Usuki Singing Stars #30: No Place for Third
"Oh the travesty! The travesty!” Snaw wailed, flopping onto the living room sofa. “The travesty of it all and the red Elephantes!”
Sparkles nudged Scary. “Why’s Snaw so upset?” asked the pink Bruce.
Scary pointed to the fireplace mantel, where a bronze ‘Better than You’ trophy was displayed between two vases. “Snaw was trying to achieve a gold trophy this week, but failed and received a bronze one instead,” explained the purple Bruce. She shook her head with annoyance. “He’s been acting like this all day and I’m already sick of it.”
“But he has nothing to be upset about,” Sparkles insisted. “After all, he tried his hardest and got a cool toy as a prize.”
Scary glared. “You’ve never seen Snaw lose at anything, haven’t you?”
“He also got a new trophy…even if it’s another bronze one,” Sparkles urged. “And at least he doesn’t need to wait one more day for his trophy to arrive!!” She gripped Scary's arm. “Oh Scary, I’m so nervous!”
Scary rolled her eyes. For the past week, Sparkles had been anxious about how well she’d been faring in the Beauty Contest. Wanting to win her first gold trophy from the BC, she had been anxious with Snaw’s attempts in advertising her entry, fearing her two competitors would crush her and leave her to claim a third place trophy…her fifth third place trophy. “Are you sure Snaw didn’t forget to advertise?” asked Scary.
“He didn’t forget,” Sparkles insisted, watching as Snaw exploded into a tantrum on the sofa. "Well...hopefully he didn't."
“Well I think I’d be hilarious if you fail and get another worthless bronze trophy!” Scary laughed. “Then you’d be as disgraceful to this family as Snaw is with his collection of third place failures!”
Sparkles waved a hand at her. “Don’t worry. If I can’t get first place, then a second silver trophy would be just as good. Now let’s go calm Snaw down by getting him some cookies.” She beamed. “Hopefully he will be cheered up by a sparkling BC trophy tomorrow!”***
After Neoschool, Sparkles rushed home, eager to see if her Beauty Contest trophy arrived in the mail. She was so excited for a gold trophy she skipped a little, not minding how far away Scary was lagging behind. Once she opened the door, she went to the kitchen and found a brown cardboard box sitting on the counter. “Is that my trophy?” Sparkles asked Cuddles and her cousin Jhoud, who were colouring the box with crayons.
Jhoud shrugged. “I think it’s a colouring box,” said the baby Aisha.
Cuddles nodded. “That’s why we’re coloring it,” explained the snow Bruce. “We also took the cup that was inside and put it on the table.”
“Cup?” Sparkles turned to the table and gasped. “So it was my trophy??” She approached the trophy cautiously, still feeling uncertain. It was a real Beauty Contest trophy: same shape and same size. It wasn’t covered with foil, so Sparkles knew it wasn’t a chocolate replica. There were no dents or scratches. Everything about it was fine…
…except it was a THIRD PLACE TROPHY!!!!!
This can’t be! Sparkles fumed. How in Neopia did I place third? I was certain I would win at least second place! Still feeling surprised, she took her latest BC trophy upstairs and placed it on her trophy shelf, making sure it was snug between two other bronze trophies. Looking at her BC trophies made Sparkles feel uncomfortable. Was she always going to place third at the Beauty Contest? Would she ever win another silver trophy or, if all was mighty, a gold trophy if she tried? It made no sense that one of her competitors, one that even Snaw was certain would lose, could and would place higher than a contestant bound to win her first Beauty Contest and her first gold trophy.
“So maybe this is why Snaw is feeling so upset,” Sparkles thought aloud. “Perhaps he was tired of using up all his efforts and was just frustrated about receiving a second bronze trophy. And if Snaw could feel upset over that, how should I feel about losing the BC?”
“Are you still upset about losing?” asked Scary, barging into Sparkles’ bedroom with Cuddles and Jhoud following behind. “Jeez, to think you haven’t even read your congratulatory letter yet.” She unfolded the paper in her hands and read it aloud:
Congratulations on placing third in last week’s Beauty Contest! Your 19 votes helped you in achieving the third place slot in the Bruce category. A trophy has been mail to you.
Have a beautiful day!
“I got 19 votes!?!?” Sparkles gasped with disbelief. She collapsed onto her bad, grabbed a pink throw pillow and squeezed it tightly.
Cuddles clapped. “Congrats! You were only three votes away from getting 101!”
“Does this mean we can eat ice cream for dinner?” asked Jhoud.
“I don’t feel like eating anything right now,” Sparkles sighed. “I’m too depressed.”
Scary facepalmed. “You’re being such a useless drama queen,” she scoffed. “First you claim Snaw shouldn’t cry over winning third place, and then you decide to explode because of a BC verdict! And now you’re hugging your tacky throw pillow and acting as if giving up on Neopia will resolve all your inner turmoil. Furthermore, who was stupid enough to invite the baby to our Neohome for a play date!?!?” Furious, Scary stomped out of the room.
“Cuddles, what’s a baby?” asked Jhoud.
“I bet she meant Cuddles Jr,” Cuddles concluded. “We better check up on him. Snow Bruce plushies can be really sensitive, you know.” Cuddles led Jhoud away, leaving Sparkles all alone.
Still feeling glum, Sparkles forced herself out of bed and trudged towards her recently-disgraced trophy shelf. Her five bronze trophies twinkled in the sunlight, as did her one silver trophy. While staring at the trophy that caused her disgruntled mood, Scary’s words began to echo in her mind. Had she been right? I did assume Snaw should accept his trophy, Sparkles realized. But what about me and my trophy?
Accepting a fifth bronze BC trophy would surely hurt her confidence, and learning she placed with only 19 votes would be even more destructive to her ego. A trophy, though? Sparkles gazed at her new trophy and considered the prospect that perhaps winning third place wasn’t the worst thing in Neopia, whether it be from the Beauty Contest or any other contest or game. “Perhaps winning a trophy shouldn’t be about which place you get, but how much effort you put in getting it,” Sparkles thought aloud. “After all, I got two NT trophies and I would love them even if they were both bronze.”
Feeling a new wave of contentment, Sparkles skipped down the stairs and entered the living room with a twirl. “Oh Scary, you’ve done it again!” she mused.
“I did what to who?” asked Scary. “And whatever I did caused pain…right?”
“No,” said Sparkles, “but it helped heal my pain with winning third place. I now realize the importance…”
“Don’t care.” Scary opened a fashion magazine and flipped through it. “Keep your life lessons to yourself or preach them to babies.”
“Like Cuddles Jr,” Jhoud piped up, holding up the plushie. Cuddles Jr. squeaked.
“We’re going to crown him Mr. Plushie of Neopia,” said Cuddles. “Want to play? You can be Miss Bruce!”
Sparkles shook her head. “No thanks. I think my time now should be with Snaw, to comfort him and tell him what I have learned today.” Trotting up the stairs, Sparkles could hear the wails of her owner echoing through the hallway and she stopped at his bedroom door. Taking a breath, she opened the door and said, “Snaw? Are you feeling alright?” before entering the bedroom, eager to pass down her newly-discovered piece of wisdom to a fellow distraught Neopian.