The Mystery of the Cocoa Ukulele
Phyllis looked at her father as he concentrated; hunched over the desk, wood shavings spilling from the top like foam from a can of Neocola. He was slowly working on creating the most perfect ukulele ever for the Musician's Guild. Phyllis thought it was a shame, really. This beautiful instrument, its fate was already sealed, literally. It would never be played. It would spend its days lonely, locked away in a case in a dim room where Neopians might ogle with their large eyes, or press their furry paws up to the glass. Never would it feel the lightening tap of the player's fingers, hopping like mortogs from one string to the other. Never would it feel the throb of an audience's applause or the squeeze from a musician who loved it just as much as any petpet.
Her father didn't understand. She knew he didn't; for him this was yet another project, just another way to earn some Neopoints. Enough to pay for the food, in fact more than enough, this was being well paid for—too well, thought Phyllis bitterly. If it was just the slightest bit less maybe her father would have considered it more carefully before accepting like he was grateful. This was not the kind of work he should be doing. Frowning she remembered when he used to be the most revered instrument maker in all of Neopia. He used to change from a luthier to a master of brass in second, his eyes used to be alight with the passion that he conveyed into his work. He would make instruments that would be played by only the finest in the Neopian Philharmonic. Now, she thought, now he was only making exhibits, not even special enough to be called art.
Exactly one month ago, she remembered, a handsome Kyrii had come to their humble cottage and had hammered away at the door, an incessant driving knock that was imbued with the distaste the creator obviously had for the place. Her father had peeled the door from the frame and squinted into the daylight to find himself looked into the cold, sneering eyes of Barvali, one of the higher musicians of the guild.
He had pushed past her father and strutted importantly towards the table where he brushed off the plans her father had been working on, smudging the ink as if it were nothing to him. She smiled remorsefully at her naivety; it probably was nothing to him. Phyllis recollected how she had slid into the kitchen, pressing herself against the security of the wall, her hands scrunched into the pockets of her favourite blue dress. Barvali hadn't even spared her a glance, but even then all she sensed was animosity and contempt. She had shaken her head then, and she shook it again now: how had it come to this? Begging, in her mind she spat this word, begging for work like he wasn't worthy. She resented the way her father seemed to just accept his lot in the world like it was what he deserved. It wasn't.
Barvali spoke to her father at length, hushed enough that Phyllis could not hear. He thought himself so superior, but Phyllis already knew who the better Neopet was.
After he left, her father had explained the plans to her, not rushing over any small detail, until she understood exactly what was to be made. It was to be Neopia's finest Cocoa Ukulele.
Even as she imagined it, she could smell the sweet fragrance, see the sublime, rich brown and feel the soft powder coating on this wonderful instrument. Even Phyllis could not have denied the brilliance of the concept. Who would want to look at an ordinary ukulele when there was to be this exquisite design? Her mouth almost watered, ironically, when she thought of it.
This idea became a passion. Her dreams, both night and day, were filled with sensations all based on the Cocoa Ukulele. Every morning she would discuss with her father how to progress with it, how to perfect it.
In retrospect, thought Phyllis, maybe the reason she was so lit up by the idea was the fact that subconsciously she knew that this was her father's chance to beat his rivals and regain his greatness again. Being asked by Barvali and the guild was a honour that they both only dreamed of.
Phyllis' eyes were drooping against the window which locked out the storm and the rain. Her hands were clasped around a scrap of paper and slowly a tear found a path through the fur on her face downwards. All her hope had been crushed, suddenly, before she had had the chance to prepare. Now, she didn't know what to do.
Earlier that evening Barvali had come again. It had seemed like he was warming to them and he had even smiled. Phyllis had asked, casually, who the instrument was to be played by, and where was it to premier. Barvali hadn't warmed to them at all it had turned out. His eyes suddenly lost any kindness they might have gained and he had turned his head towards her.
"Silly girl," he had said, "this instrument is not to be played, as if anyone would want to play something made by him!" he gestured towards her father. "No, girl, this ukulele is to be locked away. It is purely being made for the sake of being made. The guild must be seen to be making progress in creating new instruments, progress for the sake of progress if you will." He had sneered then, adding in an after tone, "in fact, I doubt anyone will know who made it, at all."
With that Barvali had picked up his deep, velvet coat and left the room. Phyllis had just stared in shock. She couldn't comprehend what she had just heard, but knew, somehow, that her Cocoa Ukulele dream would never happen. Passively she now mourned her perfect instrument.
A crack of lightening awoke her from her trance and she shook her head. Something HAD to be done. Her ears pricked and her eyes alert, Phyllis was fully awake now, and had a plan already formulated.
She glanced carefully towards his father, confirming his slumber. She crept over, her feet padding gentle against the wooden floor, and looked over his shoulder. A smile grew upon her face, like the clouds giving way to sun, for the instrument was almost finished. She hesitated, then nodded. It had to be done.
She reached over her father, and took the ukulele by the neck, her hands wrapped around the strings so they would not sound. Silently she brushed of the stray shavings and then held the ukulele close to her body, as if protecting it with the warmth that radiated from her fur.
Moving away she leapt up the stairs, cradling the ukulele like a petpet. She ran into her room, desperate to do the deed before her father awoke. She stored the Cocoa Ukulele away into the drawers, protected by the mountains of socks, and bounded towards the Music Room. In the she grabbed the nearest ukulele that hung from the sides, taking care not to dislodge the precious, prizewinning viola. Holding this she made her way down the stairs, walking this time, wary of making too much noise, and joined her father again. She prized apart his arms and placed the plain ukulele back from where she took the other.
In truth, Phyllis didn't know if her plan would work, but she knew that she had to have tried something! It would have been a crime to stand by and let it pass, this gross misuse of a pure and magical instrument such as what was to be made.
Barvali came and collected the instrument the next morning. Shocked that he fell for it Phyllis stood mutely by, which in itself made him pause to glare at her, daring her to protest. Instead, Phyllis, in her mind, gloated at her small victory. No one was ever going to know that the so called Cocoa Ukulele was actually just an ordinary ukulele.
Well, not quite ordinary...