The Weewoo in Training
"Wow, that storm really came out of nowhere!” I shout, struggling to push shut the large door of the Neopian Times office against the buffeting wind.
“Here, let me help you with that,” comes a voice from behind me. We struggle for just a moment before finally pushing the door closed. I'm tempted to collapse beside it, but this is my very first visit to the Times and I want to make a good impression. Instead, I brace myself and turn to meet my rescuer, a smiling Blumaroo. “Thank you so much!”
“Oh, it's no problem at all,” she replies. “Incidentally, are you Cass? We've been expecting a visit from an interviewer today, and I'm afraid she's running a little behind...”
“Yes, that's me! I'm so sorry I'm late, but that storm is just awful,” I frown, clutching my bag to my chest fretfully. Not only late, but sopping wet as well! Could this be going any worse?
“Thank goodness! You needn't worry one bit. I was just concerned that something had happened to you in all this bad weather. I'm glad to see you safe and sound after all,” she smiles brightly. “Let me go grab you a towel. If you'd just take a seat here, the editor will see you shortly. I'm Melina, by the way. Just give a shout if you need anything!” She gestures to a line of comfortable looking chairs off to the side of the room and bustles off down a narrow hallway, presumably in search of a towel.
I sit nervously on the edge of a chair so as not to soak the fabric, but jump up again as the editor's office door swings open at once.
The editor is a tall, cheery looking woman with long brunette hair and fashionable, wire-rimmed glasses. She holds out her hand for me to shake and I wipe my hands on my soaked pants in a useless attempt to dry them before taking her hand.
“I'm so sorry to keep you waiting, Ms. Cass. Would you like to start the interview now,” she asks, politely ignoring my sopping appearance.
“Oh, you weren't keeping me waiting at all. I've just arrived, in fact. The weather held me up, I'm afraid. I thought that I was keeping you waiting!” Just then, Melina returns and hands me a large, fluffy towel. I take it with a grateful nod and begin to dry myself.
The editor laughs warmly. “Well it looks like everything's turned out in the end. Now, what did you want to interview me about today again?”
She motions for me to follow her into her office. It's small, but cozy with a large desk and chairs on both sides. I sit gingerly in a large, high-backed chair facing the wooden desk and pull a notebook and pen out of my bag. The editor sits across from me, her face expectant.
“Well, what I wanted to talk about was-”
Suddenly there's a knock on the door and Melina peeks in. “I'm so sorry to interrupt ma'am, but Toby's here for his assignment. A tiny white Weewoo peeks in around her feet and stares up at me curiously.
“Ah, Toby, right on time.” She shuffles through some paperwork on her desk, locates a small book and hands it to the petpet. “Here's your assignment for today's deliveries. But do be careful in that weather out there!” Toby glances at the book for a moment before tucking it carefully in his little satchel. He gives a fierce little tweet and heads out. Melina opens the front door for him and he jumps out into the howling gale. He hangs suspended in the air for a moment until the wind whisks him away.
I stand up in alarm. “Is it really safe to let him go out in that weather?”
The editor just smiles back proudly. “My dear, the Times is delivered to our customers every day, come wind, rain or snow. Someone has to do it, and that little guy is my very best delivery Weewoo. He's our newest recruit, but if anyone can deliver our paper in that storm, it's our little Toby.”
How extraordinary! I think about that brave little Weewoo for a moment and begin to wonder what his story is. What I really came here for was to get a general history of the Times, but suddenly that story seems boring, overdone. I think I have a new topic for my interview.
“Please, Ms. Editor, tell me about Toby.”
The editor smiles, her eyes sparkling. “Well, it all began a few months ago on a day very like today...”---
Two months ago...
This is it! Today is the day! I find myself tweeting excitedly to myself all morning as I go about getting ready for the day. Blue hat? Check. Trainee badge? Check. Messenger bag? Check. I admire my sharp new uniform in the tiny mirror by my nest. I look like a real Neopian Times Weewoo today. Well, all except for one tiny thing. The Weewoo staring back at me is not white, but a soft, tawny brown.
I preen my my feathers carefully in the mirror, longing for the day they become snowy white. That's the sign of a true Times Weewoo. Only graduating recruits are allowed the coveted white paint- the rest have to settle for other colors.
Ah, but today could be my day! I tell myself, puffing out my chest confidently. Today is my final exam. All I have to do is finish one whole delivery route without any mistakes and I know I can do it. I've been sent out on small missions before and I didn't have any problems with those. Well, except that time when I fell into the Wishing Well, but that was weeks ago. I'm definitely ready now!
With one last look at myself, I head out the door, hoping that by the time I return home, I'll be an official Neopian Times delivery Weewoo.
When I arrive at the office, everyone is rushing to and fro in a panic and I'm forced to hop up onto a chair to avoid being trampled. It's been like this a lot lately. We're coming up on an anniversary issue and everyone's going crazy trying to get ready. Eventually, Melina the Blumaroo spots me.
“Hello there, Toby! Today's the big day, right? Are you ready?” I tweet confidently and she pats me on the head. “That's the spirit! Now let's go get your exam assignment.” She picks me up and takes me into the editor's office with her.
“Ma'am, Toby's here for his exam route today!” She pokes me in the belly softly and I tweet delightedly.
“What? Oh, yes. Toby.” The editor glances around her desk absentmindedly and hands me a small notebook. “Good luck, little one.” With that, she turns back to her work, frantically scribbling on something. Melina brings be back out into the lobby and sets me by the door.
“Toby, I've brought you a special snack for your trip.” She tucks a small parcel into my bag with all of the newspapers I need for today and then pats my head. “I know you can do this. Do your best okay?” I tweet in thanks and head out on the most important delivery of my career.---
Meanwhile, back at the Neopian Times office...
“Ma'am,” I rap on the door lightly as I step in. “Rufus is here for his assignment.”
The editor barely glances up as she hands the Weewoo a small book. “Thank you, Melina. Here's your assignment, Rufus.” I glance over the little Weewoo's shoulder as he examines it.
“Neopian Central? Isn't that a rookie assignment?” Rufus tweets sadly in response. He usually gets the more exciting assignments and Neopian Central is always a dull route.
“What?” The editor pauses in her work to look up at us. “Rufus is assigned to do Meridell today.”
I double check the tiny book. “No, this definitely says 'Neopian Central.'” I flip the book over. “Wait a moment, this is Toby's book!”
The editor searches her desk desperately. “I don't see Rufus' book anywhere! I must have given it to Toby by mistake!”
“Oh no! Rufus, do you think you can catch up with him and switch assignments?” We all look out the window in the direction Toby was heading just in time to see a bright flash of lightning.
Rufus just shakes his head ruefully. With this storm rolling in, there will be no catching up with the tiny Weewoo.
“Oh, I do hope nothing happens to him...”---
Meridell! What an exciting assignment! I puff out my chest proudly as I walk. They must have a lot of faith in me if they're giving me such a difficult exam route!
Ah, but perhaps they're hoping you'll fail, a little voice speaks from the back of my mind. My heart sinks at this realization and I stop in my tracks. Could it be true? Are they giving me a difficult test because they don't want me to pass? No, they wouldn't do that to me. They're my friends. Especially Melina. Surely they wouldn't be so cruel? I shake my head fiercely. I can't be thinking like this. I just have to do my best, no matter what. I trudge on.
But Meridell sure is far away. I've never been quite this far away from the nest before. Which way is it again? I pause at a crossroads, trying to decide which fork to take. I unfold my map to check, but a cloud passes in front of the sun, eclipsing the paper in shadow. I look up just in time to catch a raindrop right in the face. Suddenly there's a bright flash and the rolling boom of thunder. I jump and tweet loudly in surprise, then look around in embarrassment to make sure no one heard me. It would be undignified for an official delivery Weewoo to be scared of a little storm... Luckily, I'm alone.
I return my gaze to the map and pick out a large castle. It doesn't look like it's too much further, thankfully. I put the map away to keep it from getting wet and take the left fork.
The storm seems to be hitting its stride just as I'm entering town. I glance around desperately for the castle. I've never been to Meridell before, but things certainly look a lot more refined than I expected. I guess it just goes to show that you can't believe everything you hear. Apparently, the stories of rolling cheese and slimy Mortogs are just rumors. Eventually I spot the large castle and head for it gratefully.
Upon entering, I'm greeted by a friendly Ixi. “Oh my, you poor little guy! Whatever brings you out in this storm?” I puff out my chest loudly, displaying my trainee badge and show him my list. I tap the name on the very top.
“King Skarl,” he reads slowly. “Oh! I'm sorry little one, but there has been some sort of mix up. This isn't Meridell, this is Brightvale! I'm afraid King Skarl isn't here...”
What?! I tweet loudly in surprise and frustration. In my hurry I must have seen the wrong castle on my map! Oh no! How could I make such a mistake!
“Now, now, not to worry,” the Ixi says soothingly. “We'll just wait for this storm to abate a little bit and then we'll get this all sorted out. Meridell isn't all that far from here, after all.”
I shake my head fiercely. If I don't leave now, there's no way I'll be able to finish my route in time and it I return late... I'll fail. I tweet a hurried goodbye and rush back out into the storm, the Ixi calling after me.
It isn't a long journey, but the howling wind and rain take quite the toll. I can't walk nearly as quickly as I'd like to and it the distance takes much more time to cross than it should. When I do finally get to Meridell (the correct Meridell), it looks a lot more like I was originally expecting. Where the sister city of Brightvale was refined and dignified, this place is rustic. Very rustic.
The storm seems to finally be fizzling out as I rush up the steps to the castle. The sky is lightening and the rain has all but stopped. I give myself a fierce shake, trying to dry myself slightly before knocking soundly on the door.
When it opens, I'm greeted by an Ixi nearly identical to the one from Brightvale. This one doesn't seem quite as friendly, however. There's no polite chitchat, no tones of concern. Instead, he just stares at me expectantly. “Well?”
I go through the pointing routine and then gesture to my Neopian Times cap and badge. “Oh, right, the paper,” the Ixi sighs boredly. “Right this way to the king, then.”
He leads me into a large room with a golden throne. The king himself watches me as we enter. I try to stay calm as I walk up to the throne. I've never been before a king before...
Once I am standing in front of him, I withdraw a paper from my bag and hold it out for him to take. But Skarl just sits there motionlessly, making no move to receive the paper.
The king sighs in response and looks to the Ixi who brought me in.
“You have to tell him a joke,” the Ixi explains as though it were obvious, “or he won't take the paper.”
Is this guy serious? I'm not a court jester, I'm a Neopian Times delivery Weewoo! “Tweet!” I decline sharply. I'm a professional in training! It's just not dignified! It's no use arguing, however. Both Skarl and the Ixi just stare at me, waiting. I don't have time for this! I'm already behind! I'll just have to do it. With a sigh, I give in.
“Tweet tweet tweet tweet? tweet tweet tweet!” I deliver my very best joke. For a moment, there's nothing but silence. I wait, expectantly. Will he take the paper now?
The next thing I know Skarl is yelling that it's the “worst joke ever,” and I'm being thrown from the castle! The Ixi makes sure to grab the paper from me as he boots me out the door unceremoniously. How rude! I rub my behind ruefully, slowly getting to my feet.
Suddenly a Poogle appears at my side. Were you just thrown out for telling a bad joke? I nod vaguely, checking my list of customers and then the watch in my bag. “Congratulations,” he shouts, “you've just won an-” but I don't hear him. I'm already an hour behind and I need to make up some time! There's no time to dawdle.
I manage to deliver a few papers without incident and even manage to make up some lost time by running. I'm finally starting to feel confident again as I head to Meri Acres Farm. This Meridell bunch sure are a strange lot, I think to myself as I duck under some potatoes people are chucking past a Wocky on a skateboard. I mean, how is that even a sport?
Eventually, I spot the Gellert I'm looking for near the Pick Your Own garden. “Tweet tweet!” I call in greeting. He looks up and I head toward him gratefully. Suddenly, there's a squish under my foot. I look down in surprise. Dung?! Ew! What in the world is that doing in the berry garden? Looking around for more dung to avoid, I notice a lot of strange things in the bushes. Is that barbed wire? I hope no one eats that by mistake! Shaking my head, I do my best to wipe the dung off my foot and hurry on to the stony-faced Gellert who seems not to have noticed or cared.
When I check my list again, I'm relieved to see that there's only one more delivery to make. I sigh in relief. Maybe I can do this after all. Then I realize who the last customer is...
I shudder with fear as I look up at the giant, sleeping Turmaculus. It's only natural, I reassure myself. All petpets fear the Turmaculus. But this fact doesn't make me feel any less afraid. There's a reason we all fear the Turmaculus, after all. I gulp.
For a moment, I consider just leaving the paper beside the sleeping giant, but I quickly dismiss the idea. If he doesn't see the paper, he'll think I never delivered it and then I'll fail for sure! No, I have to wake him up.
At first, I start out timidly, just singing and blowing my nose and ringing bells. But nothing wakes him. Eventually, I grow bolder and dump cold water on him. Nothing! I even shove my dung-covered feet under his nose, but nothing wakes the monster.
Eventually, I plop down in defeat. This is it. I've failed. I sit for a moment in misery, trying to figure out my next move when my stomach growls loudly. I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to eat all day and now I'm starving! I remember Melina's gift of food and bring the wrapped package out of my satchel. It's a little soggy from the rain, but I'm so hungry I don't care. I open it to reveal a veggie omelette! Yum! I tuck in, feeling marginally better.
After a moment, I hear a snuffling right by my shoulder. Jumping in surprise, I turn to see the Turmaculus staring at my omelette longingly. He must have smelled my food, I think in surprise. Slowly, I hold out half of the omelette to the giant and he eats it gratefully. I make sure to keep a respectful distance as he chews. Better you than me, omelette.
When he's finished, I hold out the newspaper to him and he takes it before curling up to go back to sleep. Why does he even want a newspaper in the first place if all he does is eat and sleep? Well, whatever. The point is that I've delivered it.
With another look at my watch, I scramble back down the path as fast as I can. There's not much time left, but if I run as quickly as I can, maybe I can make it after all!
Eventually I arrive, panting, to the office a full ten minutes late. The editor, Melina, and even Rufus, a white Weewoo are waiting for me.
I steel myself, determined not to cry in front of everyone and walk straight up to the editor. Slowly, I hand her my notebook cataloging my completed deliveries and begin to take off my hat and badge.
She glances down at the book. “Toby, did you really manage to make all of these deliveries?” I tweet glumly in response, looking at the floor.
There's a moment of silence, before I'm being lifted from the ground. I look up into her kind face. “Toby. I'm so sorry. There's been a horrible mistake.” I nod slowly. This is it. I'm about to be fired.
“You see, Meridell was supposed to be Rufus' route today. You were never meant to have such a difficult route for your exam.” I look up in surprise. Could this really be true? Melina, Rufus and the editor smile widely back.
“Toby, I never would have expected a rookie to do so well on a delivery like this. It doesn't matter that you've come back late. I'd be an idiot not to pass you. Congratulations on becoming a certified Neopian Times delivery Weewoo!”
They all cheer.---
“And that's how Toby became the most dependable delivery Weewoo on the team,” The editor finishes with a chuckle.
“Wow, what a brave little petpet,” I say wonderingly, finishing up my last notes.
“And that's just the beginning! You should hear about the time he delivered to the Haunted Woods,” the editor beams.
“The Haunted Woods! Wow, that must be quite the story!” I check my watch. “Oh, but there isn't enough time. Perhaps another day?”
“Of course,” she replies warmly, standing up to shake my hand again. “You're welcome to come back any time.”
We say our goodbyes and I leave with a much better story than I could ever have anticipated, excited to write my article and very much looking forward to hearing more about Toby the Weewoo.