Of Speeches, Royal Acaras, and Notecards
"Don't I know you?"
The Quiggle squinted and turned his head sideways in an attempt to remember who it was that was standing in front of his shy, wearing a fancy purple dress and a princess hat--didn't she know this was the Haunted Woods? No one wore purple in the woods. Purple was for Faerieland--or Meridell and Brightvale, to say the least. What was this Acara thinking?
"Yes, you do," was her reply, crisp and to the point.
Leeroy blinked rapidly, hoping that this would restore his memory. It didn't.
"Weren't you that one customer who threatened to take this case to the Defenders of Neopia? The one who insisted my game was... heh, rigged?" he finally asked. The Acara put her face in her palm, a sign that she was exceedingly exasperated with the Quiggle.
"No, I'm Winter, remember me?" she demanded sarcastically.
Leeroy still didn't recognize her.
"Who were you again?"
"Remember? I took you to the lodge when you went to Terror Mountain for a ski trip! You challenged me to a race?"
Finally, the look of recognition crossed his face and Leeroy said, "Oh, that Winter! What happened to your... snowiness?"
Winter shrugged and said, "Oh, I got a new paint job. I'm now a Royal Acara."
The Quiggle rolled his eyes and said, "Yeah, I sort of gathered from your--" he snickered "--dress."
"I can see that you haven't changed a bit," Winter said, a hint of distaste creeping into her voice. "Still as strange and... out of shape, shall we say, as you were when you came to Terror Mountain."
"So what brings you here?" Leeroy finally asked.
"Remember the Ski Lodge you stayed at? Well, we've decided to invite you as a guest speaker. You'll write a speech about your skiing experiences, and this will gather better publicity for the lodge," Winter explained.
Suspiciously, Leeroy asked, "Did something happen between my vacation and now that caused the ski lodge's reputation to go down the drain?"
"Nah, we just felt like getting a guest speaker. We'll even pay you," Winter offhandedly said.
"Well, why not?" Leeroy said. Over his shoulder, he yelled, "Hey Sidney, watch over my stand for a few days! And this time, make sure that it doesn't get destroyed!"
"Leeroy, it's nice to see you again!"
"It's nice to see you too, Gen," Leeroy said, waving to the Cybunny ski instructor as she came inside, knocking snow everywhere and causing the cleanup crew to sigh.
"So how's life?"
"It's all good, I guess. Business is going as planned, although I did have a particularly rough patch where this one customer threatened to tell the Defenders of Neopia that my Coconut Shy was rigged. Rigged, of all things, can you believe it?" he answered.
"Actually, I can imagine it easily," Gen noted wryly. "I've read everywhere that you nailed the coconuts to the post."
Leeroy gaped in awe at the Cybunny, who was smiling lightly.
"I read magazines, you know. I have subscriptions to everything from Neopia magazine to Skier’s World to The Tabloids. I have a huge collection."
"That she does," Winter piped up. "I've seen it."
"Either way, are you going to be speaking at the lodge?" Gen inquired. "If so, you should know that it's in the large ballroom, just down the hall. You can't miss it. There's a sign that actually says, "Large Ballroom," only some of the letters may have fallen off."
"Yes, I am. Do I like, really need a whole speech?" Leeroy asked, hoping that he wouldn't need a script when he was onstage. It was impossible to remember where he was. Onstage, the words turned into little squiggles that inched across the page like Slorgs, rendering them impossible to read.
"It would be... beneficial, to say the least," Gen said.
After begging for a scrap of paper, Leeroy finally sat down to write his speech:
Hello, fellow skiers!
No, it didn't sound right. He didn't ski anymore. He crossed it out.
I hope you're having a nice time skiing here
Still didn't sound right. To tell the truth, he could care less about how nice their trip was.
I was forced into giving this speech by one very scary Acara who was going to beat me up if I didn't, which is why I'm here
Well, it was the truth, wasn't it? It was kind of pushing it; Winter would have decimated him if he didn't agree to the speech, but it wasn't as though she actually used force, necessarily...
Speech writing was difficult, he had to conclude. After a few hours, there was still only half a page--at least eighty percent of which had been crossed out. His actual word count was riding at around thirty, at the moment. So far, he had, "I was forced into giving this speech by one very scary Acara who was going to beat me up if I didn't, which is why I'm here. I hope you have--"
Have what? A nice time? A safe trip? He didn't care what was happening to the guests, anyways, but he had to give a passable imitation of being empathetic to the plight of the skiers.
The clock ticked away. Before he knew it, he was out of ink. The sky was growing light again, and he hadn't gotten a single wink of sleep. Yawning, Leeroy decided to take a quick nap--he'd finish the speech later.
"Are you done?"
The voice coming from the doorway shattered his dream world, as Leeroy looked around to see Winter.
"I have a bit," the Quiggle said hesitantly--it wasn't a lie; he had a few words.
"I hope you can get it done by tomorrow night," Winter continued. "If not, you'll be making it along as you go."
To tell the truth, ad-libbing didn't sound like a bad idea.
"If you're going to consider actually making up your speech as you go, you might want to bring a notecard, just so you won't completely mess up..."
"Thanks. I'm going to take a short nap now. I'm exhausted!" Leeroy proclaimed, falling asleep the second he got to "exhausted".
"So he's winging it?"
Gen took her seat next to Winter, in her arms carrying a bowl of popcorn. The Cybunny crammed a handful of popcorn in her mouth as the Acara replied, "Pretty much. I mean, it was going to fail anyways, so who cares?"
"True that," said Gen.
When Leeroy came out, he wore a suit--or something that vaguely resembled a suit, giving off the faint scent of garlic that made the audience wrinkle their noses--and cleared his throat. The Quiggle looked around nervously as the crowd stared back.
"Um... Let's see..."
He fumbled with the notecards he carried; no one had told him to put all his points on one card, rather than having a separate card for each point, and as a result, tiny little notecards floated down and landed haphazardly on the stage.
"I was forced into giving this speech by," Leeroy squinted as he tried to read his abysmal handwriting, "a... Faerie berry Acara who was showing to treat..."
More scraps of paper fell on the stage, as the audience started laughing at the clumsy Quiggle who was failing at his speech. Leeroy finally tossed all his notes aside.
The result of his speech was enough for even Gen to faint.
"What is wrong with you?" demanded Winter, stomping around the ski lodge lobby and waving her arms around; she looked like some sort of crazed maniac, thought Leeroy, who had learned to keep his thoughts to himself.
"My speech was completely unreadable!" he protested.
The Acara narrowed her eyes. "And whose fault is that?"
She did have a point. Glancing at the Cybunny, Leeroy saw that Gen was nodding in agreement.
"At least this will bring... publicity..." ventured the Quiggle. His voice faded the second he hit the word "publicity".
"Yeah, I can almost see the headlines. 'COCONUT SHY QUIGGLE GIVES FAILED SPEECH AT SKI LODGE, ONE INJURED,'" said Winter sarcastically.
"Who's the one injured?" Leeroy asked, genuinely confused.
"ME," yelled Winter. "You've completely destroyed my future!"
"Aren't we being a bit... dramatic?" inquired the Quiggle, almost hesitantly.
Winter pointed to the door and gritted her teeth.
He could have said that he was sorry for making Winter go through trauma like this, but that would have been a lie. As Leeroy stumbled through the snow, he felt a vague feeling of... triumph, maybe...? that was oddly satisfying. Looking back, he saw that Gen was watching his departure with an amused smile.
"At least you didn't destroy my stand this time," noted Leeroy sardonically, upon his return to the Fairgrounds.
"I'm glad you sssee that I can be trusssted..." hissed Sidney, striding back to his scratchcard kiosk. "By the way..." He looked back. "You haven't ssseen the papersss, have you?"
"No, I haven't," replied the Quiggle, slightly suspicious now. Sidney was annoying at times, but he wasn't stupid--or, as he would say it, sssstupid--and he knew what he was talking about.
"Well, have one of these."
He tossed Leeroy a crumpled and ripped newspaper that was wet in a few edges, and on the first page of the gossip section, giant words proclaimed, "COCONUT SHY QUIGGLE GIVES FAILED SPEECH AT SKI LODGE."
What surprised Leeroy was the smaller text, right beneath the headline.