One thing that really irked Mr. Bronston about these
Neoschool camping trips were the early, very early, departure times. The Draik
yawned and massaged his sleep-ridden eyes, blinking blearily as he tried to
focus the world around him. The students, on the other hand, hardly seemed affected
by the early times at all. On the contrary, they were jumping around and screaming,
bopping each other over the heads with their pillows and cuddling the toys or
plushies that they had brought along for comfort on the cold, dark nights away
from home. Mr. Bronston smiled slightly as he slipped a claw through the bars
of the small portable cage that he held at his side and stroked the soft fur
of his petpet Doglefox, Buck, who was napping softly inside.
Mr. Bronston had brought Buck along for a number
of reasons. The first, and probably foremost, was for companionship. He didn’t
have many, if any, friends among his co-workers; the Draik’s nasty temper and
poor social skills had made him somewhat unpopular with the other teachers.
The second reason was for protection. Buck was ferociously loyal to his owner,
and would defend him against just about anything, and the Haunted Woods were
full of potentially dangerous creatures. And as for the third reason… well,
Doglefoxes had an amazing ability to charm young pets. Often, all you needed
too keep rambunctious students in line was a cute, fuzzy animal. So, Buck was
The bus was late. Mr. Bronston had tried to
deny it at first, but after ten minutes post the scheduled departure time; he
began to get concerned. It wasn’t long before the concern turned to anger, as
it always did. The students were becoming increasingly restless. One of the
Lupes was gnawing his Chia plushie to shreds, and an Aisha was running around
in frantic circles, chasing her elusive tail. Mr. Bronston tugged nervously
at his tie. The Draik racked his brain, trying to remember what his teacher’s
manual had said about entertaining young Pets. Then he remembered.
Buck! Of course, what a perfect time to deploy
his fuzzy defense. Mr. Bronston unlocked the Doglefox’s cage and slid him gently
onto the dewy grass. Buck smiled lovingly up at his owner and wagged his tail
happily. It wasn’t long before the students noticed him.
"Oooh! Look at the little Doglefox, he’s so
cute!" a Jubjub cooed.
In an instant, all of the pets were crowding
around Buck, patting him and spewing out senseless babble as though none of
them had ever seen a Doglefox before. Mr. Bronston fought back the urge to roll
his eyes, peering discontentedly over the horizon, scanning the road for the
bus. It STILL refused to arrive. The Draik was becoming increasingly antsy.
He thumped his spiked tail against the ground, glanced at his watch about five
times per second, and chewed agitatedly on his claws.
Finally, something happened. The principal of
the Neoschool, an over compassionate purple Poogle, came waddling down from
the school and tapped Mr. Bronston on his shoulder. The Draik sighed.
"What is it, Jared?" he asked. The Poogle frowned.
"I’m afraid that we’ve got a small problem with
the busses," he replied, wringing his tie distractedly. Mr. Bronston stifled
"What’s wrong with them?"
"They can’t come! The head mechanic accidentally
pulled a wire or something while checking the busses over before dispatching
"So the trip’s cancelled?" Mr. Bronston asked
eagerly. The Poogle chuckled.
"Of course not! We’re just employing some teachers
to drive the students over instead. We’ll do it in groups of five… your car
has six seats, right Andy?" the Poogle replied. Mr. Bronston groaned.
"Oh, come on Jared… I don’t want those little
hooligans in my car, they’ll ruin her!" the Draik complained. The Poogle shook
"We aren’t calling off the trip, Andy. Look,
you’ll only have five kids in your car, it isn’t like they’re going to be making
clay sculptures in there, you know."
Mr. Bronston whimpered, casting a worried glance
at his beloved car. "Oh, all right, but only five pets!"
Jared laughed and clapped him heartily on the
back. "Thattaboy, Andy! Here’s the list of pets that’ll be in your group."
Feeling somewhat humiliated at having been called,
"boy" by someone three years younger than him; Mr. Bronston accepted the list
and peeked gingerly at its occupants.
"Hmm, well, I suppose this isn’t too bad. Poloroe,
Muerte, Kybalt, Atyur, Mrkrawk and… Zarrelian?! Oh come on, you’ve got to be
kidding." The Draik looked pleadingly at the Poogle. "Please, not Zarrelian.
He’ll destroy my car, drive me insane, and ruin the entire trip for every student
unfortunate enough to be in that vehicle!"
The Poogle frowned. "Can’t you be a team player
just for once, Andy? Now get those Pets into your car and drive to the campsite,
and no complaining!" he shouted. Mr. Bronston glared at the principal and muttered
some nasty things under his breath, but complied. He scooped Buck back into
his cage and rounded up his group, stomping to his car, students in tow. The
Draik shoved his key into the car door’s lock and pulled it open, ushering the
Pets inside. He put Muerte, Atyur and Kybalt in the back row, Mrkrawk and Poloroe
in the middle row, and, with some trepidation, had Zarrelian sit in the passenger
seat. It would be easier to keep and eye on him that way, Mr. Bronston rationalized.
The students adapted quickly to the car. Atyur,
a burly orange Lupe, was quick to challenge Muerte, a striped Grarrl, to an
arm wrestle. Kybalt, a fire Zafara and aspiring actor, propped his face upon
his flame-licked paw and simply stared out the window. Poloroe and Mrkrawk,
a Faerie Gelert and a blue Krawk, chatted happily to each other. (Though it
was a somewhat one sided conversation, as Mrkrawk was a very talkative Pet).
Zarrelian leaned back in his seat and stared contemplatively up at his teacher,
thinking up plots to ruin the camping trip and get him fired. Mr. Bronston,
like any responsible teacher, was concentrating on the road.
Mr. Bronston should’ve enjoyed the peacefulness
while it lasted, because it wasn’t long before his students, led by Mrkrawk,
burst into a loud chorus of "10,000 bottles of Neocola on the wall".
"TEN THOUSAND BOTTLES OF NEOCOLA ON THE WALL,
TEN THOUSAND BOTTLES OF NEEEEEECOLAAAAAAAAAA…" they sang. Mr. Bronston dug his
claws tighter into the steering wheel and did his best to block out the horrible,
Two hours later, the pets had finally worn the
song down to one bottle of Neocola.
"One bottle of Neocola on the wall, one bottle
of Neocola, you take it down, pass it around… ten thousand more bottles of Neocola
appear on the wall!"
Mr. Bronston snapped. He whirled around, a large
purple vein throbbing unpleasantly in his temple.
"SHADDUP!" he screamed. At once, his students
fell deathly silent. Mr. Bronston sighed happily and relaxed his shoulders,
allowing one of his elbows to drape outside his open window. The pets were quiet
for awhile, but it wasn’t long before they became restless again. Atyur leaned
forward and timidly tapped Mr. Bronston on the back of his head.
"Uh, sir?" he nervously began. Mr. Bronston
narrowed his eyes, still focusing on the highway.
"Can we have the radio on?"
"Ten thousand bottles of Neocola on the wall…"
"FINE! Just don’t start that again," the Draik
grumbled under his breath as he reached out a claw to switch his car’s radio
on. Immediately, Mr. Bronston’s sensitive ears were assaulted by the loud and
obnoxious voice of the station’s DJ.
"Yeeeeehaw listeners! This is Crazy Ken the
Jetsam DJ, kickin’ it on the real tip and bringing you EXTREME music from Mystery
Island! We’ve got a great line-up coming so keep your radios tuned in and give
it up for Lucille Silksong, the singing sensation of the seventeen seas!"
Unfortunately, the occupants of the car never
got to experience Lucille Silksong’s newest hit single, because at that very
moment, Mr. Bronston switched the radio back off again. The students knew better
than to complain, though they were still quite upset. Mr. Bronston sighed. Despite
his crusty personality and icy heart, the Draik still felt somewhat sorry for
his students. He knew what it was like having to spend hour after mind-numbing
hour in a cramped, hot car, having been dragged along on many camping trips
during his youth with his six brothers and parents. So, in an ill-fated attempt
to provide some entertainment for his downcast charges, he offered a supposedly
fun word game.
"If you’re bored," he began, even though he
knew perfectly well that they were bored out of their skulls. "We could play
a game that my parents used to play with me and my siblings." Mr. Bronston managed
to capture his students’ attention.
"How do you play?" Poloroe inquired. The Draik
"It’s a rhyming game. I say two words and you
find a second meaning of those words that rhymes." He explained. The Pets stared
blankly at him. Mr. Bronston chuckled.
"So, if you take, ‘obese feline’ the answer
would be ‘fat cat’. Do you understand now?"
Mrkrawk grinned. "Oh, I get it! Here, I’ve got
one. ‘Weird computer’."
Mr. Bronston grinned. "Okay, so who knows the
answer?" Obviously, no one knew. The Draik frowned. "Okay Mrkrawk, tell us the
The Krawk threw open his claws. "Kyrii tree!"
He beamed. Mr. Bronston raised a brow.
"No, Mrkrawk. That’s wrong. You see, the answer
has to rhyme and, err, make sense."
Mrkrawk crossed his arms over his chest and
scowled. "Sounds like a pretty lame game to me, then."
Mr. Bronston sighed, "Does anyone else have
Zarrelian quirked a brow and spoke up for the
first time. "Delusional teacher," he sniggered. Mr. Bronston snarled angrily.
"NO ONE ANSWER THAT! All right, fine. If you
don’t want to play, then no one is allowed to have any fun on the remainder
of this drive!" He roared. Kybalt frowned.
"That reminds me. How much longer until we’re
there?" the Zafara asked. Mr. Bronston concentrated on the winding road ahead
"About two hours," he replied stonily. Kybalt
"Oh. Well, um, I have to go the bathroom."
Everyone in the car groaned. Mr. Bronston cursed
sourly and pulled off into another lane headed for a small off-road restaurant.
It was going to be a long day.
To be continued...