The Blumaroo Who Lost His Bounce
*BOING*! *BOING*! *BOING*!
“OPHYS! Stop that! I’m trying to study!”
Ophys turned to his sister, grinning. “Don’t you know that we Blumaroos are meant to bounce?”
Frost sighed. “Yes, of course we do. But not THAT much!”
“Oh you’re over-exaggerating,” Ophys laughed, rolling his eyes. He pressed his tail firmly into the ground as he landed, bobbing up and down in front of his sister, Frost. She sat on the Dung Sofa in their Neohome, surrounded by a pile of mathematic books, glaring at her brother angrily.
“Yes. Over-exaggerating. No other Blumaroo I know bounces whilst they sleep!” the Island Blumaroo exclaimed in exasperation.
“Don’t mock my hobby. I love bouncing.” The Starry Blumaroo grinned enthusiastically. “Better than what boring stuff you are doing. What exactly are you studying anyway?”
“None of your business,” replied Frost sulkily, “And even if it was, I wouldn’t tell you that it might be Roodoku I wasn’t studying for. Hypothetically, that is.”
“Well I think you should give up the Roodoku and start practising for the Lenny Conundrum instead. Your riddles are making my tail hurt.”
“Brain, Ophys. Over-thinking makes your brain hurt. Not your tail.”
“No. I mean it.” Ophys paused, fear suddenly clouding his normally cheery expression. “My tail really hurts.”
“Oh my. It really does? I don’t like the sound of that. No, no, no.” Frost paused, and a crafty smirk passed across her tanned face, which she quickly concealed with an expression of deep concern. “In fact, a similar thing happened to a friend I used to have – no actually, you wouldn’t be interested. It doesn’t matter...”
“No wait! I am interested!” Ophys cried. “Frost, please tell me!”
Frost uttered an exaggerated sigh of defeat. “Well, ok then. My friend, Ilsar was very similar to you. He loved to bounce all the time. He worked with the King, bouncing past Neopians whilst they played and musing helpful utterances such as, ‘Take the money!’ when he could see they were heading on a losing streak. He’d bounce even when sipping his favourite treat, Cream of Tchea Soup, and wouldn’t even care that he spilt it all down him...”
Ophys’ eyes widened. “That’s my favourite treat too!” he gasped in disbelief.
“Yes. Well anyway...” Frost continued on swiftly, ignoring her younger brother, “One day, a pain began to grow in his tail. He thought it was nothing, and that it would heal itself in time. But as the days passed, the pain grew in intensity. Yet regardless of the pain, he continued to bounce. He loved his job, and he couldn’t bear to lose it. Yet instead of saying the scripted hints, as he had been told, he began to ramble, ‘My tail hurts!’ The usually happy King began to get annoyed. ‘Stick to the script,’ he told Ilsar, ‘or I will have no choice but to replace you.’
“With the King’s words buzzing in his ears, Ilsar made a vow that he would never again complain about his tail. But no matter how he tried, he could not stop himself complaining of the unbearable pain, and the King eventually sacked him. Miserable, he walked to his home in Roo Island and curled up in bed. Yet when he woke, the pain disappeared. Laughing in relief, he leapt up out of bed. Yet immediately he could tell that something wasn’t right. As he glanced in the mirror, he gasped, unable to believe what he saw. In the place where his tail used to be, was a mere stump. And he was never able to bounce again.” Frost paused, looking at Ophys, who was looking at her, eyes aquiver, a bead of sweat rolling down his forehead. “So...” she whispered, leaning forward, “if you don’t want to end up like Ilsar, I suggest you stop bouncing. Before it’s too late.”
Ophys knew that Frost was right. He did not want to end up like Ilsar.
But bouncing was the only thing he knew how to do, the only way he could move. He had never learned how to walk.
But he knew he would have to start somewhere. Besides, how hard could walking be?
He lifted himself up from the sofa and clung to the wall, pushing himself off to grip the door, the garden fence, then the gate of his Neohome. He was certainly moving, but he knew he wasn’t getting anywhere. You just have to walk on your own. Just... just keep trying, he told himself, narrowing his eyes in determination. He shuffled his feet forward, pushing himself off the gate – and tripped, making contact with the hard, unforgiving ground.
Dazed, the Blumaroo slowly lifted his head up, watching the world spin around him. As Ophys wearily attempted to regain his vision, he suddenly became aware of three looming shadows covering the golden sunlight. Spotted, Striped and Speckled Blumaroos had surrounded him, leering over the smaller Blumaroo menacingly. “What’s wrong? Lost your bounce, little Roo?” The Speckled one smirked. The Striped and the Spotted Blumaroos merely chuckled mockingly.
“No,” Ophys replied huffily. “You shouldn’t bounce around all the time, you know. You’ll be sorry when your tail drops off!”
The Blumaroo trio shrieked with laughter and bounced off.
Ophys shook his head. They don’t know what they’re talking about, he thought. But their words swam round his mind like an angry Buzzer. They were right. He was a freak. He didn’t feel like a Blumaroo anymore. Blumaroos didn’t walk – they bounced. That’s what made them unique; that’s what made them happy. It was the only thing that made him happy. He knew there was only one solution.
Carefully, he stumbled back inside the door of his Neohome, again gripping upon anything he could to help him maintain his balance. He had to find his owner, Zaidah. She could solve his problem. But he knew it would devastate her. How on Neopia was he going to tell her?
OK, be calm. Be calm, he thought. You can do this. Just act natural.
“Hey Ophys!” Zaidah smiled.
That was it. Ophys lost his composure and howled at the top of his voice. “I don’t want to be a Blumaroo anymore,” Ophys cried, tears rolling down his cheeks as he crawled helplessly into his owner’s arms. “Mum, I want you to take me the Lab Ray. Keep zapping me until I change species.”
Zaidah frowned and cradled the Blumaroo’s incessantly shaky body fondly. “Hey hey, hey, Ophys, sweetie, what’s brought this on?”
“W-well, I had this pain in my tail, and Frost said, if I keep bouncing. I’ll lose it forever. It happened to her friend, Ilsar...”
Zaidah wiped away the young Blumaroo’s tears. “Ophys, listen to me. I know everything there is to know about Blumaroos. And I know that they can never lose their tails. You have nothing to worry about. I promise you.”
“But... it hurts, Mom...”
“Hold on there, Ophys. I think I may have something to cure that.” She stood up and walked over to the Dung Wardrobe, rummaging around in the drawers. “Ah, yes. Here it is!” She grinned triumphantly, producing a small green pot with stars on it. “Magic Goop! It’s meant to work for headaches but I’m sure it can work for tailaches too.”
She stepped over to the little Starry Blumaroo and unscrewed the lid. Ophys’ eyes widened. “Will it hurt?” he questioned apprehensively.
“Not at all. Now, I need you to hold your tail still for me.” She dug out a hefty amount of the cold, jelly-like goop and smoothed it evenly onto the Blumaroo’s tail. It quickly melted into the Starry painted fur, leaving a glittering pattern of stars in its trail. She paused. “Is that better?”
“Yes.” A grin spread across his face. “Oh, Mum, that feels great!” Ophys smiled, wiping the wetness from his sallow, crimson eyes.
“Good. Now, as for Frost lying... well, I’ll deal with her later.”
As if on cue, Frost bounced into the room with a grin on her face, gingerly licking a Minty Blumaroo Cone. She suddenly felt aware of two pairs of eyes staring angrily at her. The smile quickly faded from her face. “What?” she said, clearly unappreciative of the negative attention.
“Frost, come here,” Zaidah said sternly. “Explain yourself.”
“Well, how was I to know he would fall for it? I thought the grand master of The Castle of Eliv Thade would know that Ilsar is an anagram of Liars...”
“Frost!” Zaidah repeated angrily.
Frost sighed guiltily. “I’m sorry, Ophys. I didn’t mean to scare you. Forgive me?” she said sullenly.
There was a slight pause, but then Ophys nodded, and ran into his sister’s arms. “Yes, I forgive you, even if you’re a big fat meanie.” He smiled. “I’m just relieved I can bounce again. In fact, I’m gonna start right now!” He laughed and leapt into the air.
“I’m gonna treat you to a Cream of Tchea Soup. Come on! Let’s go! Bounce you to the food shop!” Frost grinned.
“Already there, slowcoach!” Ophys grinned, swiftly overtaking his sister, enjoying the fast rush of wind whistling in his ears. His bounce was back – and it was here to stay.