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6th February
posted by amber

Save the Rembrandt

It’s a family story told over and over again that everyone thinks is funny and never a thought to how it makes me feel.

I was four years old and my parents had brought me to Italy to meet my grandparents and then we’d travelled to Venice to enjoy the city and visit an uncle, my great uncle, a wealthy man, an artist of moderate talent, a seller and collector of art.

When the fire was noticed, my parents were out sightseeing and I was in an upstairs room, supposedly napping, while my great uncle was painting in his garden. He tried to enter the house but the flames were too intense and so he went next door and called the fire department. He probably forgot I was in there. His most precious possession was a small painting in his bedroom and so, when the firemen came, he begged them to ‘save the Rembrandt!’

In Venice, they care about art and so a man ran through the flames and up the stairs while others positioned a ladder against the balcony. On the second floor, he heard me crying and so I was saved and the Rembrandt was lost.

It’s a funny story, it always gets a laugh and yet it has always seemed to me, for as long as I can remember, that the hearers express more regret for the loss of the masterpiece than joy at the saving of such an unremarkable boy.

A boy who – unknown to all beside myself – had been playing with matches.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

This story was inspired by a line in the novel ‘Wilful Behaviour’ by Donna Leon.

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