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View Full Version : Oscar Rat and the Printer's Devil. Adult 1,700



hvysmker
October 30th, 2014, 03:55 PM
I'm browsing the halls of the Rat Archives, a compilation of significant events and stories from the time the first rat learned to write on brontosaurus skin to modern CDs.

They're stored in a vast cave deep under the Rocky Mountains, well hidden from curious human apes. As a paid employee, a writer of those very missives, I'm one of the few rodents to be granted free access. I'm Oscar Rat, the famous rat writer and, at the moment, am looking for stories to rewrite with a modern slant. Most in this particular cave are in various ancient rat languages, of which I'm proud to know a smattering. Rewriting history is simple. What I can't understand, I make up myself. Who the hell's going to know the difference?

Many of the dusty halls and corridors are rarely visited, some for many generations at a time. The tomes in this particular section of caves are crusted with dirt, some crumbling with age despite our best efforts at preservation.

While searching for a particular manuscript describing a recipe for one of the first pizzas known to ratkind, I pry out an old scroll of such recipes. Behind it I see another much smaller volume, one with a blood-red diamond-studded cover.

Strange, I think, to find a bound book in this old section of lizard skin scrolls. We hadn't even invented paper when this room was being filled. It must have been misfiled, is my thought. I pull it out carefully, so as to not disturb the dust of ages.

I have to use my fingers to scrape off enough dirt to read the cover.

"Ye olde tale ofathe printer's deveil" it reads in small gold-leaf letters, in deep contrast with the red of the cover. Written in Old English, a language I know slightly, I think it could be interesting.

I figure I might find a good story in the old book. Besides those stones are probably worth money, not to mention the gold leaf. Those eggheads upstairs will never notice zirconium's and painted letters in place of the real ones, he-he.

I check out that volume along with several more to take home.

***

"Oscar. Did you bring the tomato sauce," my wife, Malodor Skunk, asks as I enter our apartment, "I need it for our dinner pizza?"

"Aw, I forgot, honey, but I have something better. This scroll has the original, the very first recipe for the first pizza ever made."

"Stupid rat. Can't you remember anything? We can't wait until you translate the darn thing. Nancy will be back from school in three hours and has tuba practice at seven. She can't wait for you to screw around with old recipes." (Nancy Skunk is Malodor's niece, a teenager and our adopted daughter. I don't know if you have one or not. If you don't have one now, don't ever. It's better to get rid of them when they turn thirteen. In any case, we have Nancy.)

So I have to go back out to buy a couple cans of tomato sauce. Grumbling, I lay the bag of books down and make my way to the grocery store.

Another way you guys take advantage of us. We rodents can't even use your supermarkets. The last time I tried, it caused screaming and a minor panic. That wasn't all bad though, because when I left with a chunk of pepperoni nobody asked me for money. We have our own stores with not as good a selection.

When I get back, Malodor is reading that old book about printer devils.

"Where did you get this, Honey?" she asks. "It's an evil book. All kinds of curses and bad language. I didn't know printers talked like that."

"Just something I picked up," I tell her, jumping up to the table with my grocery bag.

"Well, better not let Nancy see it. Besides all the cursing inside, it has spells and that sort of thing."

"What kind of spells? Anything to make us rich?" I'm interested.

"Not that I can see. Mostly things like smoothing out paper and coloring ink, things a printer would use to save time."

"Then I wouldn't worry. Our computer printer works just fine."

Malodor goes back to work fixing our dinner pizza while I sit down to finish a story. After that, I work for awhile on translating that pizza recipe. I stop after a while when it becomes apparent we don't have half the ingredients. Most of the suggested meats have died off thousands of year ago. I don't know what a Popplogostic tomato is and they didn't even have electric mixers back then. I can see it's a waste of time. To make it worse, the recipe is to feed ten-thousand rats, hard to break down to a rat and two skunks.

Except to see a jeweler that buys loose diamonds, I pretty much forget about the book. Being a famous writer, I have other work. The book ends up under a pile of other stuff at the side of the computer, things I know I have to put away some time, but haven't gotten around to for months.

***

I'm Nancy skunk. I've been reading this real old book Uncle Oscar has buried in a pile of old printouts. The cover's all shiny with pretty stones on it, which attracted my attention. Usually I don't screw around with his writing but, you know, shiny things attract a skunk.

Most of it's stupid stuff about some rat that printed things back in the middle ages, in the 1400s. He worked for a squirrel and printed books for rodents. It even told how the squirrel hired a human assistant, a German named Johann Gutenberg. The printing shop owner spent a lot of time and trouble training the guy, only to have him take off and build a human-sized printing press and go into business for himself.

It just goes to show, I think, that you can't trust a human. The guy didn't even give the squirrel credit. Well, what can you expect since squirrels aren't much smarter than humans. No, actually Jeremy Squirrel from school is pretty smart.

But the old spells are interesting. I can have fun with them. Like with Andy Aardvark. He-he. Like the next time he wants to feel my tail. That dweeb is always trying to get behind me to rub my tail, except for at recess. He knows I can't spray him inside the school. The principal would be angry.

***

A few days later, I'm half drunk when I get back from the Ratskellar bar in the basement, a favorite rodent hangout. I like to write when plastered. It gives my stories depth.

When I come back in, Malodor is angry.

"Where you been, Oscar?" She grabs me by the neck; you don't mess with an angry skunk. "I told you to hide that book from Nancy."

"Why? I hid it, I hid it," I assure her, wondering what the hell I did with it.

"I got a call from her school principal. She's been suspended from classes but has to go in every night until her mess is cleaned up." I look at where the teenager is sitting on a chair, facing an empty corner. She looks sad and deflated from the back, her normally stiff tail drooping under the chair.

"What mess? What's she done now?"

"Ask her. Right now, I'm too angry to talk."

"Well, what did you do, young lady?"

"Nothing. It wasn't my fault. Phooey on that old book."

"You better tell me. I don't want to find out from your principal."

"Well. . . that meanie Andy Aardvark tried to feel under my tail when we were going into the computer room at school, so I tried that spell from the book. I don't know. I just couldn't turn it off. I guess I didn't read far enough on the page."

"What couldn't you turn off?" I ask, expecting the worst, and getting it.

"The ink."

"What ink?"

"The ink spurting out of my butt."

"And just why and how was ink spurting out of your butt?"

"From the spell. The one to make ink. I -- I -- I thought that, since I couldn't spray him with my skunk spray, a little, just a little, ink would work. It did, but it wouldn't stop. I got him in the face and then, when I turned, all over the whole class before I found I could turn it off by lowering my tail. The. . . the whole computer room is covered with red ink." She starts crying, her furry head drooping.

"That's not all, Oscar," Malodor calls from across the room. "You better tell him," she orders Nancy.

"I -- I thought I could clean it up with another spell, so I just used a little one. I thought it was a little one."

"Which was what?" I ask nervously.

"One to make paper. It was in the book to clean up spills, like something like, you know, toilet paper," she paused to sob, then continued, "It worked swell, the only thing was that the room became piled with inky red toilet paper, sticking to everything and everybody. Then . . . then some of the paper fell on something that caught it on fire. No flames, but the room was filled with thick smoke."

"Principal Groundhog said the students ran through the halls to get out, leaving smears of red ink and toilet paper all over the school," Malodor adds. "They had to evacuate the building while the Fire Department hosed down the Computer Room, spreading red water down into the basement."

"So they suspended me. I have to clean the wh -- whol -- school," Nancy sobs. "Because of those darned old spells."

By the time Nancy finishes, I find Malodor has me by the neck again. Leaning close, she asks me, "And who the hell do you think has to help her?"

I think I know.

The End.
Oscar Rat