Please Say Another Word...
Chapin closed his book with a flourish after writing in a suggestion, making the Usul with a bow in her hair behind the counter jump. He gave a small sigh before replying to the young Neopet, "Alright, the word Usuki has been recorded for thought. Were there any others you wanted to add?"
The little Usul vigorously shook her head. "Nope," she giggled. "But please make it the Word of the Day tomorrow!"
The Bruce gave a vacant smile. "I'll see what I can do," he stated, but the Usul had already turned away and was skipping her way outside.
This time, Chapin softly groaned and leaned on the massive book of words. He shook his head. Of course, every day was like this.
Every day was like this.
Everything for Chapin had turned into what was once like new discoveries to a nearly methodical routine. A stranger would waltz into the Word of the Day center, and he'd be flipping his pencil in boredom, or even worse yet, throwing it up at the ceiling. Then a petty word would be uttered to him as he robotically recorded it. And strangers would be just shadows, gone without another word, but one.
Just only one word from a Neopet would acknowledge Chapin's existence. Heck, it was luck that the young Usul had actually answered his question; Neopets never stayed around for that long. Chapin couldn't help but wonder constantly if he was all but a machine; he was some sort of emotionless being that was only meant to document data. Just a trivial, lonely little scribe stuffed behind a counter.
Or a boredom factor perhaps? Somebody to meet just to kill time. He could easily be overshadowed by the intense Storytelling fire, or the artistic Poetry gatherings, as usual. Nobody would think of him much really. Even his book he had, that forever changed with each new word, seemed to have lost the intriguing allure it once gave to an eager Chapin.
Instead, his one favorable companion became a resonating question.
When did his existence start to seem so insignificant?
Chapin leaned back in his chair and gave a glassy stare towards the ceiling. Yes, those that came in for what seemed like nanoseconds would become insignificant words to insignificant moments to insignificant lives for Chapin. Those brief encounters themselves made Chapin's own life seem infinitesimal. That's what he got to look forward to every day.
The doorbell signaling a guest's arrival resonated, leaving Chapin to shake his head as he was pulled out of his trance. A youthful Xweetok had just walked up to the counter and the Bruce looked down at him. This youngin' seemed familiar. It donned on Chapin then that this Neopet was always hanging around outside the door on a daily basis. He would watch others come and go, and occasionally would peek inside. But he never came in. Well, until now that is.
The Xweetok sported a bright baby blue cap with a simple white shirt. In his left paw he held a sparkling gift bag. His yellow eyes shone with so much life, something Chapin immediately started to envy over his permanent frown. His head never stopped swiveling around and he fidgeted with his feet as he was introduced to a new world that had dulled for Chapin.
"Have you come to request a word for today?" Chapin finally asked.
The Xweetok glanced at him for a moment, but said nothing. 'Great,' Chapin thought. 'Has it finally gotten to the point that people won't even talk to me now?'
"Um," the Xweetok squeaked, relieving Chapin. The Xweetok twisted his shirt in knots and looked nervously down at the floor. "Um, yes." Suddenly, from the package he was holding, he delicately pulled out a steaming hot cup of Apple Flavored Borovan.
The Bruce peered down at the youngster over the rim of his shiny black glasses. "Are you suggesting to me that your word is "Borovan?" he questioned as he flipped open the book and readied his pencil.
The youth shook his head and waved his paws in protest almost maniacally. "No, no, no!" he verbalized. Then he shrank, feeling a bit foolish. "Oops. I mean, that Borovan, I brought it for you..."
Chapin raised an eyebrow. This was the first time anyone had given him a gift before. "For me? Why?"
"B-because I admire you," the Xweetok stammered out.
The Word of the Day Bruce gawked. Was he hearing right? "Out of all the Neopets you could look up to, you chose me?"
"Well, you can do things nobody else can," the Xweetok explained. "You give a single word the spotlight for the day, and whoever gave you that word then in turn feels special that they got chosen. You give others a feeling of significance, even if it is just for a moment. That's why I think you're the coolest!"
The Xweetok beamed at him shyly, and suddenly Chapin was feeling something he hadn't felt in a while; happiness. All along he had thought that people didn't really care for him, and that he was easy to ignore. He thought he could be easily discarded like tissues. One use only. He had been going about it all wrong.
Meeting this Xweetok could've been a blessing from Fyora. Here Chapin was, an isolated Bruce putting himself down. But this Neopet, who even though he was younger, was definitely wiser. A naive little child had fixed a resilient pessimist. In the end, the more Chapin thought about it, the more he realized he was the one that cut himself off from others.
Suddenly, Chapin laughed at his former mindset, laughed at his old self. "I have to thank you..."
"My name is Leo!" the Xweetok said.
"Yes! Thank you, Leo!" Chapin exclaimed. He hit his fin on his book in merriment and realized something. "Hey, you still haven't told me your word yet."
A lightbulb went off in Chapin's head then and he stated to Leo, "You know, as a way of my saying thanks, why don't you write your word in?"
Leo's eyes lit up like supernovas. "Really?" Chapin nodded and handed him the pencil. Leo bent his head over what he wrote and scribbled something in the book for a few seconds. "Done!"
"Great, now how about this? I won't look at it until I post it on the banner for tomorrow. That way, it will be a surprise, even for me!" Lightning quick, Leo climbed on top of the counter in a heap and gave a caught off-guard Chapin a hug.
* * *
The next day, early in the morning, Chapin set out to hang the banner outside the Word of the Day Center. The banner already said "Word of the Day"; he just had to paint whatever it was. Lying it down on the floor, he opened his book to where his new friend Leo had written his word. When he saw it, he did something that he hadn't done in a long time that defeated his frown.
Chapin commenced then to paint his friend's word. When he was done, he hung it outside above the entrance proudly for all to see.
It read: "Word of the Day: Significant!"