Entertaining GuestsMature

         As fate would have it, he was caught with a delicate vial containing highly corrosive acid in his hand when the door knocker rang like a gunshot throughout the manor. And, as fate would also have it, that vile easily slipped from his thin fingers and shattered against his worktable. The clear liquid splashed everywhere; all his surrounding instruments and notes received a healthy dousing and promptly began to sizzle. He jumped back from the table, and Plato, settled idly on his shoulder, squawked loudly in his ear.

         “That’s not good,” he said off-handedly as dense clouds of acrid brown gas rose in plumes from some of the copper appliances on the workbench. He coughed and tried to waft the stuff away when he realized that large holes were being burned into his outer coat. He shed the coat quickly, displacing Plato with the act, and threw the fabric to the ground when the door knocked again, more forcefully this time.

         He nervously looked from the workbench to the door and back again before turning on his heel and running to the entryway. The quiet clacking of nails on the floor told him that Plato was following him. When he skidded to a halt at the large mahogany doors, he reached down and scooped Plato from the ground.

         “My apologies, old fellow,” he said sincerely, and then he tossed the feathered rat from the room. Plato had never been good with company, so it was best to keep him away from visitors. He threw open the door and was greeted with a most unwelcome sight.

         “Benedict Remington, my old chap!”

         Benedict was flustered and stuttered out a refusal for visitors. However, this man, in all of his audacity, waltzed straight passed Benedict while still talking loudly of formalities that Benedict could care less for. He followed the man into his parlor and found him lounging quite comfortably in a large armchair.

         “You go by Beans, don’t you?” the man asked with a charming smile.

         “What? Yes. No! Who are you and what are you doing in my parlor?” he stammered.

         That smile couldn’t be wiped off the man’s face if he had rolled around in the pool of acid that was most assuredly eating its way through Benedict’s flooring. “Oh, go grab something to drink and sit down, my dear. I'm here to visit,” he said, a lit cigar between two fingers.

         No, no, no. Visitors were not a commodity that Benedict kept in the Remington household. “I offer my most sincere apologies, however I must ask you to leave. I’m in no position to accept guests today. Please, if you could come back on a visitation day, then I would most happily receive you.”

         The man laughed at that. “Dear lord, Beans! You don’t even know what day it is, do you? It is a visitation day! My word, how long has it been since you’ve lost track of time? Such a rare commodity, one too precious to forget.” He waved a hand at Beans and took a drag on the putrid-smelling cigar. “I’d appreciate that drink.”

         Beans huffed and turned on his heel. This man seemed deeply rooted into Beans’s furniture, so perhaps if Beans entertained him, he would promptly leave the manor. Beans stalked into the kitchen and set about boiling water for tea. In addition, he wrenched open the cupboards, pulling from them a bottle of some unknown liquid, which he hoped was not one of his forgotten experiments, as well as a few glasses.

          A growl from the doorway had him spinning around, knocking one of the glasses from the counter. It shattered and sent shards scattering across the flooring. It was Plato, his feathers a bright red in anger as he stared unwaveringly at Beans from the doorway.

         “Not now, Plato!” Beans hissed at the rat. He could have sworn he saw the rat’s eyes narrow in a glare. He turned around after gathering a replacement for the glass he had broken then returned to the foyer. In Beans’s absence, the man had lit a fire and was standing in front of the grate with his cigar in hand.

          “The name’s McCune, by the way.”

         “Charmed,” Beans replied with a pained smile. He set down the glasses and dutifully poured for McCune. The man strolled from the fireplace and accepted the glass.

         “You know, this place is quite out of the way. Hard to find,” McCune remarked.

         “Quite. For a reason, if you’d believe it.”

          “It’s a wonder you let such a handsome place like this go. I can only imagine what it looked like when your old folks were still around.”

         Beans pursed his lips. Only five minutes had passed, and he was already finished with this conversation. “Do all exchanges you engage in progress this way?”

         McCune laughed again. “Only with you, I imagine, old chap!”

         “When are you leaving?”

         The whistle of the kettle interrupted whatever McCune’s answer might have been. Beans abruptly stood and went to retrieve the water from the kitchen, though not more than a moment went by when he heard the faintest sound of claws clattering on the floor.

         “Plato,” Beans growled, turning around to confront the rat. However, Plato was not there. Beans glanced around, but saw neither hide nor feather of the rat. “Plato?”

         A squawk and a yell came from the parlor then, and Bean rushed to the doorway, once again in a fluster.

The End

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