Donny's Toy Repair Shop
Donny changed the "We Are Closed" sign on the door to "We Are Open!" He pulled up the window blinds and peered out, feeling a shiver of excitement run along his hard-shelled spine. A wheezing cough rose in his throat and he spluttered for a minute or so until the coughing fit passed. It was the first day of December and this usually signified the start of the busy season. There was money to be made!
When he had first decided to open a Toy Repair Shop, everyone had marvelled at him. "What an excellent idea!" they had enthused. "Some Neopets are so rough with their toys that they break so easily." Others had mentioned how the quality of the toys made at the Toy Shop had slipped in recent years and were more prone to breaking, even with the most gentle of play, though their prices had been steadily rising. Everyone had agreed that a Toy Repair Shop was certainly a necessity and would save them a lot of neopoints because repairing toys would undoubtedly be far cheaper than replacing them with new ones.
The response to where the shop would be situated, however, had been much less favourable.
"Atop Terror Mountain?" people had exclaimed incredulously. "But it's so far away, and the conditions so harsh and inhospitable! Donny, your repair shop will never generate much business up there!"
But Donny had been adamant. "I'm a Bori," he had replied simply. "Terror Mountain is my home." The thought of opening his shop anywhere else in Neopia just hadn't occurred to him.
And now, five years later, as he looked out onto the familiar snow-covered terrain, Donny knew he had made the right decision. For much of the year, business was slow, as people had indeed predicted, but everything changed during December. The Month of Celebrating saw tourists from lands all across Neopia, even lands as far flung as the Lost Desert and Lutari Island, flock to Terror Mountain. People would enjoy the milder climate of Happy Valley, buying gifts and souvenirs from the Wintery-themed shops and skating with the friendly Bruce ice skaters before heading up the mountain to the Ice Caves where they would catch a glimpse of the infamous Snowager, if they were lucky, and watch the exciting battles held in the Ice Arena. The final leg of their winter vacation saw them venturing to the Top of the Mountain, where the snow fell blizzard-like, blisteringly cold, but once there they would grab incredible bargains in the Garage Sale, buy mystery gifts for themselves from the Shop of Mystery, visit Taelia the Snow Faerie, and of course, have their much-loved, broken toys repaired at Donny's shop.
The money Donny made in the last few Decembers alone was enough to provide him with a comfortable, perhaps even luxurious, way of life. He was something of a hoarder, though, and the bulk of his earnings were sitting in the Neopian Bank, generating a satisfying rate of interest.
Mika and Carassa, the two Chias who ran the Garage Sale, passed by on a sled laden with all manner of delightful goods. They waved cheerfully to Donny, who nodded curtly back at them. He started coughing again and tapped his chest to help ease the tightening sensation. He saw a look of concern cross Carassa's usually happy face.
Seconds later, Mika and Carassa had pulled up the sled and entered the shop.
"Looking forward to a good month," Mika said conversationally, but Carassa cut straight to the chase.
"Is that cough still bothering you?" she asked with a frown. "I told you last month to have it checked out."
Donny shook his head. "And pay those Neopia Central doctor quacks at the hospital good money just to tell me I have a common cold? I live on Terror Mountain - of course I have a cold! Besides, the cost of getting to the hospital would cost me a shell and a tail!" He laughed heartily in an effort to appease the worried Chias but the laugh caught in his throat and transformed into a phlegmy cough which almost bent him over double.
Mika and Carassa were exchanging looks. "We'll stop by later, Donny," Mika told him. "See how the first day went!"
Carassa looks as though she was about to say something but Mika shook his head and with friendly goodbyes, they left the shop and climbed back on their sled.
Donny watched them go. Once they were out of sight, he leaned against the door. Another cough was forming in his chest and this one did bend him over double. Good job they didn't see that one, he thought.
Mika and Carassa meant well but Donny wasn't much for socialising. He loved living on Terror Mountain, as remote and quiet as it was for the majority of the year, but the place was just so ridiculously friendly! Bitterly cold though the temperature may be, once the Month of Celebrating arrived, the atmosphere on Terror Mountain was electric and all Neopians were agreed that no welcome received across the Neopian globe was warmer than that received on Terror Mountain. And Donny had to endure this level of warm friendliness all year round.
It wasn't just about the money to be made that made the residents of Terror Mountain so happy. In fact, property taxes there were so low that money wasn't really an issue at all for most (something Donny never really understood because surely making money was what running a business was all about?) What made Terror Mountain so popular, aside from the snow and wintery Christmas gifts, was the fact that everyone who lived there loved their jobs with all their heart and this was instantly evident to the many tourists who vacationed there. Indeed, Mika and Carassa sold their wares at such low prices they were really giving them away. Taelia the Snow Faerie often astounded visitors to her igloo by presenting them with extremely expensive gifts.
Donny thought them all foolish.
Generally regarded as a rather peaceful, timid species, Donny wasn't your typical Bori. Some tourists had even complained that his abruptness and general unfriendliness toward them had ruined their holiday, but this didn't faze Donny. As long as everyone paid to have their toys repaired, they could complain all they liked. One thing they never had cause to complain about, however, was his workmanship, which was impeccable and, so some said, the work of a true genius. He repaired toys in such a way that they showed no sign of scarring, often returning to their owner in better condition than when originally bought.
Few people knew it, for he never ever showed it in public, but Donny simply loved toys. Growing up, his family had little money for such luxuries as toys and Donny's greatest wish was that he had some toys to call his own. Now he had the money to buy any toy available in Neopia but watching his money grow fascinated him in a way that made him reluctant to part with any of it. However, he still loved toys and disliked immensely the ruthless people who broke them at will. Should a toy that had been purposely broken be brought in to his shop for repair then woe betide its owner! Sometimes, just because he could, he charged double if he knew a toy had been deliberately harmed.
Moving away from the door and heading towards his desk, coughing all the while, Donny hoped this new Month of Celebrating would be as fruitful as the rest.
Hours later, the bell above the door peeled out gaily. Just as Donny had thought, this first December morning had proved to be a busy one and over fifty broken toys had already been dropped off for repair. Donny looked up from the purple wocky puppet to which he was attaching new strings.
A baby Xweetok was looking nervously around the repair shop, taking in the rows of shelves upon which were placed the toys that were awaiting repair. Some of the toys weren't a pretty sight; dolls were missing eyes, noses, limbs, even heads; kites hung forlornly missing tails or having ripped bodies; plushies revealed their innards grotesquely. The Xweetok's eyes widened in horror.
"What is it?" Donny barked. It was unusual for a Neopet to visit his shop without a parent and, even though Donny was fully aware that a display of mangled, torn and disfigured toys could frighten ANY Neopet, much less one of the Baby variety, he also knew that a Neopet without a parent was unlikely to be able to afford his prices.
The Baby Xweetok was clutching a ball of blue fur. "My plushie," she said plaintively.
Donny coughed and lay the puppet down on the counter. "Well?" he said. "I can't help if I can't see it, can I?"
The Xweetok shook her head but didn't offer up the plushie.
Donny made a quick mental assessment. In his experience, Xweetoks were a fun-loving, fast-moving species and, although they were sometimes mischievous, they usually broke their toys through misadventure rather than through deliberate ill-will. They were typical forest dwellers and not often seen around Terror Mountain, even during the vacation season, because Xweetoks loved trees and trees were few and far between on Terror Mountain.
"Where's yer parents?"
Before the Xweetok could say anything, Donny started coughing and spluttering and the Xweetok stepped back, clearly frightened.
"Just a cough!" Donny barked, rasping for breath. "Never seen someone coughing before?"
The Xweetok shook her head slowly. "Not like that," she said.
"We're all like this up here," Donny managed, in between the coughs and wheezes. "Terror Mountain, you know. Harsh climate and all that!" Even as he said it, Donny knew this wasn't true. Of course, the Terror Mountain locals did get coughs and colds and sniffles, but they passed quickly and never raised more than a sympathetic grin; certainly not the alarmed eyebrows and looks of concern his cough had been raising.
"But... but you're a Bori," the Xweetok stammered.
"What of it?"
The Xweetok looked uncertain. "Aren't Bori used to the cold here?"
"Course we are." The coughing fit was subsiding and Donny took deep breaths to regulate his breathing. "Still catch germs though, don't we? Look, kiddo, where's yer parents? I don't like young 'uns in the shop unaccompanied, see?"
The Xweetok shrugged. "Mum and Dad are in the Ice Arena. They're big Battledome fans."
Donny frowned. "The Ice Arena's in the Ice Caves. Who brought you up the mountain?"
The Xweetok shrugged again. "Me."
"You? By yerself?" Donny was so surprised he almost reeled backwards. Getting to the Top of the Mountain was no mean feat, even with an experienced guide. Severe snowstorms blighted many a journey - it truly was a perilous trek. "Why?"
The Xweetok held out the broken toy she had been clutching. "My toy got broke."
It was blue Ixi plushie. A huge gash ran along the seam of the left arm, spilling fluffy stuffing. Blue Ixis were perhaps the cheapest of all the plushies available in Neopia - practically everyone started their Neopian childhood with one. Donny knew that repairing the plushie would cost more than it was worth. A new one could be bought at a fraction of the cost.
"Yer lucky it was only the toy that got broke, coming up the mountain like that on yer own!" Donny scolded.
"No, no! Ixi broke in the summer and I waited all this time to get him fixed. Only then Mum and Dad said we couldn't come to the summit after all, because there were so many good battles happening in the Arena!" The Xweetok looked at Donny with eyes that threatened to flood with tears at any moment. "Can he be mended?" she asked, tremulously.
Instantly Donny knew that although usually worthless, this blue Ixi was actually priceless. He would lose money. Under his breath, he silently cursed the Baby Xweetok's parents. "Money?" he asked hopefully.
The Xweetok shook her head.
Donny's shoulders slumped in dismay and he let out a disappointed sigh which triggered another coughing fit. This one felt as though his chest would split in two.
"What yer name?" he asked eventually.
"Well, Sukie, I reckon old Blue Ixi here can be fixed." He wasn't sure why he was agreeing to fix a toy for no payment but something about the way Sukie smiled with relief told him he was doing the right thing.
The way things usually worked in the Toy Repair Shop was: People brought in their toys, Donny assessed the extent of the damage (and whether it was malicious or accidental damage) and offered a quote accordingly, which people paid there and then. A numbered ticket was handed to them and they returned to the shop at the end of the working day, once they had visited the rest of the summit, to collect their toy.
For the first time ever, Donny made an exception. Not only did he allow the customer to remain in the shop while their toy was being repaired, he ignored his ticket system and let the blue Ixi plushie jump the queue.
When he handed the good-as-new plushie back to Sukie, she cried with joy and threw her arms around both the plushie and Donny!
"You're the greatest!" she cried happily.
"Well, I don't know about that," Donny replied gruffly. "Look, kiddo, I gotta get back to work."
"Can I stay here for a while and watch?" Sukie asked.
Somehow Donny wasn't too keen on the idea of the Baby Xweetok making her own way back down the mountain to the Ice Caves. He decided Sukie could stay until he closed the shop, then he would ask Mika and Carassa if they could take her back to the Ice Arena and find her parents.
Donny wasn't used to having someone around while he worked. He had thought it might annoy him, because after all he really wasn't very keen on people or being social, but Sukie proved to be quite helpful, handing him various threads and buttons and tools and materials, and between them they soon finished all the days jobs and the shelves of toys to be repaired were quickly emptied.
Sukie admired their day's work. Lined up on shelves on the other side of the shop, the toys sat waiting to be collected by their owners. "Oh, their owners will be so pleased!" she squealed.
"Perhaps," Donny said. "Perhaps not."
Sukie didn't understand. "What do you mean?"
"Some people don't appreciate their toys. They don't take care of them properly. They break them. They forget about them."
"Forget about them!" Sukie was alarmed. "How could anyone forget about their toy?"
Donny pointed to the top two shelves of fixed toys; toys which had been repaired months, sometimes even years ago, the repairs paid for in advance, but the toys never collected. Some had been there so long they should have been covered in dust, except that Donny carefully cleaned them every week without fail, in case their owners ever returned. "No one ever came back for those toys," he said sadly.
"That is so bad!" Sukie said angrily. "Those poor neglected toys. Some people don't deserve to have toys at all!"
"You're right, Sukie," Donny agreed. "Toys are very special and should be loved and people tend to forget that."
Another bout of coughing caught him by surprise. He pounded on his chest.
"What about you?" Sukie said in a quiet voice, when Donny finally stopped. "You fix all these toys. But what about you? Can you be fixed?"
Donny looked at his new friend, whose eyes shone with worry and concern, and it was all he needed to realise that he had neglected his health for too long. So wrapped up in the anticipation of this new month and the preparation of getting his shop ready for the busy period, he had ignored all the warning signs that something was wrong. He had put business and money-making before his well-being taking care of himself.
"Oh!" he exclaimed with bravado. "Of course I can be fixed. All I need is a little trip to the doctor. Get some medicine to help clear up this cough... I've been meaning to go for a while now."
Sukie beamed at him. "The toys need you, Donny," she said. "You can't get too poorly to mend them."
"Indeed I cannot," he agreed.
Before long, the working day was over and all the toys had been collected by their owners. All except the toys on the top shelves, that is.
"Come on, Sukie," Donny said, changing the "We Are Open!" sign to "We Are Closed." "Let's go see if Mika and Carassa can take us down the mountain to find your parents."
"And take you to see the doctor?"
Donny nodded. "And take me to see the doctor!"
Sukie picked up her blue Ixi plushie but she still looked sad.
"What is it?" Donny asked with concern. "Your plushie is okay, isn't he?"
Sukie nodded. "Oh yes, he's fine now," she replied, hugging the plushie close to her. "But it's such a shame about those other toys, the ones no one ever collected. Toys should be played with, not sat on a shelf gathering dust. They must feel very neglected and lonely."
Recently Donny had been considering selling the uncollected, unwanted toys. It had seemed like a good idea, a nice little moneyspinner. But now Donny had a better idea. "Sukie, how about you have those toys? You can take them home with you!"
But Sukie still didn't look happy. "I don't really need any more toys," she said. "I have blue Ixi to play with. But perhaps..." She broke off, thinking.
"What?" Donny encouraged.
"Well," Sukie said, smiling, "have you ever heard of the Money Tree?"
Donny had thought he knew everything there was to know about money, but he had never heard of such a thing as the Money Tree. "Does it grow money?" he asked hopefully.
Sukie laughed. "No, silly! People take things there they don't need anymore and donate them, then people who don't have much money get to choose something they want. I'm sure you would make lots of Neopets happy if you donated all these toys."
Donny thought longingly of the money selling those toys could make him, then he quickly dismissed the thought. "Okay, Sukie!" he cried. "Let's do it!"
Mika and Carassa were only too happy to take Sukie and Donny down the mountain on their sled, and they were even happier when Donny asked if they could take him to the doctor to have his cough seen to.
"We were worried we were going to have to tie you to sled to get you there!" Mika said, laughing.
"You've finally seen sense!" Carassa said, giving Donny a hug, which made him feel rather flustered because he wasn't really accustomed to hugs. "We've all been so worried about you!"
Donny hung his head in shame. "I know," he said. "I am so sorry, I've been very foolish. Foolish and greedy."
"Well, none of us is perfect," Carassa told him, with a smile, making Donny feel better to have such good friends.
Outside the Ice Arena, two Xweetoks were racing frantically about. When the sled drew up, the Xweetoks pounced on Sukie.
"Where have you been?" Sukie's mum cried. "Oh, Sukie, we thought we lost you forever!"
"I went to get blue Ixi fixed," Sukie said sheepishly. "And Donny fixed him."
Sukie's dad got out his wallet. "Here," he said to Donny. "Let me pay you what we owe you."
Emphatically, Donny shook his head. "You don't owe me anything," he said, pushing the money away. "Really, you don't," he insisted.
"Thank you for taking care of Sukie," Sukie's mum said.
Donny coughed. "Really, Sukie was the one who took care of me. She made me realise a lot of things today. If anything, I owe her!"
Sukie threw her arms around the big Bori. "Good bye, Donny!" she cried.
"Come see me next year!" he told her.
He climbed back on the sled and, with Mika and Carassa and the boxes full of toys, they set off for Neopia Central to see the doctor and find the Money Tree.
Donny was a changed Bori after that day. He no longer coughed, sneezed and spluttered, thanks to the Neoflu Jelly Pills the doctor prescribed him, and he no longer cared so much about making money. In fact, many customers at his shop would delightedly report to their friends back home that the friendly Bori in the Toy Repair Shop up on Terror Mountain didn't always charge for the work he did.
Why don't you go pay him a visit and see for yourself? And next time you go to the Money Tree and see some toys up for grabs, you never know, they may have been donated by Donny!