Taking Care of Us: Part Two
It took a mere five minutes for Emsohl to return from pretending to put the Weewoo back where she’d found it. Carefully opening the door so as not to wake anyone, she edged into the kitchen and silently shut the door behind her. She didn’t even smell me. I was completely invisible to her—sitting dead center at the kitchen table in the middle of the room. I grinned when she turned around and gasped in surprise. The Weewoo was wrapped gently in her paws. All Emsohl could do was fold her ears back and stare at me guiltily. “Emsohl,” I began sternly, but she immediately leapt forward and interrupted.
“I’ve been watching the nest for a while now, I haven’t seen the mother for the past three days, I don’t know where she went, I knew you guys wouldn’t let me take it in unless I had a good excuse like the rain so I went to the nest and tried to take care of it but then when it started to rain I knew I could bring it in because then I could say maybe it would drown in the rain and maybe you guys would let me keep it--” she bombarded me with whiney excuses, not taking a single breath. Unconsciously I held my breath all the while she bellyached. It made me dizzy.
“Okay, okay, shut up for a second!” I finally managed to spit out over her sob story. Emsohl fell silent as she sat down on the floor and cradled the Weewoo in her arms. “What’d you say about its mother?” I cocked my head and raised one of my floppy ears slightly to better hear over the storm outside.
“Its mother hasn’t been back to the nest for a couple of days,” she repeated at a reasonable pace. “I watched and she never came back.” The Weewoo wriggled around in her paws and honked pathetically. It sounded nothing like the legendary, supposedly ‘beautiful’ cry of the Weewoo. I grumbled a bit before making a final decision.
“Okay, it can stay here,” Emsohl’s face illuminated as she inhaled a squeaky breath of gratitude, “but you have to keep it in a box in the kitchen. We can’t have Moaches running around the house, alright? And just for tonight!”
“Alright, Ubuuroi!” Emsohl was already under the sink, emptying a dishpan full of cleaning supplies. She spread the towel in it evenly and carefully, and then placed the Weewoo inside. It hiccupped. “Gee.” The brown Lupe frowned and looked up at me.
Now what, I thought and lay down on the floor. I realized we had a long, long night ahead of us.
“It doesn’t look very happy in there all by itself. What do you think we should do?”
For some reason, Quoxwood immediately came to mind. If I were stuck in a dishpan all by myself, I’d want her to keep me company. Boy or girl, Quoxwood was still my best friend to hang out with, and Emsohl had seemed to realize that when she offered to let her stay with us. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any more stray Weewoos lying around.
“What about Langley?” I asked, proud of my sudden burst of intuition.
“Langley?” Emsohl wrinkled her nose at me in confusion. “My Plushie Spyder?”
“Sure, why not? It’s about the same size, maybe ‘Cockroach Towers’ over here won’t be afraid of it and curl up with it like, well, like a plushie?”
“Or like its mother! Ubuuroi, you’re brilliant!” My ego swelled and nearly spilled out my ears.
“Well, you know, I try,” I chuckled and edged closer to the box containing the pest-infested critter. “And we might want to get those bugs off of it... do you know where the tweezers are?”
“The ones I used on you when you got NeoMites before we had enough neopoints to buy the cure for it?”
“Uh, yeah,” my cheeks reddened unnoticeably under my thick, grey-blue fur, “that pair.” My ego slipped down the drain faster than the water outside. With a skip and a jump Emsohl disappeared up the stairs to fetch her Spyder and the tweezers, leaving me alone to watch the Weewoo. It wobbled on the plush towel before falling over sideways. I propped it back up against the side of the dishpan. “Hold still,” I warned it quietly and wiped off my paw with disgust. A glimmer from the open cupboard under the sink caught my eye. It was an empty jar, probably once used to store toothbrushes or stray neopoints. “What do you think of this?” I half asked myself, and half asked the Weewoo. I pulled the jar out and examined it for cracks. It looked pretty solid, just a little dusty.
“What do I think of what?” Emsohl walked into the kitchen, dragging her Plushie Spyder behind her on the floor. I showed her the jar, but she only looked confused and a little worried—like I might want to keep it in there like some sort of Mootix or more ‘appealing’ trophy petpetpet.
“We could keep the Moaches in here, so they don’t get all over the house,” I explained to her dully. It took a moment to register but a broad smile spread across Emsohl’s face.
“Ohhh, so they don’t get all over the house!”
I sighed. Snatching the tweezers from her, I bent over the Weewoo and began to groom it of Moaches and a few Cooties. “This is disgusting,” I grumbled, but Emsohl was too busy trying to position her ‘Petpet’ just right so the Weewoo could snuggle up to it. “You know, we’re probably going to need some food,” I suggested somewhat absentmindedly. I held the Weewoo still as I carefully picked the mud off of its tiny beak.
“Okay, what do you want to eat?” she asked as if the Weewoo might respond with, ‘A burger and fries please!’ I chuckled to myself a little bit. “Ubuuroi?”
“What do you want to eat?”
I stared at her, vaguely perplexed. She was asking me? I quickly shook my head, “No, Emsohl, food for the Weewoo. We should give it some food. Do you know what they like to eat?”
“Oh.” She looked back down at the bird and nodded in agreement. “The Weewoo, yeah. They probably eat, um, Grubs and Worms maybe? They’re birds; birds like Grubs, don’t they?”
I shrugged and nodded. She had a point: birds generally do like worms.
“I’ll go get some from the garden... they’ve probably all surfaced because of the water. They hate water, you know.”
I furrowed my brow and continued to stare at her. “What?”
“Worms don’t like water. That’s why they’re always all over the sidewalks when it rains. People think it’s because they like to sit out in the rain, but really it drives them nuts!” she exclaimed like it was the most commonsensical fact known to Neopians. The door slammed promptly behind her and I was still staring in that same place she had disappeared from, completely taken aback. Worms hated water? Well, I supposed that made sense... I shook it off and went back to grooming the Weewoo, dropping each of its pests into the jar until I didn’t see any more around its toes or tail feathers.
“You want some water?” I asked it absent-mindedly, not quite realizing I was talking to a petpet. I filled a small cup with water and placed it into the dishpan. The Weewoo didn’t budge from its spot next to Langley, Emsohl’s Plushie Spyder. “Well, you drink when you’re thirsty.” I nodded in satisfaction and sat back to watch it. It had stopped shaking and looked much more comfortable than when Emsohl brought it in from the rain. A contagious yawn escaped its tiny mouth and found its way to mine. I rubbed my eye sleepily and looked at the clock. It was already midnight.
I hadn’t the slightest idea how long it took to cut, mash, wash, and feed each little bit of worm to the Weewoo, but when it finally seemed satiated I could barely keep my eyelids open. My heavy brow sank over my eyes, clouding my vision like someone was trying to drown me in sleep by dropping bricks over my skull. I jerked with a sudden grunt as I corrected myself from nearly falling over. Was I asleep?
I checked the clock. It was three-fifteen in the morning. I moaned a little and returned my attention to the Weewoo. It appeared to be fast asleep, lying beside a plethora of plushies and toys Emsohl decided to smother it with. And to the side of the dishpan lay Emsohl, completely passed out. She had been swaying a bit while we fed the little petpet, but continually insisted she was alright. It was far past her usual bedtime.
“Poor kid,” I muttered under my breath. I hesitated. Scooping Emsohl up, I carefully slung her over my shoulder and headed up the stairs. Creaking down the hall to Emsohl’s bedroom, I passed the guest room where Quoxwood slept. Behind the door I could hear her gentle breathing and an occasional snore. Or maybe that was Emsohl...
Sleepily and rather listlessly, I dragged my feet into Emsohl’s room, pushing toys, clothes, and a stray chair aside. Gently I placed the little Lupe in her bed and tucked the covers over her shoulders. I sat down for a moment and watched her. Never had I seen her more at peace: so still and so quiet. It wasn’t Emsohl I was tucking in at night, it couldn’t be that little terror that whirlwinds through the house every morning, the same Lupe that drives me to near insanity her every waking moment. Her ears twitched slightly. A wave of self-consciousness hit me like a wall and I backed away. I’d never gotten along so well with her before: could she hear me in her sleep? Did she understand what I thought of her, and did she realize what I know of her now? I shook my head a bit to ruffle my fur and wake myself up. Emsohl gave a great snort and flopped onto her back.
....Nah: same old Emsohl.
Smiling to myself, I edged into the hallway, closing the door quietly behind me. It was close to three-thirty already. I figured I might as well have stayed up and watched the Weewoo—just in case it decided to take a late-night wander around the house.
I trundled down the stairs, stupid with exhaustion. And without a second thought I stopped short of the kitchen door and leapt onto the couch. Like a heavy blanket, sleep draped over my eyes and drowned me in a heavy sleep that could have lasted eons. The couch, the walls, the brittle trees outside in the Haunted Woods: all melted and drew beneath me to catch me like a cool, creamy brew of galaxies and infinity that toiled with my dreams. Morning was not far off but my sleep was as deep as death. Morning no longer mattered.
To be continued...