Essirn, a Hot Dog Hero
This was it- the end of the world.
There were no longer any hot dogs available at Hubert's Hot Dog Stand. The kindly purple Mynci was standing quietly, slumped over his empty cart, digging through the bottles of mustard and mayo, buns and pickles for any sign of a hot dog, but finding none.
* - * - *
Essirn was so, so very hungry. The generally shy Shoyru sat beneath the Money Tree, waiting like always for something to eat, but she was always too slow to nab what she wanted. Her owner was an avid avatar collector and was always saving up for some avatar item or another, Icy Snowflakes, a Firepaw trading card, and the likes, all of which were quite expensive.
At home, a simple meal of Bag of Peas or Breadfish was considered acceptable while anything as costly as a ten Neopoint Sausage and Pepperoni Omelette was considered a treat for Christmas or New Year's occasions. In truth, Essirn had never tasted food that could not be bought at a “reasonable” price, the equivalent of a food that had a cost above twenty-five Neopoints. Despite this, she was fairly content.
Every visit to the Money Tree meant having to walk or fly past a popular Neopia attraction- Hubert's Hot Dog stand. The hot dogs Hubert made were simply mouthwatering. The delicious fumes would ride off of the open cart, warm, fresh and inviting to any passerby, practically screaming, “Oh! Pick me! Come buy me, eat me, savor me, devour me!” and their effect on Essirn was no exception.
As you might have guessed, Essirn had never had any extra Neopoints to spend on a luxury. All of the accumulated Neopoints earned from games, Tombola, the Wheels, Stock market, Shop, etc were put into the bank, save for a few dozen for food and other necessities. And so, obviously she didn't have any money to spend on a hot dog.
Each moment under the influence of the hot dogs, Essirn would feel her stomach lurch and she would feel hunger beating on her like a drum, but she would continue on her way and push her walking speed (or flying speed) higher until she was well clear of the intoxicating smells. The walk back would be slightly better if she had been able to acquire something at the Money Tree that she could bury her face in.
One day Essirn was following the ever-familiar path to the Money Tree, her breakfast already seeming like hours ago. She tried to hold her breath like she usually did when in the range of the hot dog cart, but today she couldn't help but inhale a surprised gasp at the sigh of such a small crowd of Neopians crowding the cart. Essirn stopped in the middle of the road and after a quick decision she veered off of the path to a place a little ways away to eavesdrop.
Hubert, the Mynci was wearing a flustered expression as each Neopian would approach and ask him something. His response each time would be a devastated flash of emotion, a small shake of his head, and a raising of his hands, as if to show he didn't have anything.
Essirn looked on, perplexed as yet another Neopian trudged off, hands and belly empty. The Shoyru went closer and pushed herself between a departing couple of Poogles to approach Hubert, “Mister Hubert?” she called out timidly, “What's the matter?”
The Mynci sighed, having already answer the question what seemed like too many times, “I'm sorry, my dear, but I have no hot dogs to sell to you. My hot dogs seem to have reached such a fame that evils would feel the temptation to steal, and thus I no longer have anything left but bottles of ketchup and mustard and some pickles.” Hubert watched as any newcomers gasped at the news and left, whispering to anyone who would listen, “Hubert's hot dogs are gone!”
Hubert sighed dejectedly and began picking up some bottles of mayo that had fallen out of the cart. There was no longer any crowd or soul around the cart, save for Hubert and Essirn. The Mynci stopped for a moment, realizing that he was not alone and straightened up, his arms around the mayonnaise. “Really, I have nothing left. I wasn't trying to ruin everyone's day, you know. It wasn't just some story I made up for my own entertainment, honest.” He smiled grimly, “Go on, shoo. Standing around won't make things better, even though I do wish...”
“Excuse me sir, but didn't you say that the hot dogs were stolen?”
“Yes, I did. Before I could give any of my customers any hot dog, someone would come and steal it. See now, a customer will fill out a form, like this one-” he pointed to a slip of paper, “putting in requests, like how much ketchup they want, pickles or no pickles, etc. and they'll give it to me, with their name on it, of course. Then I'll add their toppings and put them on a plate or some foil and put the hot dog on top of the order form and call their name. Today I started out like usual, but when I was about to put the hot dog on the order form, the hot dog would disappear!”
“I see.” Essirn worked to keep her tone polite. “I know how I can help.” Essirn turned to stare right at Hubert, her eyes wide.
Essirn leaned to Hubert's ear and whispered something rapidly. Hubert nodded slightly. “That might work.” He looked at Essirn sternly. “But you must be careful, understand? My customers like their hot dogs just so, and I have a limited supply of mustard, ketchup, and mayo, not to mention pickles.”
Essirn nodded. “I know.”
Hubert left and returned a half-hour later, arms laden with bags of ingredients. Every time he would make a plain hot dog, Essirn would lead it to the order slip, creating platforms of ketchup or mayonnaise, depending what the customer wanted. At first, it was hard to get someone to fill out an order form, seeing as the rumor of no hot dogs had spread quickly, but in the end there was one blue Kau who came by who had heard nothing of the rumor and filled out a form at once.
Any time Essirn saw someone try to steal a hot dog, she would chuck a pickle at them, smiling once they scurried off. When Essirn used up all of the pickles or ketchup before she reached the order form, Hubert would make her start over with a fresh bottle of sauce. Sometimes she would find some extra mustard or mayo along the way and refill her bottle, but more often than not she would run out.
By the time Hubert was hinting heavily on closing the stand for the day, there were over a dozen Neopians near the cart, chomping on a delicious hot dot. Rubbing her hands on a towel, she smiled at the Neopians, feeling successful. Essirn turned away to creep off without anyone knowing, but she was too slow. A furry hand caught her shoulder and spun her around so that she was face-to-face with a smiling Hubert.
“Thank you- so much,” he said, holding out a foil-wrapped object that was giving off steam.
Essirn took the object and slowly unwrapped it, her eyes widening as the smell hit her nose. Inside was a Hubert hot dog, special made with her name written with ketchup.
Wordless, breathless, she took a tentative bite and swooned with delight at the taste. She looked at the happy Neopians eating their own hot dogs and Essirn couldn't help but smile, enchanted. She was a Hot Dog Hero.