Mr. Bronston suspiciously eyed the food that he had
recently finished cooking. It was supposed to be spaghetti and meatballs, but
it looked more like worms and lumps of dry, cracked mud. The Draik shrugged.
"Oh well," he chuckled, heaping some small paper
plates with the slimy concoction. "They aren’t my Pets. Besides, I get to eat
the specially designated staff food."
He reached up and yanked on a large rope, causing
the bells overhead to stir and clang against each other, the rich, echoing peal
heralding the students and signaling dinnertime. The pets came running down
from all over the campsite and filed into the messhall, ambling eagerly up to
the counter to receive their food. Mr. Bronston grinned as he watched his students’
faces, which were at first bright and chipper, melt into masks of horror and
disgust as they laid eyes upon their suppers.
"Eat up!" the Draik sniggered as he passed a
very queasy looking Atyur a plate of the mush. He was still feeling bitter about
the nature hike incident earlier on, his sore and ragged wings only intensifying
the deep grudge against his students. Atyur shot his teacher a nasty look, but
accepted the plate and stomped sourly over to a table that was occupied by his
friends. Mr. Bronston finished serving the Pets, and then strode cheerfully
over to the special staff table, hungrily anticipating his meal. One of the
other fifth grade teachers, a spotted Kacheek, glanced up from his conversation
with another teacher to glare at the Draik.
"What are you doing here, Andy? You’re supposed
to be eating with the students," Mr. Torrent, the Kacheek in question, gestured
at the Pets, who were picking suspiciously at their food. Mr. Bronston gave
a harsh, barking laugh.
"Oh come on… you guys don’t actually going to
EAT that junk, do you?" he chuckled. Mr. Torrent raised a brow.
"I don’t give a Snorkle’s nose whether you eat
it or not, Andy. But you can’t have any of OUR food." He replied. Mr. Bronston’s
jaw dropped in shock.
"Oh, come on guys! Us teachers are supposed
to look out for each other!" he pleaded. The Kacheek snorted.
"Oh yeah? Where was that little ‘teacher’s code’
when my apartment flooded and I asked you to help me salvage a few items? Or
when my Spardel had Neomites and I needed someone to lend me a few Neopoints
to buy the cure? Or when I got called in for Neo-jury duty and needed someone
to substitute for my class? Forget it Andy. You can either eat the dung that
you cooked up, or go hungry." Mr. Torrent turned around and returned to his
dinner, refusing to uphold Mr. Bronston’s conversation any longer. The Draik
snarled and stormed back to the counter, only to discover that all the food
In a fit of rage, Mr. Bronston delivered a ferocious
kick to the wall, unaware of the fact that it was made of brick. He spent the
rest of the mealtime sitting miserably in the kitchen’s massive freezer, his
injured foot shoved in a bucket of ice.
After dinner, the pets gathered around a small ring of stones for the final
activity of the day: the campfire. A jumbo-sized bag of marshmallows sat alongside
the bucket of sand and a small packet of matches and firewood. The students
seated themselves around the fire area, eyeing the marshmallows hungrily as
none of them had really enjoyed the dinner. Mr. Bronston was the last to arrive,
limping slightly on his still swollen foot. The Draik plopped down in a carved
stone chair at the head of the fireplace and leaned gratefully back in his seat.
Mr. Bronston waited until the sun had dipped
completely beyond the sloping mountains before building the fire, piling the
timber in the center of the stone ring in the shape of small teepee. He regarded
the matches with distaste, and lit the blaze himself with his fiery breath.
The Draik tore open the marshmallow bag and tossed it to his students, who eagerly
dug in, spearing the squishy treats on the long sticks that they had collected
Even Mr. Bronston couldn’t resist the tempting
sweets, and quickly grabbed a few for himself. Unlike his students, the Draik
enjoyed the marshmallows more when they did catch on fire, shoving the burning
treats down his gullet and savoring the amazed stares of his students. Pretty
soon, the marshmallows had all been eaten, and the Pets were eager for another
form of entertainment. Zarrelian grinned, and jumped at the opportunity.
The Ixi stood up, took a bow, and launched into
a fast paced song that described, in detail, the day’s nature hike.
"Mr. Bronston was so mean, he made us all ran
fast, he didn’t care for anyone... not even those in last.
He prayed that we would be eaten, By a Bearog
or a Cobrall As far as he was concerned We didn’t matter at all…"
That was as far as he got before Mr. Bronston
silenced him with a claw drawn swiftly across his scaly neck. Zarrelian got
his point. But it still hadn’t solved the boredom issue. Mr. Torrent winked
at one of his fellow fifth grade teachers and gave Mr. Bronston a gentle nudge
in the ribs with his paw. The Draik whirled around and growled at the Kacheek.
"What?" he snapped. Mr. Torrent grinned, and
suggested, quite loudly,
"Maybe you should tell them a story, Andy,"
he shouted, smiling triumphantly. Mr. Bronston crossed his arms over his chest.
"Absolutely not!" he retorted. But it was too
late. Already biased on the idea of a story, the Pets began to chant,
"We want a story! We want a story!"
Atyur rubbed his paws together gleefully.
"Yeah! And make it a scary story," he added.
Mr. Bronston was suddenly struck by inspiration. He turned back to his students
"A scary story, eh? Alright then. I’ll regale
you with a story that my father used to tell my brothers and me when we wouldn’t
behave…" The Draik grabbed a clawful of sand from the bucket and tossed it onto
the fire, causing the flames to flare up and turn blue at the tips.
"I call this story… The Tale of the Glass-Eyed
Pet-sitter!" The flickering blaze cast eerie patterns on Mr. Bronston’s blood-red
scales as he leaned forward into the flames and curled his spiked tail around
his feet. The Draik raised his claws, and launched into his tale with gusto.
"A long time ago, before any of you were created,
there lived a young Kiko who absolutely loved stories. He needed a story to
get to sleep, every single night. One evening, his parents decided to go out
and see a movie, leaving the Kiko, whose name was Little Jimmy, with a Pet-sitter.
"The Pet-sitter was an old and grizzled Chia
named Glass-eyed Gary, called so because one of his eyes was made of glass.
"Glass-eyed Gary came into Little Jimmy’s room
because he had been asking for a story. So, Glass-eyed Gary chuckled and complied.
"‘A story, you say’ he rasped. ‘Why certainly,
Little Jimmy. I’d be happy to tell you a story. I’ll tell you the true story
of my uncle, who was called Glass-eyed Germie. Glass-eyed Germie was always
a mean guy. Whenever he looked after me, he would pull out his glass eye, and
set it on my bedside table so that he would always be able to watch me. I could
never sleep because of that creepy eye. So one day, I decided to destroy it.
I threw it out the window on Grarrl day, during the Grarrl parade. The glass
eye was stomped to bits, but my uncle never forgave me. He said that now, the
eye would always be watching me. The next day, I began to see the eye. It continuously
appeared in my breakfast cereal, then in my Plushie collection, and then in
my popcorn at a movie. It just never stopped watching me…’ Then Glass-eyed Gary
pulled out his glass eye and set it on Little Jimmy’s bedside table. ‘And now,
little Kiko, the eye will watch YOU forever!’ He laughed. Then, Glass-eyed Gary
disappeared, never to be seen again.
"From that day on, the glass eye continued to
watch Little Jimmy, no matter how many times he destroyed it. It was always
there… It was allllllwaaaays therrrrrrrrre!"
Mr. Bronston opened his jaws and spewed some
more flame into the already raging blaze, cackling gleefully as his students
jumped and yelped in shock. Mr. Torrent gave Mr. Bronston a harsh kick.
"What kind of a story was that?" Mr. Torrent
demanded. "You’ve scared the living Juppie out of those poor kids!" he snarled.
Mr. Bronston laughed good-naturedly.
"Nah, these guys are tough! Right Zarrel?" He
patted Zarrelian heartily on the back, who simply fell over, completely petrified
with terror. The Draik gulped and turned sheepishly to his fuming co-worker.
"Maybe we should escort them back to the cabins,
eh?" Mr. Bronston offered. Mr. Torrent cast a glance over the frozen students,
all of them wide-eyed with shock.
"I think that you’d better carry them…"
To be continued...