Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 142,067,714 Issue: 297 | 22nd day of Relaxing, Y9
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How Sisters Are Made


by retreat_at_random

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I peered into the direct sunlight streaming through my window, trying to make out what sort of day it was outside. It was sunny, pleasant, and I could make out my owner picking at berries in our overgrown garden. I’m a baby Ixi, and our species know a thing or two about berry picking. I’ve tried many a time to help my owner Laura grow some more plentiful berries, but there’s no use in it.

     I know - all of my friends know - that berries won’t grow here. Not in our soil anyway. I stretched out my small blue paws and dragged myself out the door and into the sun, waking up slowly with every step. Sitting down on the path, I ran the dry soil through my fur, creating a tiny sand storm that swirled about for a few seconds before settling down. Sand, that’s all this was. A giant sandpit that Laura, my owner, was trying to turn into something productive. I let out a sigh as she arched her back and glanced over at me lazing in the mid-morning sun.

     Laura gave up on her project and made her way over, greeting me with a cheerful smile. I could always rely on her to brighten up my morning, and she greeted me just as warmly.

     “Wild_tussock, how are you dear? Sleeping in until midday, all of that work yesterday must have completely tired you out!” And with that Laura and I headed back inside away from the heat, sitting at the table in silence for a few seconds.

     “Dung.” Laura sighed and placed her berry basket in front of me, screwing up her face in an act of mock exhaustion. I peered over the side of the basket, for it was large enough to fit me in it. Not one berry sat against the pale yellow twine; instead it was filled with manure. It wasn’t exactly the most pleasant looking breakfast, and it smelt even less appetising. Glancing over again at Laura, I realised my face most likely mirrored hers. With that we both collapsed on the floor, laughing hysterically, tears falling from our eyes.

     “You go and have a shower; you smell like the stuff!” I whispered between snorts. “I’ll take care of the dung.”

     With tremendous effort Laura hauled herself from the floor and wiped the tears from her eyes, wiping dust away from everything surrounding us.

     “I don’t know what I’d do without you, wild_tussock, honestly. I just couldn’t cope,” she murmured back, turning and striding toward the bathroom we shared.

     For a second I thought another tear trickled down her cheek, but it must have just been from the earlier laughing. We looked a sight, so I eventually pulled myself up and grabbed the dung. A trip to the backfield was in store for me.

     The backfield is exactly what is sounds like, a field at the very back of our property. It is just as sand-filled and eerie as the rest of the land, but since it is out of sight and smelling range, this is where we dump all of the dung. Baby Ixi have a very keen sense of smell, and as soon as I jumped the first fence the waft of dung hit me in the face. If you have ever experienced smelling a pit full of old dung on a sweltering hot day then you can feel my pain. Tightening the muscles in my nose, I tried to block out the stench and kept on heading in the backfield's vague direction.

     It was only after the smell had drifted away that I noticed I had passed the field long ago, so intent I had been on getting the job over and done with. Pulling the dung basket off my neck (although we are a skilled species, Ixi do find it difficult to hold baskets like our owners do), I took in my new surroundings. This was a field that I hadn’t visited before, yet it was obviously still within our boundaries.

     A gasp escaped my mouth, and a shiver ran down my back all the way to my hooves. The entire paddock was filled with luscious, brightly coloured berries sheltering under the leaves of a Doughnutfruit tree. Berries similar to the ones people sell at markets, berries more delicious looking than any I had ever laid eyes on in my entire life. Berries that were growing on OUR land.

     Picking one of the smallest ones on the bush, I timidly put it in my mouth. There was nothing to describe it, the rich flavour and smooth texture. Immediately I thought of Laura sitting at home, scrubbing away at the dung pong seemingly attached to her hands. Dumping the dung over a nearby fence, I proceeded to fill the basket to the rim with these delicious berries.

     Striding back toward our neohome, I felt the basket around my neck and the sun on my back. I was happy, happier than I had been in a long time. Finally our neohome door was in sight, and I bounded in to face Laura at the Kitchen table. She was sitting in a daze, perhaps trying to get used to the almost permanent brown tinge under her fingernails. I cringed at the thought, before rounding on her with a smile stretching the width of my face.

      We knew each other pretty well, considering I was her first pet, her oldest. Placing the basket on the table, no words were uttered. They didn’t need to be. Laura’s jaw dropped a mile, and silently she plucked a berry from the basket, placed it in her mouth and waited.

     “Where?” she muttered, trying (and failing) to hide her glee.

     “At the edge of our boundary, past the backfield.” Placing my paws on her knees, we looked each other in the eyes, real tears dropping to the ground. This is it, we can harvest, sell, and even BUY new things. These berries, they will give us the new life we were hoping for. Maybe I would even get a sibling, another pet to spend time with and help us out.

     --

     One year later, I am on the way out to the berry field to collect some extra berries for tomorrow’s stalls in Neopia Central. Skipping along beside me is Kowhai, my little fire Xweetok sister who has been with us for just over a month. She is my best friend, someone who I can look after and spend all my time with. She giggles and manages to drop the basket, landing in a pile of dung.

     “Gross!” I pick it up and swing it over my neck, giving Kowhai a push in the right direction, careful not to singe myself on her beautiful coat.

     We arrive in the berry field, and I look up to see my sister sitting in awe, sitting unmoving. I rush up to ask what in Neopia is wrong, but am silenced myself. I notice it, the field that is. Sure, there is shrubbery left over, twigs cover the ground and the trunk still stands in the same place. But something is missing. All of the berries have disappeared; there is not a single one left. Obviously we had over-picked, there was no other plausible reason.

     “Tussock, tussock, what are we going to do? We have no berries to sell or eat and that is what we do. We’ve done that every day forever! Forever, Tussock!” Kowhai moans into my shoulder, kicking the basket a foot or so in front of us.

     I don’t reply; instead I walk up to the tree and place the empty basket at its trunk. It was a blessing, the berries and the life it gave us. We will last of course, there is nothing wrong with less money. But as I lie beneath the dead tree, I am not regretful of anything. I am thankful.

     I am thanking the tree for giving me Kowhai, my sister.

     Perhaps she will realise one day, that she has a lot to be thankful for also.

     But for now, I pull her up on my back and run back to the house. She will have to get used to the smell of dung in her paws, so we might as well start now!

The End

 
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