The Hidden Treasure
I rode down to the river one morning to see the spring blossoms bloom. My eyes were focused on the ground there, with each step a piece of earth crunched under my feet and the grass bent toward my way. Bending for an old Gnorbu, life and vitality bowing to time-worn straits. Upon that morning, it was my usual habit of looking down the river towards the Springs when I noticed something odd and out of place.
I strode up to this peculiar articulation of disorder, some poor Acara kneeling down upon the ground in a state of distress. She seemed withered from grief, and bound to collapse - so I stayed close. Asking after her, I inquired if everything was alright.
She told me that nothing was alright – that her little brother had no means to sustain himself and no support to address his want. I asked after her again, to which she redirected my attention to her little brother. I assessed that this Acara, though smartly dressed and neatly put together in character and charm, must have found herself in dire circumstances if she was so desperate as to confide in a total stranger about her affairs. I accompanied her for the rest of the morning, and sat tenderly by her side as she told me of the trials she and her brother had endured.
Poverty in Faerieland was nothing uncommon, in fact it made the news so often that it eventually became un-newsworthy. Seeing this poor Acara in such distress reminded me of the trouble that loomed about the people every day. On my way to the river each morning, there I would see on the corners of each street a Neopian, begging for nourishment and aid which few were kind enough to offer. It’s become so common a theme. All attempts made to appeal to Queen Fyora had not fallen on deaf ears, but weak hands. She had a heart willing to lift the burdens of her kingdom, but not the strength to do so. But there I go – being careless again. It is not solely her responsibility to nourish the kingdom, but that of the Neopians who inhabit it. I suppose hidden in the depths of the city and in the hearts of the citizens looms a sense of entitlement. Should our circumstances be fine, we see no need for arousal and are little disturbed by the travails of others. See here now – I’m babbling on again, as old age warrants. Sorry, dear friend – let me go on.
The prevalence of poverty had recently struck hard at this Acara and her dear brother. She had been getting on fine before then, but the strain on her faculties in trying to make ends meet soon took a detrimental toll on her health and on her brother – mind you his name is Marcus. And she’d informed me that hers was Mabel. Marcus and Mabel. So she went on to tell me that she was forced to leave her employment under the Faeries in search of something less strenuous. But in doing so, fortunes had run dry and food on the table was now a privilege that no longer existed.
I’d been long employed in the printing press for many years, now retired. I’d saved up much to ensure that poverty’s dark shadow never knocked at my door. But so it had intruded upon Mabel, and she didn’t have any means to force the intruder out.
At length in our discussions I invited Mabel and her brother to dinner that evening, for the paleness of her complexion and the hollow of her cheeks were too much for my conscience. She heartily accepted, though evidently embarrassed by the insensible burden she perceived that she was. I assured her it was not so. With a smile I bid her a tender goodbye and set off towards my home for a little contemplation and preparation.
The streets seemed different now, after being accustomed to the same scene every day I suppose I found myself becoming indifferent. But now the struggles of those around me became vibrant, and I was reminded again of the blessings that secured my life, but had fled from the lives of others.
As I arrived at my doorstep, there was a hesitant moment in which I refrained from going in. Not to say that there was anything which prevented me from doing so, but I asked myself, sincerely - how often had I taken this all for granted? How often did I pass by this door without a moment’s appreciation for what I had? The thought shamed me.
Oh! But another thought replaced it, for I soon realized that I needed to visit the Faerie Foods Shop for some groceries (as I was not accustomed to having others over for dinner). Soon the thought took me in another direction, and I was on my way to greet the Earthen Faerie who always treated me with a warm smile every time I stepped foot in her shop.
In the middle of my proceedings towards that location, I thought of what sort of food Marcus would like, or of any dreadful allergies or dislikes, for that matter. Maybe a simple and hearty meal would be best. Seeing as it was still early into the afternoon I had hopes that the shop would be adequately stocked.
Stepping foot in the shop, I heard the melodious welcome that I was so accustomed to hearing in times past, and greeted my friend with a smile and a momentary question. She answered me pointing to a section of the shop that she had recently stocked with fresh-baked desserts. A glistening Cherry-tastic pie caught my eye, and I knew that would be the one to have for dessert! I took in my surroundings again after taking up the pie, but found myself disappointed in not seeing more wholesome foods about. A majority of what was in stock were either candy or dessert items, since that’s what the Faerie’s were so accustomed to eating.
My dear friend who, seeing my disappointment, inquired if there was anything else I was looking for. I told her of my dinner plans, and a small light bulb appeared over her head. She disappeared into the backroom momentarily, and returned with a Heavenly Roast Turkey that she was about to put out for sale. Seeing the delight in my eyes, she knew she’d found the right item. After a bit of small talk with her, I made my purchases and went on my way.
Carrying the groceries, I was disappointed as to how feeble my arms had grown since I’d stopped carrying mounds and mounds of newspapers prior to my retirement. The turkey itself weighed about thirty pounds, but that was nothing compared to the satisfaction I felt thinking of the happiness it would give two humble souls.
I’d arrived at my home and set the groceries away and carefully prepped the turkey for the dinner that was to commence in a couple hours. After my lengthy preparations were completed (which mostly comprised of cleaning the kitchen and everything that stood within sight) I sat down cozily in my creaky reading chair that was situated near the living room window which had a direct view of the Castle towers that overlooked the city.
I set about continuing where I left off in my book The Adventures of Captain Scarblade, when I unexpectedly heard a knock at my door. Getting up (and feeling a few bones in my spine shift in alignment) I lazily made my way to the door thinking the mail had come late. Instead, what I beheld as I opened the door, was a small Acara, with a red nose and wild hair tucked about his ears. Instantly, I understood who it was.
“Marcus! Why, it’s nice to finally meet you. Dinner isn’t for another couple of hours but-“ I fumbled for a moment. “Would you like to come in?”
“I sure would, sir!”
“No need for that,” I said, showing him in. “Pep will do just fine.”
He looked about himself in wonder, it gave me great pains to consider that he’d not the privilege of residing in a station so comfortable and secure for a long time.
“Take a seat,” I said, motioning towards a chair that sat on the opposite side of the room.
I sat on the couch adjacent to him and kindly looked him in the eyes.
“Can I tell you about a cool thing I found near the Caverns this morning mister?”
“Pep, if you will. Yes, go ahead,” I said.
“Sis was out for a long time, and none of my friends wanted to play – so I decided I’d go look for it myself!”
“Look for what?”
“…Hidden Treasure!” Marcus said in a loud whisper.
The sense of adventure that gleamed in his eyes was palpable, it reminded me of the long and endearing tales I read when I was Editor of the newspaper back in my younger days. Marcus went on:
“I wanted to dig near the Rainbow Fountain, since so many rich people go there all the time – but Naia told me I couldn’t and she sent me away. I dug in the river but no luck, and Sis got mad at me for bothering the folks who passed by there. So instead of digging in random places, I decided I’d find a map!”
“A map!” I said with an encouraging smile.
“Yeah! I told Sis about it. The next morning she woke me up and told me that a map had suddenly appeared right under our door – it was SO cool Pep!”
“So I followed it this morning and it led me to this grove of trees on the other side of the Caverns. So I dug where the red ‘x’ told me to, and found THIS!!” With that, he whipped out of his front pocket a Tazzalor Action figure with a bent hook, no doubt a fitting prize for his treasure-hunting aspirations.
“I got the best toy EVER! And look how long his beard is - Tazz is so cool.”
I nodded, eying the bent hook of the action figure. It seemed that minor deformation was enough to justify its disposal in one way or another. No doubt Mabel happened upon it some while before and saved it for the right moment.
“Would you like me to fix that hook there, Marcus?”
He looked up, a bit surprised. “The hook? Why – what’s wrong with it?”
“It’s just a little bent, that’s all.”
“But I like him that way. He’s my treasure and I found him – so I wouldn’t change a thing about him.”
It seemed in my old age, with all the experience and trials that came with it, I’d yet to learn the virtue of gratitude that this boy so plentifully had. This sent me into a thoughtful repose indeed.
At length we talked about other things, how much Marcus was annoyed by his sister at times, but then how much he loved and appreciated her. It sparked something within me I had not felt for a very long time.
When at last after our many trivial diversions, the appointed hour came, and I yet heard another knock at my door. Marcus had lost track of the time by then, so I don’t think he was expecting his sister just yet.
Upon opening the door, Mabel spotted Marcus playing with Tazz just over my shoulder, she quickly said:
“I hope he wasn’t much trouble.”
“No, not at all. Please come in.”
With the arrival of his sister, Marcus embraced her with a hug, and showed off his action figure in much the same pride as he had shown if off to me. She smiled sweetly, still traces of that worn look in her eyes. In a few moments, we sat down together for dinner.
I’m not sure that all the stress and anxiety I had placed over the preparation of the food was necessary. Marcus scarfed his meal down without even the slightest hint of dissatisfaction, though Mabel was more polite in her manners. The discussion turned to their lives, what Mabel had been doing for employment, her health, Marcus’s many stories of pranks he pulled on the Faeries and so forth. In a moment however, a piece of our discussion caught my attention.
“You write in your spare time?”
“Yes,” Mabel said. “A few of my stories were published in the newspaper years ago, but work had kept me busy since then.”
“Would you consider writing a valid occupation of employment, Mabel?”
“Yes, but those jobs are hard to come by. There’s not been a viable opening in years.”
“I see…” This spun me off into another thoughtful repose, before Marcus was successful in diverging our attention to his crazy pirate stories.
“Say Marcus, I think I have a book you might like.”
Mabel looked up with a curious gleam, and Marcus stopped munching his Cherry-tastic pie mid-chew. I removed myself from the table, disappeared into the living room, and reappeared with The Adventures of Captain Scarblade in my hand. I handed it to Marcus.
Marcus took it. “Does this have a lot of fancy words?”
“Not too many. It should be a good read for you.” Mabel looked up at me with a grateful smile.
As the sun had gone down and the evening had drawn to a close, I invited Mabel and Marcus back for dinner next week and we were at the moment standing outside my door chatting away. Marcus hugged Tazz close, and Mabel and I spoke of all the joys and downfalls life had to offer. My heart was profoundly changed in the course of our discussion, and I took a great deal of interest in seeing after Mabel and Marcus’s well-being.
“Thank you so much for your kindness Pep,” Mabel said, a bright glow returning to her eyes. “Marcus is looking forward to all the stories you’ll have for him next week!”
I found myself in a chuckle and answered her that their accompaniment that evening had done more for me than I could ever hope to do for them. Her smile in answer to my sincere reply brought on a moment of joy I had not experienced in years.
“We will see you next week then, dear Pep.”
With that, Mabel took hold of her brother’s hand and both waved goodbye to me as they walked down the lit stone path of the still bustling street of the city. I waved to them until they were out of view, and momentarily went inside.
I’d scarcely done so, until I found myself motioning towards my desk. Sitting down I took up my quill and began writing to Tanner and Wright Publishing:
I recall you confiding in me a need for an assistant editor recently. I have a prospect in mind which will no doubt suit your standards. She is more amply prepared and ready to serve more than any I’ve had the pleasure of associating with. Send me your thoughts, I’ll be in touch.
At the close of my letter, the subject that directed my thoughts from there to the rest of the evening to the rest of my days - was the wonder of how much good could come from one simple act of kindness. In seeking to help Mabel and Marcus, I found healing and help for myself.