More Than a Chili Pepper
It's not easy being a chili pepper.
Other Neopets look at you funny and whisper when you walk by. I mean, I can't blame them. I'm four inches tall, bright red, and completely edible. I'm bound to turn heads.
For years, I considered it a curse. I dealt with small torments every day that might have seemed amusing at first, but got old fast.
When I was out walking around, many would mistake me for a tasty snack and pick me up. It wasn't until they heard me shouting in protest that they would realize their error and quickly apologize.
Sleeping in normal beds and eating off normal plates were a thing of the past. My bed consisted of a sock and some cotton fluff, and my plates were made of little buttons.
I used to read a lot. Now, being a pepper Chia, each book I want to read is about three times my height. And turning pages? Forget about it. It's a full body workout just to read one chapter.
Needless to say, I didn't have any friends. Other Neopets were really put off by me. They assumed that because I was a chili pepper, I would have nothing to say. If they just talked to me, they would have realized how awesome I was. I was lonely a lot of the time.
My owner, Anna, told me there were other Chias like me. She said there were Chias that were peaches, oranges, apples, even a weird thing called an agueena. She said they all lived rich and fulfilling lives. I never believed her; it just seemed too farfetched.
Anna also always told me that every Neopet was the way they were for a reason. I would sarcastically respond, "Yes, it's because I was stupid enough to try a new Chia pop." She would shake her head and say that one day, I would realize my purpose.
I never believed that either until one special day.
We lived in a small little village in Meridell called Meri Acres. There wasn't much to it. A bunch of farms, mostly. But it was a pleasant place to live, and it wasn't far from the amazing land of Meridell.
There was one farmer in Meri Acres who was famous for having the best crops. His name was Alton Moughbry and he was a yellow Kacheek. Despite all he grew, he was famed for his potatoes. Sometimes he would let other Neopets count is potato crops for him for a Neopoint reward. He and his family had been in Meri Acres for as long as anybody could remember.
One day, there were whispers around town about Alton's crops. I overheard a conversation in the marketplace between an elderly Kyrii and her daughter.
"Mom I heard Alton's crops are being stolen," said the young Kyrii.
"Where in the world did you hear that?" her mother asked in amusement, readjusting her sunhat.
"Tommy Mudki from school told me," the Kyrii said earnestly, blinking up at her mom. "He said that somebody is coming in the middle of the night and he can't figure out who it is. Says they are really focused on the chili peppers and the peaches."
My ears perked up when I heard "chili pepper."
"Well, why not just stay up all night and see who's doing it?" the mom asked.
"He does!" the daughter said. "He says that Alton stays up all night but never sees who does it. He doesn't even see anything being stolen. But the next day, chunks of crops are missing."
"How odd," the mother said, sifting through the apple display to find some suitable ones.
I pondered their conversation on the way back home. Maybe there is something I can do to help I thought.
I climbed up the rope to the window to get inside the house, where Anna was in my room. She was organizing my bookshelf.
"Hi honey," she said cheerfully, her eyes focused on my old copy of Unique Unis that she was putting away.
"Hey Anna," I said, dangling my feet off the end of my bed. "I overheard something at the market today."
"Oh?" she asked.
I quickly gave her the rundown about everything I had heard at the marketplace. The whole time I was speaking, Anna's eyes were lighting up. She looked so excited. Eventually, I asked her why.
"Chili, don't you realize what great news this is?" she asked. "This is what you were meant for! You can help save Alton's farm!"
"How?" I asked, dumbfounded.
She picked me up in her hand gleefully. "You can hide there at night and see who is stealing the crops. You look just like all the other chili peppers. That way, you can be disguised!"
It was just crazy enough to work. Excitement started growing inside of me, and I knew it's what I had to do. In the next five minutes, Anna and I were heading over to Alton's farm.
We got to the farm and knocked on the door. Alton stepped outside and stared at Anna and me warily. Anna and Alton weren't on the best terms; she was constantly defending me to him and everybody else in town. Anna was also unhappy about the time that Alton came to her and asked if he could use me as an entry for the county fair; he wanted to win with his vegetables, and figured a talking chili pepper would give him an edge. Anna wasn't happy.
"What do you guys want?" he asked, just barely containing his hostility. Looking at him, I couldn't help but feel bad. He had circles under his eyes, and his clothes weren't as well maintained as usual, with a couple rips and dirt smudges.
"Alton, we know about what's happening with your crops, and we can help," she said.
Alton looked at her suspiciously but said nothing. Anna took it as an invitation to keep talking. "Chili can hide in your crops. She looks just like a chili. Whoever is stealing your crops, you can't see them. Maybe she can."
He stared at Anna, then back at me. He was drumming his fingers against the doorframe, thinking. He stopped the drumming abruptly after a few seconds, seeming to make up his mind.
"No," he said firmly. "That little Chia will be nothing but trouble. You two need to go."
Anna turned to leave.
"No!" I cried out passionately. Anna turned around, surprised. I climbed up Anton's pants and got right in his face before he could protest. "Look Anton, I'm tired of being the laughingstock of this town. I have a special purpose, I know I do. I might be small, and I might be strange, but I'm more than that. I am strong and smart and kind, and I can help you. Let me figure this out. I can do it. I'm more than a chili pepper."
Anton stared at me, a tiny little pepper centimeters from his face, my face flushed with determination. To my amazement, he broke out in a huge smile. "All right, you have a deal. Be here half an hour before sundown tonight," he said, gently plucking me off his shirt collar and putting me on the ground.
I arrived in his backyard at 6:30 that night. Anton was waiting. He saw me and nodded.
"Ok, so I need you to hide with the chili peppers tonight," he said. He pointed me in the right direction; his backyard was already hard to navigate, but it's even harder for a four-inch tall pepper.
Once I was in place, he gave me one last pep talk. "If you can help me with this, Chili, it would mean so much to me." He paused. "You were right. I wasn't always fair to you, or your sweet owner. She's a nice lady, and she believes in you. And so do I."
He turned to walk away, leaving me very confused.
I watched the sun slowly go down, the bright oranges and reds fading to black, the sparkling stars coming out to fill the sky. Nothing happened. Nothing was around except the light breeze rushing through the trees, and the crickets chirping softly.
When I began to grow restless, that's when it happened. I saw a small shadow dash across the rows of vegetables. Then again, closer this time. Then, I saw a long, sticky tongue grasp a berry and scatter.
Then I saw it. It was close enough for me to see. It was a small, green petpet. I'd seen them in a book I read... what were they... a Carma.
Carmas were infamous for their long tongues and for stealing crops. They were also famous for being notoriously dumb.
I smiled slyly, an idea creeping into my head.
I made a noise. The Carma's little head snapped up, on high alert. Suspiciously, it put its head back down, sniffing around for more crops.
Then I decided to have more fun. I moved slightly, running right behind the Carma. It turned but missed me. I could see it start to be afraid, its little body shaking with uncertainty.
Then I went in for the final show. I leered up behind it, making growling noises. The Carma squealed in terror, paralyzed to the spot in fear.
"I am the queen of the chili peppers," I said in a dramatic, booming voice. "We are angered by your stealing of this farmer's crops. If you ever come back, the consequences will be severe. Begone! And never come back!"
The Carma scurried away, squealing in terror and dropping all of its stolen crops in the process. I smirked, knowing that I would probably never see it, or any of the other, ever again.
Anton gave me a huge hug the next morning when I told him what had happened. "Chili, I can never thank you enough for what you've done for me," he told me. "You were so smart and quick. I couldn't have solved this without you. You were right; you are so much more than a chili pepper. You're something special."
I grinned ear to ear on the way home, excited to go home and tell Anna that I had finally discovered my purpose. I used to hate being a chili pepper, but now I know that it's what makes me me. And I wouldn't have it any other way.