Bouncing Blumaroos: A Tail of Sportsmanship
In the distance Lillian saw a magnificent sunset draw upon the sleepy hills of her town. It bathed the flowing hilltops in deep reds until they finally coated her home in a sweet auburn shade. The sun shone on her yellow arms and turned them into deep orange. Smoke was steadily rising from her chimney and Lillian decided she would like nothing better then to sink into one of her fat cushioned sofas. Climbing down from the midsection of a giant oak tree she began to bounce on her tail. One moment she could see her home, the next she couldn’t. Lillian loved to bounce and in fact had received a medal for being the highest jumping Blumaroo in Rooville. It was quite an honor as there was stiff competition among the other residents. Rooville was a special city within Roo Island that was especially for Blumaroos. Of course other Neopets could live there as well, but Blumaroos particularly lived there because of the unusually soft grass that was very easy to bounce on.
Continuing to bounce as she came in her house, she made quite a few china cups in the room wobble.
“Lillian, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times; no bouncing in the house,” said Lillian’s mother. Lillian’s mother, a lovely spotted Blumaroo, had always been strict, but even so she was a terribly kind. In her youth she also had been named Rooville’s top bouncer four years in a row, a record at the time, only losing it when she took a nasty fall rendering her tail to be too frail for bouncing any longer.
“Mother, how can you expect me to keep my title if I can’t bounce in the house?” said Lillian slyly.
“Would it be too difficult to practice outside?”
“I was outside, practicing the whole day!”
“Then why did I see you perched on top of that Oak tree as if you were a Lenny,” her mother jokingly said.
“Oh Mother, you can’t expect me to practice all the time can you?”
“I’m not the one who brought it up, dear, but enough of your fuss. I want you to be off that tail while you are in the house, and that’s final. Besides, you need to rest it; you don’t want to injure it before the big competition next week!”
Lillian sulked off and collapsed into the soft sofa. The fireplace cackled with ferociousness but even so Lillian found it to be entrancing. She watched the flame move with the wind that was brought in from an open window. To the right and to the left it moved; it soaked the floors with bright colors that Lillian had never seen before. Slowly the room grew darker until finally she fell asleep.
When Lillian awoke the fire was gone and all that was left was gray dust and a glowing ember or two. A bright sun shone through the window illuminating the entire room. Lillian gave herself some time to adjust her eyes and took in all the magnificent beauty around her. The sun caught tiny prisms in dream catchers and wind chimes around her creating hundreds of tiny rainbows. After taking a deep breath she snuggled herself into a nook in the sofa and noticed that she had been covered with her favorite blanket – it was pink and covered with Faerie Snorkles.
It was a new day and Lillian was determined to practice her tail off for the upcoming competition. She had to uphold her mother’s good name in the sport and furthermore she had to do it for herself. She would be the laughingstock of her class if she were to fail, and worst off, lose to Gretchen Von Blummy. Gretchen, a pompous Starry Blumaroo, came in second at the last Rooville Bounce Off and she had been training non-stop since her loss. Lillian knew it wasn’t a prudent idea to put off her training for so long but well she hadn’t trained for the last Bounce Off either. She had always been naturally good at bouncing; since a young age she was able to jump higher than all her classmates and she was even an endurance jumper.
It was never really an aspiration of Lillian’s to be a professional bouncer, but things changed when she turned fifteen. She was eligible to compete in the Rooville Bounce Off that year and if it had not been for her mother’s pushing, she would have never gone.
“Lillian, bouncing can take you somewhere. You could be a professional and compete with the best of them. Who knows? Maybe in a few years the Altador Cup will even have a special competition just for bouncing.”
“Mother, I know I can bounce pretty well, but I just don’t care for it. I can’t jump on a tree, can I? I can’t jump my way into a garden – it would kill all the flowers. I just want to be around nature, things like that... I could enter a gnome competition maybe!”
“Gnomes?! What are you trying to do, Lily, give me a nervous breakdown?”
It was that moment that changed Lillian. She would do it for her mother. It wasn’t that her mother was trying to live through her, but her mother knew that good could come from bouncing. She really was only trying to help her.
The entire day Lillian spent jump roping and bouncing around hills. At first it was easy but it became difficult after a few hours. This was not in her benefit because she needed to be in her best bouncing shape in order to win. The competition was cut into three parts, first was to see who could bounce the highest, the next was an endurance bounce – competitors had to bounce in place for as long as they could and whoever could do it longest won, and the final piece of the puzzle was a 200 meter race through the hills. Each piece was weighed equally, and the person who won the most competitions won the whole thing. The prize was a medal but the glory was what made it worth it.
The days melted into each other, each one containing the same routine - waking up, bouncing, sleep, waking up, bouncing, sleep.
“Lillian, you are going to hurt yourself bouncing so much. You should have practiced this entire year instead of right before. I don’t want you to get hurt,” pleaded Lillian’s mother.
“Mom, honestly, I know what I’m doing. I’ll be fine, truly.”
“No, I will not hear any more of your bouncing or your excuses. You go to your room and you rest. I don’t want you to bounce one more time tonight – the competition is tomorrow and you need all the rest you can get.”
Sleep was hard to come by that night, Lillian wanted badly to win and it was the only thing that crossed her mind. Standing in the winner’s circle, a tall and sleek green Blumaroo placing a shimmering golden medal around her neck, the applause of smiling friends, the sound of her name being called with pride. Perhaps bouncing wasn’t only for her mother after all.
The next morning Lillian awoke to the smell of Hot Cakes and cheese omelettes. They were cooked to perfection and smothered in maple syrup; she drank it all down with a steaming cup of Strong Berry Java for extra strength.
The weather was about as perfect as could be, it was warm with a cooling breeze in the air and giant fluffy clouds passed by as if it to try and sneak a peak at the competition.
“It sure is a lovely day to lose,” sneered a familiar voice.
“It is quite nice out, really. As for losing, I’m unsure of what you mean; you would prefer to lose when it’s nice out? Almost a contradiction, I would prefer a few rain clouds myself,” said Lillian condescendingly.
“Oh be quiet, Lillian Blummer! You are going to lose and there is nothing you can do about it!” screamed Gretchen.
“There are several things I can do about it, one of which is to win.”
“Well, I suppose we’ll see, won’t we?”
“I suppose so.”
Lillian took her spot at the competitor’s bench. It was time for the first round to begin. But first, everyone had to introduce themselves. One by one each of them rose as a deep disembodied voice spoke from a microphone.
“Chelsea Blum, Whitney Blummings, Gretchen Von Blummy, Linda Blum-proo, and Lillian Blummer.” Although she knew her name was going to be called, it still startled her to hear name called so loudly. Once the announcer finished the crowd burst into applause, Linda, who was sitting next to her, let out a tiny yelp.
The competition began soon after with each girl going in front of the crowd and being measured. They would then have the next 30 seconds to jump as high as they possibly could.
It started off poorly with most of the girls only able to reach six feet or so in the air. And then Gretchen stepped up; she let out a large sigh and closed her eyes. She was measured and the timer began to click, she started to bounce slowly going a little higher and higher suddenly she picked up great speed, finally letting off a giant bounce. The announcer screamed with excitement when she came back down.
“We have a new record here – shattering Lillian Blummer’s record of 8 feet and 10 inches, Gretchen Von Blummy has reached 9 feet and 2 inches. Amazing!”
Lillian felt her heart fall into her stomach. She wasn’t sure if she could beat such a measurement. She only had a few moments to think while Linda went and did her jump. Things were racing through her head, but mostly regret for not having appreciated the sport more and not truly practiced as much as she should have.
Linda, the lighting bolts on her skin twitching and gleaming, walked back to the benches and looked at Lillian with concerned eyes. Lillian slowly rose to her feet and banished every ill thought from her head; she glanced at the crowd and saw the approving face of her mother. Standing in the middle of the field facing everyone was scarier than one might think. She felt her face turn red while they measured her height, and then the bell rang. The clock ticked and laughed at her and she started to pick up height, she tried to hurry herself up, jumping faster and faster finally pulling herself up to a huge height. As she came down she heard the announcer’s voice.
“And Lillian Blummer has beat her previous record, 9 feet flat! Which means that Gretchen Von Blummy has won the section!”
Looking up at her mother, she saw her mother’s face was lit with happiness. She was the only one in the stands still clapping. Walking towards her, her more leapt from her seat and embraced her daughter.
“You did wonderfully.”
“What do you mean? I came in second.”
“You beat your record and you –”
“But I didn’t beat Gretchen!”
“So what? I think you won, and you’ve made me proud. I’ve always been proud of you.”
Lillian and her mother walked towards a nearby concession stand and shared a pretzel. Lillian had never felt so amazingly happy; her mother was proud of her and that was validation for all of her training (or lack of). But even so there were still two parts of the competition left.
“Take your marks... Get set.... And GO!” screamed the announcer.
The second task had begun and everyone was bouncing at a slow pace. It wasn’t about how fast you could jump, but rather about how long. One by one girls started falling down or simply giving up. Seconds became minutes, and minutes became hours. And by the two-hour mark it was only Lillian and Gretchen. Sweat dripped from their foreheads, but neither gave up, the crowd still looking at them with great intent.
“You are going to lose; I can do this for another hour,” said Gretchen.
“And I’m prepared for two.”
Another hour passed and to everyone’s surprise, Gretchen fell to the floor in defeat. Everyone cheered that finally a winner was announced, and Lillian’s eyes sparkled with tears. Lillian’s mother quickly ran and embraced her and soothed her aching tail. Gretchen and Lillian were now tied for first place and the final competition would prove who would win. As the competitors had been jumping for hours the judges decided to let there be a recess where everyone could eat and have fun while the competitors rested their sore tails.
“It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, you know,” said Lillian’s mother.
“I know. I want to win, though.”
“You already have. You are a winner in my eyes for trying so hard.”
“I didn’t even practice...”
“You know, Lillian, do this if you want to. I don’t want to look back and think that I’ve taken away anything from you.”
“You haven’t. And I’m going to win.”
Lillian made her way to the starting mark for the final competition. She stretched and took her place. Looking to her right, she saw a nervous Linda fumbling with her fingers.
“Linda, you can do this; I know you can!”
“No, I can’t; I don’t even know why I still have to do this. There is no way I can win.”
“Well, maybe not first, but you have won for just trying.”
“Ha, for trying, well, I don’t look at that as a win.”
“Maybe you should try to... Because just for trying something, taking a risk and giving it everything you’ve got, well, you are winning.”
Then everything hushed, and the crowd settled.
“We will be starting the race part of this competition. It is a 200 meter bounce, whoever gets there first wins.... Get ready.... GO!” screamed the announcer.
And everyone was off. Lillian took an early lead and she saw Linda and a few of the other girls fall back quite far. Gretchen wasn’t terribly far away at all. The hills were brutal on her tail and she just wanted to sit down, but she saw the finish line just a little farther away. And then all she saw was the bouncing pony tail of Gretchen pull ahead of her. They were neck and neck and the finish line was drawing closer. Lillian kept pulling herself, feeling the wind in her face, and she could almost touch the finish line. She pushed through and felt the ribbon touch her arms, and she heard the crowd burst out in screams.
“Lillian! Lillian!” they cried.
Lillian fell to her knees and she felt tears streaming down her face. She had won; she had done it. The next few moments seemed to mesh together in her mind. She saw flashes of cameras and a medal being put around her neck; she saw happy faces and laughing children. She smiled and waved at people until the crowd died down and there was only litter and debris around her. Walking off, she stared into the sunset and on top of a nearby tree was Gretchen. Lillian made her way to her and sat down.
“Hi,” Lillian said to Gretchen.
“You did a really good job out there, you know. Really good.”
“I guess so.”
“No, you did. It was just a one second thing. You almost beat me!”
“But I didn’t.”
“Well, no, you didn’t win first place, but you won other things.”
“Well, pride for one thing, integrity. You never cheated, did you?”
“Well, see, there you are!”
“Look, I would prefer not to talk about it at all,” said Gretchen with a soft sigh.
Lillian looked down at the ground and put her hand on top of Gretchen’s.
“You did wonderfully.” And with that Lillian hopped off of the tree and made her way back to her mother. She could see her mother’s smiling face in the distance and behind her was the falling sun. It touched everything with its mighty glow and it sparkled onto Lillian’s medal, and it was as if the sun was saying, “You really are the winner.”