that guy a raise, thought Gargarox tiredly.
Gargarox grabbed the plate of Chicken Cordon Bleu that he had prepared for himself to eat an hour ago and hadn’t yet had time to eat. He slowly ate his lunch as he thought about what to do about all the tourists. He couldn’t just turn people away when it got too busy. What he needed, he decided, was someone to help him take and fill the orders. This sudden realization was startling – for so long he’d run the café all by himself. He’d done everything: the cooking, the cleaning, the dish washing, and the order taking. But now he was getting so many customers he needed help.
Just then, Gargarox heard a noise. He turned around and saw a short blue Grundo standing by the entrance, peering inside the café.
“We’re closed,” called Gargarox with a touch of annoyance in his voice.
The blue Grundo took a few steps inside. “I’m here for a job.”
Gargarox was hardly able to believe his ears. Had this tiny Grundo just asked for a job? Never, not once, had he been asked for a job in his café. Not once! He had had to talk the dishwasher into working for him. And now someone had just showed up, exactly after he had thought about needing a new employee. He turned at looked at the blue Grundo, his food forgotten. “How did you know?”
The blue Grundo was taken aback. “Know what, sir?”
“Know that I need someone to come and help in the café, of course,” said Gargarox as though it was obvious.
The blue Grundo cocked his head. “I didn’t know.”
Gargarox shrugged. “Funny how those things work.”
The little Grundo waited a moment, and then said, “So you need a worker?”
Gargarox nodded. “What’s your name?”
“It’s Grellor, sir.” The blue Grundo stood still, not daring to do or say anything else before the chef made up his mind.
Gargarox considered Grellor for a few moments. The little Grundo didn’t look strong enough to carry even a few plates. But he was there, asking for a job, and Gargarox couldn’t wait to find someone better. “You’re hired,” he said, hoping that he wouldn’t regret saying those few words.
Grellor ran up to his new boss happily and stuck out his hand. “Thank you so much, sir! You really don’t know what this means to me; I’ve already asked every other shop for a job and they all refused me. I would’ve had to go back to Neopia if it weren’t for you!”
Gargarox bent, took the little hand and shook it. “You can call me chef.” He straightened. “Do you know how to make Intergalactic Spiced Beans?”
“Of course I do,” said Grellor a little unsurely. He was pretty sure he’d read a recipe somewhere.
“Good,” said Gargarox. “Those sell out really fast.” He paused. “Do you think you could take over the shop for a few minutes?” He knew leaving the café to the tiny Grundo was probably a bad idea, but he really needed to take a break. And he couldn’t just leave the café closed for long; a crowd of hungry Neopians was forming outside the entrance.
Grellor bobbed his head excitedly. “Sure thing! I can do that for a few minutes. That crowd looks pretty big, though...”
“Okay, just a few minutes. Go ahead and get started in the kitchen. If someone orders something that I haven’t already prepared, you can look in the big recipe book that’s on the counter to get the recipe.” Gargarox grabbed his lunch and, with a feeling of trepidation, flipped the sign to ‘Open’ and headed off to have his lunch and chat with the Warehouse Grundo.
Grellor watched as Gargarox disappeared into the warehouse. Then he went to get his first order.
For a while, Grellor actually managed the café pretty good. Everyone was ordering things that were already made and all he had to do was plop whatever the food was onto a plate. No accidents had happened after ten minutes and he was beginning to feel as though he could run the place all day long.
But then things started to go a little wrong. Soon, a little wrong had escalated into very wrong.
While he was talking with the Warehouse Grundo, Gargarox heard faint sounds of Neopets running around the station, yelling. He decided that it was just some noisy young Neopets and thought nothing more of it.
But the Warehouse Grundo, whose ears were stronger than Gargarox’s, was starting to feel a little uneasy. Usually the tourists didn’t run around screaming like that. But he was in the middle of an interesting conversation about his job and he loved nothing more than talking about his job. After a while, though, he could stand the noises no longer and he got up to see what was happening outside.
After peeking outside, the Warehouse Grundo slowly turned to face Gargarox. “There’s something going on.” He bit his lip. “You might want to come and see.”
Gargarox made a face. What had happened? He rushed out of the warehouse and braced himself for what he would see.
What he saw what definitely not what a café owner wants to see happen to his café.
It was chaotic.
The Neopets were running around screaming because of a giant, voracious-looking petpet that was attempting to catch some Cherries Jubalee. Unfortunately, the Cherries Jubalee was being held by Grellor, who was running with all his might so as not to let the petpet get the food.
In the café, Scrambled Eggplant had somehow been splattered everywhere. Tables and chairs were upturned, apparently from the petpet that was now chasing Grellor around the station. A whole giant bowl of batter had been spilled all over the kitchen floor and the dishwashing Grundo had slipped and was covered with the batter. A young mischievous Eyrie had found a box of Cosmic Cheese Stars and he was dropping the cheese on the heads of as many passersby as he could.
Taking advantage of his mutant strength, Gargarox ran after the hungry petpet and, after a struggle, caught the cherry-loving monster. He returned the petpet to its terrified owner, who looked as if he had had no idea that his petpet was capable of such destruction.
Now that the giant petpet was not chasing him anymore, Grellor turned slowly to face his boss.
Gargarox looked at Grellor silently. Then he said as calmly as he could, “You’d better go and start cleaning this mess up.”
“Yes, yes, of course I will,” squeaked Grellor. He stood still for a moment, making sure there were no other commands, and then rushed off to begin cleaning up.
Gargarox went inside his café to find out the damage. Just as he was assessing an upturned chair, he heard a crash in the kitchen as more dishes were broken. He put the chair down, fell onto it and buried his face in his hands with a groan.
To be continued...