I am NOT a Jetsam!
"Swim away, children, swim away!" cried a terrified Koi mother, her fins desperately swatting at her little babies. "Don't let the Jetsam eat you!"
"I am NOT a Jetsam!" wailed a young Maraquan Grarrl named Grumpy, desperately flailing in the icy water. But it was too late. His inexperienced swimming proved to be extremely unhelpful when attempting to chase after a gaggle of the neopets native to Maraqua.
Slowing to a weak flutter of his tail fin, Grumpy let out a sad, resigned sigh. 'Oh, pooh! Why did DV have to use that Fountain Faerie Quest to turn me Maraquan?'
Grumpy used to be a happy, Blue Grarrl. He enjoyed playing with his brothers in their Darigan Citadel-based home. He loved the abundance of food and books that he could enjoy on land. But most of all, he adored the fact that he had opposable thumbs.
Then DV had to go and turn him Maraquan. Bye bye, opposable thumbs; hello, useless flippers.
Ever since he was relocated to Maraqua with a cousin, until DV could find a reasonable home for him in Darigan Citadel, Grumpy had had problems with the living conditions. First of all, he couldn't get used to the weird way sea-dwellers breathed (from lungs to gills is not an easy transition), not to mention the atrocious food that was offered. On his very first day in Maraqua, he was served a plate of Dried Seaweed Strips as an appetizer, a Fresh Seaweed Pie for the main course, and, worst of all, a Koi Seaweed Sundae for dessert.
"Eat some, laddy!" his hefty aunt, Darla the Maraquan Draik, had bellowed in a low voice, heavy with a Krawk Island accent (apparently, Aunt Darla originated from the neighboring island, before being painted Maraquan). "It's good for yer operculum!" (At first, Grumpy thought 'operculum' meant a carpet cleaner, but it turned out that it was a protective layer over his gills.)
One bite of the Dried Seaweed was all it took before Grumpy had to heave out the other contents of his cavernous stomach. (The rumor that Grarrls eat, and love to eat, everything is completely fictional, by the way.) He was determined not to have a repeat of that traumatizing experience, so decided to stick with eating shrimp for the remainder of his visit. Unfortunately for Grumpy, all texts were written on seaweed as well.
"Hey, you!" a voice called, jerking Grumpy out of his melancholy.
Startled, he glanced up from the Eelika he'd been staring at for the past few minutes. A blue Jetsam swaggered over to Grumpy with a sly grin on his face, baring a row of huge, shiny teeth.
"Say, what's your name?" came his snaky voice, slithering around and choking Grumpy.
Grumpy swallowed nervously, and meekly replied, "Grumpy."
The smile dropped from the Jetsam's face. "What kind of Jetsam name is THAT? Mine is Tidalfin," he responded arrogantly, "a TRUE Jetsam name."
With an exaggerated shout, Grumpy cried, "I am NOT a Jetsam!"
Tidalfin snorted. "You can't fool me," he sneered, circling Grumpy predatorily. "Fins, gills, huge teeth..."
Grumpy was in disbelief. What kind of Jetsam didn't recognize his own kind? "No! I'm a Maraquan Grarrl! See, my build is slightly larger than yours, and-"
Tidalfin waved him off, shaking his inflated head haughtily. "Whatever. I won't associate myself with losers like you."
And with that, he turned on his tailfin and departed, the water rippling with every stroke of his dorsal fins.
Well, that was definitely strange.
Grumpy just shrugged, and resumed pawing around in the sand bed. Aunt Darla would surely be upset with him if he wasn't home soon, but there was nothing to do at home. Might as well try to find means of entertainment outside.
"C'mon, pass the clam!"
Rambunctious shouting resounded from a few blocks away, and Grumpy strained his ears to listen to the hurried chatter. Maybe the owners of the voices could provide some entertainment.
With much difficulty, Grumpy dragged his tail fin towards the sound, and after a long, painful trip, he arrived at a large court.
Maraquans of all species were hurtling through the water with urgency at a flailing clam. The poor, purple creature was desperately clamping at any fins that tried to smack it, but, with a yelp, it was projected through the water by a large Maraquan Gelert.
"Alright!" the Gelert yelled, smacking fins with her teammates. "6-2, fishbait!" She taunted the other team unceasingly, which caused their gills to blush pink slightly, as they tried their best to ignore her.
"Aww, cut it out, Aquiase!" protested a slightly larger Maraquan Blumaroo, fluttering his tiny dorsal fins, flustered. Turning suddenly to Grumpy, he widened his eyes. "Hey, stranger, wanna play Clam Smack with us?"
Grumpy was flattered at the invitation, but Aquiase groaned. "Merlock, don't you think 10 players on each team is MORE than enough?"
"Oh," Grumpy said, a little disappointed. It had sounded fun; or, at least, more fun than sitting around in a kelp house for the rest of his trip. "It's okay, I'll just-"
"No!" Merlock quickly interrupted. "We need all the help we can get. Not all of us have parents who are professional smackers," he retorted, the last comment seemingly specifically shot at Aquiase.
She just rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
Merlock smirked at her, and turned to Grumpy. "You know the rules, right?"
"Good!" Merlock interrupted yet again. He seemed pretty bossy. "We serve this time, so how about you go?" Without waiting for a response, he shoved the struggling clam towards Grumpy.
Blinking rapidly, Grumpy accepted the clam with some contempt. He shoved it across the court with his tail fin, trying to ignore the little nips it was giving him.
"Okay," Grumpy said slowly, taking a slow, shallow breath. "Here goes nothing." Grumpy slowly raised his tail fin, and hit the clam with all of his strength.
"SMACK!" The clam propelled through the air like a bullet, and-
"OWWW!!!" came a sudden scream.
Grumpy whirled around. A Maraquan JubJub had the clam clamped around his right eye, and was stumbling around blindly, knocking into an Acara holding a bag of Seaweed Snacks in her fin. The little cubes of seaweed flew through the air, raining down on every Neopet on the field.
"AHH! SEAWEED IS IN MY HAIR! AND I JUST GOT A PERM!"
"GAH! I'M ALLERGIC TO SEAWEED!"
"Oh, great," Grumpy mumbled, watching all of the Neopets swim away.
"STUPID JETSAM!" was the last thing Aquiase said to him before she streaked across the court, and disappeared.
Grumpy sighed loudly. What was wrong with the natives in this place? Could they not distinguish the different aquatic creatures of Neopia?
Resigned, he propelled himself forward with repeated kicks of his tail fins. "Swoosh... swoosh... swoosh..."
Within two minutes of continuous kicking, Grumpy was tired, hungry, and bored. He came to a stop at a rock, and leaned down on it, tired from the extraneous exercise.
Grumpy gave a startled cry, whipping off the rock, before staring down at it with contempt.
Huh. It wasn't a rock. It was a Frowny.
It stared at Grumpy with such baleful eyes that he couldn't help forgetting all about his sorrows and focusing on the tiny, round petpet floating lazily in front of him. Grumpy struggled to paddle towards the gloomy Frowny, but succeeded after a while, and quietly murmured, "What's your name, little guy?"
The Frowny stared at him for a second, then bleated, "MERP!"
Grumpy frowned, but recognition soon dawned on him. "Ohh, you don't have a name!" he realized. "Hmm... I think I'll call you... Merp!"
A rare smile graced Grumpy's face. He was amazed at how the sad, little petpet brightened his day so.
"Hmm..." Grumpy said, contemplating, before butting Merp with his snout, yelling, "Tag! You're it!"
Merp bobbed up and down in the water momentarily, before ramming into Grumpy's side, letting out a faint "MERP!"
Grumpy giggled happily, before nuzzling Merp again. "Tag!"
Maybe staying in Maraqua wouldn't be so bad after all.