Gift of Sharing
Tucked away cozily in one of the many alleys of Neopia Central lived a family of four pets. There were the two parents; both were average blue Lupes as well as their trio of untamable baby Lupes - Ray, Garrett and Ryan. Like most of the adults living in Neopia Central, both worked steady hours at the Neopian bank to maintain their household and to keep all the mouths full.
Yet, whenever these mouths were not screaming for food, they were arguing and yapping at one another. Brotherly affection did run deep in the family, yet there must be some negative force within each of the young Lupe pups as they could never get along together for unprecedented amounts of time.
If they took a family outing, they could never agree on visiting the same place, if they were choosing items to buy or foods to eat, they could never agree on choosing the same items that tickled their fancy. The only thing that these rowdy Lupes shared in common was their apparent taste in toys and gifts, which they could never agree on sharing, rather preferring one for each of them. You could say that their personalities were like comparing Terror Mountain to Mystery Island.
Their parents raised them well, teaching them that material goods did not guarantee contentment as money could not buy happiness. They loved their little Lupes dearly but were strict in the sense that they did not pamper them too much, so gifts were indeed a rare treasure for these young pets.
Now that Christmas was finally coming around, the young Lupes were restless with excitement. It was around Christmas that they were allowed to buy one present each. To their parents’ relief, the past two years had passed easily, with none of their children demanding the same gift. They only hoped that this year would be the same.
Ryan, the oldest of the Lupes, was sitting by the sofa, munching on a chocolate smore. His brother, Garrett, was busily batting at a big bouncy ball which he resolutely threw at the wall. Ray was curled up underneath the living room table, watching his brothers warily.
Just then, their father strode into the room, his sweeping shadow brushing past all three pets as he settled down on the sofa. He beamed at his children and opened his arms, just in time for three blurring balls of blue and white fur to pounce on top of him, each fighting for a place in his arms.
“Ouch! I got here first!” Garrett whined, pushing Ray to one side.
Ray whimpered and curled closer to his father. “I did!”
“No, you didn’t! Besides, I always get to sit here,” Garrett snapped back hotly, gnashing his tiny fangs.
Ryan made a feeble attempt to shove at Garrett. “Get off me, Garrett. You’re so heavy. Honestly, did you eat rocks or something?”
Their father laughed as he listened to their bickering. Some things just never changed. He wondered briefly whether it would, whether time would nurture and change the three pets before him. He even considered what would happen if they all were to take fancy with the same pet later on. He shook his head to clear the image; better not to think so far ahead.
When he returned to the present, he found all three of his Lupes staring up at him intently, their paws resting on his chest. Ray looked as if he were about to fall to sleep if he didn’t hurry up.
“Well, as you know, Christmas is coming around,” he said. The wagging of his children’s tails increased beyond frenzied. “And as you know, your mother and I will be buying you each a Christmas present.”
The tiny Lupes barked in agreement, their eyes sparkling with greedy desire as they pictured beautiful presents lying in their glittering packages underneath the ancient pine tree which their father had logged many years ago just for the occasion.
“So,” he continued leisurely, glancing at his three children. “What is it to be this year, Ray?”
Ray jumped slightly at the mention of his name, surprised at being called first. He swept his nervous gaze, swinging right past his brothers’ murderous glares to his father’s kind, smiling face. He was never the lead of the pack at home or at school, rather preferring to spend some quality time curled up in a ball in the darkest recesses of the library as possible.
“What is it, buddy? You can pick first,” his father urged him gently.
“Well...” Ray stuttered, staring intently at the ground to avoid looking too closely at his brothers. “This year I wanted a blue Grarrl puzzle,” he mumbled.
Garrett instantly perked up, scrambling to his feet on his father’s lap. His brow crinkled into a threatening frown, causing Ray to whimper and bury himself deeper in his father’s coat. “Hey! I wanted that!” he yelled vehemently.
Ryan retaliated with his own snarl. “I wanted it too!”
Ray continued cowering.
Their father sighed wearily, rubbing the crease between his furrowed brows. “Well, here’s a pickle,” he grumbled in an undertone.
“I’m not going to choose another present just because Stupid wants it!” Ryan shouted, jerking his head at Ray.
“I didn’t...” Ray whispered.
“Yeah! And I don’t want to share it with him either!” Garrett snarled harshly.
“I don’t want to share with you either,” Ryan informed Garrett matter-of-factly.
The older Lupe cleared his throat. “Silence,” he cautioned.
“I don’t either!”
Ryan grinned smugly. “Good, because I was gonna get Fyora to sic those rainbow Grundos at you if you did.” Garrett opened his mouth to reply, only to be cut off.
“SILENCE!” their father bellowed above the din. The three baby Lupes instantly snapped their jaws shut and turned their pleading and as innocent as possible expressions on their father, who sighed at the poignant faces. “I’m sure you’ll all find something,” he assured them. “Why don’t we go on a little trip now to calm down, eh?”
“Neopia Central!” Ray shouted happily.
“Idiot, we’re already IN Neopia Central! I say Darigan Citadel,” Garrett supplied slyly, casting Ray a withered look which their father took to be a sign of danger.
“No way, we’re going to Krawk Island!” Ryan yelled.
“Typical,” their father said with a chuckle, shaking his head. “In that case, I’ll decide. Let’s go to Faerieland.”
“No way!” Garrett rebuked, his eyes widening in horror.
“Sure,” Ryan said, shrugging nonchalantly.
Little Ray looked up at his father. “Maybe,” he mumbled.
“So did you get any of them to change their mind?” their mother asked once the three troublesome Lupe pups were finally tucked into bed.
“If Garrett deciding to demand two blue Grarrl puzzle sets is ‘changing their mind’, then yes, I did.”
“Unbelievably so. Say, I wonder which side that came from?”
She chuckled lightly. “What are we going to do with them, Brian?” she mused thoughtfully, cocking her head.
Brian reached over his cup of steaming borovan and rummaged into the bag of marshmallows they were sharing. He popped it into his mouth, chewing slowly as he pondered her question.
“I think I know the solution, Lily,” he said at last.
She raised an eyebrow incredulously. “You mean buy them all the same thing?”
He shook his head.
Lily sighed, tracing the rim of her cup of borovan. “You know as well as I do how much they hate sharing their toys,” she chided Brian.
“I know,” Brian answered smugly with a grin.
“I must honestly say that I am confused. What are you playing at?”
He smiled again. “Don’t worry, it’ll work,” he said ambiguously. He leaned forward, only to find that the bag of marshmallows was empty. Cocking his head, he looked up at Lily just in time to see her grin at him with a beatifically innocent smile and pop the last white marshmallow into her mouth.
“Hey Mum, hey Dad. Merry Christmas and a happy new year,” Garrett said in a rush, breathless as he restlessly bounced up and down in excitement. His brothers weren’t far behind, bursting into the room a few seconds after, their fur still sticking up from sleep. They too mumbled their greetings and wishes.
Brian laughed good-naturedly and grabbed Garrett. “Merry Christmas to you. In a hurry?”
Garrett gasped, wriggling out from his father’s embrace. He nodded curtly. “Presents,” he crowed gleefully.
“Not so fast,” Brian reached out and easily plucked his son back. “Remember the rule?”
“Aww, Daaadddd,” the three brothers groaned in unison. Each year at Christmas, the three young Lupes believed that Sloth possessed their Dad, making him believe it was necessary to take photos with the presents before opening, and even during the opening, they had to take turns opening the gift.
“Don’t worry,” he chuckled. “I won’t take long.”
By the time he was ready, Ray, Ryan and Garrett were already gathered around the tree, their tails wagging at a furious rate. He smiled. He absolutely adored them when they weren’t fighting and yapping at each other. Which meant he was either not very observant most of the time or he was just persistent enough to wait until Christmas each year for this kind of peace.
“Ready?” Ryan whined.
Hastily, under the pleading gazes of his three Lupes, he quickly snapped a few photos. He inclined his head. “Done. Ray, you can open the first present.”
Ray smiled coyly at his father before reaching for his first gift. He measured the gift in his paw; it was awfully small. Then he remembered that saying his father had taught him long ago: “It’s quality, not quantity” and without pondering further, tore open the package.
There was the head of a blue wooden Grarrl.
“WHAT?” Garrett burst, his eyes bulging. “You gave him the blue Grarrl puzzle? Why would...” he trailed off as Ray pulled back the remaining package to reveal the rest of the gift.
“How come he only got four pieces of the puzzle?” Ryan asked, perplexed.
Ray turned the pieces over in his paw, feeling disappointed. Why had his father given him a handful of pieces? Maybe he forgot to wrap the rest... He looked at his father but saw no traces of guilt or bashfulness. In fact, his father looked oddly relaxed.
A vicious smile lit up Garrett’s eager face as their father told him to open his present next. Winking at Ray, he added, “Better luck next time, bro.” He picked up his present, a lumpy package without any definite shape at all.
Ryan frowned, leaning over Garrett’s shoulder to peer at the present closely. “How come it’s so lumpy?”
“Puzzle pieces which form the whole puzzle are lumpy,” he said smugly, shooting a quick glance at Ray. Ray hissed back. Chuckling darkly again, he proceeded to open his package and to his surprise, a meager number of three puzzle pieces fell out.
“Dad, are you sure you wrapped my present right?” Garrett stuttered.
“Yes,” Brian answered with a smile. “Go ahead, Ryan, it’s your turn.”
Still sporting a dazed and rather confused expression, Ryan reached for his own present. As were his brothers when they opened their own respective gifts, he was surprised to find that he had only three puzzle pieces.
Summoning up his courage, Ryan asked, “Why did we get these for presents? We can’t build a complete puzzle with just a few pieces of wood.”
His father gestured at their three separate piles of puzzle pieces. “You may want to look closer, Ryan. You’ll find that all your pieces fit together to make a puzzle.”
Turning to compare each other’s gifts for the first time, the three Lupe pups noticed that indeed, their pieces were useless separately but could be put together to make a Grarrl. Ray’s puzzle pieces made up the head of the Grarrl and part of the neck, Ryan’s made up the main torso and belly while Garrett’s made up the rear and the tail.
The Lupes sat on their rumps, bemused expressions flitting evidently over their features as Lily walked up to Brian, a soft smile lighting up her face.
“You are lucky they didn’t ask for a Sword of Skardsen,” Lily murmured.
“I know. At least this way they’ll learn to share with each other.”
A few hours later, after all the presents were opened and most of the Christmas feast consumed, Brian walked into the shared bedroom of his three Lupes to see that they had just completed the last part of the Grarrl puzzle and were whispering to each other about it. Three pairs of content eyes turned to look at him as he entered.
He held up both paws, one in which a small bag was held. “Caught red-handed,” he said sheepishly.
The three pets looked expectantly at the bag clutched in their father’s paw. He noticed their gaze but ignored the questions burning in their eyes. “How was it? Fun?” he asked innocently.
Garrett shrugged. “Well, it was fun. Ray isn’t quite that bad when he’s not being an idiot,” he teased.
Ray sniffed disdainfully, causing Garrett and Ryan to laugh.
Satisfied by the turn of events, their father upended the bag to reveal another three sets of puzzles. The younger Lupes’ eyes widened as they took in the delightful sight.
“I thought you might get bored. You don’t mind sharing, do you?” he asked them playfully.
“Nope,” Ryan answered, eyes glued to the pieces. “It’s more fun anyway.”
Brian smiled and got up, leaving the three pets to figure out how to piece the puzzle together. As he was walking out through the door, Garrett called out to him.
He turned to look back at him. “Yes?”
“What’s a Sword of Skardsen?”