Portrait Of A Rat
It was a normal Wednesday afternoon in the Underundergound. That is, until Reginald “Posh Rat” Twitch walked into the library. He plopped his top hat onto the desk where I, Mr Barnes, sat tinkering with his walking cane.
“What do you think, Poshy?” I said. “This will be a fine addition to our new line of PinkerTech™ gadgets.”
Poshy’s whiskers twitched the way they do when he is nervous.
“Grandma's gone!” he declared.
“Has her ghost finally stopped haunting the back garden?” I asked.
“No, no. I’m talking about her portrait. The painting of Grandma is missing from my father’s parlour.”
“Stolen, you say? Is there a chance someone borrowed it?” I suggested.
“Who borrows paintings?”
Just then, the famous Finnicus Twitch entered the room.
“Hello Father,” Poshy stood up straighter. You always know Father Twitch is coming. His feet and cane sound like a three-legged horse wearing tap shoes. Clack, clack, tack. Clack, clack, tack.
“Reginald, I need you to do me a favour. Your Uncle Gregor borrowed the portrait of Grandma. He wanted it in the background of his own portrait. That painting has been finished and now Grandma’s portrait is ready to be picked up,” Finnicus explained. “But do be very careful with that painting. It's one of a kind. Just like your dear, dear grandmother. Rest her soul.” Father Twitch pulled the handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose as he clack, clack, tack-ed out of the library.
Poshy and I blinked at each other.
“Well, then. It seems people do borrow paintings,” Poshy said. He placed his top hat back onto his handsome head. “Will you join me on this task, Mr Barnes?” His whiskers wiggled.
“Naturally.” I buttoned my waistcoat.
The journey down the canal to Uncle Gregor’s house was uneventful. We fetched the precious artwork easily. It had already been placed inside a cloth sack.
However, the return journey was rather eventful. You see, I enjoy a bit of painting myself. So, I was very curious to see the portrait up close. Poshy rowed the boat as I pulled the portrait from its cloth sack.
“Oh, dear Barnes - what are you doing? Be careful! That's a one-of-a-kind portrait. You heard Father. Please put it away.” Poshy paused his rowing.
“Oh, Poshy. Don’t fret, good friend. Look, the painting is beautiful. I love that green jewel your grandma is wearing.” I turned to show him. “Very fine, indeed. Such detail in the fur, as well.”
“Okay, okay. That’s quite enough. Wrap it back up before it—”
Poshy accidentally knocked the painting with his oar. It went right into the water.
“Agh! Barnes! What have I done!”
“Fear not, Poshy. I'll save the painting!” I jumped overboard and rescued it. Then I climbed back into the small boat. “There we are. Not to worry. It’s— GASP!”
The paint...was washed away! Just a faded bit of Grandma’s head and shoulders remained.
“Oh, Poshy,” I cried, now dripping wet. “This is troublesome. Your father will— oh, I hate to think of it,” I paused and sighed. “Poshy, I’ll take the blame. Your father dislikes me already.”
“Nonsense, Mr Barnes!” He calls me Mr Barnes when he’s serious. “We must be able to fix it somehow. Didn’t you say you knew how to paint?” Poshy asked.
“Well, I do know how to use a paintbrush, but I don’t know about this...” I said.
“If you look closely, you can use the faded image as a guide. Do you have proper paints?” Poshy’s whiskers wiggled a lot as he asked this.
“Well, yes, Poshy. I do. I suppose it’s our only chance, isn't it?” I felt pretty nervous too. But we made it back to the Twitch mansion, then got to the supply room unnoticed by Poshy’s father. I found my art supplies and got ready to paint. Some parts of the painting were too faint to see. So, I did my best to remember what was there. The details in Grandma Twitch’s fur; her glasses; her long, yellow teeth; her thin, white whiskers. My hands shook as I painted. Then, I finally turned the painting towards Poshy.
His eyes grew wide.
“What? Say something. Is it okay?” I swallowed.
“Barnesy.” He calls me Barnesy when he is amazed.“It’s perfect! You did it. You are a good painter. No one will tell the difference. Brilliant, brilliant!”
We hung the painting in the parlour and celebrated with a small lunch of chips, peas and iced tea. Then we took another look at the painting. That’s when we noticed.
“The green jewel!” we both said at the same time. I had forgotten to paint in the little green jewel!
“How could I have forgotten!?” I kicked myself. “Your dad will surely notice—”
Before I could go get my paintbrush, we heard those footsteps. Clack, clack, tack.
“Oh, dear gouda!” I said. “I don't have time to fix it. What are we going to do?”
Poshy’s whiskers flattened in deep thought. Then, he swept up the straw from his iced tea and took a single pea from his lunch plate. He popped the pea into the straw and...
Posh Rat spit the pea onto the painting right where the green jewel should be! All just before Father Twitch turned the corner and clack, clack, tack-ed into the parlour.
“Ah, there she is. Back where she belongs over the fireplace.” Sometimes Father Twitch sounds like he is smiling even though his rat mouth always frowns. “You know, it’s funny. I never noticed how lifelike Grandma’s eyes were in this painting.”
Father Twitch leaned toward the portrait and squinted. “And how the little green jewel really stands out and shines.”
Poshy’s dad turned slowly on one foot and clack, clack, tack-ed back out of the parlour. “Indeed!” he continued from the doorway. “I’ll have the butler call the artist...and get him to paint the whole family.”