Sunday, February 20, 2011


"It's gone!"

Manet sounded so woebegone, even the alchemist felt a twinge of pity for him. He struggled to find comforting words. "Well, the sky is certainly very blue here above your house, monsieur."

The firmament merited that observation. Manet could be forgiven for finding its overarching presence a bit dejecting, as the top of the house was completely gone and with it everything that had been in the top storey.

"Well, what's gone is gone," Berthe said with a shrug. "It is fate!"

"Fate," Manet muttered. "How Germanic. It is an evil conjunction of stars. The work of envious enemies. A cruel act by a cruel deity. But not fate."

"It looks like carelessness to me," Eduardo said with a yawn. The sunlight added to his full belly and the exertion of the afternoon made him feel decidedly sleepy. "If you had not used the linseed oil in a precarious location, perhaps this would not have happened."

"I was experimenting," the painter said, pulling himself up to his full height. "Without experimenting, art will not move forward."

"He has a point you know," Maggiormente muttered as he began wandering around the blackened remnants of the attic space. "Experimentation must be the key to advancement."

Berthe snorted. "The fact remains that he was careless. You have to use a little common sense when you're working with fire." She frowned at the blackened walls looking for something worth saving.

The alchemist nodded, rubbing his beard as he took a closer look at the burnt remnant of frame, poking at the charcoaled remains as if to determine their chemical makeup. "Fire must have your respect. The salamander must be watched."

Berthe raised an eyebrow at the bearded gentleman. "Salamander?"

Maggiormente rubbed his face absently, unaware that he was covering it in black soot. "Yes, the salamander who quells the fire before it can run amok. But he must be invoked, so one must be vigilant for fire's excesses."

The two painters exchanged a look.

"You've never met an alchemist, have you?" Eduardo said, sitting down on his haunches and licking his paw thoughtfully. "He's not so unusual as alchemists go."

"Unusual?" Maggiormente frowned. "What is unusual?"

"Well, we must get busy determining the extent of the damage," Berthe said, rubbing her hand together as if she were cleaning them.

"Oh my yes," Manet said, avoiding the alchemist's puzzled gaze and turning to the debris in the corner. "So very much to do."

"Don't let us keep you," Eduardo said with purr that could easily have been mistaken for a growl. "Ever so much to do." He rose, stretched and slowly ambled toward the precarious stairs. "Coming?" he called to Maggiormente over his shoulder.

"Oh, yes, I suppose so," the alchemist straightened up and brushed off his sleeves where he noticed some ash had landed. "Best of luck to you," he added doffing a non-existent hat, realizing mid-gesture that he had no hat, and opening his hand in a vague wave. "Do let me know any further developments you have with the explosive qualities of linseed oil."

He caught up with the lion on the stair. "We must get some. I'm sure it may prove useful if it can cause this kind of damage."

Eduardo busied himself looking in the rubble at the bottom of the steps. "Ah ha!" He pounced and pushed aside a broken bit of furniture. There lay his fez. "Oh dear!"

Maggiormente joined him. "I think it's just a bit of soot. We'll put it right." He picked up the hat and gently flicked away the worst of the black schmutz. "Not bad, not bad at all." He set the hat gently upon Eduardo's head. The fez was not in perfect condition, but the damage had been minimal.

"Is it all right?" the lion looked around for any kind of reflective surface but found none.

"Perfectly so."

He frowned. "It cannot be completely clean."

The alchemist thought for a moment. "Well, perhaps not, but there's only the faintest smudge of soot on it. If someone were to notice it, you would simply have to regale them with the tale of how it got there."

The lion mused. "It would make a good story."

"Full of explosions, painters and heroism," the alchemist agreed.

Eduardo grinned. "Let's go home. I need a nap and I have the feeling you need to write all this down."

"I have a new idea for our fuel experiment," the alchemist muttered, stroking his beard as they headed down to the front door.

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