Broccoli and Other Emergencies
"Grrrah!" came a cry of frustration from the bathroom.
Verrie, a young blue Usul, looked up from her
breakfast in alarm as her mother came out and practically stomped down the hall
into the kitchen. The older Usul was rubbing frantically at her arms, neck and
"What is it, Mum?" Verrie asked.
"Look at this!" her mother commanded, holding
out both arms. "I've just come down with the Itchy Scratchies!"
Verrie didn't have to peer very closely to see
the red lumps in the blue fur. "Yuck."
"Now I'm going to need some cream from the pharmacy,
and we still have to buy something for lunch." Giving her shoulder a vigorous
scratch, Verrie's mum looked into her purse and counted her change. "Oh, dear.
Looks like it's going to be broccoli."
"Aw, mum, not broccoli! Can't we have baked apples
with Tigerbuggle sauce instead?"
"We won't have enough points to get both, and
the cream's more important right now."
"Can't we go to the bank?"
"Those Neopoints are for an emergency. This isn't
an emergency, just an inconvenience."
"Broccoli is an emergency, mum! I hate
"It's good for you. Puts colour in your fur."
"I'm a blue Usul. I don't want green fur!"
"Veronica …" her mother warned.
Verrie scowled, annoyed both at her mother's
use of her real name, which she hated, and at the fact that her mother was obviously
not going to change her mind.
The older Usul raked her claws up and down one
leg, then switched to the other one. "Anyway, I was just reading an article
in NeoHealth that broccoli's supposed to make you less susceptible to
the Itchy Scratchies and other spotty diseases. So it's settled."
Sighing, Verrie accepted the currency from her
mother and went out the door, walking from their neighbourhood to the shops.
Verrie didn't exactly dawdle, but she did choose a route that took her past
the Wishing Well and the Grooming Parlour before she stopped at Health Foods
to buy the hated broccoli. Now that she no longer had enough points to buy anything
except the Itchy Scratchy Cream, Verrie was acutely aware of an exciting new
doll in the window of Usuki Land, and a new plushie showcased at the Toy Shop.
Frowning bad-temperedly, Verrie flounced towards the Pharmacy, and suddenly
found her way blocked by a small, mean-looking red Ruki.
"Hey, kid," the Ruki hissed. "Give me all your
"Buzz off!" Verrie commanded, and was just about
to walk around the Ruki when she felt something grab her from behind.
"Give me all your Neopoints," the Ruki repeated
in a more menacing tone, "or we'll shave your tail!"
Verrie gasped as she looked behind her to see
another red Ruki with one claw buried in her tail, and the other one holding
a safety razor. "No!"
"Come on, we haven't got all day," the Ruki urged.
"The only points I have are for medicine for
my sick mother!" Verrie wailed, trying in vain to flick her tail out of the
"Yeah, right," the first Ruki sneered, glancing
significantly to the second one. The other Ruki moved the razor menacingly close
to her fur, and Verrie squealed. She couldn't let them shave her tail! Everybody
would see it and stare -- she wouldn't be able to leave the house for months
until her fur had grown back! Desperately, she reached into her pocket, and
the first Ruki grabbed the Neopoints right out of her paw.
There was a rushing sound from above, and a great
shadow blocked the sun. Something large and green dropped to the ground next
to Verrie and the two Rukis, and a deep voice intoned, "Give. Those. Back."
It was a Quiggle, a huge green Quiggle with a
black mask across his face that only left his eyes and his mouth visible.
"Wh-who are you?" the Ruki asked, the tiniest
of tremors audible in his voice. After a moment, he hastily stuffed the Neopoints
into his own pocket, then threw out his chest. "And how are you going to make
Without answering, the Quiggle stepped forward
and grabbed the Ruki, wrapping each of his massive front flippers around two
of the Ruki's legs and catching the back of the Ruki's neck in his broad mouth.
"Hey!" the Ruki cried out in astonishment.
Verrie watched in amazement as the Quiggle turned
to face the Rainbow Pool, crouched low, then leaped high into the air. She was
sure that he could have easily cleared the tall Neolodge, had it been in his
way. As it wasn't, the Ruki obviously got a very good view of where they were
going to land.
His outraged scream of "Hey!" turned into a panicked
shriek of "Help! I can't swi--!"
The Quiggle and the Ruki hit the Rainbow Pool
with a gigantic splash, sending a plume of water high into the air. As it retreated,
the Quiggle hopped out, landing gently on the edge of the basin. His flippers
"Whispering Wadjets!" came an awed exclamation
from behind Verrie, and the second Ruki immediately let go of her tail.
Peering back into the churning water, the Quiggle
leaned forwards and scooped the first Ruki out again. He paused just long enough
to let the Ruki cough twice, then grabbed him around the legs as before, and
leaped back to where Verrie was standing.
"Now then," the Quiggle stated calmly, straightening
his mask. "I believe you have something that belongs to this young lady Usul?"
"What - are - you - trying - to do? Kill me?"
The Ruki could hardly speak for coughing and wheezing. When his choking fit
had subsided, he scratched at one arm with the other one, then stopped and extended
both arms for a closer look. An inarticulate cry of horror escaped his mouth.
Verrie couldn't believe her eyes. The Ruki was
covered in ugly, dark red spots -- spots that looked strangely familiar!
"This," said the Quiggle, pulling something out
from behind his ear and brandishing it, "is the Paintbrush of Poetic Justice.
Now … I wonder what you did to deserve getting the Itchy Scratchies."
"I didn't do anything!" the Ruki snarled. "I've
got a witness -"
Verrie turned her head, but the other Ruki was
gone. He obviously hadn't waited around for his turn to be dropped into the
pool. On the other hand, several bystanders and even a few of the shopkeepers
had come up behind her, and were watching with interest.
"You've certainly got a witness right here!"
Verrie crowed, tapping her chest with her paw. "You took the Neopoints that
my mother gave me to me to buy salve with, for her Itchy Scratchies!
Hah! What goes around, comes around!"
"Poetic justice," the Quiggle murmured, and smiled
fondly down at his paintbrush. "It never fails."
There was a murmur of approval from the crowd.
"All right, all right," the Ruki grumbled, scratching
two of his legs with the other two. He reached into the front pocket of his
shorts and pulled out a wad of Neopoints. "Here!"
"Count it," the Quiggle told Verrie. "Make sure
it's all there."
Coming up with several hundred extra Neopoints,
Verrie glanced questioningly towards the Quiggle.
"I think you should pay young Lady Usul here
double the amount that you took, to reimburse her for any inconvenience," the
"Woo, yeah!" someone behind Verrie called out.
"That'll teach him!"
Woo, yeah! Verrie thought to herself.
There'd be enough money to buy the salve and maybe even a baked apple with Tigerbuggle
sauce for lunch - or at least something better than broccoli! She closed her
paw protectively around the money.
"No way!" the Ruki exclaimed, reaching out. "That's
mine! I -- I won that fair and square, pl-playing slots!"
"I wonder what the paint brush would do on a
second dunk," the Quiggle mused.
"Let's find out!" came several voices from the
"All right!" the Ruki shouted. "Take it! Take
it all! Just leave me here, without a single Neopoint to buy any medicine, go
"That's what you were going to do to her!" the
blue Elephante from the Pharmacy called out.
"Or we could call security!" suggested the Usul
from the Petpet Shop. "I'm sure they'd give you medical assistance at the station
The Ruki turned and stalked angrily away, pushing
his way roughly through the crowd.
"Let's hope he's learned his lesson," the Quiggle
said, and everybody clapped and cheered.
"How can I ever thank you?" Verrie asked.
"There's no need," the Quiggle announced, puffing
his chest out a bit. "I was just doing my duty as a citizen of Neopia."
The crowd cheered again.
But Verrie thought she'd seen his eyes wander
to the vegetable that was peeking out of her shopping bag. Inspiration hit,
and she pulled out the stalk. "Would you like some broccoli?"
The Quiggle hesitated, then reached out a flipper.
"Thanks! Thank you, yes, I would."
He stuffed the entire thing into his mouth, chewed
a few times, then swallowed. "Ahh, that hits the spot!"
Better your spot than mine, Verrie thought,
relieved to see the broccoli find an appreciative home. Anyway, she was sure
that her mother only liked it because it was cheap, and that she would really
prefer a baked apple instead.
The Quiggle swallowed again, then gave Verrie
a smile and a wave of salute. The bystanders roared with approval as he leaped
When Verrie could no longer see him in the sky,
and the cheers of the crowd had died away at last, she glanced around, shaking
her head in wonder. "Who was that?"
"Nobody knows," said the blue Elephante from
the Pharmacy. "We just call him … the Lone Quiggle."
"Well, I hope I meet him again," Verrie said.
To herself, she added Especially on another day when I have broccoli!