Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 182,181,004 Issue: 461 | 17th day of Gathering, Y12
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Fruit Shakes: Part One

by thediractor


Tamara smiled at the customer, who was handling a pot of Buzz Honey carefully. The Bori looked at it from all angles, looked at the golden syrup inside, and then said, “So, just 200 Neopoints for this, you say?”

      “Yes, that’s right!” Tamara the Chia declared proudly. “After all, our motto is--”

      “Yes, yes,” the Bori said impatiently, still examining the product. “Finest items for finest prices, you’ve repeated that many times already.”

      Tamara looked down and said nothing. She began nervously to count the tiles on the floor while the customer decided if he wanted to buy her honey or not. One other customer waited behind him, this one a Skeith twice the Bori’s size or more. He was holding a Lemon Sweetie in his big claws. After about thirty more dragging seconds, Tamara winked at the Skeith. He smiled at her and then pretended to be angry. He poked the Bori in the back. He growled, “Hey, buddy, move it along, will you? I’m starved here.”

      The Bori turned slowly. “Ah, you are, are you? Well, I’m sure you could find something more satisfying, and maybe consider eating healthy?”

      This made the Skeith even angrier. He appeared taller. “I’ll do what I want to do. Now PAY!”

      The Bori hurriedly turned back to the counter behind which Tamara stood, and took out 250 Neopoints.

      “K-Keep the change...” he said shakily, grabbed his honey and made for the door.

      “Thanks, Gregor.” Tamara smiled appreciatively. “That Lemon Sweetie’s on the house.”

      “Neat,” Gregor said, unwrapping his prize. “Thanks!”

      He popped it into his mouth and savored it. He started to head for the door himself. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Tam,” he said, waving. “Good luck with the business. I’ll be here when the need comes up.”

      “You’re the best, Gregor.” Tamara grinned. “Bye!”

      Now Tamara had some time to herself. Gregor was great. He came to hang around the air-conditioned shop in the summer. They’d been friends since they were two. Gregor was very grown-up for his age. This made him seem scarier, and when a customer gave Tamara trouble, he was very reliable. But the Chia also liked this time alone, when she could sit on the stool behind the counter and read the Neopian Times.

      “This is the good life,” Tamara sighed happily. Her owner, Mackenzie, had deemed her old enough to handle the shop full-time now. They sold fruit, vegetables, honey, and the sort at their little shop, The Gold Rush. There were also some stools on the opposite side of the counter where Tamara would make milkshakes for those customers that liked to sit down for a while.

      The shop made good income, but at the same time was not overcrowded. This gave Tamara time to pursue hobbies, like right now, she was writing a comic for the Neopian Times. She pulled out a Chia Pop from the cooler where they kept the ice cream for milkshakes. They were her favorite treats. She didn’t make Neopoints from the shop (those all went to her owner to use for food and clothing. Tamara wanted to work in the shop because she was bored), so Mackenzie packed her a Chia Pop each day. Today’s flavor: Grape.

      Tamara excitedly ripped the plastic top off and sucked on the purple popsicle. She stopped. Something was very different. Not wrong; in fact it tasted better than any Chia Pop had before. Something was just... off. Tamara cautiously ate a little more of the treat. Then she thought, “Wow! They must’ve changed their recipe! This is amazing!” She ate the rest with relish.

      Another thought entered her head. “Say, Gregor loves Chia Pops almost as much as I do! I should catch up with him and tell him all about this. This is fantastic!”

      Tamara decided that if she ran fast enough, she might still be able to catch Gregor. Besides, he was going to his house, and he was her next-door neighbor. All she’d have to do was close the shop. And it was getting on towards lunch break, so nobody could complain about their hours.

      Tamara excitedly hopped from her stool as she finished the last of the amazing Chia Pop. But she’d forgotten that one of the barstool’s legs was broken and held up precariously by an old ice cream carton. This carton had been through a lot, and now it gave way, causing Tamara to go tumbling to the ground. It wouldn’t have been a big problem if their polished stone counter hadn’t been standing only a few feet away. Tamara bashed her head against this as she fell. She cried out and clutched her head, where a lump had already started to grow.

      “Ouch,” Tamara moaned. “That’s gonna hurt in the morning. I’ll have Mackenzie look at it when I get home. But it isn’t that serious. I’ll still try to catch up with Gregor.”

      She stood up, but soon saw that her injury was a little more serious than she thought. As soon as she was on her feet, the room began to sway and waver. Tamara stumbled dizzily around the shop. Luckily there weren’t too many display stands for her to knock over.

      “Ok, this might be a little more of a problem,” Tamara thought as the world grew out of proportion. She felt smaller and lightheaded. Something was definitely wrong.

      She saw, though, a glimmer of hope sitting on the counter. She didn’t want to tell Gregor about the Chia Pop now; her first priority was to get somebody to help her. She couldn’t walk home like this! But Tamara saw the blurred form of a baseball cap: Gregor’s baseball cap! Surely he’d notice the absence of his beloved cap and come back for it, right? Tamara sure hoped so.

      Sure enough, a few moments later, a green Skeith head appeared at the corner of the glass door.

      “Tamara?” he called, looking around the shop.

      “Yes, yes!” Tamara called frantically. Her voice seemed tiny and high-pitched. Her head still hurt, and everything around her look a hundred times its size, including Gregor. “Gregor! Over here!”

      “Tam? You here?” Gregor asked, coming into the shop and looking around. “I left my baseball cap. I just came back to get it. Tam?”

      Tamara was panicked. Couldn’t he see her? She was right before his very eyes!

      “Gregor!” Tamara shouted at the top of her lungs. “GREGOR! OVER HERE!”

      Gregor stopped in his tracks. “Tamara? Where are you?”

      Yes! He’d heard her! Tamara continued to shout. “Gregor, Gregor! I’m down here! Why can’t you see me?!”

      “What?” Gregor asked, confused. “Tamara, I can’t see any – Tamara? Is that you?”

      He was looking directly at her.

      “Yes! Yes! It’s me!” Tamara cried. “Help! I bashed my head on the counter and everything’s out of proportion! My head hurts really badly, and I need to get home so Mackenzie can help!”

      Gregor stared at her for a moment, and put his hand to his head. He picked her up and held her in the palm of his hand. He studied her. How in the name of the Health Frog could she fit in his hand?

      Gregor finally broke the silence that had set in as he processed these goings on. “My, you’ve changed since I last saw you.”

      “Very funny,” Tamara said sarcastically. “That lump on my head doesn’t make me look THAT different, does it?”

      “Well, kind of,” Gregor said. “And then there’s everything else...”

      “What do you mean everything else?” she cried, terror coming over her. “No, no, we can’t waste time! I need to get the Neohospital. There’s no time to go back to the house! I’m all dizzy and... and...” She found it hard to concentrate.

      “Uh, Tamara,” Gregor said nervously. “I don’t think this is something the Neohospital could diagnose.”

      “What do you mean?” she said.

      “Have you looked at yourself lately?”

      Tamara looked down fearfully. She gasped. She was round and purple, and her arms were extremely tiny!

      “Tamara,” Gregor told her. “You’re a grape!”

      “What?!” she cried. “How can this be happening? All I did was hurt my head!”

      Gregor looked at her suspiciously. “What were you doing before that?” he asked.

      “I was... I was...” Tamara clutched her head. “I don’t remember! Oh, no, wait... I remember a little... I was... trying to catch up with you! That’s it! I was jumping out of my seat so I could catch up to you to tell you something! That’s when I bashed my head.”

      Gregor looked no more at ease. “That’s a good start,” he said. “But what did you want to tell me about?”

      “I don’t remember...” She moaned, her head throbbing. She looked around. There was Gregor’s ball cap... the cash register... and – a Chia Pop wrapper? Yes! That was what she’d been doing!

      She hurriedly told Gregor about how she had discovered the best-tasting Chia Pop in history and had wanted to tell him about it. The Skeith’s eyes lit up.

      “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed. “I think I’ve solved our case!”

      He too soon spotted the wrapper on the floor. He picked it up and examined it. “Yep, this is just what happened!”

      “Wait, you’re going too fast,” Tamara said. “What happened?”

      He pointed to the end of the Chia Pop wrapper. A small, barely noticeable ‘M’ in gold ink was printed there.

      “M is for Magical,” Gregor explained. “You’ve eaten a Magical Grape Chia Pop, Tamara. If a Chia eats a Magical Chia Pop, they turn into whatever fruit the popsicle was flavored with!”

      “Oh great,” she groaned. “Mackenzie was never very good with details. So we’ve solved why I’m a grape now, but that doesn’t make me a regular Chia. So how do I turn back?”

      “It can only be cancelled out with another color,” Gregor said. “So... we need a paint brush. I know! We could see if you have any Starter Paint Brushes still!”

      “No,” she said, shaking her head sadly. “Mackenzie used one on Mick to turn him blue, and one on Jared to turn him red.”

      “Ok, well, maybe your owner can afford one still,” Gregor offered. “Let’s go see!”

      He hightailed it out of the shop and down the sidewalks. It was a five-minute run to Tamara’s house. Finally, they approached the front door. Gregor was not the fastest runner.

      “Here, I’ll ring your doorbell and...” Gregor was cut off mid-sentence.

      “No, I can handle this,” Tamara said confidently. She made Gregor put her down and then to his shock she pushed open the petpet-door and entered the house.

      “No! Tamara! You’ll just be squished!” Gregor cried.

      “It’ll be fine,” Tamara dismissed this absently.

      When Tamara had been a very small Chia, she had thought that their house was huge. Now generally, as with all Neopets, Tamara slowly got a little older and saw everything... normally. That magical feeling that everything was fifty feet tall wore off, and Tamara generally forgot all about it. But now it was back, and everything was bigger than before. It seemed like an eternity to where the wood of the entry hall stopped and the kitchen tiles began. But slowly, ducking behind anything she could find, Tamara made her way to the cold kitchen floor and the foot of the table.

     Tamara tried to climb up many different ways. At last after minutes of trying, she let out a grunt of effort and hoisted herself onto the flat wooden surface. In the middle of the table there was a bowl covered with plastic wrap.

      “Yes!” Tamara thought. “I’ll stand on here and when Mackenzie walks by, or Molly or Jared, I’ll start trying to get their attention.”

      But nobody walked by – not for a long time. Tamara sat and thought on the plastic wrap. Suddenly, she heard a thudding.

      Thud-thud... thud-thud... thud-thud...

      What was that? A giant! No – it was Mackenzie! “Finally!” Tamara cried. “Mackenzie! It’ll take a lot of explaining, but look down! Look at me! It’s Tamara!”

      Mackenzie paused. She looked around. “Huh,” she said. “Could’ve sworn I heard Tamara.”

      “You did! You did! MACKENZIE!” she shouted. “Look down! Here, I’m down here! I know it sounds crazy, Mackenzie, but you packed me a Magical Chia Pop! I’m a grape! Help!”

      Mackenzie’s expression changed, but not in a good way. “Funny, Mick, HILARIOUS! Now go back to doing your homework, ok?”

      Tamara cried in dismay. Mackenzie grumbled something about regretting buying him his ventriloquism book, and then came closer to the table. She thought she might see her and her hopes refreshed.

      Mackenzie’s eyes fell on Tamara at last. She felt relieved until she said to herself, “Oops! Here’s a stray grape. Good Queelas, even Jared could do a more thorough job then Mick!”

      She picked Tamara up and lifted the plastic wrap. She tossed her inside and then replaced the sheet of plastic. She landed with a thud and groaned as the pain in her head moved down to her back.

      “How could she not see me?” Tamara thought unbelievingly. “How could she – oh no...”

      Tamara surveyed her surroundings with growing horror. She had landed in a bowl full of fruit!

      And as if she had said ‘things couldn’t get any worse’ and not knocked on wood, two big hands clutched the bowl and lifted it up.

      “I’ve had better days,” huffed Tamara, crossing her arms. “Mistakenly fruit-ified and now I’m being taken to be eaten by my own owner. I really despise Mondays.”

To be continued...

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