Challenges in Life
Zo had his heart set on getting a new digital camera. His old, yet dearly loved camera had a broken screen. Not to mention the lens was jammed from accidently dropping it too many times. That little Virtupets camera had gone everywhere with him and photographed many wonderful things. The most special of these moments was his very first day of training camp. That was a long time ago.
Unfortunately it was time to retire this old camera in favor of a shiny new one. The one he wanted the most was a shiny obsidian black digital camera. Being a yooyuball player, he could easily get it. The only thing stopping him was the challenge his mother had made to him.
"Zo, my dear," she had said, "the nicest things in life are earned, and not simply gotten."
"But Mom!" Zo pouted, "I really, REALLY, want that camera!"
"I know you do, sweetie," she said with a devious grin, "and that is why I have a challenge for you."
Zo stared blankly at his mom for a moment. His mother was the practical type; she loved getting Zo to do the best he could through clever tricks. He usually learned a big lesson by the time his mom was done with her challenges.
"What kind of challenge?" Zo asked suspiciously.
"I want you to get a seasonal job," she stated. "It should only last three weeks."
Zo smirked and then laughed. That should be easy enough to do; Zo would have the camera in no time.
"There are only three rules," his clever mother said. "First rule; you have to keep the job to term."
"Go on, what's the next rule?" Zo said enthusiastically. He looked at his mother; he was totally on board with this challenge. It sounded like a lot of fun.
"Rules two and three," she said. "No quitting and no complaining."
Zo nodded. Those rules were easy enough to follow. Zo was a yooyuball player; he didn't know what quitting was. As for complaining, he would leave that to Elon of Team Maraqua.
"If you so much as do either, I won't cut a deal with you on getting the camera," his mother finished.
"Got it," Zo said as he looked through the help ads in the Neopian Times his mother had handed him.
* * *
He didn't have to look too far; Krell's uncle had an ad for apple pickers. He neomailed Krell and it turned out, Krell helped his uncle every year. The Halloween Kyrii was more than happy to bring a friend along. Zo's size was a little problem, however. The apple baskets were nearly as big as the Fire Korbat, so Krell's uncle taught Zo how to make apple cider and apple juice. This was a fair trade-off; Zo had always wondered how his favourite apple drinks were made. Now he finally had answers. This was to be his job all season long.
Zo quickly found out that he had the easy job, even if it was tiring. It didn't matter how big Krell was, carrying basket after basket of apples was hard. Apples were not light when massed together. It was hard pulling a cart full of apples too.
"It's kinda fun learning how apple juice is made," Zo said to Krell at lunch one afternoon.
"You could have asked, Zo. I'd have told you." Krell laughed like it was no big secret. Krell had been helping his uncle since he was a little kid. To him it wasn't any form of a secret. Lunch breaks were their favourite time of the work day; they'd talk about yooyuball mostly. They also talked about when the next movie night was, and what the others were up to.
"Brains said he'd have liked a seasonal job," Krell said. "But he was too busy to make it to this one."
"Brains is probably getting ready for the holidays," Zo said.
"Yeah, there's that. But mostly he's running errands. A friend of his has a bad cold. Brains is helping him out," Krell said in between bites of his sandwich.
Lunch was going to end soon, so Zo decided to talk less and finish his own sandwich. A week had passed already; it was hard to believe. His mother had told him how proud she was of him, this morning. This filled Zo with his own sense of pride. He was going to keep at it and do the best he could.
* * *
Zo was getting tired of washing apples and then putting them in the juice making machine. It was tiring after a while. It was a lot of walking back and forth. First he walked over to the baskets, only to grab as many apples as he could, then he washed them, and then he tossed them into the juice machine. All he had to do was drop the apples in and let the machine do the rest. It was so easy, it was kind of boring.
It had already been two and a half weeks and Zo was feeling good about himself. He may be tired by the end of the day, but he would not complain nor would he quit. That camera was going to be his. Today would be no different; he would work hard and feel proud of himself for having a job. He was about to take his usual spot at the juice making machine, when Krell's uncle, a very tall shadow Lupe, approached him.
"Hey, kiddo, today you'll be helpin' Krell," Krell's uncle said.
"Sure, sir," Zo said enthusiastically.
Zo looked up at the giant Lupe with a determined grin, as the Lupe gave Zo a tiny little basket. Brains would have said it was 'Zo sized', because the basket came nearly to the little Korbat's ribs. Zo could probably fit inside of it as well.
"Yup, Krell twisted his ankle. So he needs help today." Krell's uncle led Zo out into the orchard; Krell was waiting there with one of the other helpers. a burly looking Electric Uni named Ivan. Krell had a crutch and was limping. He must have fallen out of a tree and landed wrong. How lucky he was to not have broken a bone.
"Are you okay?" Zo asked his captain.
"I'll live. It's only a twist, nothing new," Krell said. He was in a good mood, despite his ankle.
"Well, let's get at this," Ivan said, as he grabbed for the crossbar of the apple cart and began to pull it.
Zo looked at the cart. It must weigh as much as Turmaculus by the end of the day. It was no wonder why Krell was never out of shape; his family members were energetic people. The three of them walked for a good half hour, deep into the apple orchard. There was a pulley system set up in a tree. Zo guessed it was the tree they would start with.
"Zo, you're up in the tree today," Ivan said, looking at the little guy.
"Ok, looks like fun," Zo said, as he started to climb up the tree.
A few minutes later, the pulley system of ropes delivered an empty bucket to the waiting Zo. He started filling the bucket carefully; he didn't want to bruise any of the apples. When the bucket was full, he sent it back down. Krell received the basket and handed it off to Ivan, who carefully put the basket into the cart. This was going to be a long day, but Zo would not complain. He had promised his mother he wouldn't. He always tried to make good on promises.
* * *
It took them the rest of the day to clear five trees of apples. It had taken all three of them to haul the cart back to the house, which took a while because of Krell's ankle. Zo, Krell and Ivan were all exhausted. Zo was so tired that he called his mom and asked to stay at Krell's for the night. He lived closer to the orchard anyway. This meant Zo wouldn't have to wake up super early. At Krell's house that night, they were chatting and enjoying a monster movie over popcorn and hot apple cider. Krell was sitting in his favourite chair with his ankle on a soft pillow, and Zo was sitting on the couch flipping through the recent Virtupets catalog.
"What camera model are you after, anyway?" Krell asked between mouthfuls of popcorn.
Zo looked through the catalog until he found the page. He leaned over the edge of the couch to Krell's chair with the catalog. "This one here; it's going to replace my old broken one."
Zo pointed to the camera on the page. Krell had to admit it was a nice camera. Come to think of it, his was getting old too, and that cobalt blue one looked quite fetching.
"I like the blue one," Krell said. "I think it's time my old film camera got the boot."
"About time," Zo laughed. "That camera is older than you are."
They continued to joke about how old Krell's film camera was. They didn't even notice the movie had ended. They both were ready for bed. It was going to be another long day tomorrow, doing the exact same thing. Krell and Zo slept in the living room; Krell didn't feel like trying to climb the stairs with a twisted ankle. So they both started a story. They took turns telling it, until they both fell asleep.
* * *
"Careful, Zo, we don't need you falling," Ivan said as he sent the basket up.
Zo had slipped on a wet branch. They had a small drizzle of rain. It had come and gone quick, but everything was soaked now.
"I'll be fine. Thanks," Zo said, grabbing for the basket; it was officially their last day of work. Zo was kind of sad; he had enjoyed his time working with Krell and Ivan. Apple picking was hard work to be sure, but with friends around, it was so much fun.
"Hard to believe it's already been three weeks," Krell mumbled. He was looking very happy.
"There isn't much to do until next year," Ivan said, "not unless you want to help blueberry pick, Zo."
Now that was an offer he would not turn down. His mother was proud of him for getting and holding a seasonal job; how proud would she be if he did it again? He was excited at the idea. He could save up for some new item now if he wanted. Instead, though, he thought it best to save up for holiday gifts for everyone. Now that would be awesome.
"Sure, I'll help!" Zo said with excitement, nearly falling from the tree again.
"Well, it starts next week."
"It'll be great. Wan helps out too," Krell said with a grin, exposing all his teeth.
This couldn't get any better, a future job blueberry picking with Krell, Wan and his new friend Ivan. The idea made Zo very happy. He didn't even realize how fast the day went by. He was too focused on picking apples. He was too busy thinking of the camera, and dreaming of the future. The little Korbat's mind was running in circles of happy thoughts all day. When the end of the day came, it finally struck Zo; not only had he worked three successful weeks, he could now get his camera. He couldn't wait. First thing he would do tomorrow would be to head to the store. Right now, though, he just wanted to go home and sleep. Apple picking was fun, but it wasn't easy. It was very tiring work.
* * *
"Zo, I'm so proud of you!" His mother beamed as she placed some warm pancakes on the table. Pancakes were a victory breakfast as far as Zo was concerned, especially if they were covered in blueberry syrup.
"I can't wait to get my camera today," Zo squeaked with delight. "Krell is coming as well. He wants a new camera too."
"It looks like the shutterbug is spreading," Zo's mother said playfully. "Everyone seems to own a camera in today's world."
Zo happily munched on his pancakes, thinking of the wonderful new camera just waiting for him. His dream of owning it would soon be a reality. It was hard to believe that only a month ago, he had taken up the challenge. He had gotten a job and successfully kept it. It was also hard to believe how fast time flew by.
"I promised to cut you a deal," Zo's mother reminded him.
"Oh, yeah!" Zo said. He nearly choked on some pancake.
"Well, since you were a good little worker," his mother said, "I'll pay for half of the camera's cost."
Zo swallowed his food and looked at his mom; his eyes were as big as Kreludor. The little Korbat's face lit up with delight. "Really, you mean it?"
His mother nodded and smiled Zo jumped up from the table and hugged his mom, repeatedly saying thank you, until told to stop. He happily ran upstairs to get dressed. Krell would be over in a few minutes, Zo was eager to get going. Zo raced back downstairs, which is when he decided to tell his mother about his next seasonal job. He was going to be a blueberry picker. She was so proud of him. She gave him a hug and told him they would have his favourite dinner that night.
Now Zo could look forward to his camera, as well as having tacos for dinner. Today was going to be the best day ever. His mom was right in the end; things are so much sweeter when they are earned, and not simply gotten.