The Wandering Feather
Written by: Kevin (KS) Sharbaugh

Chapter One

The cream of London's rodent population, plus a slew of frogs, gathered about in anticipation of the announcement that was to be the zenith of that day's function. The main gallery of the art museum became silent as a crypt as their attention was drawn to the three artistic renderings hung in a special display area. Beside each framed canvas stood it's creator: next to the image of a yellow stick figure stood a rat in a tee-shirt whose blond hair was tied back in a ponytail, beside a colorful field of stylistically similar mouse faces (none of which had any eyes) stood a mouse in a tattered vest who was missing most of his right ear, and a kangaroo rat in a stylish jacket accompanied the portrait of a dingo sitting in the shadow of Ayer's Rock.

"Now that I have your attention, we can announce the recipient of this year's ‘Queen Royal' Award," a well dressed mouse with a thick grey mustache began. "The winner's work will receive a place of distinction in our gallery and be given a bottle of ‘Souris De Fleuve 1890' by the lovely Lady Rochenbella." There was a smattering of applause as the Lady, gracefully cradling the bottle of imported port in one arm, waved regally to the gathered rodents and amphibians. "Will the fortunate individual be Philippe Marie-Suzon?" the mouse stated as he motioned to the smug looking blond rat, for whom the frogs cheered raucously. Clearing his throat loudly, he continued, motioning to the mouse with the missing ear, "‘Oobee'?" The frogs jeered loudly. Clearing his throat once more, he finished, motioning to the kangaroo rat, "Or William Longtail?" The frogs jeered once more. Having waited for the frogs' uncivilized hollering to die down, the emcee produced a folded sheet of high quality paper from his jacket. Breaking the wax seal, he unfolded the sheet and read through the judgement written by a paw skilled in the art of calligraphy. With a practiced smile, he looked up to the gathering, "This year's winner is- ‘Oobee'." Still holding the sheet in one paw, he proceeded with a dignified clapping, accompanied by most of those assembled.

Philippe was too stunned to speak as his competitor raced forward to clutch the liquor bottle from the startled Lady. Tearing out the cork, ‘Oobee' threw his head back and began loudly gulping down the port before he ran laughing from the gallery. Much of the clapping had died down as a result of the artist's complete lack of poise and civility. However, Philippe would not be outdone when it came to making a scene.

"Zis eez a travesty!" the rat shouted in a thick french accent, "I demand a new judgement!"

"The judges' decisions are final," the mustachioed emcee explained, trying to retain as much civility as possible, even managing a forced smile (which only accentuated the rather prominent gap between his incisors).

"Zis eez ludicrous!" Philippe continued, "Do you realize ‘ow much water I had to drink to produce my work?!" There was a startled squeal from one of the ladies who suddenly deduced just how Philippe had created his ‘art'. Before the emcee could interrupt the outraged Frenchrat, Philippe continued his tirade. Motioning dramatically at the winner's work he declared, "Compared to my creation zis eez nozing but a brain fart!" The assembled amphibians shouted their agreement.

"An' I suppose you think my painting is nothing but a ‘brain fart'?" asked William, looking for an excuse to put the arrogant rat in his place.

"Of course not," Philippe replied to the Australian with surprising poise, before hollering "ONE MUST HAVE A BRAIN BEFORE IT CAN FART!"

"You dirty-," The rest of William's epithet was difficult to discern as he tackled Philippe. William, in turn, was set upon by Philippe's amphibious fan base. And they, in turn, were set upon by a horde of security personnel.

"Out and stay out!" hollered a uniformed ferret as he tossed Philippe out onto the street.

"And take these bloody frogs with you!" joined his companion who shoved the croaking mass of amphibians out the door.

The entrance was soon slammed shut on the small mountain of frogs, underneath which, somewhere, was a very angry rat. A muffled screaming could be heard from within the green mound. Frogs began flying off in all directions. One of them seemed to be jumping madly about, knocking the others off. Only that particular frog wasn't jumping, he was being flung about like a club by Philippe. Releasing his ‘weapon', he let the frog sail off through the air before a lamp post impeded it's flight. Huffing angrily, Philippe stood with clenched fists, his disheveled and wavy hair obscuring his face, save for his snout. After calming somewhat, the rat pulled a string from somewhere in his fur and proceeded to tie his hair back.

"What now, maestro?" asked a frog with a distinctly Italian accent.

"Shall we kill that wretched ‘Oobee'?" sniveled another frog excitedly.

"IDIOT!" Philippe bellowed as he bonked the murderous frog over the head, "If he dies his garbage becomes more valuable! Non, I shall go to America, ze land of ze free. Only zere can I create a work of art so great zat ze whole world will be forced to acknowledge my genius!" The rat strode off with an entourage of loyal frogs hopping behind.

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