Two Scoops of Change, Please
Sporfle the Gelert pranced happily through the fluffy snow of Happy Valley, occasionally giving a goofy little hop and making his owner Erin laugh. They were headed towards Mr. Chipper's Ice Cream Cart, and Sporfle was delighted. He loved ice cream above all other treats, and he considered Mr. Chipper's to be one of Neopia's little known treasures. The ice cream was gourmet and delicious, and Mr. Chipper always dispensed it with a cheerful smile. And since Mr. Chipper dealt only in coupons rather than Neopoints, it was never quite as crowded as the other Neopian shops. This suited Sporfle just fine. He liked to be able to escape the hustle and bustle, come relax in Happy Valley, and enjoy a quiet ice cream with his owner. However, as they approached the ice cream cart, Sporfle was surprised to see a large crowd of Neopets waiting in line.
"Wow, I wonder what's going on?" He looked quizzically at Erin, who shrugged.
"Poor Mr. Chipper must certainly have his hands full." They joined the line and waited their turn. After several minutes of jostling and bumping, they finally made it to the front. Mr. Chipper greeted them warmly.
"Sporfle! I wondered if you'd stop by today. Quite the turn-out, isn't it!" The Lutari grinned broadly as he handed Sporfle his favorite, Double Chocolate Ice Cream.
Sporfle looked puzzled. "What do you mean, Mr. Chipper? What's going on?"
Mr. Chipper snapped his claws. "Oh that's right, I didn't tell you! Well, I've been wanting to expand my business for a while now, so I got Taelia the Snow Faerie to help me with a little promotion. She's been giving away coupons to people who do quests for her. Word-of-mouth advertising, you know. It's worked great; business is really booming!" Mr. Chipper chuckled. "Well, back to work. Time is Neopoints, after all!"
Sporfle frowned. Time was Neopoints?? That didn't sound like the Mr. Chipper he knew. Absently, he thanked him and said goodbye, but the Lutari was already busy serving frozen treats.
When they returned home, Erin looked at Sporfle hesitantly. "You're awfully quiet. Want to talk about it?"
"I just don't understand it!" Sporfle burst out. "He always got along fine before, why does he want to change things now?"
Erin looked thoughtful. "Well, maybe he wasn't satisfied with a little cart. Businesses grow all the time, Sporfle. It's just the way things are. Small and personal is nice, but it's important to be successful too."
Sporfle frowned deeply. "I guess so..."
Erin smiled. "Cheer up. You're always saying you wish he had more flavors. I'll bet expanding like this will help him increase his stock."
Sporfle perked up his ears, suddenly hopeful. "Hey, yeah! I'm going to write him a Neomail and suggest caramel-fudge swirl."
- - -
Sporfle was very busy over the next week with training and helping run their little shop, so it wasn't until the following weekend that he and Erin were able to return to Happy Valley for an ice cream at Mr. Chipper's. Sporfle was excited to see whether or not his caramel-fudge swirl request had been implemented. But when they reached the stand, it was deserted. A sign had been planted in the snow next to it:
"We've moved! Please visit us at our new premises, next to the Scratch Card Kiosk in the Ice Caves!"
Erin looked surprised. "Wow, it sounds like he moved into a shop. Business must be going well!"
Sporfle didn't reply. The frown was back on his face.
They made their way down through the Ice Caves. Sure enough, a new shop with frosty windows stood next to the Scratch Card Kiosk. They entered and looked around. Several small tables with chairs were spaced evenly throughout the building, all of them occupied by customers. At the center of the shop was a long, gleaming counter. Mr. Chipper walked around behind it, scooping ice cream into cones at one end and adding all sorts of delectable toppings at the other. The place buzzed with lively chatter.
Sporfle surveyed the room with a mournful expression. Everything was different. He missed the modest little ice cream stand. This was just like any other shop in Neopia.
Erin noticed the look on his face and whispered to him sternly. "Now Sporfle, come on. This is an ice cream shop; we're here for a fun treat. Don't look so depressed."
Sporfle sighed and tried to smile. "Okay, I know. Let's go congratulate him."
Mr. Chipper was thrilled to see them, and even jollier than usual. He thanked them for their congratulations and presented them both with free ice creams for being his "most faithful customers." He raved about how well business was doing and how happy he was about the changes. Sporfle smiled and nodded and tried to look excited for him, but inside he was feeling more glum than ever. What was so great about change?? Things were fine before. 'Better', he amended.
Sporfle threw his ice cream away half-eaten and told Erin he was ready to go home.
- - -
Three weeks passed before Erin was able to convince Sporfle to go out for ice cream. Now that he had lost his favorite place in Neopia, Sporfle didn't see the point. "Mr. Chipper's shop is practically the same as Fresh Smoothies in the Neopian Plaza, and we wouldn't have to go all the way to the Ice Caves," he told her. But she insisted that she wanted ice cream, not a smoothie, and Sporfle finally relented.
He was shocked when they arrived. Instead of a tasteful little shop, an ice cream megastore now loomed over the Scratch Card Kiosk. Staring at it, Sporfle felt as if all the air had been sucked out of his lungs. He could hardly believe his eyes. Erin pulled him inside, a look of amazed wonderment on her face. The first thing they saw was a gigantic gold fountain with liquid chocolate burbling merrily in its basin. All around them, Neopets were sampling a myriad of confections. To their left was a colorful vending machine that dispensed NeoCola in every flavor. To their right was the longest ice cream counter they'd ever seen. Mr. Chipper was busily serving at least 50 different flavors of ice cream, while customers lined up at a topping bar to administer their own sprinkles and syrups. At the far end of the room, a spiral staircase led to the second floor. The banister was swirled like a peppermint stick. Sporfle couldn't imagine what would possibly be up there.
The place was an ice cream-lover's dreamland. All the customers certainly looked ecstatic to be there. But Sporfle was angry. This was nothing but greed on Mr. Chipper's part. His ice cream stand was perfect the way it was: simple, friendly, and familiar. Sporfle had been happy and comfortable with it. But Mr. Chipper was only concerned with bigger, richer, MORE. MORE space, MORE customers, MORE Neopoints. What did he care if he lost his old patrons? There'd be a dozen more to replace them! Sporfle was more than angry; he was hurt. He shot Erin a glowering look and went over to the chocolate fountain to wait while she got her ice cream.
Erin winced as she watched Sporfle walk away. She knew it was more than the ice cream shop that was upsetting him; it was the fact that he had lost a beloved memory. But she didn't see how she could make him understand that change was important sometimes. She decided she would have to talk to Mr. Chipper and see if he would help explain things to Sporfle.
- - -
Mr. Chipper walked over to the chocolate fountain and leaned against it, looking at Sporfle sadly. "Hey there, Sporfle."
Sporfle sighed grumpily. "Hi Mr. Chipper." He looked over at the counter. "Don't you have a lot of customers to serve?"
Mr. Chipper shook his head. "Nope, I'm taking a break. Erin says you're not very happy with me. I guess I understand why; things ARE pretty different around here."
Sporfle nodded. "You can say that again. This isn't the same ice cream shop at all!" He gave Mr. Chipper an accusing look. "Why'd you have to change everything around, Mr. Chipper? I liked your cart the way it was."
Mr. Chipper smiled ruefully. "I know you did, Sporfle. And your opinion does matter to me. You're my best customer, after all!" He laughed a little. "To tell you the truth, I miss my cart too. It sure was a lot less work."
Sporfle looked at Mr. Chipper earnestly. "Couldn't you just put it all back like it was before?"
Mr. Chipper shook his head. "I know it can be hard to accept changes, Sporfle. Especially when it happens quickly. It can seem like everything is changing but us. That's sort of intimidating." He smiled. "But change isn't bad. It's necessary! It's important to grow and develop into something better. If everything stayed the same all the time, no one would ever learn about anything new." Mr. Chipper put a kind paw on Sporfle's shoulder. "And these changes to my ice cream shop, well... I made them for you, for all my customers. I wanted to be able to offer you new and exciting things I wasn't able to before. I wanted to make the experience of coming here as fun as the last time, and even more fun the next time. I only ever wanted you to be able to enjoy yourself."
Sporfle gulped. "Wow... I never thought about all that before. I guess it was pretty selfish, dwelling on what I used to have and not realizing what you were trying to give me. Thanks for putting so much hard work into bringing everyone happiness, Mr. Chipper. I didn't mean to be so ungrateful." He grinned and gave the Lutari a happy hug.
Mr. Chipper laughed and ruffled Sporfle's ears. "Hey, don't mention it! Making everyone here happy is what makes ME happy."
Sporfle and Mr. Chipper walked over to the counter, where Erin was enjoying a huge bowl of Carmel-Fudge Swirl. Suddenly, Sporfle looked at Mr. Chipper, puzzled. "Hey, what's up on the second floor? Not another chocolate fountain?"
Mr. Chipper chuckled. "Hah, no. This place has gotten so popular, people have been asking us to host their birthdays. We throw the most fabulous birthday parties up there."
Erin swallowed a spoonful of ice cream. "Wow, really? Can I book it for Sporfle's next birthday?"
Mr. Chipper grinned, tipping Sporfle a wink. "Sure thing! That'll be one hundred coupons, please."