The Day of Giving
The air had a definite bite to it, and small bundles of frozen cotton fell on the faces and hats of all Neopians caught in the flurry. Some scrambled to get indoors, others welcomed the chill, but all wore many layers of clothes – even the thickest furred JubJub wore a coat; even the Bruces and Boris from the farthest northern reaches of Terror Mountain were layered.
In the heart of Neopia Central, people poured out of stores and shops in a mad dash to reach home. While the snow was quite light, everyone knew that the forecast called for a great storm; all one had to do was look at the north sky, from where this frigid wind was coming, and see ominous grey clouds bunched up on the horizon. Of course, few cared to look; most were scurrying hither and thither to get their bags organized and be on their way.
As the winds picked up, the streets in the Centre drained. Those who could not make it home in time, be it to Roo Island, Kiko Lake, or even the suburbs, sought refuge in the Neolodge. In due time, the entire city was barren.
And then, a spark of red amongst the oppressive blanket of white. There, trudging through the meter-thick snow, was a young Yurble, far from home. Alas, he had been in the city looking for a present to give to his Great-Aunt Doreen the Gnorbu, when this blizzard swept him up. Being only nine, he had no idea of what to do in such a situation; the snow obscured his view and mind alike. Cold and sad, he walked onwards.
Through the empty and forbidding streets he trudged, clutching his coat close to his person. What he wouldn’t give for a warm mug of hot chocolate.... If he was home, his mum would be making a cup. But that didn’t matter to him. He’d make it through the storm, hot chocolate or no, mum or no; what he was upset about was that it was the Day of Giving, and he was alone.
As the storm began to let up – just a wee bit, mind you, but let up none the less – the little red Yurble found a nice, sturdy wall of freezing whatever it was – to the skin it felt like ice, but to the mind it was surely some building material – and put his back against it. He crunched up in a ball and began to silently cry. Tears froze on his face, but he did not care; he was nine and alone and cold, on the Day of Giving of all days! If ever there was a reason to cry, it was now.
Not five minutes passed, yet it felt like a lifetime to the little Yurble. All of a sudden, he felt a gloved hand on his shoulder. “Why are you crying?” asked a faint voice.
The little child sniffed and looked up. Before him was a stout Grundo, as white as the snowy background he stood before. He was swathed in colorful coats, a scarf, a hat, and boots, along with the aforementioned gloves. The Yurble sniffed and wiped the tears (and icicles) from his eyes. “I’m crying because I’m cold and alone and it’s the Day of Giving but I’m stuck out here instead of with my mum and da and Great-Aunt Doreen.”
“Oh,” said the Grundo, somewhat sadly. He thought for a moment, and then perked up with a cheery smile. The Yurble had an irrational thought: his smile could melt all this snow, it’s so bright! Then the Grundo continued. “Well, my name’s Gary. What’s yours?”
“Prib,” the Yurble replied. Then, as if to defend himself – he had often been teased by the crueler children at his school – he declared, “And I’m named after my great-great-grandpa, who not only built our house on Kiko Lake from scratch but saved up all his money so that his kids could live better’n he did. So don’t you make fun of it!”
Gary looked taken aback. “Why would I make fun of it? Prib’s a nice name.” Then, Gary inhaled deeply. “Look, Prib, my mom sent me out to get some ice to chill a Neo-cola. But we’ve got a fire going and you could come over if you’d like.” Gary gave one of his token smiles.
Prib was surprised for a moment and skipped a beat. “Uh... sure!” Gary gave Prib a hand and helped him get up out of the snow, which had since enveloped half his body. “Thanks,” the Yurble murmured, to which the Grundo responded in a nod.
The pair walked for a fair distance before getting to a quaint cottage. From a chimney belched grey smoke, and the air around it had that homey smell of a fire. The windows glowed yellow. The two lads waddled up to the door and entered without knocking; it was, after all, Gary’s house. They took off their dirty, snowy boots and left them neatly at the door, and, following Gary’s instruction, hung the coats up on hangers. The house was warm, a welcome change to the frigid air.
They had taken not two steps when a kind Grundo woman came in. “Gary, did you get that --- oh, hello there.” She stopped short when she saw Prib, and shot a fierce glance at her son. “I didn’t know we were having guests.”
“Mom, Prib here was outside. I invited him over 'cause he looked really cold and lives all the way over at Kiko Lake.” The young Grundo had a face of complete innocence that only a lad as young as he could pull off.
Mrs. Gary’s-mom’s face softened up immediately. “Oh. Well, dears, I’ve got a pot of hot chocolate on the stove. You can park yourself in front of the fire, Prib. You look absolutely blue!” She smiled. By the last remark, she, of course, meant he looked cold, not his skin color.
“Thank you, Mrs. Gary’s mum,” Prib said.
Gary steered him over to the fire, and they both sat down near it. They watched the flames as they cracked and flowed into oblivion, only to be reborn again beneath. After what seemed like moments, but was surely a half hour, Gary stood up abruptly. “Be right back,” he said, and dashed off.
When he returned, he held an object behind his back. The lad beamed (we have already established that this was one of Gary’s favorite pastimes) and danced about. “Guess what it is, Prib, guess! I got you a present, considering it’s the Day of Giving and all. Guess what I got you!” Gary took a deep breath and gave his companion no room to answer. The question was rhetorical. He held his arms out before him and showed a little Yurble plushie. “My grandma gave it to me three years ago, but I want you to have it.”
Prib held the toy in his hands, looking delighted and sad at the same time. He held it out to return it. “Gary, I can’t. I don’t have anything to give you.”
Gary shook his head. “No, Prib, keep it. 'Cause you have given me something; you gave me a new friendship. And that’s better than any plushie.”
The two lads sat in silence, watching the fire. They were at a point of comfortable silence, with only the crackle keeping them awake. Gary’s mom brought in two cups of hot cocoa, and they sipped away. Eventually they began talking of other things, like where they lived and went to school, what their other friends were like, their family, et cetera. And even when the storm let up and Prib had to leave, they kept each other’s address so that they could keep in touch, and they promised to make a play date in the future. Prib especially was happy; what had started out as a terrible day turned into a grand opportunity. He wouldn’t give it for the world.