The Number Three Hundred
“298... 299... 300!” The small Ogrin yelled the last number. “Mommy! Mommy!” Lorliss ran up to me. “I can count all the way to three hundred!” She was so proud of herself I just had to pat her on the head and tell her what a good job she had done, even though her counting had driven me up the wall for the last hour.
Lorliss glowed at my praise and ran away. I knew she would go run and tell her siblings now. And I was right, as it wasn’t long before she ran back to me, looking slightly disappointed. I assumed one of my other pets had thrown Lorliss out of their room. But this baby Ogrin never stayed down for long; she already had another question for me.
“Mommy, what comes in groups of three hundred?” she asked.
I thought for a moment before I said, “Well, nothing.”
“That’s what Gen told me,” said Lorliss. “But I was hoping she was wrong. She told me that origami Lennies come in groups of one thousand, but that doesn’t help me much.” My oldest pet had an obsession with origami. No one who had ever walked into her room would doubt that. Strings of Lennies covered an entire wall, and various other origami pets, petpets and items, were strewn on shelves, the floor and her desk.
“Lor,” I asked, “why are you so obsessed with the number three hundred today?” She had never shown any interest in numbers since she had learned to count to ten, and today was rather reminiscent of that.
“Thenlene told me that the three hundredth issue of the Neopian Times was coming out soon, and I wanted to do something special for it.” Not just any pets would say something like that. My obsession with the newspaper had obviously carried over to all four of them. I read the paper diligently and I loved it so much I made my pets read it too. I would also make them follow me as I went to get autographs from the more famous authors.
And because of that, I had not forgotten that the three hundredth issue was coming up. I was actually planning on throwing a little party for it. I would decorate my Neohome with posters of White Weewoos, and leave out copies of the 300th issue so people could read it. I was thinking about going with the blue plates.
“Mommy?” asked Lorliss. “Mommy, you got that far away look in your eyes again.” I shook myself out of party planning mode and focused on my baby Ogrin again. “So what should I do for the three hundredth issue?”
“I’m sorry, Lor, but I really don’t know what you could do. I’m already planning a party; I’m not sure what else you could do.”
“I’m home!” I called to my pets as I walked into the house the next afternoon. Gentema, Tentenfen, and Thenlene were probably upstairs somewhere ignoring me, but Lorliss was sitting right in the middle of the living room. She waved to me, but didn’t look up from what she was doing.
“One, two, three,” she said, and then waited expectantly. She looked straight into Squishy’s eyes as she said “One, two, three” again. But the plushie Polarchuck had no response for her.
“What are you doing?” I asked, because I could not figure out what the chanting was supposed to accomplish.
“I’m teaching Squishy how to count to three hundred,” Lorliss stated proudly. “It’s taken most of the day, but I think I’m getting closer.”
I stared, awestruck, at her. Where that girl got her patience, I would never know, because it certainly wasn’t from me.
“Lor, petpets don’t talk. Ever.” And even if they did, Squishy would be the last petpet I would ever expect to talk. He acted more like a toy than a petpet. He never made a noise, and I don’t think I had ever seen him move. Lorliss always pulled him around after her. So the idea of teaching him to count was valiant, but futile.
“I know, but I think Squishy’s getting close. And I really, really want to have something to show everyone for the three hundredth issue.” Her spirit was still positive.
“Ah, then don’t I have the thing for you!”
“What? What, Mommy! What is it?”
“I thought maybe you could collect one copy of each issue of the Neopian Times. It’s perfect, because there are exactly three hundred of them.”
Lorliss gasped then ran and hugged me around my knees. I smiled and hugged her back.
“That’s a great idea; I love it!” she said.
The next week was devoted to helping Lorliss find each copy. We went to collectors, antique shops, we knocked on doors. We went to any place we could think of. We even searched through a couple trash cans (though be assured we only took the cleanest, nicest copies out of there). Even my other pets came searching with us.
Of course Issue Three of the Neopian Times was the easiest to find. In fact, some people begged us to take their copy from them. The other major copies were pretty easy to find too, such as fifty, one hundred, and two hundred. The more recent ones were easy to find. Everyone had finished reading issue 298 and was ready to give it to us.
But there were some hard ones to find, too. Issue One was hard, because no one wanted to give it up. And many of the older, unremarkable issues were hard to find too. But by the end of the week, we had found them all.
“Well,” I said, “They’re all here.” We stood around a large pile of newspapers that was sitting in the middle of my living room.
“What do we do now?” asked Tentenfen, my maraquan Meerca.
There was a pause.
“No idea,” said Thenlene.
“We could fold them all,” said Gentema. Everyone else rolled their eyes. “No, it would be great! We’d have three hundred origami Weewoos each made out of a different copy of the Neopian Times. Granted, I don’t know how to make a weewoo, but we could make Lennies and call them Weewoos.”
“How ‘bout no!” Tentenfen said. Gentema sneered at him, and stuck her tongue out.
“Calm down, guys,” I chided. “We could always put them in ten stacks of thirty. And just put them in a corner, so everyone can see how many there are. It would be a huge stack.” All four of my pets liked that idea, so we started stacking.
“I’m missing one issue. Someone has thirty-one in their pile,” said Lorliss. “Thenlene, your pile looks really big, I bet you have too many.” The electric Cybunny recounted but she had thirty.
We had made all ten piles, and the mass of paper they made was huge. It was quite impressive thinking how much work had gone into making all those issues. But as we recounted, then recounted again, it became clear that we were one issue short. We had managed to forget about one copy in our diligent search of Neopia.
Lorliss dissolved into tears. Probably it was partly because it had been a long, hard day for her. But mostly it was because her project was ruined. Tomorrow was the day of the party, and there wasn’t time to look for the forgotten copy.
“You guys try to figure out which one is missing,” I said to my other pets as I put an arm around Lorliss. “Honey, it’s going to be ok. I’m sure no one will notice.”
“I don’t care! I’ll notice. That pile isn’t 300, it’s just 299.”
I wiped a tear from her face, and tried to comfort her. “We’ll find the missing copy,” I said, squeezing her tight.
“We’re not missing any between 1 and 100,” announced Gentema.
“We’re not missing any between 101 and 200,” announced Tentenfen.
“296, 297, 298,” said Thenlene as she finished counting, “299! We’re not missing any here.”
“Where’s copy 300?” I asked. My pets looked at me worriedly. How had we missed that one? Then, unexpectedly, Lorliss started laughing. She laughed so hard she fell over. The rest of us stared at her, oblivious to her joke.
“We’re so stupid!” she said when she regained control. “There aren’t three hundred issues yet! The three hundredth is coming out tomorrow!”
All of our mouths went into the same large O’s before we started laughing. How silly of us! Our collection was, in fact, complete. Lorliss, gave each of us a baby smack on our heads, then finished her circle of the room by smacking herself. We laughed some more.
“Okay,” said Lorliss, “now that the mystery of the missing issue is solved, let’s hang some Weewoo posters!”