The detour added another hour on to the duration of
the ride, but the pets didn’t mind. As it turned out, most of them ended up
having to take a pit stop. Mr. Bronston leaned against the side of his car as
his students lined up outside the restroom, clambering to use the lavatory.
When they finally finished, the pets mobbed around Mr. Bronston and put on their
best begging faces. The Draik could sense impending doom. Atyur smiled up at
his teacher and wagged his bushy, orange-furred tail.
"Mr. Bronston, we’re kind of hungry. And since
there’s a restaurant right there…" The Lupe gestured at the run-down diner.
"We were wondering if you could lend us a few Neopoints to buy some food." Mr.
Bronston snorted contemptuously.
"Your ‘lend’ is my spend. The answer is no,"
the Draik retorted. Atyur whimpered.
"Please sir, we’re really, really hungry," the
Lupe replied, his voice suddenly becoming dangerously low. Mr. Bronston laughed
"Look, Atyur. It’s your own problem if you didn’t
pack a snack like I asked. It said, right on the supplies list, ‘Snack for car
trip’. You didn’t pack your snack, you go hungry." He snapped. Zarrelian rolled
his eyes and spat bitterly on the ground.
"None of us brought our snacks! In fact, we
hardly packed anything on that dumb list!" he snorted. Mr. Bronston was shocked.
"What do you mean? That list was full of necessities
for survival!" he exclaimed.
Zarrelian sneered. "Yeah, for a Draik! But not
for a furry pet. I mean, come on, I don’t need three pairs of boots; I’ve got
Atyur nodded in agreement. "Uh-huh. I agree
with Zarrel on this one. I don’t need swim trunks, I’m a Lupe, for crying out
At once, the entire crowd of students broke
out in cries and shouts of unanimous agreement of Zarrelian and Atyur.
"The only thing I packed was my sleeping bag
and tooth brush!" Kybalt shouted. Mrkrawk launched into a long drawn excuse.
"Well, I was going to pack everything, but my
owner bought pizza on the night when I was supposed to pack and it was my favorite
kind so I ate a lot of it and then I had to go and feed my Petpet so—" Mr. Bronston
cut him off.
"Skip to the last paragraph, would you?" the
Draik interjected. He cast a scowl across his silenced students. "Cry me a river.
I’m still not coughing up my year’s paycheck just to buy you guys lunch."
Zarrelian whispered something in Atyur’s ear.
The Lupe’s face split into a grin. He chuckled and passed the message onto Muerte,
who spread it through the other Pets. Mr. Bronston cocked a brow. He had never
seen this kind of behavior in his students before. Zarrelian held up a hoof
and silently counted down from three.
"In three, two… one!"
In complete unison, all five of the Pets broke
into a loud tirade of complaints.
"Oh, we’re so hungry!"
"Mr. Bronston is refusing to feed us!"
"He’s a mean, mean Draik. He’s standing right
there. Yeah, that’s him. The one with the ugly tie…"
Mr. Bronston nervously wrung his claws. People
were beginning to stare, whispering to each other and pointing at him. The Draik
rolled his eyes skyward, stood strong for five seconds, and then crumbled like
a cheap NeoHome wall.
"All right, all right. I’ll buy you food. Just
stop the wailing!" He offered hastily. The Pets cheered and exchanged high fives
as the ambled joyfully into the restaurant. Mr. Bronston morosely followed suite,
pulling a few crumpled one thousand Neopoint bills out of his wallet as he did.
Mr. Bronston’s first impression of the diner
was that the owner must have had a Juppie of a lot of Neopoints to be able to
bribe the health inspector for all those years. The walls looked as though they
had once been white, but the weeks of being exposed to the grease and gaseous
fumes of the kitchen had given them a visible green tinge. Almost everything
was broken, or on a tilt. The booths, the cashier desk, even the oven. None
of this seemed to faze the Pets, who ran enthusiastically up to the cashier,
a heavyset Meerca. The Meerca, a somewhat grease-covered specimen, wore a small
nametag that bore the name, "Annigrette". Upon seeing the students, and their
depressed looking teacher, she smiled knowingly and ran a paw along her cash
Mr. Bronston plodded wearily over the Meerca
and slapped a few thousand Neopoints onto the counter. The Draik cast an eye
over his students.
"Okay, what do you want?" he asked. Zarrelian
adopted a thoughtful expression.
"I’ll have a Super Fun Meal with extra grease,"
he decided. Atyur rubbed his paws together.
"I’ll have the X-treme-ley Kewl Meal. And don’t
go easy on the syrup or the chocolate sauce. Oh, but hold the vitamins." He
proclaimed. Everyone else wanted an X-treme-ley Kewl Meal as well. Atyur was
the big Lupe on campus, so naturally, everyone copied him in every way possible.
Mr. Bronston sighed.
"How much?" he asked. Annigrette smiled pleasantly.
"That’ll be twenty-thousand Neopoints, sir,"
"What?" Mr. Bronston roared. "That’s insane!"
"No it isn’t. We’re the only diner for a twenty-mile
radius. We charge what we like." She calmly retorted. The Draik grumbled and
mumbled bitterly for a few minutes, but forked over the Neopoints.
"Fine," he growled. The Meerca grabbed the bills
and shoved them into the cash register, the door producing a sharp ding!
sound. Annigrette reached into a drawer under the counter and pulled out
a large wooden number six, plunking it down in front of Mr. Bronston.
"Okay sir, you’re number six. Please wait for
your number to be called, and then you can pick up your food," she said pleasantly.
The pets went off in separate directions, milling
around the diner and chatting. Mr. Bronston leaned against the counter and dug
out his road map, scratching his head as he tried to make sense of the directions
and figure out where they were. He didn’t notice Anniegrette scanning the map
over his shoulder. She startled him by breaking the thin silence.
"Oh! You must be another one of those guys headed
to that campsite in the Haunted Woods, right?" she asked. Mr. Bronston folded
up the map and glanced up at Annigrette in interest.
"Another one? There were others here?" he asked.
The Meerca nodded.
"Yeah. A whole bunch of them just came by for
a rest. You know, give the pets a break to just chill out in an air-conditioned
place," she smirked. "Though I must say, you’re the first one that bought them
"The little rascals wouldn’t stop bothering
me. I can’t believe I got stuck with this scurvy lot," the Draik bitterly replied.
Annigrette clapped a paw to her mouth.
"You’re Andy Bronston, aren’t you?" she asked.
Mr. Bronston’s eyes widened in shock.
"How’d you know?" he exclaimed. The Meerca chuckled.
"The other teachers were all talking about a bad-tempered Draik who hates everything,"
she explained. Mr. Bronston ground his fangs together.
"I don’t hate everything! Everyone hates me
because they’re jealous of my superior mind and personality! THEY’RE JEALOUS
OF ME!" he roared. The Meerca poked her head around the heaving Draik and gasped.
"Wait a minute, isn’t that your car? I saw you
pull up in it… but that Tonu, he isn’t one of your students, is he?"
Mr. Bronston whirled around. "I don’t have any
Tonu students… hey! He’s stealing my car!"
From across the diner, Atyur’s sharp ears picked
up Mr. Bronston’s strangled cry. He gasped and turned to his peers.
"Hey guys! Someone’s stealing Mr. Bronston’s
car!" he barked. Zarrelian raised a brow.
"So? I thought we hated Mr. Bronston." He replied.
Atyur frantically waved his paws.
"Yeah, but Buck’s in the car!"
Muerte leapt up. "Not Buck! Come on, we’ve got
to save him!"
The pets jumped up and galloped out the door,
chasing after the Tonu, who was making a quick getaway in Mr. Bronston’s car.
"Oh no you don’t!" Muerte growled. The Grarrl
employed all of his strength and charged at the car, reaching out with his jaws.
When he got within a foot of the bumper, he opened his mouth and bit down hard
on the car’s fender. There was a horrible screech as the vehicle was dragged
backwards along the pavement, still clamped in Muerte’s powerful jaws. Mr. Bronston
came soaring out onto the road, only to see a gargantuan Grarrl chewing his
car to pieces.
"MUERTE! NO!" he cried. But it was too late.
Sadly, Mr. Bronston’s car was reduced to a pile of smoldering scrap metal. Fortunately,
Muerte was able to rescue Buck and the Tonu before the car went up in flames.
Mr. Bronston fell to his scaly knees before his ‘deceased’ vehicle, reduced
"Oh my poor car! I should’ve taken more pictures,"
he sniffled. Muerte smiled.
"Don’t worry sir, at least we saved Buck, and
caught the bad guy!" The Grarrl glanced down at his strangely empty claws. "Oh
wait, he escaped. But we still have Buck."
Mr. Bronston sighed and patted his happily panting
Doglefox on his head. It was a dark day for Andy A. Bronston.
Suddenly, Annigrette popped her head out of
one of the diner’s smeary windows.
"Number six! I repeat, number six! Your food
To be continued...