REHEARSALS WENT ON for all of the month of Hunting, and when Swimming rolled
around, the play was ready to roll. Opening night jitters were hitting most
of the cast and crew, and Harry paced nervously behind the blue curtain. There
were so many people out there! Everyone in his family, and all of his friends
from the Wayside Wanderer Inn were out in the audience, just waiting for him
to come out on stage. Ms. Lupa was in a tizzy, looking this way and that to
make sure everything was perfect. Suddenly, she shrieked melodramatically and
clutched at her heart. "Where… where… is JubJubette?"
Harry looked around too. In all his nervousness,
he hadn't noticed that Sundari Radha wasn't there to pick on him and be mean
to him as usual. Where was she? The play couldn't go on without a JubJubette!
After much searching of the backstage area, all they found was a note. "Please
excuse Sundari Radha from the play this evening, as she is suffering from a
bad case of Bloaty Belly and cannot go on. Eating too many carrots can do that
"Oh, no! Whatever will we do?" Ms. Lupa was
in a full-blown panic now, tearing at her fur and waving the script around like
"I can help…" said a shy voice from where the
stage crew was setting up for the first scene. Peppi the Grarrl waved a golden
hand. "I'm really good at memorising things… I learned the lines for Scorchio
and JubJubette in case one of the actors needed prompting."
"Perfect!" Ms. Lupa sighed with relief. "Get
into a costume, and get out there with Harry! The show must always go on."
Harry could hardly believe it! The girl of his
dreams was going to be playing JubJubette! He still hadn't gotten up the courage
to speak to her, and yet, he was going to have to do the play with her. Worse,
there was that big kiss in act three, scene five! He had to say something before
the curtain rose, but what? What did one say to the most adorable golden Grarrl
in the entire world of Neopia? "Nice Gobstopper…" he muttered. Oh, smooth one,
Harry, he chided himself.
"Pardon?" Peppi asked, putting on a medieval-style
conical princess hat. The rest of the outfit would definitely not fit, being
sized for a plump Cybunny, not a large Grarrl.
"When Radha was making fun of me… you gobstoppered
her good." Harry said, shyly looking up at her. She was radiant in the princess
hat, with her golden scales shining.
"Thanks! Good use of a snack, don't you think?"
Peppi smiled at Harry. "Well, break a tail, as the old actor's saying goes."
"You too, Peppi…"
"Places, everyone!" Scheat called, getting ready
to hoist the curtain.
"I'm so not ready for this…" Kaelik whined as
he took his place, shaking the little bells on his jester costume as he crossed
"I'm ready," Harry said. And in his heart, he
knew he was. No butterflies danced in his stomach, and his palms were nice and
dry. When the curtain rose, he would become Scorchio, and give the best performance
he possibly could. He'd make himself, and all his friends and family proud.
Out in the audience, many people waited anxiously
for the show to begin. Among them sat a peculiar foursome, three men and a lovely
young lady. One of the men, tall, with brown hair and glasses, had a distinctly
impatient snarl on his face. "I don't see why we have to be here," he snapped.
"Now, Smedley," said a shorter, blonde-haired
man who was slurping a slushie, "it's all a part of supporting our public NeoSchools.
Otherwise they'd charge money."
"Shut up, Franco!" Smedley said with a glare.
"At least we snuck Vladamir and Eileen in for free."
Vladamir didn't answer, he was busy writing
in his journal and recording the whole event. After all, it wasn't everyday
that both Franco and Smedley left the lab and did something rather social, and
not profitable in the least. Eileen calmly waited for the show to begin. "I
don't understand how we're going to see Peppi, though, Smedley. Isn't she just
on the stage crew?"
Smedley just smiled a small, nearly innocent,
yet somehow evil smile. "Oh, we'll see her. Trust me on this one."
Indeed, when the curtain rose, there was Peppi
in a princess hat, performing the lead role. Vladamir raised a brow, and recorded
that, too. How it happened, he wasn't sure he wanted to know - particularly
since Smedley was starting to laugh quietly in that most disturbing manner.
A few minutes and some dialogue later, a blue
striped Grarrl who was playing the role of Scorchio wandered onto the scene.
"Franco! Isn't that dsaf654dsaf899?" Smedley hissed, nearly knocking over Franco's
"Nah... You're being paranoid. There's plenty
of striped Grarrls out there." Franco replied.
"Who?" Eileen asked.
"Before your time." Smedley muttered. "Never
mind. I guess you're right, Franco…."
"I'm always right." Franco said, slurping his
slushie. Smedley snorted, causing a few people in the row behind him to glare
and make 'shhh' noises.
Harry remembered all his lines, and found them
so much more meaningful when said to the beautiful Peppi as JubJubette. When
the big kiss scene came around, he wasn't nervous at all, and rather enjoyed
it. After the cast and crew took their bows, pets headed down into the audience
to greet their friends and owners.
"Harry! You were great!" Tiara called, smiling.
"You did a wonderful job. We're so proud of you."
Harry hugged his owner and all his family, then
looked over to Peppi. His mouth dropped open in disbelief. Peppi was talking
to those two evil scientists who had kept him locked up in cage, and performed
horrible experiments on him. Harry was terribly afraid, and wanted to run away
- but he thought to himself… what would Scorchio do in a situation like this?
He'd rescue the fair JubJubette, of course, and that was just what Harry was
going to do. With his most fierce roar, he charged towards the scientists….
"Oh, Harry, there you are. I want you to meet
my family," Peppi said with a smile.
"….fa…family?" Harry said, stopping dead in
"This is Franco, and Smedley, and Vladamir,
and Eileen," she said, pointing to each one in turn.
"…I… um…" Harry gulped, stunned. "I think I
already know Franco and Smedley."
"You do?" Franco said, surprised.
"Ah-ha!" Smedley said. "I knew it! Dsaf654dsaf899,
you're coming back to the lab with us!" He grabbed Harry by the arm, and started
"NO!" shouted Harry. "I'm not Dsaf654dsaf899
anymore! I'm not your property! My name is Harry, and I've got a family who
"What's going on?" said Peppi, clearly confused.
"These two…" said Harry, pointing at Franco
and Smedley. "Kept me locked up in a cage. They barely fed me, and yelled at
me, and poked and prodded me. They experimented on me!"
Peppi and Eileen both gasped, shocked by the
"Is that true?" Eileen asked Smedley.
"Well, yeah… technically. But we were just starting
out in the science business. We didn't know all that much about pet raising,
and we were on a tight budget…" Smedley still wanted to take the Grarrl back
with him, but reluctantly, he let go of Harry's arm.
"That's terrible!" said Peppi.
"It was pretty rotten of us…" Franco agreed…
"And we're sorry."
"We are?" said Smedley. Vladamir kicked him.
"Oh… whatever. Yeah. Sorry. Now stop whining and come back with us."
"No WAY," said Harry, who still didn't trust
Smedley. "Peppi… do they treat you alright?"
"I've got my own room, and they don't do anything
mean to me, really… and they're even sort of nice, sometimes. And Eileen does
Smedley interrupted, "That's all very touching.
Now if there's no happy reunions in progress here, we've got work to do at home.
Come on, Franco." Apparently less than amused at the revelations of the last
three minutes, Smedley began stomping towards the door.
Franco trailed after, commenting, "I thought
ol' 899 ended up at the Wayside - I saw him there once."
"That's where I live…" Harry said.
"What?! You saw him, and you didn't tell me?
Franco, you idiot!" Smedley started smacking Franco over the head on their way
"I have to go…" Peppi said. "I'm sorry for what
happened in the past, but they're not really that bad now. I hope you can forgive
Harry watched the departing figures, and listened
to the sounds of Smedley's ranting grow fainter as they headed out of the building.
"I can forgive them… but I'll never forget." Peppi leaned over and kissed Harry's
cheek before turning to follow her owners home.
Harry stood there for a while, feeling lost
for words to express what he was feeling. A gentle hand on his shoulder made
him remember his own family. His real family. "Come on," said Tiara, "it's time
to go home, Harry."
Later that night, while he lay awake in bed
too excited still to sleep, Harry pondered the day. He'd learned a lot about
life that day. He was surprised that he could forgive the two scientists - Franco
and Smedley, now that he knew their names. Perhaps the reason was that he wouldn't
be who he was today if he had not struggled through adversity, and learned compassion.
He shuddered to think that without these lessons, he might have turned out like
Sundari Radha, or worse. One thing was for certain, though - he really liked
Peppi, and hoped that the scientists would treat her right.