Smurdnunoc: Part Two
The house of a certain green Pteri...
Unlike many other Neopians his age and in his position, the certain green Pteri had been able to buy a house (he’d bought it with money he would’ve otherwise spent on friends, hobbies, or social outings – none of which he ever had). It was a small, quaint little ranch house, situated on a street in a peaceful, neighbourly area of Neopia Central. It was fairly plain, actually – painted blue on the outside, the house had a grass-green lawn, a few random flower beds along the edge of the foundation, and (most importantly for this story) a driveway with an attached garage.
Of course, it was the garage that Lennert had been most interested in.
The garage had a door which led directly into the house. And it was through this door that a certain green Pteri came out into the garage, carrying a large platter of fresh chocolate chip cookies in his wings. He carried the platter over to where his “friends” – a green Kyrii and a red Lenny – were sitting behind a white, plastic table near the back wall of the garage. He walked up and set the platter down between the two of them.
Lennert, the Lenny, was busy scribbling something down on a piece of paper when the Pteri approached. Looking up, Lennert glared at him. “Finally!” he shouted. “It took you long enough!”
“Sorry, I had to bake them fresh, so it took a little while,” the Pteri replied timidly, speaking in a voice that matched his feeble stature.
“Fine, whatever,” Lennert replied offhandedly, taking a cookie from the tray and turning back to his notes, not even bothering to look at the servant. “If we need anything else, we’ll let you know.”
The Pteri turned and started off back towards the door to the house. After a few steps, he turned back to the two.
“Ummm... Are you two sure you don’t need anything? Milk? Napkins? Anything?” His voice came out weak and nervous.
Lennert huffed, throwing down the cookie and looking up at the Pteri, annoyed. “No, thank you! We’re fine!” he replied, irritated. “Just leave us alone!”
The Pteri winced a little. “Well, would you mind at least telling me what you guys are doing in here?”
“Sorry, but it’s a secret,” Lennert replied matter-of-factly.
“But it’s my house!”
“No, this is your garage,, and we’re borrowing it from you,” Lennert rebutted. “And if you don’t get out, I’m gonna call the DoN and have you arrested for trespassing!”
“But it’s my garage!” the Pteri repeated frantically, his voice rising in pitch with distress.
“And do you think the Defenders are gonna believe that?”
The Pteri paused, looking down at the floor with a depressed sigh. “...No...” Shoulders slumped over sadly, the Pteri turned around and shuffled dejectedly out of the garage and back into the house.
Humming merrily to himself, Lennert reached over and picked up another cookie, glancing over his notes as he took a small bite out of it. Hawkins, who despite sitting right beside the Lenny had remained quiet the entire time, glared wordlessly at his roommate. Lennert, glancing over at his partner, noticed the Kyrii’s venomous looks.
“Oh please!” Lennert said, pooh-poohing the air with his wing. “He knows I’m only kidding! Now,” he spread his wings wide in front of him as if making some grand declaration, “open up the garage doors and let’s find our new bandmate!”
Hawkins simply continued to sit there, glaring at Lennert angrily and slowly shaking his head.
“...Oh fine. I’ll do it myself!” With that, Lennert got up and went over to open the garage doors himself. And thus, the search for their new band members began.
The auditions were unique, to say the least. The first potential musician – the only one already waiting outside when Lennert opened the doors – was a shadow Kacheek. As he came towards the table, his apparel became more obvious; he wore a long, dangly metal chain around his neck that nearly dragged on the floor as he walked, a black, ankle-long trench coat with at least two more chains dangling from the pockets, and black eyeliner and mascara that could just barely be made out against his equally-black fur. The fur on his head was slicked back with gel.
He didn’t so much walk towards the table as he shuffled, keeping his shoulders slumped over and his head down to the floor, never meeting either of the other two pets’ gazes. Finally, he stopped just in front of the two.
“Hello, friends – my name is Nightflower.” He spoke in a soft, monotone voice, expressing no emotion whatsoever.
Hawkins and Lennert exchanged a weirded-out, wordless glance, not sure what to say.
“Uhhh... So...” Hawkins began as he looked the Kacheek over, trying to decide what to think. “You’re here for the audition?”
“Yes, I am,” Nightflower replied, speaking softly and still without any trace of feeling. “I saw your poster and it brought temporary joy to my dreary, joyless pit of a heart. A heart so cold and dark, it engulfs any bit of happiness and light that comes near it, freezes it, then consumes it and adds it as part of its own mass, thus causing the pit to grow, and my never-ending anguish to become even more unbearable than it is now.”
Hawkins blinked. Lennert blinked. An awkward pause ensued.
“...Okay... So, do you play any instruments?” Hawkins asked, almost afraid to hear the Kacheek’s reply.
“I do not,” Nightflower replied, monotone and empty of emotion as ever. “I merely write songs – songs that expose the deepest, darkest pains of my inner soul; songs with lyrics that reveal the great sadness and agony that resides within my heart; lyrics that flow out of my soul and through my pen, only to find their new home on paper. Lyrics that speak of pain and anguish no one else could ever hope to be able to understand.”
Another long, long awkward pause. Both Hawkins and Lennert just sort of stared at Nightflower, not sure what to make of it all; perhaps any minute, he’d throw off the chain and trenchcoat, throw on a colour wig and bright red nose and turn into a clown?
“...Yeah...” Lennert spoke finally, looking away and avoiding Nightflower’s eye. “We’re sorta looking for someone who can play an instrument... sorry...”
If Nightflower felt rejected by this, he certainly didn’t show it; as usual, he showed no outer emotion at all. “I understand,” he replied simply. “I would say this brings me sadness, but my soul is already so numb from the crushing pain of life, a little more could never hurt me. Goodbye, my friends – may our souls meet again someday in that cold fog of ennui that awaits us all.” And with that, he simply turned and shuffled out, never once meeting either Hawkins’ or Lennert’s gaze.
Hawkins and Lennert were quiet for a long time as the shadow Kacheek made his way out of the garage, down the driveway, and off down the sidewalk. Finally, with the Kacheek out of eyesight and earshot, Hawkins breathed a long, loud sign of relief, relaxing a little in his seat.
“...Whoa... that guy was intense.”
“He was creepy, that’s what he was!” Lennert replied. “I hope the next guy at least lives in this universe!”
The next “guy” arrived about 20 minutes later, when up the driveway strode a starry Zafara. This next potential bandmate sported long, well-groomed, dark-blue-and-yellow-star-speckled fur complemented by a backwards red hat on the head and a brown acoustic guitar slung over one shoulder.
The Zafara stopped just in front of the two; and with a flick of the head, tossed a loose strand of blue fur out of the way to reveal all-too feminine eyes. Smiling at the two roommates, the Zafara spoke cheerily. “Hey there! Is this where I come for the auditions?”
There was a pause while the two pets behind the table picked their jaws up off the floor; their wide-eyed, gaping-mouth expressions told all that needed to be said. For a moment neither of them made a reply – until Lennert finally found himself able to utter, “...a... girl?!” Lennert stared intently at the Zafara, who was indeed a girl, as if she was some kind of ghost or zombie. In fact, if it had been a ghost or zombie who’d showed up for the audition instead, his reaction probably still wouldn’t have been as bad.
“...Oh! I see what’s going on here!” the Lenny exclaimed at last, thinking he’d figured out why the Zafara was here. “You’re here to be a back-up dancer!”
The female Zafara blinked, her head reeling back a bit in surprise. “...Excuse me?”
“Yeah, okay!” Lennert continued, ignoring (or just plain not noticing) the Zafara’s confused look. “Well, sorry, but we don’t have any hula skirts or anything for you right now. I suppose you can just audition as you are now and we’ll get you some sort of outfit later on. If you make it, that is.”
For a moment, the Zafara simply stared back at Lennert, a mixture of confusion, horror, and rage forming on her face. Hawkins simply buried his face in his paws in embarrassment, shaking his head sadly as he did so.
“...What?!” the Zafara shouted back indignantly. “No, I’m here to try out for the band! You know, guitar?” At this, the Zafara held up the wooden acoustic guitar she’d had slung over her shoulder.
Lennert stared back blankly for a few seconds, eyes jumping between the guitar and the Zafara – and then broke out into a fit of laughter! He leaned backwards in his chair, clutching at his stomach as he laughed loudly. He reached out and brushed away a tear from his eye.
“Oh man... that’s good!” he cried through gasps of air, pounding a fisted-wing on the table, making no attempt to regain his posture as he cracked up. “A dancer with a sense of humour – boy, that’ll sure come in handy during those long weeks on the road, eh Hawkins?”
The Zafara narrowed her eyes at the Lenny, glaring dangerously. “I’m serious...”
This only made Lennert crackle even louder. He keeled over, grabbing his stomach in pain as he rolled out of the chair and onto the floor, still laughing. “That’s great!” he cried from his fetal position on the garage floor. “Really, that is just great – a female rock and roll guitarist!” Another loud burst of laughter. “I suppose next chicks will want to get jobs and expect equal pay just like everyone else, right?”
For a moment, the Zafara simply stood there, fuming as Lennert keeled over on the ground in laughter, a mixture of rage and loathing on her face that perfectly foiled Lennert’s amusement.
“You’re disgusting! Pig!” she shouted finally, spinning around and storming out of the garage, leaving Lennert still splitting his sides from laughter on the garage floor.
After another minute or two, Lennert began to regain his composure. Still smiling and chuckling to himself, he climbed back up onto his chair, wiping away another few tears from his eyes and cheeks. Looking around, he suddenly realized that the Zafara was gone.
“Hey, where’d she go?” the Lenny asked. “I liked her – she was funny!”
Hawkins just shook his head sadly, heaving yet another heavy sigh.
For the next hour (or two, or three – no one was quite sure how much time had passed, really), the two just sat there, hot, bored, and sweating so much water, they could’ve stood out on the lawn, spun around in circles, and done a better job watering it than any sprinkler could’ve (not that the certain green Pteri had sprinklers – why water grass no one’s going to come to your house to see?). It was the type of heat where the air gets all wavy and squiggly, like in the desert or when someone is about to have one of those dream sequences. Of course, the fact that they were inside a garage – a place that has been scientifically proven to be one of the five hottest places imaginable – didn’t really help, either.
At one point, Lennert, hungry as a Lenny who was hungry, reached over to pick up one of the cookies on the tray – only to have it slide right threw his wing-fingers like slime. The glob of what was now cookie dough slipped right through his wing, falling onto the table with a *THWACK!* before sliding off and hitting the ground with another loud, gushy, gooey *THWAK!*.
Lennert groaned. “Hawkins, it’s hot!” he whined loudly. “And my cookies are melting! Hawkins, I didn’t even know cookies could melt! If it’s hot enough to melt cookies, then it must really be hot!”
Hawkins, who was staring off straight ahead into the distance, his mouth hanging open, trying to move as little as possible, turned his head slightly to face his partner. “Uhhh...” was all he could manage to get out. It was just too freakin’ hot!
By now, both of their respective coats were matted down and sticking up at weird places from the sweat – Hawkins and his green fur, and Lennert and his red wings. The problem was, despite the fur and feathers, both Neopians still sweat through the layer of skin that their respective coat covered. But unlike how it was for some pets and all humans, the sweat didn’t drip off or evaporate; instead, it was simply absorbed into the fur (or, in Lennert’s case, feathers), causing it to get soaking wet and matted, leaving the pet beneath it feeling very uncomfortable.
It was, to say the least, one of the less practical designs nature had given them. Still, of the two of them, Lennert probably had it the worst – at least Hawkins had his large ears to help alleviate some of the heat.
Lennert banged his head down on the table a few times out of aggravation. “Aggh! It’s so hot!” he whined loudly. “And no one’s coming! Why isn’t anyone coming?!”
Hawkins kept his head looking straight ahead, too paralyzed from the heat to move it. “Lennert, give it up,” he muttered, trying to use as little energy as possible. “No one else is coming.”
“Oh, c’mon!” Lennert hit his head against the table again, pounding his fists along with it. “Why doesn’t anyone wanna be in our band? I don’t get it!” He sighed, his head still lying face-down on the table as he spoke. “I’ll never get that award at this rate...”
But just then, a light breeze began to blow into the garage. It blew over Lennert, ruffling his red feathers and cooling him almost instantly. Looking up from the table, what he saw almost made him forget about how great the breeze was.
Walking up the driveway was a yellow Krawk. He held a brown guitar case in his right claw and he wore a black leather jacket and large, dark sunglasses over his eyes. He walked with a sort of smoothness that only comes with years of practice – or an amazing pair of sunglasses – as he strode up driveway towards the two.
It was official – he was cooler than the breeze.
He stopped just in front of Hawkins and Lennert, much as the previous two possible bandmates had. Reaching up, he pulled off his sunglasses to reveal large, round, youthful – not to mention cool and envy-inducing – brown eyes. He looked from Lennert to Hawkins, then back to Lennert, both of whom only managed to stare back in awe, unable to find the words to quite describe how they felt (awe and thankfulness in Lennert’s case, defeat and disappointment in Hawkins’).
“I hear you two are looking for a new band member,” he said, speaking in the type of deep, smooth, cool voice that only the hippest of the hip can produce.
Lennert’s face suddenly lit up as a large smile formed across it, the heat immediately forgotten. “Yes. Yes!” He jumped up out of his chair, spreading his wings wide. “We were, but not anymore – you’re it!” He rushed around the table and pulled the Krawk into a big hug.
The Krawk just stood there rigidly, stunned and wide-eyed. “Ummm... well, okay... But don’t you want to at least hear me play first?”
“Nah! No need!” Lennert stepped back, beaming brightly. Turning around to Hawkins, he asked, “So, what do you think, Hawkins? Think he’ll make a good band member?”
Hawkins shrugged. “If I said no, you’d ignore me and add him to the band anyways, wouldn’t you?”
Lennert nodded, smiling goofily. “Absolutely!”
Hawkins waved his paw. “Whatever. Yeah, he’s fine.”
Lennert pumped a fisted-wing in the air, putting the other wing around the yellow Krawk and pulling him into a friendly embrace. “Welcome to the band... you!”
The Krawk didn’t appear so much overjoyed as he was shocked and at a bit of a loss for words. “You don’t even know my name, though...”
Lennert, not catching a word of what the Krawk had just said, went over and sat down on the table in front of Hawkins. “Now, all we need to do,” he said, “is find our last bandmate...”
No sooner had he said this than the certain green Pteri appeared in the doorway connecting to the house bearing a platter of two tall glasses of yellow lemonade.
“It’s pretty hot out,” he announced cheerily, grinning as much as he could. “So, I thought you two might want something to drink!”
“Finally!” Lennert jumped up from his seat and quickly made his way over to the Pteri. Snatching up both glasses of lemonade, one in each wing, he inhaled each of them in two long, separate pulls. Tossing both glasses to the floor where they shattered, he glared at the Pteri. “And I see you didn’t bring any for Hawkins, either! How totally thoughtless of you! You have absolutely no consideration for others, you know that?”
Abashedly ashamed, the Pteri lowered his head and turned to go back into the house. As he did, the Pteri noticed the yellow Krawk standing off to the side, looking as though he had no idea what was going on and was trying to decide whether he should stay or go.
“Oh, hello there!” the Pteri greeted him, his face brightening up slightly with a smile. “Do you play an instrument, too?” The Pteri nodded at the guitar case the Krawk had slung over his shoulder.
“What? Oh, yeah, I do,” the Krawk replied, surprised that, for the first time, someone had noticed that he was actually carrying a guitar. “Why, do you play?”
The Pteri nodded. “I used to be quite a mean triangle and cowbell player not too long ago...” With a shrug, he turned back again towards the door.
“Hey, wait!” This time, it was Hawkins who spoke. Standing up from the table, he looked at the Pteri inquisitively. “You can play an instrument?”
The Pteri looked back at the Kyrii, shrugging once more. “Well, yeah, of course. Can’t everyone?”
Hawkins, an idea forming in his mind, glanced at Lennert. Lennert, catching on almost immediately to what Hawkins was thinking, shook his head quickly, his eyes wide with worry at what his roommate was thinking.
“Hey, how would you like to join our band?” Hawkins asked, looking back at the Pteri and ignoring Lennert’s mimed protests.
It was as if someone had flicked a light switch on the Pteri’s face. No sooner had the words Hawkins said registered with the Pteri than a wide, face-expanding smile spread across his face. Immediately, his eyes grew wide with the excitement of a little child being picked first for teams on the playground.
“Oh wow! Really?! You really want me to be in your band?!”
Hawkins shrugged. “You’re just as good as anyone else we’ll find, I’m sure.”
“No, wait!” Lennert held up his wings. “Hawkins, shouldn’t we talk about this?”
But the Pteri, filled with a great joy only acceptance can bring, didn’t hear a word the Lenny said. “Of course!” he shouted, jumping up and down with excitement. “Yes, yes, of course I’ll be in your band! Oh wow, this is amazing! I can’t believe it! I swear, I’ll be the best triangle-slash-cowbell player in all of Neopia! Oh wow, this is just unbelievable! I’m gonna go practice right now!” And before Lennert could object any further, the Pteri turned and dashed into the house, dropping the platter on the garage floor in his haste.
Hawkins sighed, relieved at finally being finished with this stupid audition. He looked over at his roommate. “There, we found the two other members for your stupid band, Lennert. Happy now?”
Lennert looked positively wounded. “No! No, I’m not! We can’t have him in our band!” he shouted, jabbing a wing at the door. “He didn’t try out! We don’t know if he can even play!”
“We don’t know if he can play either!” Hawkins replied, pointing at the yellow Krawk who was looking very uncomfortable by this point and couldn’t stop himself from wondering just what he’d gotten himself into.
“Well, yeah, okay – but look at his eyes!” Lennert argued. “I mean, someone with those sort of eyes can’t possibly be a bad guitarist, can they?”
Reaching his aggravation point, Hawkins threw his paws up in defeat. “You know what, Lennert? I don’t care! If you want someone else in your band, then you go in there and break his little heart and you can handle the rest of the auditions on your own! I’m hot, I’m tied, and I’m going home!” With that, Hawkins stormed out of the garage and down the driveway.
“Wait, Hawkins! Hold up for a second! Maybe we can reach a compromise here or something!” Lennert called out, taking off down the pavement after his roommate.
The yellow Krawk, who had been standing there awkwardly (and ignored) the entire time was now alone in the garage, completely forgotten about.
“...Ummm, hello?” he called out to no one in particular. “Hello? Is anyone coming back?”
No one replied.
A few birds chirped off in the distance.
The wind blew a little bit.
Some trees rustled in said wind.
“So, are the auditions over now?... Can I go home?... Do you want me to play or anything?... You guys don’t even know my name...” The Krawk sighed. “Dude, I am so confused right now...”
To be continued...