It was a dreary day. Alfred hobbled across the Neopia Central path and waved to the Money Tree. He unlocked the Post Office and began dusting his collections. He picked up his favourite framed photo and gently dusted it off. He went through his daily routine of signing off on shipments and organizing his stock. Whenever a happy, plucky customer came in Alfred put on a smile and helped them find what they needed. He grew tired of the same routine day in and day out. He pondered retiring for a moment and then shook his head. If he gave up the shop, he wouldn’t have anything to keep him occupied.
He remembered years and years ago when he owned the Food Shop with his wife and son.
Young Alfred sprinkled the flour on the counter as his son helped to flatten out the dough.
“Papa, do I roll it out like this?” the little chia asked.
Alfred looked down at his son and laughed.
“You have flour on your nose!”
Annie popped her head in the kitchen.
“Come on boys, we have to get the bread out for the customers!”
Alfred smiled. Annie was always rushing around to get everything done. He took over flattening out the dough, got them in the pans, and lifted them into the oven. As he set the time, he went to the orchard to get the baskets of fresh fruit.
“Papa, look at me! Look at me, I’m flying!”
Young Alfred watched his son run around the orchard until he was out of breath.
“Did you see me Papa? Did you see?”
“I saw you my boy! So fast like a racing poogle!”
The little boy giggled. Annie poked her head out of the back door. “Yoohoo!”
“We best get this inside to your mother before the store opens!”
So the boys loaded up the wagon with the fresh fruit and wheeled it over.
Alfred and the boy put the fruit on display and took the bread out of the oven as the first customers walked in. He looked over at his wife and watched as her face lit up.
That was all a very long time ago, Alfred told himself. He went back to organizing his new shipment. As he closed his shop for the night, he waved goodnight to the Money tree and walked home. When he woke up the next morning it was raining. He went through his routine, unlocked his shop, and began dusting. His mind began to wander..
“Pop, I got a job!”
“What do you mean? I thought you were going to take over the the Food Shop from your mother and I?” Alfred said, taken aback.
“I need to get out and explore Neopia Pop. There is so much world out there that I’ve never seen.”
Alfred just sat there stunned.
“If you go, don’t come back.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew his disappointment and anger had gotten the better of him.
Alfred wiped the tears from his eyes and unloaded the new stock. As he went to bed that night he wished with all his heart he could take it back, as he did every night. The next morning, it was foggy, but the damp had started to clear. He hobbled across the Neopia Central path, waved to the Money Tree and unlocked his shop. Alfred dusted the shelves and the stock. He organized and reorganized the display. He put on a smile as a kindly, old Kacheek came in to buy a stamp to mail something to her daughter. He turned his back to lift a box of stock it began to slip from his grasp. The shop bell tinkled and a young man ran over and grabbed the box from him and placed it on the counter.
“Are you okay sir?”
“Yes, I.. Why thank you young man! I think I’ve seen you around here before.”
“Its likely you have, I run the food shop across the way. My name is Artie.”
“Why, my family and I used to run that shop. What a small world!” Alfred replied
“You really did a fantastic job with it. The clients are so loyal. By the way, the other shopkeepers and I are having lunch together today. Would you like to join us?”.
Alfred pondered for a moment. “No thank you young man.”
“Okay, maybe another day then. Have a good day”, Artie said before he walked out.
As Alfred was walking home that night, his thoughts wandered to the kind, young man. If only Neopia had more men like him. Alfred woke up the next Monday and noticed the sky was a little brighter than the day before. He hobbled past the Rainbow Pool and waved to the Money Tree. He unlocked the Post Office and began his daily routine. As he was putting some new stock into the cases, the shop bell tinkled.
“Good afternoon sir. The other shopkeepers and I are having lunch together again today if you would like to join us”.
“No thank you, maybe another day”. Alfred responded.
“Okay, have a good day, Artie said as he left.
Two months went by and Alfred kept turning them down. Eventually, they stopped asking.
Alfred was in the middle of dusting his favourite photo when Artie tinkled the shop bell.
“Good morning Alfred. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to come to lunch. I’m here to mail some invitations for a family Thanksgiving dinner that I’m hosting.”
“Oh. Yes of course, where would you like to send them?”
“I need 15 stamps for Neopia Central and…” Artie paused. “1 for Terror Mountain”
“The cheapest we have for here is Robot Skeith Stamp which is 438 NP and the Rainbow Slushie Stamp is the cheapest for Terror Mountain which is 821 NP.”
“Great, thank you!” Artie handed over his neopoints and the invitations. He turns to go.
Alfred begins prepping the invitations and noticed a few streets he recognized. He wonders if this young man grew up around here. As he gets to the last invitation, he paused. He drops the letters and runs out the door.
“Young man! Wait! How do you know Arthur Carval?”
Artie had a sad smile on his face. “He is my father! He went off to work with Mika and Carassa at the Igloo up in Terror Mountain and he hasn’t come back.”
Alfred did a double take. Was this young man really his grandson!? He took a moment as Artie began to look confused.
“Why do you ask?”
As tears began to well up in his eyes, he looked down at the young man.
“Why Artie, Arthur is my son.”
Artie just stood there looking at the old man, until he noticed that Alfred had the same eyes as his father. Why had he not noticed before?
“I have so many questions…” Artie said.
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about Arthur…. he and I had a falling out, but before you were born obviously! So I haven’t kept in touch with anyone.” Alfred frowned.
Artie remembered what his father had always told him before he tucked him in at night, “family is the bread and butter of life, son. Keep them close and never take them for granted.”
“Well, family is family. So should I buy another stamp, or can I just invite you to our family’s Thanksgiving dinner?” Artie said with a grin.