A Time To Learn
“No, no, no!” the blue Eyrie yelled as he covered his eyes
and groaned loudly. “For the thousandth time, that’s not the way you do
The Eyrie’s younger brother, a red Kacheek, looked at him with dewy eyes. “But
I’m trying my best!”
The Eyrie folded his arms and pursed his lips. “No, you’re not. How do you
think you’re ever going to pass that final test on Tuesday if you don’t pay
attention?! I’m tired of this. You’re wasting my time!”
“I’m telling that you won’t believe me,” the Kacheek whined. “Dad! Jermain
keeps being mean to me ‘cause I can‘t get the answers right!”
The Eyrie rolled his eyes in disgust. Every afternoon seemed the same; he was
cooped up in the small kitchen with his younger brother, KingOfTheViolinists,
helping him with his homework. While other pets were out playing with each other,
flying kites in the gentle breeze, munching on fresh treats from the Marketplace,
celebrating the closing of school, he was stuck in the dreary kitchen, staring
down on his little brother, sighing louder and louder each time as he struggled
to help him with his math homework.
Jermain_The_Majestic and King were two entirely different pets. Sure, they
each had the same owner, and they were both brothers. But when it came to school,
the two were entirely unlike each other. Jermain always had his nose buried
in a book, he was devoted to his schoolwork, and he always received remarkable
grades. At the awards ceremony, he spent half of his time on the stage and the
other half receiving compliments from other pets. But King was different. His
passion was sports. He spent hours on end practicing the perfect swipe for Meriball,
or always begging his owner to take him to play Gormball. Now, it was nearly
the end of school, and both pets had great ambitions for the summer. Yet, King
still had to study for the end-of-year math test, and Jermain had to help him.
“Jermain,” their owner scolded, “be nice to your younger brother.”
“Okay,” the Eyrie moaned as he slammed his right paw on top of King’s paper.
“Okay, look,” he demanded as he pointed to a square on the worksheet, “this
is the nines row. All you do is multiply each number on that side by nine to
get that number.”
“But I tried,” King whined honestly, “and they never match!”
“What do you mean ‘they never match’?” Jermain asked. “Look, here’s a trick;
the numbers reverse when you get to the sixes, see?”
“That’s confusing,” King sighed as he scratched his head in perplexity.
“No, it’s not!” Jermain yelled as he pounded his fist on the wooden tabletop.
“See, you just--”
“This is boring,” the Kacheek said as he rose
from the table. “I’m going next door to practice NeoFu with Kanji.”
“But you’re not finished with your homework!” the Eyrie demanded, paws clasped
to his hips.
“So? I’ll finish it later,” he said coolly as
he tied a golden bandana tightly around his head.
“Dad!” Jermain tattled. “King’s going next door and his homework’s not finished!”
“Give him a break,” their owner commanded. “Did you finish yours?”
“But I don’t have any--”
“Well, read a book,” their owner said.
“But may I go to the store to get some Cherries Jub--”
“But it’s Friday--”
“I said no.”
Jermain stormed into the room that he shared with his three brothers and slammed
the large door shut. “Why do I always have to stay in and read?” the azure Eyrie
fumed. “I work the hardest, I deserve a break!”
Two of Jermain’s brothers, Tobbitt the Gelert and Orefo the Bruce, were laid
casually on Orefo’s bed playing a game of Armada. When their brother walked
into the room, they looked up suddenly. “What’s your deal, Jermain?” Tobbitt
“It’s not fair,” Jermain carped. “I have to work my wings off helping King
with his dumb homework, and he gets to just drop everything to go outside and
“So?” Orefo asked.
“What do you mean ‘so’?” Jermain bickered. “You’re the ones that should be
helping him with his work, not me!”
“And why’s that?” Tobbitt asked as he looked down at the board. “Dang, you
jumped me again.”
“Because, you’re the smartest, that’s why!”
“Yeah,” Tobbitt chuckled, “but you’re the oldest. When’s the last time you
got a C, huh?”
“Exactly my point.”
“Well, when’s the last time you got a C, know-it-all?”
“None of you guys are helping much,” Jermain grumbled as he tramped over to
the computer desk the four pets shared. He started rummaging through the massive
pile of papers on the desk. Sheet music...sheet music...old book report...science
worksheet...stuff about Kreludor...certificate...The Eyrie stopped. His
paw rested gently on top of a light blue sheet of stiff paper. Jermain lifted
it gently into his paws and stared at it. Large red letters dotted the sheet
of paper. Cs. Ds. A couple of Fs. At the top of the paper, the words ‘KingOfTheViolinists,
owned by Yellowlabs765’ were scrawled in pen.
“King’s report card,” he whispered to himself. “He needs to try harder in school.
A lot harder.” Jermain tossed the paper aside and kept digging until he grabbed
his favorite book. “Aha,” he exclaimed. “Behind the Bow Tie.” Jermain plopped
on the bed next to the bed that Tobbitt and Orefo were playing on and began
reading silently to himself, not glancing once from the book.
Tobbitt and Orefo stopped playing and looked at their hushed brother. “You
know,” Tobbitt chimed, “I used to feel the same way when I had to tutor you.”
Jermain looked up slowly from his book, mouth gaping. “When was that?”
Tobbitt smiled brightly. “Remember when you had that Algebra homework, and
you kept forgetting what coefficients were?”
“Oomph,” Jermain harrumphed, “I never had trouble--”
“Yes, you did,” Orefo agreed, “I was there too.”
Tobbitt beamed as he dramatized his speech. “I kept trying to tell you, ‘If
there’s no variable there, just treat it as the number 1!’ You’d always argue,
‘But there‘s nothing there! It’s not possible!’ I’d get so mad, I’d storm out
of the room and start screaming and throwing things around!” The Gelert laughed.
The Eyrie’s sky-blue cheeks turned bright red. “But I--”
“Look, I’m just trying to tell you,” Tobbitt said as he moved a piece on the
board, “just try to understand what he’s going through. You’re just so mean
to him! Being mean only slows things down. Remember, what’s hard for him may
not be hard for you. Try and feel a little empathy for him.”
“Like Ebesneezer Snooze says,” Jermain argued flatly as he folded his arms,
“It’s Ebenezer Scrooge,” Orefo corrected.
“I knew that!” Jermain snapped. “Just seeing
if you guys were on the ball.”
“See, that’s your problem!” Tobbitt looked up from the game once again. “You
never let anyone in. You always think you’re right. I tried to help you with
King,” he said as he shrugged, “but if you don’t listen, you’re going to regret
it one day. Take it from me, he needs a little empathy. He‘s really struggling
in school, but you don‘t know that because you spend all your time rebuking
him instead of trying to understand him. Just because you‘re older and smarter
than him doesn’t mean that you‘re better than him.”
“He just spends all his time daydreaming about sports,” Jermain argued, “that’s
all. He just needs to get his head out of the clouds. Besides, there‘s nothing
I can do to help him. It’s his problem.”
“Have you ever asked what you could do to help?”
“No,” Jermain argued, “because I‘ve done what I could do. If he can’t make
it on his own without being helped all the time, then it’s his loss.”
“Whatever,” Tobbitt said, “I tried to warn you.”
“Just buzz off,” Jermain groaned as he lifted his book in front of his face
and continued reading.
A week came and went. School had just gotten out, but as usual, Jermain was
still cooped up indoors with his brother, practicing his multiplication tables.
‘It’ll keep him fresh for next year,’ their owner assured. Yeah right.
“Two times three is six,” King said as looked up at his brother.
“Right,” Jermain sighed. “Now what’s three times seven?”
“Um...” The Kacheek peeked down at his paws and began counting off on his fingers.
“No!” Jermain boomed as he snatched the multiplication tables from the table
and slammed them down in front of his little brother. “It’s twenty-one! TWENTY-ONE!”
“Sorry,” King apologized.
“No, you’re not! Go outside and play!”
The Kacheek rose from the table and quickly scurried outside.
“Jermain,” Yellow called from the next room, “could you go check the mail?”
“Sure, fine,” the Eyrie grumbled. He trudged
outside to the mailbox and glanced at his younger brother. There he was, playing
with his friend Kanji the Acara, practicing his NeoFu stances. “Dumb kid,” Jermain
grumbled as he pulled the mail from the box. As he walked to the house, he started
sifting through it. “Coupons...Tail Enlargement Ad...Book Club stuff...huh?”
Jermain bit his lip nervously. “Something from White Weewoo Heights Elementary?”
The blue Eyrie stared blankly at the fawn envelope.
TO THE OWNER OF KINGOFTHEVIOLINISTS
URGENT--CONCERNING SUMMER INSTRUCTION PROGRAM
PLEASE OPEN IMMEDIATELY
What could it be, the Eyrie wondered. A discipline roster? Enrollment forms?
What? Jermain shuffled into the house and glanced down at his owner, who was
deeply involved in his copy of The Tale of Genji.
“Don’t you think that book is boring?” Jermain drawled to his owner.
“No,” he replied, not looking up from the pages.
The Eyrie rolled his eyes. “Here’s the mail,” Jermain grumbled as he slammed
the mail on the mahogany coffee table.
“Oh, thanks,” Yellow said as he picked up the mail and began picking through
it. When he came to the large manila envelope, he stopped. He slowly removed
the large golden seal from the envelope and pulled out a large packet of papers.
“Is there something wrong?” Jermain asked. The blood had drained from his owner’s
“Jermain,” Yellow croaked hoarsely, “your brother has to go to summer school.”
“Oh.” A large cold lump formed in the Eyrie's
throat. Was it real? Was his brother going to summer school? His head began
to spin. A harsh tugging in the pits of his stomach was making his guilt grow.
There he was, he and his brothers, free for the entire summer, while King would
be closed indoors in a classroom. At summer school.
The Eyrie shuddered. The two words were a harsh beacon to him. Most pets who
went to summer school were usually cutups or very dense. At least, that’s what
he had been taught. But his brother was smarter than that. Why would he have
to go to summer school? Was it bad to do so good in school when your brother
was falling behind?
The voices started shrieking in his head. “It’s twenty-one! TWENTY-ONE!”
“Take it from me, he needs a little empathy.” “You always think you’re right.”
“He needs to try harder in school.” “I tried to help you.” “You’re not trying
your best!” Jermain covered his ears and shook his head, trying to shake
the voices from his head, trying to free his conscience of its heavy chains.
But there was no escaping it. His brother was going to summer school, and Jermain
felt that it was his fault. But he wasn’t about to cry, not in front of Yellow.
“W...will he have to repeat the third grade?” Jermain asked.
“Judging by this report and his grades, yes. But it can be avoided if he really
works hard in summer school. ” Yellow placed a gentle hand on his pet’s shoulder.
“I know it seemed like I was nagging you when I asked you to help him with his
schoolwork,” Yellow whispered, “but I just needed a little extra help.”
Jermain quivered all over, sighed deeply, and closed his eyes. He knew that
he‘d never picture himself saying this, but he had to. It was the right thing
to do. “Is there anything I can do to help now?”
From that point on, Jermain was determined to help his brother succeed. Every
morning he awoke with the sun to help his brother study his multiplication tables.
While Jermain walked his brother to school, he would drill him with his division
facts. In the afternoons, he would turn games into learning opportunities. He
would ask his brothers to divide jellybeans into equal piles. He would ask him
to split jelly llamas into groups and find the fractions that went with the
problems. He even worked night and day to make a wall chart with all the of
the multiplication facts especially for his brother. Sure, he lost sleep and
wanted to quit at times. But he had made up his mind that his brother was not
about to repeat the third grade. None of his other brothers had, why should
As time went on, Jermain began to feel better about helping his brother. But
not only was little King getting better and better at his multiplication tables,
or was Jermain developing a better sense of patience, the bond between the two
pets began to grow stronger than ever before. Jermain began to grow confident
in his brother. There was no stopping him now.
But the three weeks of summer school whizzed by faster than the both of them
had expected. But that Friday, the red Kacheek tramped into the Neohome with
a expression of sorrow on his face. Clasped in his paw was another manila envelope.
He trudged into his room, sat down on the bed beside his Eyrie brother, and
Jermain laid down his book and looked at his brother, a crystal tear shimmering
down his face. “King, are you okay?”
The Kacheek sniffled and wiped his eyes. “No.”
Jermain crawled across the bed, sat down beside his brother and wrapped an
arm around his shoulder. “What’s the matter?”
King sniffed again and wiggled his nose. “I’m never gonna have Mr. Shankly
as teacher again!”
Jermain couldn’t help but smiling. “But...that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but he was nice, and...he‘s not gonna be there to teach fourth grade!”
King blubbered as he dried his cheeks and looked up at his brother. “But...at
least I don’t have to go to third grade again.” The Kacheek squeezed his brother
around the waste as tight as he could. “And it’s all thanks to you.”
Jermain laid a paw on his brother’s head and gently rustled the stray hairs
on the crown of his head. “Thanks, King.”
The Kacheek let go of his brother and looked him in the eyes. “But he says
that there’s hard stuff like fractions in fourth grade. Could you start teaching