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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 11th day of Eating, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 125 > Continuing Series > Bart Mint Bart: Part Three

Bart Mint Bart: Part Three

by futureshrinksme

Joe walked nervously into Neopia Central. He had only stopped living within walking distance of this place a week ago, but he felt as if he had been gone forever. He had been living in relative seclusion save a few trips to the Giant Omelette and Giant Jelly, and even those trips had been made when only a trickle of Neopets were flocking to get free food. Now, the crowded marketplace had Joe a bit overwhelmed.

     He looked around, trying to see if any Neopian Policemen were among the crowd, but he saw none. The red Shoyru was bumped this way and that, but no one seemed to take any notice of him, and he started to relax a bit. He walked towards the Money Tree, crossing his fingers.

     "Please have a tent, please have a tent, please have a tent," he chanted under his breath, approaching the crowd. Joe had been living in a makeshift lean-to in the woods, and it was falling apart. His shelter was also near a beach and the gusts of sea air weren't good for the shelter -- or for Joe. He took a deep breath, and darted into the crowd.

     The red Shoyru rushed towards the piles of junk under the tree and sorted through, rejecting all piled of Neopoints and grabbing at anything that looked good. He grabbed an apple, a utility backpack, and a pile of sludge. He looked at the sludge and tossed it back, and put the apple in the backpack. He raced back and forth, trying to keep up with the other Neopian as more and more unusable items were handed out. He was amazed that people were taking such useless junk, but nothing stayed in place for long.

     Finally, he found it. A collapsible tent in a box. He snatched it up flew up and out of the crowd. Joe put the tent into his new backpack, found a place to it, and nibbled at the apple. He let his mind wander in thought, keeping one eye open for any ghosts that might want to steal from him. He finished the apple and went back to the Money Tree to drop off the core -- somebody would want it, but Joe didn't. He was about to leave when he heard someone shout,

     "Heads up!" Joe automatically turned and caught a large white box that was whizzing towards him. He flew over the crowd, looking for the source of the box, but was unable to find anyone who looked like a probable source. He landed back of the crowd again and opened the box carefully. Inside was a green top hat and a note.

     Wear me, the note said. Joe looked at the hat and tried to figure out what it's hidden purpose was. "Oh well, in for one Neopoint, in for a thousand," he said. He had taken a huge risk by coming here. This hat seemed to be another piece to the puzzle, and Joe knew he would always wonder what might have happened if he didn't try it on. Anyway, he reasoned, whoever was doing all this could turn him into the Neopian Police anytime they wanted, so it was best to play along. He took a deep breath and placed the green hat on his head.

     He felt a weird chill and his skin crawled for a moment, then nothing unusual. He stood up and walked around a bit, wondering what he was supposed to do now. He thought he must look ridiculous. The Shoyru walked around for a few minutes, self-consciously hunched over, until he heard a miserable wail from a little ways off. He hurried over, and saw a small Draik trying to wrestle half of a chocolate-chip cookie from a Skeith.

     "But you said that we could each have half," the Draik was protesting, refusing to let go of the cookie. Joe guessed from this that the Skeith was her big brother- and a bully.

     "Yeah. You had this half, now it's my turn to have it," the Skeith said, and jerked his arm backward, hard enough that the Draik lost her grip. The Skeith laughed and teased the Draik, holding the cookie high above her head. Joe rolled his eyes. Bullies were so unoriginal in their taunts. It was as if they all had a handbook that they read from and quoted.

     He jumped forward, forgetting about the green hat for a moment, and grabbed the Skeith's wrist. The Skeith jumped, and looked around wildly.

     "Who's there?" he asked.

     "Drop the cookie," Joe said. "You sure don't look like you need the extra calories." The Skeith dropped the cookie and the Draik, looking confused, snatched it up and crammed it into her mouth. "Thank you," Joe said, surprised the Skeith hadn't put up more of a fight. He thought of saying something to the Draik and decided that he'd better get lost before they had a chance to get a good look at him. As he walked off, he heard the Skeith start to cry in a weird low whine.

     "Ghosts!" he sobbed. "A ghost stole my cookie!" Joe whirled around. Why did the Skeith think he was a ghost? Joe looked down at himself, or where he should have been.

     He was invisible. Joe was amazed, then filled with a sudden understanding. The hat wasn't a top hat. It was an invisihat.

     Joe's knowledge of invihats was buried in his former years as a Battledome champion- his early BattlerJoe years. He tried to remember how long these hats lasted, and was not quite sure, but he knew it wasn't very long. He must have been given this hat for a reason. He had to make the best of it while it lasted.

     Joe looked around, wondering where to go. The Money Tree was too crowded; his hat would get knocked off. He thought about going into a shop, but he didn't have any Neopoints and didn't want to start a life of crime now. Besides, this could still be a trap set by the Neopian Police, although it seemed like a lot of trouble when they could have busted him on the spot anyway. Joe finally decided on the Art Center. It was be a nice place to relax and wasn't usually very crowded, anyway. He walked in and looked at the painting on the walls as he passed, and heard snippets of campfire stories and poetry. Nothing seemed to peak his interest until he saw a group of Quiggles laughing at the art-tutoring center. Joe looked at them and felt another wave of memory come back to him.

* * *

Little BattlerJoe sat in Art class in Neoschool, staring at the blank page miserably. He had to draw a self-portrait. He had a mirror to refer to but was still drawing a blank. He knew how to draw, but he didn't want to commit to memory his own tired, sad face, which currently had a black eye on top of its usual unhappy expression. He hesitantly drew a circle, then a pair of large, sad eyes. He shaded the underside of one eye, then drew in a frowning mouth. He leaned back and studied the mirror and the picture critically.

     "No, no, no. You don't look anything like that," a voice said behind him.

     "Bart Mint Bar!" the little Shoyru whispered happily. "How did you get in here?"

     "I had to arm-wrestle the security guard, and then foot-wrestle the hall monitor," Bart Mint Bar replied. BattlerJoe giggled. "I was watching through the window and you looked like you needed a little help. Now, I don't think you're doing that shiner justice," Bart Mint Bar said, and put his hand over the red Shoyru's, guiding the pencil up and down.

     Slowly a face began to form on the paper. Either Joe Mint Bar was no artist or he was purposely drawing poorly, but the face looked nothing like any neopet that BattlerJoe had ever seen. It had one eye squinted almost entirely shut and surrounded by electric blue and black stripes. The other eye was wild, the eyebrow wiggling at an impossible angle. The teeth were jagged and full of cavities, and there was something green between two of them. BattlerJoe watched delightedly as the picture formed, laughing into his other hand as quietly as he could.

     "There," Bart Mint Bar said finally. "I have captured your essence." The red Shoyru was unable to control himself anymore and he burst out laughing. The teacher walked over to him curiously, wondering what could have made this morose little neopet burst out laughing in the middle of class. She studied his picture, unable to find a proper response.

     "It's very… uh…" the teacher stammered. "Very creative. I'll give you an A for… uh… creativity," she said, and wrote a large red A at the top of BattlerJoe's drawing. The red Shoyru looked at his friend delightedly. He had never gotten an A before that he could remember. He gave Bart Mint Bar a high five.

* * *

Joe frowned. He was able to remember everything clearly except for Bart Mint Bar. He still couldn't picture him. He always seemed to be sitting or standing behind Joe or that old memory of a bad singer and a lullaby when he was crying, making him laugh with a crackly false soprano. He couldn't quite unfog his memory, but he sense that it would come back completely very soon, because whatever was happening now was related to his past, and his old friend.

     The group of Quiggles continued to laugh, and Joe realized that they were looking in his direction. He squinted towards the picture they were all looking at. It showed a Shoyru in a backpack, wearing a top hat. Joe pulled the hat off and looked at it. It was ragged now, and already the magic in it was used up. He sighed and tossed it in a trashcan, then shuffled out self-consciously. It was time to go.

     Back at his campsite he started up a new fire, and went to his lean-to to clear out a place for his new tent. He froze as he saw another strange object on the pile of pine needles he slept on. It was a piece of paper weighted down by a rock.

     You passed the test, it said on one side. Meet us tonight at the Rainbow Pool for initiation, it said on the other.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

Bart Mint Bart: Part One

Bart Mint Bart: Part Two

Bart Mint Bart: Part Four

Bart Mint Bart: Part Five

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