Banana Cream Coffee
“Sorry, we’re sold out of everything at the moment,” the shopkeeper apologised. “Why don’t you come back later? We usually restock several times an hour.”
Amy sighed heavily. “But I’ve just finished my book, and now I want a new one,” she whined. “You must have some books left to sell!”
The shopkeeper shook his head. “I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait a few minutes until we restock again, just like everybody else.”
The royal Zafara folded her arms and fixed the shopkeeper with a fierce stare. He was used to disgruntled customers, so he ignored her and went back to what he was doing.
“What about that book?” Amy suggested hopefully. “The one you’re reading? I could buy that. I’ve got money.”
He looked up briefly from the thick pages. “I’m afraid this one isn’t for sale. I’m in the middle of reading it myself,” he explained.
“Pleeeease? Pretty pretty please?” Amy pestered. “It’s a Saturday and all my friends have gone to Mystery Island and I have nothing to do and I’m bored.”
The shopkeeper frowned. “We’ll be restocking in a few minutes. I suggest you come back then,” he said firmly. His tone was stern and Amy could tell he wasn’t going to change his mind.
“Fine,” she muttered, and left the bookstore with an unattractive scowl on her face. “I can buy better books somewhere else anyway.”
Outside in Neopia Central, the weather was dull, and the sky was thick with clouds that weren’t quite white. Amy plonked herself down on the dry grass near the Rainbow Pool and watched Neopets and their owners mull back and forth from shop to shop. She saw a pirate Chomby leave the Food Store with a cantaloupe melon. She saw a group of striped Xweetoks head towards the Bazaar, lightheartedly giggling over something one of them said. A red Usul came out of the Petpet Store cradling a small Mallard in her arms. Two reluctant Lupes were being dragged out of the Neolodge by their returning owners. A green Shoyru was stood at the edge of the pool preparing to paint himself with a plushie paint brush.
It seemed like everybody had something to do except her. Amy groaned irritably and lay back on the grass, gazing up at the mundane clouds and listening to the bustling activity around her. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a yellow Kau lazily toss a hardback book onto the pile of unwanted items surrounding the money tree. Amy sat up to get a better look and doublecheck what she had just seen. Yes, there it was, a book so appealing it seemed to be practically glowing.
That’s mine, she thought to herself, and started walking briskly towards it. But a tall Grarrl beat her to it.
“Hey!” she exclaimed. He had practically snatched the book right out of her hands. “I was going to get that!”
The Grarrl blinked. “But I got it first,” he pointed out. “So it’s mine.”
Amy shook her head crossly. “Yeah, but I was going to get it. I want it more than you. Give it to me!” she insisted, reaching out to grab it.
He calmly put it in his pocket. “It’s my book,” he told her simply. “I picked it up first. You just have to get there faster next time.”
Amy gritted her teeth. “But I want it! That’s not fair!” she cried. The Grarrl, obviously not eager to get into an argument, turned around and walked away. Amy glared at his retreating figure then stormed off in the opposite direction, grumbling unhappily.
I don’t need that book anyway, she thought. I’ll just find something else to do.
Then she glanced to her right and spotted a tall stone building she’d never really noticed before. Out of curiosity, and lack of something better to do, she decided to venture inside.
Within the stone enclosure, the air was warm and smelt faintly of marshmallows and freshly brewed coffee, most likely exuding from the small coffee shop further inside. A cheery yellow Chia smiled broadly at her as he brandished a thick newspaper in the air. “Hello there! Would you be interested in the newest edition of the Neopian Times?” he asked.
“No, thanks,” Amy replied. She had no interest in worldly events or politics or the stock market. She preferred to read fantasy stories, not real life facts- they were boring. Therefore, she concluded, the Neopian Times must be boring too.
The warm, welcoming scent of roasted coffee beans and tigersquash swirly cake enveloped the royal Zafara, and her feet subconsciously began to lead her towards its source. A friendly Shoyru welcomed her at the door and showed her to a table. There was only one left- all the others were full.
“Why don’t you browse the menu?” she suggested kindly. “I’ll be back in a few minutes to take your order.”
Amy smiled politely and picked up the laminated menu balanced on the tabletop. She skimmed through most of the options, and discovered that there were more than she had originally assumed, and they all had rather strange names; Purplum Mocha, Blairnut Tea, Zeenana Cappuccino, Fundus Fruit Tea, Weevil Coffee. What is a weevil anyway? she wondered curiously.
Eventually Amy selected a Banana Cream Coffee, and began to tap her feet while she waited for the Shoyru to return. Amy didn’t like waiting for things- she was too impatient. She didn’t see why people couldn’t just hurry up and get things done faster, like the boring parts of a Tiki Tour, restocking books, replying to neomails, taking orders...
“Hello, what can I get you?”
The young Zafara was so surprised by the shopkeeper’s quick return that she almost fell off her chair.
“Um, one Banana Cream Coffee, please,” Amy requested politely.
The Shoyru smiled. “That should be ready in just a minute,” she said, leaving the Zafara to twiddle her thumbs while she waited. After a moment or two, Amy leant back in her chair in a failed attempt to entertain herself.
“Excuse me, do you mind if we sit here?”
Amy’s chair sank back down to the floor. “Oh, okay, sure,” she replied.
A red Usul pulled up a chair and sat down. Her small green Mallard perched daintily on the edge of the shiny wooden table.
“I’m Selena,” she said. “And this is Tara, my Petpet.”
Amy tipped her head to one side. “I think I saw you outside earlier. Did you just buy him today?”
Selena nodded, smiling. “Yes, a little while ago. I’m working on a short story about bringing home new Petpets,” she explained. “Y’know, how they settle into the unfamiliar atmosphere, how they get along with the other pets, things like that.”
“A short story? For what?” Amy enquired.
“The Neopian Times, of course,” Selena replied happily. “Do you read it?”
Amy shook her head. “Nah, it looks boring,” she shrugged.
“Boring?” Selena repeated. Her jaw dropped, but then she regained composure and closed it again. “I guess different people have different tastes. But I love it, it’s full of great stories and some really funny comics. I read it every week.”
Amy wrinkled her nose. “But it’s all about stock markets and the weather,” she said with distaste. “What’s interesting about that?”
Selena blinked. “Only on the stock market page,” she disagreed. “The rest is full of stories and artwork that readers have sent in. Look.”
The Usul pulled the latest copy of the newspaper out of her pocket and unrolled it on the table. She flicked through a few pages briskly until she was near the middle.
“I wrote this one,” she beamed, pointing at a short story about a baby Kau who collected plushies. The cute illustration made Amy smile. “And this one is my brother’s,” Selena continued, turning over the page to an article on Neohome Feng Shui.
Amy was surprised. “Wow,” she said, impressed. “You and your brother both got your writing published?”
Selena glowed with pride. Amy gazed at the thick black and white newspaper in awe, her mind boggling at the idea of having so many long and unlimited stories at her fingertips every week for a fraction of the cost of just one book.
“It’s not just writing they publish,” the Shoyru added, leaning over Amy’s shoulder. “My comic about iced tea was published last month too.”
Amy had been unaware of the Shoyru’s presence. She was supposed to be fetching Amy her beverage, but her hands were empty.
“Oh yeah, I read that one!” Selena exclaimed. “It really made me laugh. Especially the bit-”
“Excuse me, where’s my Banana Cream Coffee?” Amy pressed stuffily, interrupted their conversation. “I ordered it ages ago.”
The shopkeeper raised her eyebrows at the young Zafara. “I have a lot of other customers to serve, you know,” she pointed out sternly. “You aren’t the only person here.”
Amy suddenly felt very guilty for being so rude. She knew the Shoyru couldn’t halt everything she was doing just to serve the Zafara her Banana Cream Coffee in under ten seconds.
“Sorry,” she mumbled quietly, keeping her eyes on the glossy wooden table. There didn’t seem to be any other workers in the coffee shop, so it must have been the Shoyru who cleaned the tables as well as preparing the coffees and slicing the cakes.
She must have to work really really hard, Amy thought sadly. And yet she still finds the time to create comics for other people’s amusement, and come and chat to customers.
Then she began to wonder... did the shopkeeper in the Bookstore run the whole establishment by himself too? She had been so unkind to him, and he really didn’t deserve it in the slightest. The royal Zafara felt her cheeks redden as the reality of her stuck-up and selfish character hit her.
“Your Banana Cream Coffee will be ready in a few minutes,” said the shopkeeper, her tone less friendly than it had been previously. “What about you, can I get you anything?”
“One Thornberry Tea, please,” Selena said, smiling politely.
After the Shoyru left, Amy pulled the Neopian Times closer, feeling a warm sense of happiness for anyone who had ever had their names printed in it.
“You can keep it, if you like,” Selena offered. “I’ve already read the whole thing, and my brother will probably have a copy. He’ll want to frame his article and hang it on the wall in our Neohome.”
“No,” Amy declined, smiling broadly at her new friend. “It’s yours. I can tell you worked really hard on your story- you should put yours in a frame too. It’s something to be really proud of. I can only hope that one day I’ll be as lucky.”
And she smiled, while half-formed ideas for stories fluttered around in her head, promising to show anyone she had ever pestered or annoyed that she had learnt her lesson and was now willing to work hard to achieve all the goals she had previously expected to get for free. And when the shopkeeper served her a Banana Cream Coffee, she thought it was the sweetest thing she had ever tasted.