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A Portrait of Philistines

by battlesunn


Shelleylou, Siricco and Carmorel were sitting at a small table in the Pizarro, having an impromptu pity party. Carmorel's owner had given her three tickets to Wock Til You Drop at the concert hall in Tyrannia, but unfortunately, the show happened to be on the exact same day that Shelleylou was scheduled to have her portrait painted with the rest of her family.

     "But why today?" Siricco asked. "Why not some other time?"

     Shelleylou lifted her leafy head and stared wearily at her friend. The island Gelert sighed.

     "I don't know, maybe because my owner enjoys planning family events that occur during the most inconvenient times for me?" She flopped wearily back on the table, morosely stirring her Neocola with a straw. Siricco growled.

     "What are you doing, anyway?" the Lupe asked brusquely. Shelly rolled her eyes.

     "I told you, my owner's going to paint a family portrait of us to hang in the Neohome so that she can impress her friends when they come over and show them what a fantastic bunch of Pets she has and how cute that darling Ixi is," the Gelert sarcastically replied, drumming her paws on the table.

     "It's not that bad," Carmorel said. The Christmas Cybunny patted Shelly's paw sympathetically. "I know how you feel. My owner had our portrait painted too." Siricco snorted.

     "I'm lucky, my owner doesn't believe in that cherished memories stuff. She says that she doesn't need reminding of our family- they're under her nose the whole day anyway," the fire Lupe retorted, picking up a slice of pizza in her flame-licked paws and taking a vicious bite. Shelleylou shot her a menacing look.

     "Well Siri, I'm sorry that my owner has all these delusional fantasies about my brothers and I being model pets." The Gelert absentmindedly twirled one of her ribbony, flowered ears between her claws. "It's not like I didn't try to make her reschedule."

     "Well you obviously didn't try hard enough," Siricco pompously replied.

     Shelly yawned, glancing at the sun. "I'd better get going, actually. Sunny wanted us at home by four..." She got up, pushing her chair out. "You have fun without me," she added, throwing in a labored sigh for good measure. "Think about me while you're having the time of your life, dancing to the songs played by the best group in Neopia." The Gelert tossed the pizza Blumaroo a few Neopoints and padded sadly out of the restaurant, pausing to glance back at her fortunate friends.

     "Lucky pets," she growled. "What I'd give to be an only pet. Then Sunny wouldn't make such a huge deal about having a family portrait."

     Shelleylou paused as she got within hearing range of her Neohome, her ears twitching and stiffening. The strangest sound was coming from her house. To the average passerby, it would've sounded like something from another world, but to Shelly's experienced ears, it sounded like the high-pitched wail of an Ixi being forced into some ridiculous costume. The Gelert made a small noise of discontent before trudging resolutely up the path to her Neohome.

     Suddenly, the door was flung open as Zarrelian, the aforementioned Ixi, came running out into the garden, pawing furiously at the adorably revolting tuxedo that he had been shoved into for the purpose of looking cute in honor of the all-powerful family portrait. Shelleylou couldn't help smirking. The Ixi's dignity was the sacrifice, not that he ever had much anyway. She strode past, giving him a slight kick as she did.

     "Watch it Zarrel," Shelly said airily. "Sunny will have a Kau if you tear that Mynci suit." The Halloween Ixi took a break from his losing battle with the tuxedo to shoot his sister a dirty look.

     Upon arriving in the foyer of their Neohome, Shelly was greeted by her broadly grinning owner, Sunny, who was, at the moment, holding up a very hideous outfit. It looked vaguely as though it had originally adorned the boughs of a Christmas tree, but had been snatched away by some brain addled designer and sewed onto a few pieces of lacy pink fabric. The Gelert stopped dead in her tracks.

     "I'm not wearing that," she boldly stated, but her throat was so dry that it came out barely as a whisper. Sunny continued to smile.

     "Yes, you are. Your brothers have already gotten dressed, and they're not complaining," she replied.

     "Yes, they are! Did you not see Zarrelian's wrestling match on the front lawn?" Shelly insisted. She then noticed that Sunny's smile was rather strained.

     "That'd not important right now, dear. The important thing is that you're here, your brothers are here, and you're all going to pose while I paint a beautiful portrait of you that will last forever." Sunny's voice had been growing slightly louder as she said this, and she practically shouted the word "forever".

     Shelleylou growled a little, but complied, pulling the disgusting (and itchy) outfit over her head. It was also at least three sizes too small, and clung uncomfortably to her neck and shoulders.

     "I don't think it fits," she squeaked, the dress tightening around her waist. Sunny brushed her Pet's concerns away with a wave of her hand.

     "Nonsense, it looks great. Ah, here come Ezanna and Mordegan! Morty, could you go retrieve your brother? He somehow got himself tied up in his suit... Thanks. Ezanna, you look fantastic!"

     Ezanna snorted, tugging at his tatty necktie. He glanced at Shelleylou and the two exchanged pained glances. Just then, Mordegan returned, carrying Zarrelian in his jaws.

     "Where should I put him, Sunny?" he asked out of the corner of his mouth. Sunny chewed on a fingernail.

     "Uh, go over there, by the staircase... Yes, that's good. Stand in front of the plant. Uh huh, Shelly, move behind Mordegan, you're taller. Ezanna, stop slouching, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And Zarrelian, if you try to escape one more time I'll tie you to the floor and it'll take even longer to paint this portrait." Their owner took a step back, tapping her chin with a finger. "Perfect! Okay, let me set up my easel... Don't move now."

     Sunny set up her easel and paints and began to draw, peering over the top of the canvas. An hour passed, and Mordegan was beginning to get sore. He quivered, twitching slightly. The Lupe's gaze shifted to Ezanna.

     "Ezanna! Hey, Ez!" he hissed. The skunk Krawk flicked his large yellow eyes to Mordegan.

     "What is it?" he mumbled.

     "I have to go to the bathroom," Mordegan whined. Ezanna looked as though he was trying not to laugh.

     "Well, you'll just have to wait then, I suppose."

     "What's that noise? Are you talking? Good models don't talk!" Sunny snapped from behind her painting. She bit her lip. "Man, Lupes are hard to draw. I knew I should've gotten a Jubjub instead."

     Zarrelian moaned. "Are you almost done? My wings are getting sore." The Ixi adjusted his leathery wings slightly. Sunny shrieked.

     "Zarrelian! You moved! Now I'll have to start over again." She tore the old paper off her easel and crumpled it up, lobbing it into a stone basin a few feet from where she stood. The Pets groaned, rolling their eyes skyward.

     Another hour or so passed.

     "What about now? Are you done now?" Shelly asked eagerly. It was quite hot outside, and it was very stuffy in her tight costume. A few beads of sweat ran down her matted muzzle to splash against the floor with a soft plopping sound. Sunny narrowed her eyes and stared critically at her work.

     "It's taking a while to draw Ezanna. I have to paint each one of his scales..." She admitted.

     "What?" Shelly cried. "That's ridiculous! He's a skunk Krawk! Just paint a black and white blob and we'll be happy!"

     "Well I won't!" Sunny snapped. "Now be quiet and stay still. This won't take much longer."

     About half and hour later, Sunny yawned and stretched, getting up from her seat and waving out her arms. Mordegan looked up hopefully.

     "Are you done?" he asked, his tongue lolling from his mouth.

     Sunny blinked in surprise. "Oh no, I'm just taking a little break. I'm going to go get a drink and a snack, painting's hard work. You just stay there and don't move." She flounced off, leaving her half-finished painting unattended. Ezanna waited until she was gone before leaping up and dashing over to her easel. Mordegan's jaw dropped in shock.

     "Ezanna! Sunny said to stay where we were!" he said. Ezanna snorted.

     "Desperate times call for desperate measures, Morty. Look!" The Krawk spun the easel around and showed them the painting that their owner had been laboring over for the last three and a half hours. The Pets gasped.

     "That's the worst painting I've ever seen!" Shelly exclaimed.

     "Yeah!" Zarrelian agreed. "I've seen better art on the margins of Shelly's diary!" He glanced at his sister. "By the way, how's the paw fungus?"

     Mordegan cocked his head to the side. "Oh, I dunno," he said, grinning. "I think it's kind of nice... See, that's a lovely rendition of Zarrelian there," he commented. Ezanna glanced back at the painting.

     "Actually Mordegan, that's you. See, she labeled them in case she forgot which was which while she was painting."

     The emerald-furred Lupe whimpered. "She made me look all fat and ugly!" he whined. Shelly looked at him sympathetically.

     "Don't worry, Morty. The paint brush adds twenty pounds."

     Just then, Sunny came bursting back into the room. Her eyes widened at the sight that greeted her.

     "What're you doing? Hey, put down my painting!" she demanded, looking around the foyer at her pet's bewildered faces. Shelly was the first to say anything, choosing her words very carefully and speaking very slowly.

     "Well, Sunny," she began uncertainly. "We were thinking that an artist as talented as yourself probably wouldn't need any more time to work on a painting, since you're so good and everything. So we decided to look at your picture, and it turns out that we were right!" The Gelert grinned hopefully at her owner. "Because this is, without a doubt, the best work of art that we have ever seen!" She finished, giving Ezanna a meaningful kick in the side. The Krawk jumped in to support his sister.

     "Yes, and you shouldn't add anything else to it because you might overwork it, and that can just ruin a fabulous painting, like yours." He glanced pointedly at Mordegan and Zarrelian, who began nodding earnestly.

     "Yeah. Great painting," Zarrelian said solemnly, doing his best not to sound sarcastic.

     "Love it. Don't change a thing," Mordegan added in clipped tones. Sunny beamed.

     "You guys are so sweet!" She plucked her painting from the easel and stared at lovingly. "Yes, I suppose you're right, Ezanna. You know what they say, less is more." She smiled at her large green Lupe. "I think that I captured you especially well, Morty. I ran out of green paint so I had to use red, but I think I made it work, like a true artist should!" She cradled the painting lovingly.

     "I'm taking you to get framed!" Sunny cooed, turning on her heel and running out of the house. "I'll be back in an hour or so, dinner's in the kitchen!" She shouted back at her Pets.

     When they were sure that she was gone, the Neopets burst out laughing. Zarrelian nudged Mordegan in the ribs.

     "Captured you especially well!" the Ixi chortled. "Told you that you could stand to lose a few pounds, Morty."

     Shelleylou shook her head, rolling her acid-green eyes. "I'm glad that's over. I never want to pose for another portrait again!" she said, pulling the outfit over her head. Ezanna nodded, carefully undoing his tie.

     "Tell me about it." The Krawk paused thoughtfully for a moment. "You know what'd be cool? A device that could just capture an image and make an instant copy of it, without having to paint, or pose for a long time or anything like that. Wouldn't that be great?"

     Shelleylou gratefully tossed the costume over her head into the trash bin. "Sure Ezanna, keep on dreaming." She laughed. "Honestly, a magic machine that can make an instant picture of whatever you point it at? That's the craziest thing you've ever said."

     Zarrelian sniggered. "And that's saying a whole lot."

The End

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