Being a Big Brother
Og was standing on the bank of the pond in front of his Neohome, tossing diving rings for his yellow Mallard, Alla. She was quacking happily at the exercise. The day was rather dismal, overcast with sporadic rain. Og was covered, though, wearing his Charming Battle Duck Hoodie, jeans and boots. He didn't like getting wet and would have much preferred being inside out of the weather, but Alla loved it.
It was the only reason the yellow Ogrin was out there. He was just thinking that such dismal weather was highly unusual for summer when he smelled the familiar aroma of skunk.
A few moments later a distressed cry joined the smell. "Og!"
G, Og's sixteen year old yellow Scorchio brother, collapsed in his arms. He absolutely reeked.
"What happened, G?" Og asked, carefully helping his youngest sibling into a sitting position on the wet bank.
"There was this puny little Aisha and he sprayed me," G cried.
"G, stay put. I'll be right back."
Og jogged quickly to his front door and paused for only a moment. He sighed, wishing his brother hadn't put him in this situation. He also wished that he had thought to keep the tomato juice outside in a shed rather than in the kitchen pantry. He was trailing the strong, almost overpowering skunk scent into the house. While he didn't find it offensive, his other brother and sister would not agree.
The Ogrin grabbed sponges along with the tomato juice. He also grabbed an oversized wash tub and hauled it all outside to his miserable brother. Alla had come out of the water and sat beside G, quacking in a low, soothing tone. G was petting the yellow Mallard but Alla moved away as her owner approached.
"G, get in the tub and begin to scrub, not wash, scrub yourself all over. Trick and Abeje will not be pleased with you if you still smell by the time they get home," Og said, handing the Scorchio a sponge.
"I'm sorry," G said in a low voice.
"I know, G. I know."
The brothers didn't say any more. G tried to behave, he really did, but he had a terrible temper. He was young and still couldn't control himself, resulting in fits of aggression that caused trouble for the entire family. Og had tried to help G learn self-control: talking to him, giving him books, enrolling him in classes. Nothing worked.
It took three thorough scrubbings to remove the skunk scent to Og's satisfaction. Og dumped the tomato juice in the nearby woods, pondering briefly what would happen to the ground there. Then, he dumped the sponges in the garbage outside, setting the wash basin beside it. He most likely would never use that wash tub, again. Lastly, he sent G inside and made them both a warming cup of hot chocolate.
They still didn't speak. Each was lost in their own thoughts. Og sent G to his bedroom. He was just putting the now-clean cups in the cupboard when he heard gags and hacking coughs coming from the front door.
"What is that smell?"
"This trick's been played on me!"
Og smiled. Abeje and Trick had come home.
"I would have aired out the house but the weather isn't exactly conducive to that," Og said, as he entered the front room to see the Christmas Zafara and yellow Pteri.
Og's younger siblings exchanged a glance and rolled their eyes. Their brother enjoyed using big words in his everyday vocabulary. They thought he was just absurd to use big words when he didn't have to. The Pteri and Zafara were highly intelligent but they didn't talk like their older brother and they didn't know many others that did. Og filled in his siblings on what had transpired that afternoon.
Trick and Abeje thought it all a laugh and took the news well. Overall, despite G's incident, the day had gone well. Og, however, was not happy. G was a problem and Trick and Abeje shouldn't have to live with his over-the-line antics. Og knew that he needed to talk to someone, to get more advice on what to do about his youngest brother and he knew exactly who he needed to see.
The next day was sunny with no breeze and it was rather warm out, a stark contrast to the previous day's weather. As Og walked on the front yard, he saw a rowdy pack of young Lupes, all wearing green collars, playing some game or other that their Alpha had thought up for them. An adult yellow Lupe and blue Elephante were sitting on the porch. These were the pets Og came to see. Inc was the Lupe, Snar, the Elephante.
Og and Snar were the same age but Inc was older than they were. Both Inc and Snar had a lot more experience than Og did and he valued their insight. He had come to them before to talk about G.
"Take a seat, Og," Inc invited, waving a leather-gloved hand to a nearby chair.
"Would you care for refreshment, Og?" Snar asked.
Og flicked his ears. "Apple juice, please. If you have it."
A few moments later, Og was sipping a cool glass of apple juice, his eyes downcast, his shoulders slumped. The yellow Ogrin was completely dejected; being the pet in charge of G had taken its toll.
Inc exchanged a glance with Snar, then leaned forward, elbows on knees, yellow eyes gentle, "Og, talk to us. We're here to listen."
"Yes, what's the latest on G?" Snar asked.
Og carefully settled his half-filled glass on his knee, looking up at Inc and Snar's concerned faces. He told them about the previous day's events. Inc frowned and Snar clicked her tongue.
Og shook his head. "No matter what I do, G seems to be getting worse, not better."
Inc quirked his eyebrows. "This isn't your fault, Og."
"I'm his oldest brother. I'm fully responsible for G and his conduct."
"Inc is right, Og. Don't blame yourself," Snar put in.
"Will he ever change?"
"G has a lot of growing up to do, yet. He's only sixteen. He's taking his time maturing, that's all," Inc said, hoping to reassure Og.
"Maybe we're expecting too much of him too soon," Snar said.
The three pets lapsed into silence. They watched the four young Lupes playing in the yard. Suddenly, there was a loud, startled yelp and the entire pile scattered. Inc stepped into the yard and sorted out the issue. The largest pup in the pack, a Darigan Lupe, was told to stay by Inc's side for the rest of the day.
The young Lupe sulked but trotted obediently after Inc as he rejoined Snar and Og on the porch. The Darigan Lupe huffed and flopped on the floor at Inc's feet.
"Toughie, you can't bully the smaller Lupes. You're larger than they are. Plus, your wings give you a distinct advantage over the others because they can't fly," Inc chided the younger Lupe.
Toughie rose to a sitting position, glowing red eyes heated. "They were bullying my sister!"
"It's admirable that you wish to protect her, but you won't always be around. Achieng needs to learn to defend herself. You're all safe here. You're all here to gain experience and independence that you wouldn't gain at home."
Toughie looked away and preoccupied himself in watching the other young Lupes continuing to play. Inc turned his attention back to Snar and Og. Snar looked thoughtful.
"You know, Inc makes an excellent point. Wings are a wonderful advantage. Og, what do your three siblings have in common that you so obviously lack?" Snar said.
"Wings," Og said faintly.
Inc flicked his ears and leaned forward. "That's it, Og! You need wings!"
The yellow Ogrin closed his eyes, but he wished to close his ears. He had known where his friends were going almost as soon as they had started talking. He had sacrificed so much for his siblings. This was just too much!
"No. No! I can't. I just can't," Og said, his voice rising with each word.
The Ogrin rose to his feet and walked away quickly, unaware of the young Lupes now watching him with rapt attention. Inc and Snar had risen to their feet, too.
Snar moved, as if to follow after Og. "Og, wait!"
Inc put a restraining hand on the Elephante's arm. "No, Snar. Let him go."
~ ~ ~
The young woman leaned against the doorframe, looking at her yellow Ogrin, sitting on his Earth Faerie Canopy Bed. Inc and Snar had informed her of the conversation that they had had with Og a week before. Now the young woman, known as Seven to her friends, could see that the conversation had greatly affected him. It had been nice out all week, the sun shining strongly. Og, Seven knew, loved being outside whenever possible yet he had refused to leave his bedroom all week.
Og only came out for meals. Even Alla couldn't get him out of his bedroom. The Ogrin had been taciturn, refusing to acknowledge his siblings or anyone else. This was normal with strangers but once he had warmed up to someone, he was normally willing and able to have a conversation. Unnerved by their oldest brother's behavior, Abeje and Trick were blaming G, who felt completely ostracized.
The family was in trouble. Seven may be their owner but Og was their glue. He held them together. If he wasn't himself, nothing could be right in his siblings' world. Seven and Og were a lot alike.
They both were loyal, almost to a fault. They would do anything for their loved ones. They held themselves to a high standard. Alone, these qualities were admirable. Mixing them didn't always work.
Seven recognized the signs in Og. Her poor Ogrin was conflicted. The stress of caring for G had pushed him to his breaking point. He had retreated into himself to work things out alone; to make the best decision for himself and his siblings. Seven knew the circles that Og was running in his mind, as he sought a solution.
Now, Seven hoped to help, however slight. She moved to sit beside her Ogrin. He didn't look at her and there was silence between them for a moment. A smile flickered across the young woman's face and she looped her arm across Og's shoulders lightly.
"I love you," Seven said.
Og leaned back slightly and looked curiously at his owner.
"Didn't think I was going to say that, now did you?" Seven laughed.
Og shook his head no, but he was now smiling.
"That's what I thought. Mind sharing what's on your mind?"
Seven shifted, crooking one leg on the bed and using the other as a support on the floor. Og mirrored her position. Her Ogrin still wouldn't look at her.
"I'm a failure," Og said in a low voice.
Seven raised her eyebrows in surprise. Of all the things that Og could have said, she had not expected that.
The young woman cocked her head, curious. "Why do you say that?"
Og shook his head and shot her a look from his wide yellow eyes as if to say, 'Don't you know?'. Seven crossed her arms and quirked her brows, her answer clear.
"I'm the oldest pet in the family. I'm the responsible one. If things go wrong, it's all my fault. With G, everything is going wrong. I'm the worst older brother in the history of Neopia," Og said wretchedly.
Seven leaned back against one of the bedposts. She had believed leaving the situation alone was the right thing to do. Now, she wasn't so sure.
Seven placed a hand on Og's shoulder. "That's a strong negative statement. I understand why you feel that way, Og. Remember, the actions of others aren't your responsibility. Plus, I'm older than you. If anyone should feel like dung, it's me."
It was Og's turn to look dubious, then surprised, then faintly amused. He flicked his ears and crossed his arms over his chest.
"You're only a few months older than I am, Momma," Og said.
Seven twitched her mouth, "So I am. I'm trying to say that Trick, Abeje and G are first and foremost my responsibility, not yours. I never intended to put so much weight on your shoulders."
"That's my point! I want to help you. I feel like I'm letting you down, too."
"You're not letting me down. I could never be disappointed in you, Og. You're intelligent and kind. What is there not to love?"
Og took a deep breath. Seven let her words sink in. She waited for her Ogrin to make eye contact with her before speaking, again.
"I spoke with Inc and Snar. They told me about the conversation you three had. Why are you so opposed to flying? You're not afraid of heights. You climb trees well enough," Seven said.
"Flying is dangerous," Og said.
"I suppose it can be. You don't see that stopping your siblings, or Sweet or even Lofty. He learned how to fly and he absolutely loves it!"
"I'm not Lofty."
"No, you're not. However, there is no harm in learning from someone else and not just their mistakes. You shouldn't let your fear hold you back from trying new things. Everything you do now was once new to you."
"I never thought of it like that before. I definitely don't want to be painted faerie."
"Of course not. I'd like to make a deal with you, if that's OK? If I find wearable wings that you like, then will you at least try?"
"Yes, I'll try."
Seven stood up and headed for the door. Then, she paused to look back.
"One more thing. You are the best big brother that your siblings could have, Og. Never forget that," Seven said with a warm smile.
She knew that words were rarely helpful. It was nice to know that others cared enough to say them but when one was feeling as poorly as Og did just then it usually didn't make as strong an impact as the speaker intended. As she left her Ogrin alone with his thoughts, she hoped that she at least gave him something more positive to think about. Then, the young woman began to think of her end of their deal. What sort of wings would tempt Og to give flying a try?
It was only a few days later when Seven went back to Og's bedroom. Seeing her Ogrin sitting on his bed, she leaned casually against the doorframe, hiding something behind her back.
"Hey, what do you think of these?" Seven asked.
The young woman pulled out a pair of Autumn Leaf Wings and held them out to her Ogrin. She beamed as she saw his reaction. He sat up straight and stared at them, yellow eyes wide. His ears and nose twitched wildly.
"Are those really wings?" Og asked, voice filled with awe.
Seven nodded her head. "Yes, they really are."
The wings were very nice. They were made from autumn leaves. They were the rich shades of red, orange, brown and gold. They smelled like autumn: musty and a little dank. Og ran his hands reverently over the wings and they crackled under his touch.
Every now and again, a leaf would twirl slowly to the floor.
"So, what do you say, Og?" Seven asked.
Even now, Og hesitated. He obviously hadn't expected to do his part of the deal quite so soon.
Then, the yellow Ogrin nodded. "Yes, I'll try..."
Seven smiled. "That's what I thought you'd say. I asked Abeje to stay home today. She'll give you your first flying lesson. You won't regret it, Og. We'll be waiting outside."
The young woman exited Og's bedroom, taking the Autumn Leaf Wings with her. Og stood alone, hands on hips. He took a deep breath, gathering himself for what he was about to do. A loud quack made him look down. Alla was looking up at him, her wings partially spread.
That's when it hit Og. Alla had been with him for years now. He had been afraid of water and hadn't known how to swim, until Alla had taught him how one summer. He was no longer afraid of water, thanks to his yellow Mallard. She had reminded him that he was not alone now.
"You taught me how to swim and you'll teach me how to fly. We'll be creatures of land, sea and sky, won't we, Alla?"
Reassured, with Alla by his side, Og headed outside, where his sister and his owner waited. Seven held out the Autumn Leaf Wings to Og.
"Are you ready to fly now, Og?"