A Lucky Boy
It was hot that day, and the Neopets were lying, restless, on the lawn of their Neohome, the early July sun beating down on their fur without mercy.
"I'm so bored!" wailed Cal, rolling over onto his belly. He was a small blue JubJub, the youngest of his family, and he stuck out his lower lip the way he often did when things didn't go his way.
His sister Aracadia ignored him and flipped a page in her book, not bothering to glance up and acknowledge his sulking. Marc, who was lying on his stomach in the grass beside her, looked up from where he was shuffling cards absentmindedly.
"Up for a game of Pyramids?" he asked. Cal groaned loudly, and the Eyrie shrugged his broad shoulders. "Suit yourself," he replied.
Weni was the only one to offer sympathy. He romped over to where Cal was frowning, face nearly completely hidden by the grass that hadn't been mown in weeks. He rolled Cal over with one paw and grinned.
"Want to go check out the junk at the Money Tree?" the Acara asked, his red face hovering inches above Cal's blue one. Cal kicked at him lightly with his foot and sat up, bouncing eagerly on his toes.
"Why do you guys like that dump anyways?" he asked, sliding the cards between his paws. "I don't exactly find the appeal of old moldy shoes and omelettes past their prime."
"I know, really," quipped Aracadia peevishly, giving a disapproving look over the cover of her novel. "Can't you find anything useful to do?"
Cal stuck out his tongue at her. Weni blinked a moment and then grinned again. "Nope," he replied. Aracadia sighed.
Weni and Cal turned to leave. Marc got to his feet and called out.
"I'm coming along too," he said, walking over to his brothers. "Nothing better to do, I figure."
Aracadia put down her book, frowning. Her little Xweetok nose twitched in annoyance.
"You have to be joking," she remarked exasperatedly, marking her place in her book. The boys stared at her as she closed it and set it down beneath the shade of the tree, standing briskly with her arms crossed. She gave them a dirty look.
"Well, I'm obviously coming too," she said, brushing past them. "I don't trust you lot by yourselves."
When they arrived at the Money Tree, they were shocked to see a swarm of young Neopets huddled beneath it, grabbing frantically with sticky paws at jelly and snowballs that hadn't yet melted into puddles in the heat. Cal's face fell, and his lip began to quiver.
Weni glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. He placed a paw on the JubJub's head lightly and leaned down.
"Don't worry," he whispered, peering out at the chaos beneath the tree. "I've got a plan."
The sun was directly ahead. Cal could feel the rays drumming down on him, only barely protected by the leaves of the bush in which he was crouched, hiding. Through the branches, he could see Weni, peering out cautiously from behind a large rock. It was quiet now, except for the dull humming of Buzzes and the rustling of grass in a nearly nonexistent breeze. The Money Tree was completely bare now, picked clean by the early morning moochers.
Despite the silence, he knew they weren't alone. Every so often, out of the corner of his eye, he'd catch the swift tail of a Usul or a flash of wing from a Shoyru. And twice in the past half hour, he'd heard a whisper of laughter in the air. This was who they were hiding from; the eager, relentless raiders of the Tree. But Weni had a plan, and they were ready.
Cal felt himself beginning to doze off. It was warm and dark inside his hiding spot, and he was still young and prone to naps. Just as his eyelids began to droop, he heard something. He peered out again.
Sure enough, along came a Neopian. He came, well dressed with a pair of spectacles and a top hat, without a Neopet alongside. Instead, he had a small brown sack over one shoulder, standing out against his impeccable black suit. Cal felt his heart skip. He knew about these sorts of Neopians, in their fancy clothes and their distinguished strut. They were wealthy, generous; donators.
He stooped beneath the tree and emptied his sack. Then he stood, brushing off his knees with clean hands, and walked back up the road. There was silence, and then-
"Go!" screeched Weni.
Cal ran, his small orange feet moving quickly against the grass. Down the hill, he could see the other Neopets rushing from their hiding places, their eyes alight with greed. Weni let out a warrior cry as he tumbled down the hill, chucking bits of leftover dung at the others, his laughter ringing through the chaos.
Cal tripped on a stone and ducked into a roll, tumbling down the green expanse of the hill. He bumped against the ground and continued, rolling faster and faster now. The world blurred before his eyes; grass, then tree, then sky, then grass again. Just when he felt like he was about to be sick, he felt himself being lifted up. Shaking his head to clear the dizziness, he saw that Marc had grabbed him in his paws and was now flying towards the tree, his beak pulled into a grimace of fierce determination. Beneath them, he saw Aracadia, whipping beneath the ankles of the other Neopets, tripping them with her tail.
They were almost at the tree now. Neopets were running away now, clutching gifts to their chests protectively as they scampered back home. Cal felt his heart race.
"Faster!" he cried.
"We're almost there," Marc panted in reply, beating his green wings furiously.
Cal felt himself sliding from Marc's grip. He opened his mouth to cry out but then he suddenly felt himself falling, plummeting to the earth. He braced himself for a crash, but upon landing, he was thrown back up again with a squelching sound. He opened his eyes to see a strawberry jelly a few feet away, his small body perfectly imprinted in its quivering form.
"Go, Cal!" he heard Weni cry.
Cal ran blindly for the tree. He slid through the legs of a Grarrl and hopped over a Hissi on the move. He threw himself at the base of the tree, grabbing aimlessly at anything he could reach. He felt his grip close on something and, his heart nearly bursting with joy, he closed his eyes, grinning, and clung to it.
Around him, he could hear the other Neopets slinking off, grumbling about their bad luck. He opened his eyes to see his family coming towards him, Weni covered in leaves and bits of dung. He beamed at them, but as they got closer, their faces slowly fell.
"What's the matter?" he asked curiously as they stopped in front of him, glancing at each other. Aracadia bit her lip as Marc scuffed at the ground.
"You got a piece of driftwood," Weni said bluntly.
Cal looked down at the rotting stick before him. It was snapped on one end, and flakes of bark were peeling off to reveal a soggy inside. Cal grinned.
"Yeah," he said, "but it's my piece of driftwood."
Then, contentedly, he picked up his prize and started home, humming to himself.