Bart Mint Bart: Part Five
Joe walked into the room at thought at first that he and
his two companions were the first ones there. There was a table full of snacks
and soda and several rows of folding chairs. The room was the basement of a mansion
owned by the one visible member of the Invisible Friends Association, the founder.
The founder was away on vacation so Joe couldn't meet him tonight, unfortunately,
Joe's two companions had told him this as they lead him here.
Jennifer and Peter also said that they had once
had longer names, but they went by simple names Between Friends, they said,
and let their children give them more specific names. Nobody here technically
existed anymore, Jennifer had added, so they could call themselves anything
"Hey guys!" someone yelled. Joe looked around
and saw no one. It took him a second to realize that everyone here must be invisible,
but if he closed his eyes the place sounded like a crowded room. On a second
glance there were several snacks floating in the air, and several cans of Neocola
pouring themselves into empty air.
"Hi," Peter said. "Joe decided to join!" Joe
was startled by a huge round of applause. He suddenly felt his hand being shaken
over and over again. The Shoyru couldn't figure out how everyone knew where
he was, then he remembered how he had always known where Bart Mint Bar was.
You just had to close your eyes and trust your other senses. He did this and
no longer felt so strange.
"Okay guys," a voice at the front of the room
said, "everybody find a seat." The chairs in the room starts shifting around,
and there were good-natured mumbles as people bumped into one another. Joe nervously
patted the bottom of one chair, and when he felt nobody sitting in it, he sat.
After a few minutes there was a silence, and the voice at the front of the room
"Now, as you all know, we have a rookie with
us tonight," the voice said, and was cut off by applause again. Joe felt his
face grow warm, and was glad no one could see him blush. "Ahem. We have a new
member, Joe, who we have been monitoring ever since Bart had to leave him."
Joe felt a wave of memory come back, and with
it, he suddenly understood why had had forgotten so much of his childhood. He
had spent it all with Bart Mint Bar, and he had convinced himself that Bart
Mint Bar wasn't real. So, he had convinced himself that none of his memories
were, either, and had let himself forget. But now that he knew his friend had
been real, it had finally all come back to him…
* * *
BattlerJoe was crying as the teacher looked sternly down at him. Crying was
a rarity with him now that he was more fully-grown, and now that his owner has
stopped sending him to the Battledome so much. His teacher tapped her pencil
on her desk.
"Now, the other children have been telling me
you have been lying to them about having an invisible friend. They said that
you even went so far as to throw your voice to convince them there was someone
next to you. Now, is this true?"
"No!" BattlerJoe insisted. "Bart Mint Bar is
real!" His teacher sighed.
"Joe, I know that having Bart Mint Bar helped
you get though a tough time. But you're a big Shoyru now, and it's about time
you started acting your age. You don't need Bart Mint Bar anymore."
"Yes I do!" BattlerJoe said.
"Look, Joe. I just don't want you to get hurt.
And if you keep on believing in Bart Mint Bar, you're going to have a lot of
Neopets give you a hard time about it. Just think about that, OK, Joe?" Joe
didn't answer, and the teacher sighed. "You're excused."
Outside, BattlerJoe took Bart Mint Bar's hand,
and realized he no longer had to reach up so far to take his friend's hand.
He looked but of course saw nothing. He dropped his hand and swallowed hard.
"Bart?' he asked. "I think she's right. I think
I'm too old to have a friend like you. I think… I think we'd better stop pretending
you're real." The little Shoyru waited for Bart Mint Bar to protest, to tell
him that he was real. Instead, he heard a sad sigh.
"If that's what you want, Joe. I'll stay awhile
longer, to be sure you're sure-"
"No, you won't. I won't see you or heard you.
Even if I do, I won't," BattlerJoe said. He was starting to cry again.
"Okay Joe," Bart Mint Bar said. BattlerJoe put
his hands over his ears and started to hum, and only heard two last words. "Goodbye,
* * *
Joe had stopped believing after that, he remembered. He thought he might have
seen things move on their own, or heard voices out of nowhere afterward, but
he told himself he imagined it, and none of it was real. And after awhile, he
had convinced himself that Bart Mint Bar hadn't been real, either. He felt a
chokey feeling that meant he might cry, but he forced it down. He had to pay
"Bart identified his owner as a probable pursuer
of illegal activities, and added that Joe would likely have to leave the home
at some point. Over the last six months we conducted random checks, and eight
days ago Joe's owner was apprehended after a Neopian Police raid. Joe was a
suspect and we managed to warn him off only a few meters away from his house.
That was a close one, folks," the voice added, and there was a ripple of laughter.
"But seriously, we were able to guide him to
a place of safety, and the Neopian Police gave up the next day, so that was
never an issue. We also told him to meet us at the Money Tree and gave him the
standard initiation, and then gave him a reminder at his hideout the day before,
using the suggested method of a Mint Bar. When given the invisihat test, he
passed with flying colors. Not only did he not commit any acts of violence,
but he also committed one random act of kindness." Joe was confused for a moment,
then remembered giving the Draik back her half of a chocolate chip cookie from
a bully Skeith. Joe now felt someone clap him on the back.
"Way to go, Joe," the voice whispered. Joe blushed
"I assume by his presence here he has a contract?"
The speaker asked. In response, the contract was handed up to the front of the
room, appearing to float and bob, then hover in place. "Very good," the speaker
said after a moment. "Joe, welcome aboard." There was an even louder burst of
applause, then the speaker continued.
"Now, I will explain what this contract means.
You are to search anywhere in Neopia and seek out lonely children who need a
friend. You and the child will have to also make a connection, which is hard
to describe- luckily, you've been on the other end of one of these friendships,
which gives you a bit more experience than some who come in here. You are also
good with children and kindhearted not that we would have taken you otherwise.
As for your living arrangements, you will sleep in the house with the child,
out of the way. You will mail us a letter telling us your whereabouts, and then
you will have a week's supply of food delivered to you every week by someone
who is Between Friends- someday you'll be on food duty too, no doubt, but not
anytime soon. Our founder is quite rich, and although you won't be getting gourmet
cuisine, it will probably be better than you're used to.
"I think you understand the rest. You will stay
with the child until the child no longer needs you. At some point the child
may ask you to leave. Don't leave solely because of one incident; however sometimes
that is how you will know it is time to go. Once you are Between Friends, you
will report back here, either for food duty, monitoring, recruitment, or reassignment.
But that will likely be a long time from now, so if you have any questions,
ask us now." The voice stopped and waited expectantly.
"Just one," Joe said.
* * *
Joe walked through Neopia Central, in his old neighborhood, but another Neopet's
house. He looked around the house, but nobody seemed to be home. He sat on the
front step to wait. The sun was warm, and he nearly dozed off before he heard
a young neopet laughing. He looked up, started, and saw the yellow Aisha he
had thought was playing by herself, laughing, and talking to someone that he
couldn't see. Joe stood up, suddenly awkward. He walked up to the Aisha and
cleared his throat. She turned to him and seemed to look him right in the eye.
"Are you a new friend, too?" she asked. Joe
shook his head, then realized that she couldn't see that.
"No. I'm actually a friend of your friend. Bart,
"Bart Lemon Sweetie," the Yellow Aisha finished.
"He's right here, silly."
"Joe? Joe, is that you?" Joe heard the old familiar
voice, and suddenly he was being given a big hug. He hugged Bart back. "You
joined," Bart said happily.
"Yeah," Joe replied. "I'm kid-hunting right
now, but I thought I'd stop in and say hi… and I'm sorry."
"What, that you stopped believing in me?" Bart
"Well, yeah," Joe said. Bart laughed.
"Hey, you'll know how it feels in a few years.
But until then, you'll know you're helping a young neopet in a way no one else
ever would or ever could, and that makes that little hurt worthwhile. Besides,"
Bart added, "You believe now, don't you?"
"Yeah," Joe said again. Bart clapped him on
"Hey, sorry, but I have some important top-secret
homework to help Joyce here on. But I'll see you later… well, you know," Bart
amended when Joe burst out laughing. The yellow Aisha- Joyce- tugged at Bart's
"Come on, you've got to help me learn how to
do subtraction with carries," the Yellow Aisha said. Joe laughed again, feeling
"I was easier," he said. "Go get em, Bart."
Joe patted Bart's back and walked down the street, whistling. He didn't know
where he was going… only that he was going to meet a Friend.
Author's Note: Kids who have had it rough in life often have invisible
friends. Mine was named Lolland. I don't remember much about her, but wherever
she is now, I'm dedicating this to her, and to all the others out there who
remember a time when not all of their friends were as easy to see as everyone