Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 110,015,858 Issue: 181 | 10th day of Running, Y7
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The Price of Good Grades: Part One


by shadowcristal

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My name is Joel. I'm a blue Cybunny and I'm in my third year of Neoschool. As you might expect from a clever and popular pet, I have good grades and I make the High Honor Roll every term. But it was not always like this. Once upon a time, I would have a big 'F' stamped on my forehead and feel guilty about it. Interested? Well, this is my story...

     I can recall a very slushy afternoon when I was feeling very dreadful as I was walking home. I had just received my science test and on it was a big, fat three (out of twenty). All pets attending Neoschool had to get their owner to sign the test to make sure that they were aware of what was going on. I had this feeling that something bad was going to happen.

     As I entered my NeoHome, Mari hugged me, grabbing the test as she took my Dark Faerie backpack off.

     "WHAT?" I heard my owner exclaim as she saw the awful science test. I hung my head. My premonition had been correct. Mari looked at me with the face of an owner that was tired of doing the same things again and again, but never giving up.

     "Can't you do any better than this?" she asked, sounding somewhat whiny. I shook my head coldly. For some reason that I didn't understand, my owner would always make such a fuss about getting good grades in school.

     "I don't care," I said frankly. Better to tell her now than later.

     "WHAT?" Oh, she's beginning to repeat herself. "Don't you want to get better grades? Don't you even want to try?"

     I decided to end this boring, melodramatic lecture by telling her the truth. Maybe it would actually shock her so much so she would not bug me for a while. Well, at least I could try...

     "Honestly, Mari, the only reason that I am in school is because of my social life," I said, giving her a carefree shrug.

     My poor owner tried frantically to explain how and why I should get A's for the next fifteen minutes, after she had slammed the door and forced me to stay in the same room and listen. It was all the same old speech, of course. I rolled my eyes when she got to 'good grades give you a good start in the job market, and I'm sure you'll get more if you graduate with good grades'.

     And then it hit me. You work and you get paid, right? Well, then why shouldn't you get paid for going to school? After all, 'student' is considered an occupation.

     I told my owner this little stroke of genius. Surprisingly, Mari stopped her lecture and pondered over the matter. When she was done, I noticed an excited gleam in her eyes. Uh-oh.

     "Well, let's try this," Mari said, sounding very mother-like. "If you get A's, then I'll pay you. You do all the work on your own. Major tests and report cards. How about that?"

     I nodded. It was a good idea. "How much?" I asked.

     "10k for every A," my owner said.

     "B's?" I asked, feeling that this was just like haggling in Neopia Central.

     "All or nothing," she replied with her most business-like tone. I knew that it was useless trying to argue. If I did that, Mari might change her mind and not pay me at all.

     "Deal," I said with a grim face, giving shouts of triumph inside me. This was something new. I couldn't actually believe that I would be getting paid for good grades!

     "And don't try to bribe your teachers!" my owner added. When she went back to read the latest issue of the Neopian Times, I could hear her mutter, "I really hope this works..."

     For a mere second, I sympathized with her. Nothing, absolutely nothing, had worked on me. Candy, visits to the psychologist, threats, minor punishments etc. I shook my head, but the next second I was feeling happy. Perhaps the NP thing would work? I skipped to my room in joy, grabbing my backpack on the way and feeling ready to do the disgusting homework.

     When I opened the book, I found several notes from my friends falling out. I remembered the deal with Mari, and put those notes away so I could read them later.

     Doing homework properly was something new. Normally, I'd just write something like chicken scratch and then put it away. Math was a nightmare. The equations were long and hard, but finally I managed to solve most of them. I grinned, happy that all those rounds at Math's nightmare with my friends had paid off. Then I went down to have my homework checked by my owner. After all, she was the one who had made the offer, so she would have to do something too.

     After a quick check-through, I moved on to doing language arts. The assignment was to write a creative short story. I leafed through the requirements. Too boring. I threw the stupid bunch of paper to the other side of the room in mild frustration. Good thing that it was due next week.

     I went through all my homework like a whirlwind, doing things that I felt like doing and leaving the rest for another day. When Mari called me down to dinner, I was completely exhausted. Doing homework took a lot of energy.

     The doorbell buzzed. My owner jumped up and told me that she had invited Ilsa and Edwin over for dinner. I dragged my feet to the door and said hi to my best friend and his owner.

     "What's wrong, Joel?" the green Ixi asked as we sat down at the table.

     "Nothing, Ed. Just some..." I took a big gulp of orange juice, wondering if I should really tell my friend this deal and the homework. I had always been the one to complain about homework and tests at school.

     "Ilsa, you know what?" Mari burst out loudly. I glared at her angrily, but she proceeded on giving her best friend and my best friend very detailed information about our deal and the NP.

     "Mari!" I yelled after she had finished. I didn't care if I was rude or anything, but Mari telling her friend (and my friend, on top of that) about our deal without my permission simply made me mad.

     "Isn't that morally wrong?" Ilsa said after a moment of thought. She was a very wise person, and only spoke when needed. "I thought that pets are supposed to learn stuff because they like it, not because of money or anything else."

     "I..." Edwin begun, but trailed off as he looked at me. I was so sure he would say 'I agree'. Like owner, like pet.

     "Well," Mari said, "Joel gave a very good argument. Do you like the Roasted Gargapples?" My owner quickly changed the topic as my friend stared at me in amazement.

     Later, when we were in my room, Edwin admitted that he was a little bit jealous about being paid for A's. I told him that he shouldn't be, since he already had the best grades possible.

     "Though I'd still like to try that out," he whispered wistfully as we walked down the hallway. It was almost time for him to go home.

     "Don't. Trust me, you do not want owners running around, waving your test with a big fat 'F' on it and yelling like insane."

     He chuckled as he and Ilsa left.

     As I went to bed, I started to feel frightened. Ed had been surprised and almost reacted in a negative way, but we were old friends and he wouldn't let me down. What if other pets in school would act the same way when they got to know about this deal of mine?

     I closed my eyes, not wanting to think about the matter anymore. Anyway, like Ed always says, every day will be a new day, full of opportunities and chances.

     I sincerely hoped that tomorrow would be better than today. But the deal was nice, getting paid for good grades. And then I fell asleep.

     -

     The next day I woke up, feeling refreshed and ready to go. At breakfast, I reminded Mari of the deal and she reminded me of my undone homework. I cringed at the thought of having to do that awful, disgustingly boring homework every single day.

     But 10k was10k.

     I shrugged it off, hoping I might actually like to do homework someday. I rejected the thought immediately, knowing that the only one who would like to do homework would be Edwin.

     At 7:35 AM I got my bag and started walking to Neoschool. I called out to my friends and they all seemed normal. I breathed a nearly unnoticeable sigh of relief. Nothing was wrong. So far.

     I told myself to not be so easily tricked. I had to be on my guard all the time. If the tiniest detail slipped out, I could be doomed. I remembered how Edwin had almost said... No! Must not think! I shook my head, slipping into my seat and went on with the daily routine. I flashed smiles and chatted with everyone until the teacher arrived.

     "Good morning, class!" the math teacher said. "Put your homework on the table. I'll go around and collect it now."

     Slowly and nervously, with shivering fingers, I opened my backpack and took out the homework that I had been working on. I closed my eyes and prayed that no one would have any suspicions as I put the sheets of paper on my desk.

     "Hey, what's that?"

To be continued...

 
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