While the rest of Neopia was trick-or-treating, Kale was in detention.
In retrospect, he probably shouldn’t have acted up on Halloween day; maybe he could have saved his hyper antics for a different time, a different place. But then again, Kale hadn’t expected his teacher, a surly Bruce named Mr. Phillips, to give him a night detention. At the worst, Kale had expected to serve his punishment the next morning, when he should have been fast asleep. Or maybe he’d be forced to stay an hour or two after school.
Anything but this.
Kale drummed his lanky blue Nimmo fingers on the desk and stared blankly up at the teacher’s desk. It was now past eight o’clock, and he was the only pet left in the detention room; even the detention supervisor, Mrs. Smith, had gone off to the teacher’s lounge to read a book. She’d told Kale she would check in on him occasionally, so he shouldn’t act up, but the old Gnorbu hadn’t been in for at least half an hour, and Kale was growing restless.
Hesitantly, Kale stood up from his desk and walked over to the window. Brushing back the dusty curtains, he peered outside. It was pitch black, and in the distance, he could hear the giggling of trick-or-treaters. Oh how badly he wanted to join them!
All of a sudden, the classroom door creaked open. Kale jerked towards it, expecting to see Mrs. Smith. But he didn’t. Instead, it was a slumping Lupe with matted green fur and a broom in hand. He wore a drab grey work uniform, and he had a pair of battered leather boots on his paws.
The Lupe studied Kale critically for a few moments before saying, “Detention, eh?”
Kale nodded and plunked back down onto one of the desk chairs. “I have to stay here until nine.”
The Lupe chuckled bitterly and began cleaning the worn linoleum classroom tiles. “Pretty nasty day to get yourself in trouble, yeah?”
“Tell me about it,” muttered Kale.
The Lupe janitor clicked his tongue at Kale and began working his way across the spacious detention room. The sound of the broom sweeping against the floor echoed in Kale’s ears, almost rhythmically. Eventually, as the janitor scooted aside Mrs. Smith’s chair to clean under it, Kale tentatively asked, “What’s your name?”
The janitor seemed surprised at the question, but nevertheless, he said, “Peter. And you?”
“Kale.” Then, before he could stop himself, the Nimmo said, “Do you need help or anything?”
Again, Peter seemed surprised. “You don’t need to help me,” he said softly. “I’m alright.”
But he wasn’t alright. Kale would be hard pressed to call himself observant, but it was quite clear that Peter was struggling as he worked the broom across the room. His knees wavered, and he seemed to be in pain as his fingers curled around the broom handle. Eventually, Kale stood and walked over to him.
“Let me help,” Kale said. “Really. I have nothing better to do.”
Peter almost seemed embarrassed as he handed Kale the broom. The wooden handle felt smooth in the Nimmo’s paws, and he lightly brushed the bristles over the floor. Peter carefully watched Kale as the young pet worked slowly but efficiently across the room.
“You ever swept before?” Peter asked.
“Yeah. Normally when I get in trouble during class, if they don’t feel like making me stay after school, they make me clean, instead.”
“You get in trouble a lot?”
Kale shrugged. “Not really.” That was a lie. He was one of the most notorious troublemakers in all of Neopia Central Public School.
Peter shook his head disapprovingly and sat down in Mrs. Smith’s desk chair. Crossing his arms in front of him, he said, “You need to work hard in school. It’s important.”
Kale had been given this speech a dozen times before – from his teachers, his principal, his owner, his siblings. He was sick of it, and he certainly didn’t want to hear the lecture again. But Peter’s voice wasn’t angry or pleading; it was calm and relaxed. He wasn’t instructing Kale or demeaning him. He was just... talking.
It was a welcome change. Kale was so used to being scolded and talked down to that Peter’s simple, plain words made him feel happy. He wasn’t trying to force him to change – that made one person in the world.
“I’ll try,” said Kale, wrestling the broom bristles under a bookshelf.
Peter began to reply, but before he could speak, the Lupe was interrupted by high-pitched squealing outside. He furrowed his eyebrows and stood, then walked as fast as he could over to the window.
“Oh no,” he said as he looked outside.
Kale’s grip tightened around the broom and he said, “What’s wrong?”
But Peter didn’t have to answer for the Nimmo to know, because at that precise moment, Kale heard a light crunching noise outside. He’d listened to the sound enough before to recognize it instantly; someone was egging the school.
Peter started to rush towards the classroom door, but Kale stopped him. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I probably know who it is. I can stop them.”
“Please do.” The Lupe’s voice was desperate. “They hit where I can’t reach, but I have to clean it up anyway. I —”
“I got it,” Kale said, and he barreled out of the classroom and down the hall.
Mrs. Smith peeked out of the teacher’s lounge as Kale rushed past, but he didn’t stick around long enough for her to yell at him. Simply, the Nimmo flung open the school’s front doors and stepped outside.
Standing on the concrete steps was a trio of pets. They were all in matching ghost costumes, but they were shoddily done, and Kale recognized them immediately.
“Devon! Michael! Zack!” the Nimmo shrieked.
The one on the far left, a blue Acara called Devon, ripped off his costume and pumped his fist into the air. “Hey dude!” he said. “Snuck out of detention? Awesome!”
Michael, the one in the middle, kept his costume on and simply tried to hand Kale a few rotten eggs. “Here you go. Join in on the awesomeness.”
Kale jerked his paw back, and the eggs fell to the ground. “No,” he said. “C’mon, guys, just go trick-or-treat or something. Egging the school is dumb.”
The third prankster, Zack, pulled back his ghost mask and said, “What’s up with you, Kale? It’s just harmless fun.”
“No, it’s —”
But it was too late. Michael rolled his eyes, then went back to flinging eggs at the building. Zack and Devon joined him. All Kale could do was stand there and watch.
When they were done, the three pets galloped off without another word to Kale. The Nimmo numbly stared up at the school building and the damage the three had inflicted. It was purely cosmetic and probably wouldn’t be too hard to fix, but then again, Peter was in pretty bad shape. For him, it would be no easy feat.
Kale sank down to the concrete floor and inhaled deeply. With a knot in his throat, he realized then that if he hadn’t been given detention, he would have been one of the pets tossing eggs at Neopia Central Public School. Causing so much strife for Peter...
Just as Kale thought of this, the Lupe janitor gently pushed open the front door to the school. Mrs. Smith was by his side, an angry look on her face. She seemed just about ready to blow, but before she could start screaming, Peter shook his head at her. “Let me talk to him,” he pleaded quietly. “Please.”
“Fine.” With that, Mrs. Smith whirled around and stomped back towards the teacher’s lounge.
When she was gone, Peter stepped outside, and the thick wooden door leading into the school shut behind him. The janitor sat down next to Kale and placed a paw on his shoulder. “Don’t feel guilty,” he said. “It’s not your fault.”
“They’re my friends,” Kale said. “It’s definitely my fault.”
“You tried to get them to stop.”
“They didn’t listen.”
“So? You tried. That’s all that matters.”
“You think I’m good,” said Kale. “I’m not. I’m one of them.”
“No one’s all good, Kale. You tried to stop them. That at least makes you partly good.”
“I tried, but I failed. Maybe that makes me partly good. I honestly don’t know. But you still have to clean it up. So it doesn’t matter if I’m good or not.”
“That’s my job, Kale,” said Peter. “Is it fun? No. But I’ll do it. I’m capable.”
“I’ll help you.”
“No. Go on, Kale. Enjoy the rest of your night.”
“Mrs. Smith will be mad.”
“I’ll make sure she’s not.” With this, Peter stood up, and Kale did, too.
“Are you sure you don’t need help?” asked the Nimmo.
“Positive, Kale. You’ve already helped me quite a bit.”
Kale sighed. “All I did was sweep a room.”
“No, Kale. You showed me kindness. You didn’t disregard me because of my occupation or looks. You talked to me. I talked to you. You listened.”
Kale smiled. “It was no problem.”
“Go have fun, Kale. Get some candy. Dress up.”
Kale nodded and started down the front stairs. As he stepped onto the pathway leading away from the school, he turned back towards Peter and waved. “See you around, Peter.”
“See you around, Kale.”
And through the darkness, as Kale began running towards home to get his costume on before it was too late, Peter smiled.
It was something he hadn’t done in a long, long time.
Author's Note - Hey guys! This is my first solo NT piece in a really long time, so I hope you enjoyed. Sorry for the sappy ending, but I thought it was fitting. Thanks for reading and have a good day. :)