The Irony of Imagination
Thanks to Kristy for constructive criticism and for letting me use her name! -waves to NT buddy, Song-
It was an unusually dreary day. I’d just dozed off at the immaculately neat desk of my T-shirt store that sold everything. Everything, that is, except T-shirts. My store was on the thirty-third floor of a glass building in the middle of Neopia Central. The floors were glass, so you could see the bald-spots of the pet on the floor below you; and the ceilings were glass, so you could see the soles of the pet on the floor above you. And as for the walls... no, they weren’t glass, they were solid brick and jelly.
Back to the story, I was just dozing off when I heard a tap on my window. My thirty-third floor window. I dismissed it as one of those annoying Chias who volunteered to clean windows at that building. They always seemed to get in your hair... unless you were bald, of course. If you were one of those unlucky souls who were under-endowed in the hair department, oh, those Chias would fray your last nerve. They always seemed to aim their crossbows at bald people. I patted my voluminous crop of hair and walked over to the window to give that Chia a triumphant smile, when I discovered to my horror that it wasn’t a Chia, but, in fact, a Shoyru. Dressed in a three-piece suit, no less.
I opened the window in shock, and the Shoyru climbed in, using surprisingly agile legs, and landed neatly on the floor.
Adjusting his tie, he proceeded to take out a pen from his pocket, examine it, click his tongue and put it back. Then he took a seat – MY seat – and opened his attaché case; while I stood there gaping, my mouth making a pothole in my face the size of Happy Valley.
“It’s rude to stare, you know,” he said.
I snapped my mouth shut.
“Well, we sell anything but T-shirts here...” I started to say, when my eyes fell on a rack where, miraculously, T-shirts galore were stacked for display. I didn’t recall stocking any T-shirts. You can’t, after drinking seventeen straight cans of Diet Neocola.
I let out a nervous laugh, then immediately put my paw up to my mouth. I’d never heard myself laugh in that manner before. I hadn’t known it, but this Shoyru was intimidating me.
He sat there, placing himself carefully upon my Functional Purple Chair, so that his 350 NC trousers didn’t get creased. I noticed that he’d arranged his stationery in alphabetical order. Babaa Eraser came before Lord Kass Quill, which came after Light Faerie Pen. He wasn’t a very heavily built pet, which drove me into thinking he was an example of the old ‘Small size, big attitude’ cliché. I couldn’t help thinking that I’d seen this Shoyru before.
“My friend, outside, would like to buy a T-shirt from you. One of those lovely imaginative slogan ones, he said.”
“I’m Justin, by the way.” He held out a speckled paw for me to shake.
Wonder of wonders, I didn’t take it.
“Err... I’m Kristy, the red Zafara. I’m mighty pleased to meet you, Justin,” I said, meaning just the opposite. I had grown to dislike this Shoyru and his casual mannerisms. He’d climbed through the window, for muffins’ sake.
“Sir, if you don’t mind...”
His left eye twitched a bit. “Justin. The word ‘sir’ makes my eye twitch...”
So I’d noticed.
“They used to call me that when I was a baby pet, JUST because I happened to have a moustache!” His voice became shriller and more hysterical with every word he spoke – shrieked.
I let out an exasperated, long-suppressed sigh. The feeling that I knew this ‘Justin’ character was gnawing at my insides as if it hadn’t eaten. Ever.
“Okay, Justin. If you don’t mind me asking, why didn’t your friend come himself?”
“Who, Derek? Why, he’s terribly shy, of course! But he did come; he’s right outside. But I warn you; he’s so meek, he’s scared of PAPER! He mumbles something about ‘fibre germs’ and whatnot. Anyway, since T-shirts don’t classify as paper, he wants one. Now, show me what you’ve got.”
Derek came across as a miniscule little dwarf Cybunny, with a twitchy nose and permanently clutched paws. That was my immediate impression of a person who was terrified of ‘fibre germs’ which I was pretty sure didn’t exist.
“Perhaps Derek would like to come and choose his T-shirt himself,” I said with new-found courage, setting my mouth into a straight line. I didn’t like Justin the green Shoyru and somehow I found that I was determined to make him all flustered.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen...” the Shoyru said.
“Did you ask him if he wanted to come inside?”
“Err... no, I don’t believe I did. He never does, you see, so I thought it best if he stayed...”
“Bring him in. I think he rather wants to choose his own shirt,” I said, adamantly.
Casting a suspicious glance in my direction, Justin the Shoyru strode toward the door, placed his hand upon the doorknob, gave it a bit of a jiggle before opening the door, went outside and closed the door behind him. Walking over to my seat, I heard bits of hushed conversation outside. Then it became hushed no more as one of the voices – one I hadn’t heard before – rose into a yell accompanied by hysterical sobs. I jumped as I heard the sound of a rather stuffy nose being blown into what sounded like an oversized handkerchief.
Justin stuck his head through an opening in the door with a sheepish look on his face. “This might take a while...” he said.
“I’ve all the time in the world, Justin. Those T-shirts aren’t going to budge off that rack until Derek comes in,” I said, smiling.
Justin’s face broke into an obviously fake smile. “Right you are, then, Kristy,” he simpered. I smirked.
Sure enough, a few moments later, Justin’s black attaché case preceded him through the doorway. With his left hand, he was leading Derek through the doorway. It appeared to be quite a struggle, so much so that Justin actually had to put down his attaché case and literally yank Derek through the door. I nearly burst out laughing. I’d been under the impression that the case had been glued to his paw. What I saw next would most probably scar me for the rest of my Zafara life.
‘Derek’ wasn’t a meek little twitchy Cybunny at all. In fact, ‘Derek’ wasn’t even a Cybunny. ‘Derek’ was this enormous, hulking pirate Bori with what looked like infinite hours of Battledome experience. ‘Derek’ had to bend to a quarter of his size to get through my doorway. Even then, a bit of plaster from the wall flaked off and fell near his ankle.
A piercing scream vented the air. For fear of the roof caving in on us – it WAS glass, after all – I hushed him by picking up the plaster and throwing it out of the window, where it hit one of the Chias square between the eyes. Vengeance was mine at last.
Walking back to Derek and Justin, I picked one of the T-shirts off the rack. In the process of unfolding it, I said, “Hello, Derek. It’s very nice to meet you, I must say. My name is Kristy. I’ve just had the pleasure of meeting your friend Justin, and I wanted to ask you: HOW do you STAND him?”
Oh, yes, I’d figured out who Justin was. He’s that moron who drove his shopping trolley into me once down at the Marketplace. Darned Shoyrus. I shook my head exasperatedly and thrust the T-shirt I was holding at Derek.
“Duh... I don’t think that’s going to fit me, miss...”
He was right. In my fit of triumph, I’d picked an extra-small sized T-shirt. Snatching the T-shirt back, I walked to the rack and picked out Derek’s size.
“AUGH!!!” he screamed.
“What is it?” I asked, worriedly.
“There’s... LINT on this!!”
“That’s not possible, Derek. I just unpacked those; they haven’t even been washed yet.”
I realised that I’d said the wrong thing. His eyes widened and his head was shaking to and fro. “You mean... these haven’t been WASHED?? AUGH, GERMS!” He dropped it and started sobbing into his great big claws.
“There, there, Derek. The mean old Zafara didn’t mean anything...” Justin patted Derek, casting evil glances at me.
“I didn’t mean anything? What about YOU, Justin? You didn’t even ASK him if he wanted to come!” I shot back.
“Stop it, both of you!” Derek cried, still sobbing.
That did it. I marched out of the store into the corridor, and stayed there until Derek was done choosing his T-shirt. I showed them both out a while later, breathing a sigh of relief.
No less than two hours later, I heard yet another tap on my window. I didn’t believe it. Falling for the same trick again, I opened it to find a Red Hissi clinging to the outside ledge. “Hey, miss... would you mind opening the door from the inside? I can’t open it, because, well, I have no forelimbs. My sister – she’s a Cloud Usul – she’s out there and she’s scared to death of doorknob germs...”