Battle Quills... ready! Circulation: 90,554,371 Issue: 172 | 7th day of Sleeping, Y7
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Notable: Part One


by pandabearb

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La, SQUEAK, La, SQUEEK, honk was the normal sound at Julie's Neohome. Julie clamped her blue Gelert paws over her ears and cringed as she listened to her red Yurble sister practice her clarinet. "Yuck," Julie muttered to herself as she walked up to the room she shared with her sister. She swung the door open and quickly shut it to muffle the noise and save the rest of their family from musical torture.

     "Didn't I sound great? I did, didn't I? I knew I had talent in something!" Julie's little sister, Mala, exclaimed happily. Mala dropped her clarinet on the bed and jumped up and down, clapping. "It was a really hard Holiday song, but I played it so well, didn't I?" Mala was oblivious to the fact that she stunk at clarinet playing.

     Julie looked at the ceiling and rolled her eyes. "Oh yeah, that was fantastic, Mala. I think you're improving!" she lied. Julie went over to the desk on her side of the room and began pulling books out of her backpack so that she could finish her homework.

     Running over, Mala hugged her sister around the shoulders and said happily, "I knew you'd like it! I just knew it!"

     Julie gently pulled her sister off of her and said, "Yeah, well, I think you should stop practicing now." Please stop practicing, Julie begged in her mind. "Do your homework," She suggested as she took out her Geometry worksheet and chewed at the end of her pencil, already thinking about the first problem.

     Mala shrugged and went back to her bed, picking up her clarinet and replying, "I will, I will. Later, though, because I need to practice my clarinet some more. I just love playing Seasonal music! It's so much fun, don't you agree?"

     Hitting herself on the head with her Geometry book, she dropped it down on the desk and said with a pleading look in her eyes, "Can't you please practice later so that I can get some homework done here?"

     "Nonsense," Mala told her sister. "Everybody knows that some music helps people study."

     "Let me know when you start playing music then," Julie muttered with her head in her hands.

     The Yurble picked up the clarinet and began blowing furiously in it, her fingers moving all over, but not sure what to do. The racket was immense, and it could be heard clearly downstairs by Mala and Julie's older brother as if Mala was blowing in his ear herself.

      The green Jubjub growled and angrily put down the book he was reading. If only their owner was home, then he could put an end to the disturbance. The Jubjub, Bobby, stomped upstairs and shoved the door open, letting it bang against the wall for emphasis.

     "Stop playing, please!" Bobby exclaimed loudly. "I'm trying to read down there!"

     "Don't be silly, Bobby," Mala laughed. "My music will calm and relax you so that you can sink into your book and be one with the story," she added as she dropped to her knees and put her arm across her forehead like it was a theatre performance.

     "The only thing that your playing will relax is a dying Rock Tree that can't wait to get out of its misery!" Bobby yelled, losing his very short temper.

     "Bobby," Julie said warningly. "Calm yourself." Of this eccentric family, Julie was usually the cool and collected one, although it didn't always appear like it. Bobby shrugged and glared at Mala, then walked stiffly back downstairs. Julie addressed Mala, who was looking after Bobby with wide eyes, and said, "Please, Mala. I love you dearly, but could you stop your playing for a while? We all need a break so that we can finish our homework without all this noise going on!"

     "So is that what you think my playing is?" Mala asked in a small, tight voice with tears beginning to form in her eyes. "Noise?!?" She stood next to her bed, clutching her beloved instrument tightly, looking pitiful and innocent.

     "No, that's not what I meant, Mala," Julie said regretfully, getting up. "I just think that we should all get our homework done first," Julie thought for a moment and then added, "in a quiet atmosphere."

     "Fine," Mala replied curtly and slammed her clarinet down on her bed. Walking heavily over to the desk, she jumped into her chair and began working on her own homework.

     The air was tense in the sisters' room as they worked the afternoon away. Even Bobby could feel it as he walked into their room to announce that dinner was ready.

     Mala looked at Julie with her jaw tight and then stomped out of the room. Shaking her head, Julie followed behind, dragging her feet slightly. She felt bad that she had hurt her sister's feelings, even if it was unintentional. Mala and Julie had always had a tight relationship with one another, being the only girls in the family.

     On the table sat Gruel Pizza direct from the Pizzaroo, sliced up Purrples from the Health Food store, and Organic Chia Wort Roots from the family garden. It was a typical meal for this family, no matter how odd it seemed. "I'm famished," The owner said and rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "It was a good day at our store down in Marketplace. I sold quite a few things. I think the Month of Celebration's got everybody in the buying spirit! And in honor of the season and a good day at the shop, I dug up some Organic Chia Wort Roots," He told his family proudly. "How did your day go?"

     Bobby looked at Julie, who in turn looked at Mala, who decided to turn her attention to a slice of pizza. The owner noticed the exchange between siblings, and said seriously, "OK, so what happened?"

     Nobody replied as they busily stuffed their mouths with food. The owner put his fork down and leaned on the table saying, "Somebody better tell, or I'll keep the Kiwi Cookies in the refrigerator for myself."

     In truth, the owner was the only one that liked Kiwi Cookies, so this wasn't exactly a huge threat. In response, though, all of the pets began motioning wildly, pointing to their mouth then their food and shaking their head. In translation, this means: "I have food in my mouth and you always told us not to talk with our mouths full, so I can't tell you what happened."

     Mala swallowed and chose not to be the one to mention the confrontation that had occurred, but instead ran upstairs quickly then bounded back downstairs with a piece of paper in her hands. She handed it to her owner and then slid back into her chair.

     The owner wiped his hands on a napkin then asked, "What's this, Mala?"

     "It's a permission slip, giving me, you know, permission to play my clarinet in the school 'Seasonal Talent Show' during our holiday break. Anybody can enter that wants to. Can I play in it, Daddy? Can I?"

     Bobby and Julie hid snickers under their hands as Bobby whispered in Julie's ear, "The only reason that everybody can play in it is because they didn't know how Mala sounded."

     Their owner shot a glare at Bobby and Julie then turned to Mala and said, "Of course you can! Just like our Julie did a couple of years back! And I'll be out their in the audience cheering you on!"

     "Thanks, Dad!" Mala said, hugging him. She excused herself from the table then ran upstairs and slammed the door shut, no doubt getting ready to play that infamous instrument again.

     Bobby made a face and said grumpily, "Why'd you let her do that, Dad? You know as well as we do that she's a really bad clarinet player."

     Dad chewed his food then responded calmly, "She is not a bad clarinet player." Both Bobby and Julie looked at their dad with doubtful looks on their faces. He sighed then admitted, "Okay, so she could use a little practice. But we all need to be supportive and not squash her confidence," Dad said pointedly with a special look at them.

     Julie and Bobby glanced at each other and stomped their feet on the ground quietly. Their father always seemed to look right through their little acts and know the truth.

     "And since you two both agree that she needs a little help and I agree that she needs a little encouragement, I'm going to let you two help her!" Their dad continued with the voice that he used when he was knowingly making his pets do something they didn't want to do.

     "But Dad, I don't know anything about playing the clarinet," Bobby whined.

     "No, but luckily, Julie does. And you've read up on reading music. I saw those books by your bed. And you can give her some confidence by believing in her, right?"

     "I haven't played the clarinet in ages," Julie told her dad, thinking of everything she could to get out of this.

     "I know you still know how, though. Now no more excuses. If you're done with your dinner and your homework," he cringed as a string of squeaks sounded from the clarinet before he continued, "then you can go and help her right now."

     The two siblings new that this was a battle they could not win, so they sighed, pushed in their chairs, and trudged upstairs.

     Mala stopped playing and glared when they came in. "What do you want?" She asked. "I know that it's not to hear me play!"

     "We're here to help you under the suggestion and influence of our father," Bobby reported. Mala looked at him, clearly confused, so he continued. "Look. We want to help you so that you can do well at the school talent show thing."

     "Yeah," Julie cut in. "I know how to play the clarinet, so I can help you. And Bobby can give you…erm…encouragement. He can teach you how to read the notes quickly or something too, I guess." Never mind that Julie could teach Mala everything herself. If she had to go through this miserable experience, then he did too.

     "Why would you want to help me?" The red Yurble asked as she sat down on her bed and crossed her arms over her stomach. "You said so yourself that I'm a hopeless case."

     "We never said you were a hopeless case. We only said that you played a bunch of noi-" Bobby was cut off by Julie elbowing him in the ribs.

     "We're here to help," Julie repeated firmly as she walked over to Mala's bed. "We're sorry that we hurt your feelings. I know that I wasn't very good when I started out either, but I learned and you will too."

     Mala knew that she wouldn't be able to get rid of them until they were satisfied that they had given her a sufficient amount of help, so she nodded, resigned.

     "Right. So, let's start," Bobby said and waddled over to the bed. He hopped up and began teaching Mala all of the notes, sharps, and flats. He explained the musical terminology and made her tell him the counts of notes.

     Meanwhile, Julie looked over the clarinet and greased the corks. She cleaned the mouthpiece and polished the keys. Remembering her beginner books in the closet, she got them out and looked over them, deciding where they should start. Julie wanted her sister to be the best performer in the talent show.

     * * * * * * * * * * * *

     "Do I look okay? Do you think my clarinet is polished and shiny enough?" Mala blabbed as she nervously scampered around the room picking up her music and a hair tie. It was the day of the concert and Mala had been up since five in the morning.

     Julie laughed and said, "Come here and let me fix your hair for you. Your new dress looks fabulous. Green is a nice touch against your red fur, especially for the Season. And calm down, you'll be fine!"

     "Yeah, especially because you were tutored by the best," Bobby said with a grin as he entered the room and leaned against the door. "And don't worry about your clarinet. I cleaned it myself, so it's perfect."

     "Thanks guys," Mala said, giving her brother and sister a hug. "You'll be there today, right?" She gazed at her siblings, close to begging.

     Bobby and Julie laughed, reassuring their sister for the hundredth time that yes, they would be there. "Break a leg!" Bobby told her encouragingly. Mala smiled, picked up her clarinet and music, and skipped out the door.

     The next thing that could be heard was a CRASH and then a clatter as Mala cried out.

     Their owner rushed out of the living room shouting, "Are you alright?"

     Bobby and Julie looked at each other, raced out of the room and then down the hallway yelling "Mala!"

     They found their sister lying in a heap with clarinet pieces spilled all over the floor and an open instrument case sitting upside down next to the steps.

     "I didn't mean that you should actually break a leg," Bobby muttered under his breath at the top of the staircase. Julie kicked him gently and gave him a glare.

     They hurried down the steps and knelt down next to their sister. "Mala! Are you okay?" They asked in unison.

     Mala sat up, looking dazed and replied, "Yeah, I'm fine…I think. Where's my clarinet?"

     The rest of the family was silent as they stared grimly at her. Julie went over and gathered the sections of the clarinet, then set them in Mala's lap.

     Looking up, Mala said, "But the pieces aren't broken are they? All the keys are still in tact, right?" She quickly picked up the two pieces with keys on them and examined them centimeter by centimeter. She cried out when she saw at least five keys that were bent out of their original position. "What am I going to do Daddy? Can you fix it Mala? Bobby?"

     They all shook their heads grimly. Mala dumped the broken clarinet pieces off of her lap and sniffled as tears began spilling from her eyes. The family looked on helplessly, knowing that there was nothing they could do. The music shop couldn't fix it so quickly when the talent show was only about an hour away.

     Suddenly, Julie sat up straight and bolted up the stairs, heading to her room. She threw open her closet and began rummaging around, until she found exactly what she was looking for. She sprinted back out into the hallway, but slowed down as she went down the stairs to avoid another accident.

     She handed the object to her sister saying, "Here."

To be continued...

 
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