Paper Route: Part Three
Art by nut862
A piece of bread lay untouched on the plate in Mrs. Sammlung’s kitchen, set aside for the messenger who hadn’t come. The old Aisha glanced at the empty windowsill momentarily and then turned back to the copy of last week’s Neopian Times that she was reading. The Weewoo would come.
The doorbell rang, and Mrs. Sammlung let out a sigh at having to heave herself up from the chair she had just at down on. “Coming!” she called as she shuffled slowly to the door.
A delivery Lenny stood on her doorstep, a cage dangling from his wing. “Hello, ma’am. I’m from the Petpet Shop in Neopia Central, and I was asked to give this to you.” He held out the cage, to which a note was taped.
“Oh my,” Mrs. Sammlung said, taking the cage in both of her feeble hands. She peered through the stiff wires that formed its bars. “Oh my!”
The Lenny watched nervously as the old lady struggled to hold up the cage, her wrinkled arms shaking. “Are you okay with it, ma’am?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you very much.” Mrs. Sammlung let the door close, gasping as she dragged the cage over to her kitchen table. She set it down and collapsed into the nearby chair, crushing the newspaper she had left on its seat. Her arms were trembling from the recent exertion as she looked into the cage again.
A White Weewoo was leaning against the back of the cage, his eyes closed in exhaustion. Mrs. Sammlung grabbed the letter that was affixed to the cage and read it quickly, her bewilderment growing by the moment. “How did my granddaughter manage to get hold of you?” she whispered to the sleeping bird. “This won’t do. I’ll let you out this minute.”
She reached forward and opened the door of the cage; the White Weewoo didn’t stir. The old Aisha gasped as she saw what else was in the cage. Layers of newspaper covered its floor, and the faded sheets were covered in words scrawled with thick ink. Mrs. Sammlung stuck a paw through the door in wonderment and drew out the sheaf of newspapers. She stared at the headline on the first page, written in clumsily splattered ink.
by #45807 - Travis
The old Aisha put on her glasses and brought the paper up to her nose, a smile spreading across her face as she began to read.
* * * * *
He had never dreamed that writing was such an enormous amount of work. It had always seemed so easy to him; having always had so many thoughts tumbling about in his head that he couldn’t express to the pets who would understand, he had envied those who could so easily share what they wanted to say. He’d never considered how much effort was required to put those thoughts in order and write them down in a way that made sense. Travis still wasn’t sure that what he had written did make sense; in his anxiety to get something finished, he had just let all of those pent-up thoughts flow from his mind to the paper, hardly caring what they meant. But anything was better than coming empty-handed.
But the past few hours of feverish writing had left him drained, and only now did he lift his head and discover through a quick wild survey of his surroundings that he had been brought to Mrs. Sammlung’s house, just as her granddaughter had promised. He glanced down quickly and realized that he was sitting on the cold metal floor of the cage; there was no sign of the blank newspapers that he had put so much effort into filling up with words.
Then he looked through the bars of his cage and saw Mrs. Sammlung sitting quietly in a chair, her head bent forward over the sheets of newspaper, with a smile stretched across her face. Travis watched her silently for a few moments, feeling strangely nervous all of an instant. Every so often the old lady chuckled to herself in amusement, as Travis had so often done while reading the humorous articles and stories by other pets. It was a bit puzzling because he didn’t think he’d written anything funny, but he felt thrilled to see the old Aisha enjoying herself so much. Was this how other Neopian Times contributors felt about sharing their work? No wonder they were all so dedicated to their craft; there must be nothing like the feeling of working on something that mattered to them so dearly, and knowing that others would enjoy it as well.
Finally Travis gathered the courage to let out a chirp. Mrs. Sammlung started and glanced over at him. She beamed at the little Weewoo, looking at him with knowing eyes that seemed to finally understand him. “You, little one,” she croaked, waving the newspaper with a shaking hand, “you wrote all this?”
Travis swallowed and nodded. “Because I lost the real newspaper,” he tried to explain, knowing she didn’t understand. “Because you didn’t get to read the 450th issue. I’m sorry.”
She looked as though she were about to burst out laughing again, but she gazed at him kindly. “You’re an amazing little one. I never dreamed...” She glanced at the sheets of paper spread out across the table, covered in the the crude scrawl of Travis’s wing. “My lands, if you wanted so badly all this time to talk to us, why didn’t you try writing earlier? You’re brilliant at it. I haven’t enjoyed a newspaper so much in ages.”
Sitting behind the bars of his cold metal cage, Travis somehow felt as though he were flying.
“Here,” the old Aisha said, pushing a piece of bread through the door of the cage that Travis now realized was standing open. He dived on the bread, pecking at it hungrily. It was still moist.
“I don’t know how you got into that cage, but you’d best get out of it,” Mrs. Sammlung said. “You must have other places to visit for that job of yours.”
Her words brought Travis back to earth. Suddenly dejected, he poked at the floor of the cage with one wing. He had made a complete ruin of his first major delivery job; not only had Mrs. Sammlung not gotten her copy of the 450th Neopian Times, but neither had all the other pets that had been newly added to his paper route. He looked at the open cage door and drew back against the wire walls; he didn’t want to go out and face the Head Weewoo after this spectacular failure.
Mrs. Sammlung was looking at him thoughtfully now. “You shouldn’t be delivering newspapers, little one; you should be writing them.” She stood up slowly and gathered the sheets of newspaper together, aligning them into a neat stack. “These pages are so old that they’re falling apart,” she murmured to herself. “I’ll get them copied immediately.”
Travis thought of the Head Weewoo, and then of how tired he still was from all the excitement and exertion today, and he tucked his head under his wing and went back to sleep.
* * * * *
It was night when Travis dragged himself into the Neopian Times office, floating slowly through the air towards the Head Weewoo’s desk. He landed on top of it and stared at the wood grain, feeling unable to lift his head and face his superior.
“This is the latest you’ve ever been yet,” the Head Weewoo said, his voice flat.
Travis cringed. “I know, sir. I’m sorry.”
“Why didn’t you come earlier?”
“I’m really sorry. I know I should have and it was inexcusable of me, but I hope you’ll give me another--”
“We’ve been looking for you all day. The office was in an uproar; we had to do a rush job of transcribing all those stories you wrote and get a supplemental issue of the Neopian Times printed off. That Aisha went and handed out a couple of copies of your writing, and pretty soon we had requests pouring in from other pets who wanted to see the words from the mouth of a Weewoo.”
Travis’s beak dropped open in a way that would have allowed two newspapers to fit inside quite easily.
“Travis, you’re not cut out to be a newspaper deliverer,” the Head Weewoo said. “You’re fired.” He paused. “From now on, you’re working in the writers’ department. And we’re dedicated to bringing Neopia’s best talent to the forefront, so you’d better make good use of those typewriters. They’re a lot more convenient than writing with your own quills.”
“Yes, sir! I will, sir!” Travis cried, resisting the urge to fly several inches into the air again. Then he thought of the crowded rooms where the writers worked long days and nights, pausing only to give vent to their oddball ideas. Was that the environment where he belonged? Should he go from one crowd of feathers and frenzy directly to another?
“I’m sorry, sir,” Travis said. “I just realized that I can’t accept this.”
* * * * *
The dawn was just breaking the next day when old Mrs. Sammlung woke to an insistent tapping on her window. The old Aisha dragged herself out of bed and crept over to it, peering sleepily through the glass.
A Weewoo sat on her windowsill, holding a sheet of paper in his beak. One of his white wings was stained black with the same ink that spelled out words on the paper.
Hello, Mrs. Sammlung,
Do you need a Petpet? I’ll be yours, on one condition.
You have to get a typewriter.