Yurble Tales: Tale #12
“Get yer dung-jelly butts off my land!”
Hoe swinging, Farmer Fench charged after the group of sniggering Myncies. Or at least, hobbled as quickly as his rheumatic legs let him, which was indeed a respectable pace. He wasn’t getting younger, but he wasn’t getting slower either. No way was he going to let anyone pinch his fruit!
“What place do ye think this is eh, Meri Acres farm?! Wait till I catch ye, I’ll be sure to teach ye one of life’s mighty vital lessons, one not found in a Booktastic book even- STAY OFF MY LAND!”
The brown Yurble scowled, and spat smartly out at the country road that ran alongside his farm. Good-for-nothing hooligans! Ruffians! Pirates! Thieves! The world was going to wear him to bits one day, wear him to bits! Couldn’t they just let him alone for once to tend his farm in peace? Why just this morning he was interrupted twice, once during breakfast in the middle of his Lutari pancakes, where a blue Kacheek had the, well, cheek, to poke a basket in his nose and ask if he had any bombaberries to sell...
“What do ye think this establishment is?” he had exclaimed. “A charity? It’s a farm, for Fyora’s sake! Go to the Soup Kitchen, stop interrupting me!” And with that, he had slammed the door in the blue Kacheek’s face, and watched behind a curtain as she walked off, muttering about how she had come to buy fruit with good Neopoints and was not all a beggar, and anyways what had soup got to do with this?
He had grinned to himself as he turned back to his pancakes; that’ll teach them for troubling him repeatedly! With incredible patience he had always made it clear since he moved into Meridell that he wanted no business with any larking around. He had come for the land, and not for anything merry. Time and time again he had reminded them that he had no interest in company of sorts; pah he didn’t need acquaintances and friends and such things! He had his land, and he wanted his peace.
Looking up at the setting Neopian sun, Farmer Fench shifted the hoe resting comfortably on his shoulder, and turned to proceed back to his Neohome.
In the corner of Fench’s Fruit Farm there was a pond, a modest affair, just big enough for a small family of mallards to live in, except there weren’t any. Farmer Fench would drive them away; he certainly wouldn’t stand for having feathers floating around his “fishing grounds”, as he called it. Every day precisely at four in the afternoon, Farmer Fench would take his fishing tackle and head to the pond, and this was for every month indiscriminately, be it the month of Sleeping, Awakening, Relaxing, Celebrating, Hunting... you get the idea. Except well, when it rained. And today just so happened to be a day after a wet Wednesday, and Farmer Fench for once was glad.
Glad to be back out amongst the damp dirt and his plants and to smell the vibrant earthiness of the soil. Glad to feel the warm embracing sun on his face and his arms and his back, welcoming him back with a broad smile. Who needed acquaintances and friends, pah! These were the only things a Neopian needed, Farmer Fench nodded firmly to the starberry bushes- land, good earth, trustworthy and dependable! Unchanging! He knew that even as he and other Neopets faded away with time, the land would still remain, though passing through the hands of various owners. He could always be sure that it would produce a predictable amount of fruit every year, with little fluctuations. Unlike the likes of Neopets, those good-for-nothing, thieving pirates who had been his “friends” from where he had left!
His first few attempts yielded only clumps of brown kelp drooping from his line. He cast again, and got a mossy rock... Wow! A mossy rock! ...Wow! At least it wasn’t footwear; it had taken him the better part of the month of Running to clear those from his pond. Perhaps he ought to venture out to ankle-deep water, and cast out further... Farmer Fench hauled himself up from his spot on a grassy knoll near the edge of the water, and took off his shoes and socks. No need getting those wet. But that meant his feet were vulnerable to...
Hopping and grabbing his foot, he cast aside his fishing rod and looked at the tiny bite on his toe; it was starting to swell a little. He looked around; there was the offender! A white pretty fish, smaller than a baby Koi; elegant, fast... coming in for the kill a second time round.
Deftly Farmer Fench scooped it up in his paws just in time, growling ill-temperedly. The last thing he needed was some fish nibbling anywhere but his line. He looked around in the water, still holding the white fish in his scooped paws. Where were his other pals, eh? Hiding amongst the kelp giggling at their friend who took up the dare to bite the grumpy old Yurble? The whole world was going to wear him to bits, wear him to bits!
Yet there no other white fish hiding amongst the kelp; funny thing, weren’t fish supposed to hang around in groups and bunches, what did they call ‘em, schools? But this fish seemed to be alone... all alone.
Alone. Like him.
Farmer Fench looked at the white fish in his hands. It was like no other fish he had ever seen. It sailed around the scoop of water in his paws, fins trailing along silkily. It had two tails, and tiny paws. Pink-red eyes, a scruffy little head. It looked hungry. Well, it did bite him for a reason after all.
Leaving his fishing tackle behind, Farmer Fench walked back to the Neohome, attentively glancing at the fish and chewing his lip. He placed it in a cup, a Yurble Day cup he got last year. Well it was the best place he could think of, did it seem like he kept spare fish bowls in a dusty cupboard just for the case when he found mysterious nibbling fish to take home as a Petpet? He hunted around for food, and pinched off crumbs from the sourdough Baguette he found. The white fish seemed to like the negg flakes he found in an obscure corner of his larder the best.
Farmer Fench sat at the table, head propped up on both paws, looking at the bloated white fish. What was getting to him, making him all soft and plushie-like? Pah, he usually wasn’t prone to what did Neopets call it... Kindness? Friendliness? He was more likely to “approach others by standing his ground”. Yet this white fish... It seemed different from all those confounded good-for-nothing Neopets who only knew how to pester him and count potatoes when they weren’t larking about and lazing around. It was quiet, like all fish were; but most importantly, it had been alone. Yes, that was the most striking distinction...
Alone. Just like him.
Pah, what was this nonsense! He was alone, and he liked being alone with his land! Farmer Fench nodded curtly. He didn’t need no “friends” like those he left behind when he moved to Meridell. They had stolen from him, swindled him like scurvy-livered pirates! Betrayed his trust and friendship... Being alone was a peaceful and simple measure to prevent any such incidents of double-crossing friendships from recurring. Being alone was good, weren’t it?
He looked at the contented white fish. He cautiously stuck a part of his paw into the cup full of water, and braced himself for a pinch. Yet it swam around and around his finger, whipping by it in a little game, a game with him, old Farmer Fench! Even his starberry bushes couldn’t do that!
“Don’t ye get too comfortable,” grunted Fench in a gruff tone. “I’ll be putting ye back to ye pond real quick and soon.” But both of them knew he was lying; a twinkle was creeping into his old Yurble eyes...
A merry fortnight went by. Caring for something other than his crops was... he knew no word to describe it. Something swelled within him, lifting him higher, causing him to whistle as he worked in his field. He awoke five days in a row without any muttering or grumbling at all! He was as light-hearted as how Blue Bubbly Koi Balloons were light. His rheumatic legs didn't bother him that much anymore; they ached much less in fact, and sometimes he felt 200 hours younger! It even seemed that fewer Neopets were acoming to pester him; rather, they came with the more reasonable desire to trade for some fruit. Sure, he still did chase away the occasional Meridell local who bumbled too near his farm, but apart from that, he felt different. Farmer Fench had found something, some part of him once lost and shriveled up like dried prunes found in the market place... And it was all because of the little out-of-place fish he had found in the pond on a sunny Thursday, and placed in a Yurble Day cup. The fish that really liked negg flakes.
There was a knock on his door. A scowl flickered on Fench's face as he looked up from breakfast, but it was purged when he glanced at the little white fish zipping around the cup. He opened the door, gentler than usual.
“Please, sir, Mr Fench, sir,” the Red Kyrii stammered. “Did you by any chance have a white fish with you? I slipped it into your pond as a prank two weeks back while you were in your house out of the rain; it was just a dare! But it was my sister’s Shenkuu Catamara, and she’s back from the Lost Desert tomorrow, and I have to get it back today! S-She’ll, she'll kill me if she finds out!”
Farmer Fench's frown slowly disappeared.
“You mean... you mean te say...” He looked down at the cup in his hands, and continued softly, “I can’t... I can’t keep it?”