‘Bartholomew, is that you?’
‘Bartholomew, it’s hard enough to get six babies to have a nap after Sunday School without you coming home late. This floor shook all the way through the singing. The entire ruckus has given me a headache.’
‘When I catch my breath, *pant* I’ll explain.’
‘Bartholomew, were you chased by the janitor?’
‘Mildred, he’s on to us again.’
‘Well it’s no wonder. Your snooping around those Sunday School classes is going to get us into trouble one of these days.’
Bartholomew ignored his wife and continued. ‘I got right up close to the piano. It was awesome. They were singing Jesus loves me; my favorite. I managed to sneak in behind the young ones going into class. Mildred, their new Sunday School teacher, Miss Cooper, is delightful.’
‘I thought you were going to find us some Sunday lunch, not check out the girls.’
‘I did. Anyway, I was captivated by the way she presented the Noah’s Ark story—pictures of the ark, birds, animals, even Noah. Young Tommy asked if there were any rats on board and everyone laughed. Miss Cooper assured Tommy that if there are rats around now; they would’ve been on the ark. She spoke with enthusiasm about our Maker and His promises. Oh Mildred, you’d have loved it. It was a perfect morning.’
‘So why were you panting?’
‘I was coming to that. You see, Billy was about to leave the room with his Bible still on his chair.’
‘Again? His parents must have replaced his Bible a dozen times.’
‘I know, and I thought if I could get someone’s attention before they left, they’d see it and return it to him.’
‘So what did you do, scare poor Miss Cooper half to death on her first morning?’
‘No, I simply marched over to the Bible and stood on it… only I didn’t see the janitor passing the door with his broom. He saw me about the same time as Billy did. Billy stood between the janitor and me so I could get away.’ Bartholomew chuckled. ‘You should’ve seen me run, Mildred. I slipped out the door as quick as a flash with that broom coming mighty close.’
‘OK, so where’s lunch? Maybe we can enjoy some of His gifts before the babies wake up.’
Bartholomew removed the pack from his shoulder and began to unload his findings.
‘I found a couple of potato crisps in the foyer. A gummy bear with his head removed in the cry room and a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the Sunday School Hall. All while they were busy singing themselves silly.’ He chucked again.
‘Oh, this is great, Bartholomew. We won’t go to bed hungry tonight.’
‘I’LL FIND YOU, RAT!’ A voice bellowed through the walls.
Mildred began to shiver. ‘Bartholomew…’
‘Mildred, take the babies through the side door to the end of the stage. Take the underground route to Uncle Moses… and don’t stop until you get there.’
‘Bartholomew, don’t leave us. Where are you going?’
‘It’s all right. I’ll distract him and meet you at Uncle Moses’s later. I’ll be fine. GO!’
‘WHERE ARE YOU, RAT?’
Bartholomew scurried back through the hole and across the stage. His feet skidded beneath him on the varnished boards, causing him to slide sideways and crashing into a pile of electrical cables. He scanned the stage and the hall just as one of the cables hit the floor below.
‘I HAVE YOU NOW.’
As fast as his little legs could carry him, Bartholomew scampered into Miss Cooper’s classroom, raced past Noah and the ark and up the drapes on the other side of the room.
There he waited.
It was dark when Bartholomew reached Uncle Moses’ place, tired and hungry. He listened, but there was no sound. He tapped lightly before entering.
‘Bartholomew, where have you been? I’ve been worried sick. The babies wore out poor Uncle Moses. They’re all curled up with him on his bed.’
‘I’m fine. I told you I’d be fine. I know that place blindfolded. We can return in a few weeks once the exterminators have gone and the air is clear again.’
‘In the meantime, Bartholomew, you can help me with the babies. When we return home, I want you to take them to Sunday School, but no more adventures.’
‘All right, Mildred, no more adventures for me.’
© Chrissy Siggee
Author’s note: No rat or any human being was harmed during the writing of this story.