Hubert impatiently tapped on the glass food covering in the Food Shop. The Chia owner was hurriedly moving around boxes in the back room, yelling back to him shrilly.
"I have some here... just let me find them! Don't go, they'll be in here somewhere." The Chia kicked aside a box, which toppled over and spewed carrots all across the floor. "Oh, dear."
Finally, the Chia let out a happy 'aha' and grabbed a small parcel from a box. He triumphantly stepped over the fallen produce and walked back to the counter.
"One hotdog," he said breathlessly, placing it onto the counter and mopping his forehead with his sleeve, "still in the plastic package!"
Hubert stared at the wrappings. It was only one hotdog, frozen and snapped, tightly woven in cheap plastic. And it cost 1,670 NP.
"You've got to be kidding me," he muttered, putting his head in his hands.
"Need any condiments for it?" The Chia swung his hand over to a shelf where dusty bottles of expired ketchup, mustard and relish sat. "Or cheese?"
"No," Hubert said shortly, dreading what the cheese might look like, "I don't want that. I don't even want this hotdog!"
"Why?" The Chia frowned. "I thought you wanted it."
"It's way overpriced," Hubert scowled, "and it's only one hotdog."
"I can get more!" The Chia started to head back into the storage room. Hubert quickly headed out of the door, trying to be quiet so that the Chia wouldn't notice.
Down the street he hurried, to his small Neohome on a large corner lot. Gardens full of garlic, pepper, and other fruitful plants surrounded the small home, cut only by a small winding path that was overgrown with roots. Hubert unlocked the front gate and wandered towards his door. Seemed like it was going to be leftovers again for dinner that night.
Up into his house he plodded, towards the small kitchen that was quite empty. He set his thin wallet onto the counter, and opened up the fridge, almost-empty bottles rattling as he did so.
A few plates of jelly met his eyes, some half eaten, others complete yet dry. A three pound jar of unopened pickled olives was hidden in the corner, with numerous teeth marks on it from when Hubert had vainly tried to pop open the lid. A sad looking apple wilted in a pocket on the door, which Hubert then decided was going to be his best option to eat.
Honestly, he thought to himself as he sat down at a small table, why are bad quality things so expensive nowadays?
He bit into the apple and stared out the window. If I ran a food store, I would make everything properly and not charge too much for it.
Suddenly, he stopped chewing. No, he thought quickly, I won't start up a food shop. That's an absurd idea.
Yet Hubert slowly got up and headed to the door. He didn't stop until he was at the door of the National Neopian Bank, knocking sharply.
A small pink Uni opened the door and stared at him with large blue eyes.
"Hello," he said to her.
"Um," she frowned, "hi. Do... do you have an appointment?"
"No, I just came to check my balance." Hubert fiddled with a button on his shirt. She gave him a quick nod and opened the door.
"Is your bank card here or did you bring it?" She walked over to a desk and looked over it to him.
"Here," Hubert murmured, gazing up at a rather large chandelier that rattled whenever the National Neopian Bank owner, an enormous green Skeith, walked.
"Name?" The pink Uni opened up a drawer with a shiny cotton-candy coloured hoof.
"Full name." The pink Uni gave him an impatient look.
"Oh, right!" Hubert gave a small laugh that was silenced from a look of the Uni. "Oh, um, Hubert Harsenell."
"Here." The Uni lifted up a thin plastic card and handed it to Hubert. Without another word, she galloped back to the door.
Hubert turned to a big bank machine and slid in the card. He tapped in his pin and waited for the screen to load. Soon, it read:
Would you like to perform another action?
Hubert went silent for a minute. That was a lot of Neopoints. Slowly, he raised a shaking finger and withdrew every last Neopoint. The coins came out of a massive chute, instantly bagged by a robot, and then dropped at his feet. The sound of the clinking Neopoints echoed around the room.
The next step was to find a Neopian Times vendor.
Hubert, dragging the sack of Neopoints behind him, stumbled out onto the street and went looking for a newsstand.
It didn't take him long. Soon, a small Techo came into earshot, waving around a newspaper and shouting out incoherent words. Hubert stopped at the stand.
"I'd like to buy a paper." Hubert tossed a few Neopoints onto the table, and the Techo chucked him a paper without even stopping his yelling.
Immediately after, Hubert found a bench and sat down. He opened his paper quickly, flipping directly to the 'For rent/sale' pages of the Neopian Times.
The first page was mostly houses. The second was mostly small apartments, with the bottom half of the page taken up with an advertisement for the Neolodge. Finally, he found the place where commercial buildings were up for sale.
The first ad was for an acre lot on Terror Mountain ('Lovely curb appeal. Only drawback is the frequent yeti sightings around the area.') The next was for a remote island in the middle of the sea that had once been burned by lava and had never had any growth since ('Think of it this way – you'll save a bunch on not having to clear the area!')
Page after page after page of places. Some big, some small, some cheap, some expensive. None seemed right for Hubert.
Then, on the eighth and final page, hidden below an advert for Chestnut Shampoo, lay a small lot for sale. Cleared, well-kept, in the heart of Neopia central, with the starts of a building on it. And it was only 10,500 NP.
Hubert quickly found the username of the seller, and headed home.
Hubert's quivering hand dropped the thin yellow envelope into the Neomail slot. He was about to mail the owner of the for sale property.
It didn't take long for a Neomail reply to pop up.
Dear Hubert, it read, it is pleasing to know that you are interested in our land. This is Diw speaking. Please reply as soon as possible for us to discuss prices.
Hubert quickly found another piece of paper and scratched onto it; it all depends. What are you really hoping for?
Reply; the full price would be nice. What are you buying the land for, may I ask?
Hubert; I'm opening up a business.
There was a long pause in the Neomails, which caused Hubert to become nervous. But a sudden yellow envelope appeared, and he tore it open:
In this economy?
This hit Hubert hard. It was true; the market wasn't the best. But he still replied with a; yes. In this economy.
He smiled to himself when he received the answer; alright. When would you like to sign the papers?
The next week, the documents had all been marked. The lot was his.
After making a few Neomails, Hubert hurried over to his purchase. The half-done building was going to be completed by next week by some hired help, and a shipment of hotdogs and supplies were heading over that instant.
Everything was falling into place.
The months that followed were hectic. The building was in much worse condition than expected, and it had to be completely torn down. The food shipment was half rotten by the time it arrived, which pushed Hubert's starting date far away. And then, to top it all off, nobody arrived for the grand opening. Hubert felt crushed.
But then, after a while, people started to trickle into his shop. First, just a few a day. Some random customers who wanted to check out the new store, or maybe a few kids who wanted a hotdog. But after a while, more and more people started to stop by, commenting on the variety of flavors, the low prices, and even the great atmosphere.
Eventually, Hubert's Hotdogs became one of the greatest places to get a bite to eat. And, in Hubert's and his customer's opinions, it still is.