The Parrot Predicament

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Chapter 3

I had no idea how we would get $2,000 by the time Ms. Gold returned. Tiffany straight up refused to help. Apparently, she’s tired of always helping me out when I never help her out. Which isn’t even true. I helped her find her phone last week, and the week before. When I brought this up, she shook her head and changed the subject.

Lars wouldn’t help either. He still wanted to tell Ms. Gold the truth, though he promised he wouldn’t. Unless our plan failed.

Now it was up to me and Lexy to make $1,800- assuming the cheapest bird wasn’t sold by then. Or else we’d have to come up with $2,000. That seemed to be the average price for macaws.

“Minimum wage here is $15 an hour,” Lexy said to me during lunch. She, Tiffany, Lars, and I all sat together at a table. Normally Tiffany and I ate together alone, but Lexy wanted to discuss our plan. “If we both work minimum wage jobs, that’ll be about $30 an hour combined. Since school is a thing we’re forced to attend, that leaves us after school and weekends.”

“That’s fine, but I cannot work Fridays,” I said. “That’s when I livestream, and I don’t want to let my eleven followers down.”

“Two of those are spam bots, and seven of them are only following you because you followed them,” Tiffany reminded me. I shot her a look. Lexy snickered.

I did some quick math in my head. “I estimate we both work 25 hours a week, making it 50 hours a week between us. 50 times 15 is?”

“$750,” Lexy answered.

“Okay. So at $750 a week… How many weeks until we hit $2,000?” I asked.

We all stared blankly. Lars looked at Tiffany as though she were a human calculator.

“Contrary to popular belief, I’m terrible at math,” Tiffany said to him.

Lars apologized. Lexy took out her phone, and pulled up a calculator app. “It’ll take about… Two to three weeks.”

“Three weeks it is,” I said. “We just need to get a job first thing after school today. And start working tomorrow. Have you heard from Ms. Gold about when she’ll be back?”

Lars and Lexy shook their heads.

“Good,” I said. “She’s probably still occupied. That gives us plenty of time. Does anyone know anyone hiring?”

“My Dad said his work is looking for a senior production specialist,” Lars said.

“What the hell is that?” I asked.

“No idea.”

Lexy took a sip of her Capri Sun. “Let’s just go online and apply everywhere.”

“Why not go to the mall and ask around?” I suggested. I recalled my mom once mentioning she got her first job that way.

“This isn’t the 90’s,” Lexy said. “They’ll just tell you to apply online.”

I ignored her. She’d see. I’d get a job before she does.

After school, I managed to convince Tiffany to drive me to the mall to job hunt.

“They’ll just tell you to apply online,” she said, repeating Lexy’s words. “And weren’t you and Lars going to work on that English project?”

“We agreed to postpone it, given the urgency of this situation.”

“Fine,” Tiffany said. “But you owe me one.”

“Anything for you, Tiff. Anything for you.”

Every manager of every store I set foot in told me to apply online. A few of them had kiosks I could apply on, and I did. Except I’d have to wait a week to hear back. And then attend an interview. And wait another week to hear back again.

I groaned loudly after leaving the sixth store I tried, after being told they weren’t hiring. “How am I supposed to get hired right this second, if no one will give me the time of day?”

“I don’t know,” Tiffany said.

“And don’t say ‘I told you so.’”

“I wasn’t going to.”

“We need a miracle,” I said, passing by a colorful flyer stapled to the wall that said “WIN $2,000.”

“Maybe there’ll be one.”

“If only there was a contest or something. With a cash prize... Wait.” I blinked and walked backwards until I stood in front of the flyer.

GAMEFEST 2.0

Enjoy retro games, great food, and overpriced merch.

WIN $2,000 at our gaming tournament.

Saturday, October 15th, 2pm.

Located at the Triple Tree Hotel

The rest of the poster listed the address and their website. “That’s next Saturday!” I squealed in excitement as Tiffany read on next to me. “A video game contest! That’s perfect!”

“Does this mean we can go home?” Tiffany asked.

Tiffany dropped me off and I went straight to my room to sign up for the contest online. Their website was easy enough to navigate. Various activities of what would happen at the festival were posted. Along with a list of vendors and artists selling their goods. I clicked on a link about the contest itself and read through the rules.

Thankfully the age minimum was 16, so I wouldn’t have any issues with signing up. There weren’t any specified games, just mention of speed running “retro games.” Basically, whoever could beat a game the fastest. There would also be racing games and fighting games. But the game titles themselves would be a surprise. I figured I’d practice popular games from the 90’s. I was already familiar with a lot of them.

To sign up I only had to type in my name, phone number, and email address. There were 16 spots total, and I filled the fourth one.

After signing up, I logged into Nemesis. A new message awaited me from someone with the username ArkBurn. I clicked to read it.

Hi, my name is Noah. I wanted to stop by and say I love your videos. You’re really good.

Wow. My first message that wasn’t asking to do the whole “follow for follow” deal. Or a spam bot. Finally, my career was taking off. I sent him a simple “thank you,” then checked out his page.

The first thing I noticed was his follower count. It was close to 11,000. The second thing I noticed was his profile picture, and he was kinda cute. His fluffy brown hair reminded me of Woofer’s while being shorter than Woofer’s.

Noah played a lot of the same games I played, and had more videos than I did. Except his had thousands of views. I clicked one titled “Messing Around in Skyrim Part 1,” and watched.

The video was of him experimenting with the console commands in Skyrim. Instead of playing the game how it should be played, he brought up the command window that allowed him to do anything he wanted with the game. Decreasing the size of giants, increasing the size of chickens, killing everyone instantly, making 99 bottles of ale appear. Nothing I hadn’t done. But it was easy to see why his videos had thousands of views. His commentary was entertaining, yet informative as he explained the commands he typed in. Clearly he understood the subject matter. And he had a player cam on at the bottom corner of the screen. So you could see his face the whole time. It was quite lovely to look at. Especially the way he laughed whenever the game crashed.

I spent the rest of the night watching Noah’s videos. I moved on from watching his Skyrim videos, to watching him play Undertale. I couldn’t stop staring at him. Of course I had to give him a follow. Soon after, he followed me back, and sent another message.

Thanks for the follow. I followed you back as well. :)

No problem! I just checked out a few of your videos and they’re awesome. You’re good too.

I left out the part where I thought he was beautiful. Complimenting his skills made me feel awkward enough.

“Did you manage to find a job yet?” Lexy asked me during lunch. Once again, it was me, Lexy, Lars, and Tiffany spending that half hour together. But my thoughts were on Noah. I had to stop myself from checking my phone every five minutes to see if he responded to my last message. For good measure, I pulled out my phone to check again.

“Earth to Emma! Hello?” Lexy waved her hand in front of my face. I glanced up, scowling. “Did you find a job yet?” she asked again.

“Have you?” I shot back, setting my phone on the table.

“I take it walking into stores and asking for a job didn’t work out,” Lexy said in a snooty voice. “They all told you to apply online?”

“And I’m sure you were able to get a job right away by applying online? Have you heard back from any of them? Will they get you up and working in less than a week?”

Lexy shrugged, and took a dainty bite of yogurt. “Better than wasting time wandering around a mall.”

“Which I’m sure is all you do in your free time,” I grumbled, poking at my school-provided chicken nuggets.

Lars laughed. “Lexy? Willingly spend time in a mall? Shopping? That’s hilarious.”

I raised my eyebrow, mouth full of nugget. “What?”

“I hate the mall, and I hate shopping.” Lexy wiggled her spoon inside of her yogurt container. “Complete and total waste of time.”

I swallowed. “But… You’re blonde.”

“And you’re brunette. What does that have to do with anything?”

“Whatever.” I unlocked my phone, and was in the middle of pulling up Nemesis when Lexy interrupted me yet again.

“Regardless, how are we going to get the money now?”

“I’ve already got the money,” I said.

“Already? What’d you do, rob a bank?”

“Well, I don’t have the money yet. But I’ll have it next Saturday. No need to worry.”

Tiffany looked up from her leftover chicken. “Don’t be too confident. You’ll be up against 15 other people who are just as good.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I mumbled, watching the website load. It really needed an app.

“What? Are you trying to win a contest?” Lexy asked.

“There’s a gaming festival Emma’s going to in a couple weeks. They’re having a tournament where the grand prize is $2,000,” Tiffany said, while I stared at my messages from Noah on Nemesis. Nothing new.

“That sounds perfect!” Lexy flicked her hair back over her shoulder. “Are you any good?”

I glanced up from my phone. “What? Yes! Of course I’m good. I have 12 followers on Nemesis...” My voice trailed off. A new message from Noah popped up.

Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been busy. I’m glad you liked my videos! I noticed we have some favorite games in common, and I can’t help but wonder… What else do we have in common?

Oh my God. It sounded like he was interested in me. I’d never had a boy interested in me before. My heart pounded. My mouth ran dry. I lost the ability to breathe.

“You okay there?” Lexy asked. Lars leaned over to peek at my screen. I shoved the phone back in my pocket. Or, attempted to anyway. My tiny girl pockets made it difficult, and my phone clattered onto the cafeteria floor instead.

“All is well, nothing to see here,” I said loudly, bending over to pick it up.

Lexy and Lars shared a look while Tiffany frowned at me. I stood up to give my phone easier access into my pocket.

“Online boyfriend?” Lexy asked with a grin.

“No.” My face grew hot as I plopped back down into the plastic chair.

“Who is he?” Tiffany asked. “You never told me-”

“It’s nothing,” I said, returning to my nuggets. “No one. Just fan mail. I gained a new one last night!”

Tiffany smiled. “That’s great!”

Lexy rolled her eyes. Lars rubbed his chin curiously but said nothing.

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