A Kind Act
“Step right on up! Try your luck, folks!” the scraggly Lupe bellowed out to the small dispersing crowd of tourists. Everyone was leaving the Deserted Fairground, as it was quickly becoming darker by the minute, and it was definitely not safe to be in the Haunted Woods when night fell. A few pets joined the line as they listened to his empty promises of fortune, but other pets who lost would walk up to them and warn them about the game. There was a small line of anxious Neopets waiting to play his game, Bagatelle, and each one who tried always lost. A plump Blumaroo was the last waiting in line, and he tried eight times. Out of all those times, the most he won was 250 NP.
“Sorry! I guess you’re out of luck!” the Bagatelle owner said in reply to the frustrated Blumaroo’s sigh. He snickered as the neopet rambled away slowly, towards the Coconut Shy, where he would only lose the rest of his NP. The Lupe could never understand why no one realized that everything here was rigged. That was the last pet in line, but he decided he would wait a few minutes to see if he could salvage a few more customers.
Rufus was the name that he called himself. He never recalled having a happy childhood, considering the fact that he was left alone in the Haunted Woods at an early age. He never had an owner, and he certainly never had it easy. Rufus raised himself, begging at tourists for food and receiving little mercy in return. It was only once in a while that a kind being would hand him a scrap of food when he was hungry. His cold, narrow eyes portrayed a seedy character who lived his life in poverty, using trickery just to get by. Not a soul had ever shown Rufus what it was like to have someone who cared about him, so it was expected that he not be a kind fellow.
That was how it always was in the Haunted Woods. The only way you could survive was if you learned how to be stingy and keep everything for yourself. There were strange and creepy characters who were strewn all over the area, and it was always difficult to be able to trust anyone without losing your money... or worse. It was nearly impossible to find any acts of kindness in the midst of all these lurkers, but one night, things changed for Rufus.
It was getting late, and Rufus decided that it was time to close the game for the day. He put up the closed sign and plucked the Mootix from the Bagatelle to bring it home with him. Just as he was putting the Mootix in its jar, he heard a twig behind him snap. He whirled around, expecting to see one of the fiends of the Haunted Woods behind him, but in its place was a small, green Zafara with the biggest blue eyes and the broadest grin he’d ever seen. He was meager and rather thin, and looked like he didn’t have much to spare.
“Hi!” he squeaked cheerfully, “Can I play your game... please?”
Rufus shuddered at the irksome, gleeful voice. The Zafara appeared like he attempted to keep clean, but it wasn’t working out too well. His fur was unkempt and not very shiny, and the look on his face looked sincere and kind.
How can someone so poor be so... happy? he thought to himself.
“Sorry kid, I’m closed for the day,” he muttered while trying to give the Zafara his meanest glare to scare him away. The neopet, unmoved, didn’t even take notice of Rufus’s contempt. He continued grinning at him, and his huge eyes sparkled happily.
“I said I’m closed for the day,” he said, frowning. “Can’t you read the sign?”
The Zafara stared up at him, and with the shiniest eyes, he said, “Please?”
The Lupe finally realized that this Zafara wasn’t going to take no for an answer, so he finally gave in with, “Fine. Just give me 250 NP and I’ll let you have a shot.”
The Zafara frowned. Rufus frowned back.
“What?” Rufus said coldly.
“I don’t have that much,” he said.
“Then you can’t play, I’m sorry,” the Lupe said in an unfeeling voice. He turned back to the Mootix and dropped it in the jar and closed it.
Just as the tiny Zafara turned around and started to walk away glumly, Rufus couldn’t help but feel a pang of pity for the poor soul. What were the chances that he would win a game, anyway?
“Err... wait!” he called after the Zafara, “You can go ahead and play once... I suppose.”
The Zafara turned around and his face lit up immediately. He rambled up the wooden steps and looked at the Lupe, who dropped the curled-up Mootix in his small paws.
“Go ahead, kid, try your luck.”
Rufus watched with a hidden smile as the Zafara plopped the Mootix through the slot. Staring with spellbound eyes, the tiny being watched anxiously as the petpetpet clicked its way down aimlessly, heading in the generation direction of the losing slots. The old Lupe quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be a winning game, so he quietly kicked the block of wood out from underneath the Bagatelle and tilted it towards the left with his shoulder – the winning side.
The Mootix landed in a white star.
“Congratulations!” he said while trying to contain an excited smile. For some strange reason, he actually felt happy, even though he was the one who was losing NP this time. The Zafara turned and beamed at him with a wide grin. This was perhaps the best day of his life, and it showed in his eyes. Rufus went into his prize shack and came out with a bag filled to the brim with NP, and carefully handed it to the Zafara.
“Thank you,” he said quietly while looking at the Bagatelle keeper, and sniffed while gently taking the bag. He took a few steps down the path, but paused for a moment, and ran back up the steps. He hugged the old (and rather surprised) Lupe tightly and quickly until Rufus brushed him off.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, no need to thank me. It was a game, I didn’t make you win, it was just plain luck,” Rufus mumbled. The Zafara blushed and scampered away with his prize, and turned to wave back at the Bagatelle keeper. Rufus couldn’t help but to slowly wave back. The Lupe contemplated this strange sensation.
He never had been hugged before.
As the Zafara walked away with a new jilt in his step, Rufus couldn’t help but crack a smile. This pet reminded Rufus of himself when he was young, when he used to have hope and was able to smile, even amidst his misfortune. This little Zafara’s life would be changed for the better, and he wouldn’t have to endure one similar to the old Lupe’s. No, this little being would have a happy life, and it was all because of one small kind act. It proved that the Lupe didn’t have a cold soul, that even someone such as him could do something good for a change.
He never did something nice for someone else before.
It felt good.