Note to Graders:
I appreciate it if you came in here to grade this story, but I've got this one
that's been waiting over a week... I'm just sayin'
Portrait of a Natu
Beneath the cries of the Wingull, he scanned the rocky coast through the viewfinder, patiently examining the tide pools. It was a picturesque landscape; clear skies above a calm sea, with gentle waves lapping up over the rocks. Small pools of saltwater filled the depressions in the rocks during high tide, and as the tides withdrew, individual puddles were left behind. The zoom function of the viewfinder acted as an improvised binocular, allowing the photographer to search from a safe distance. As he slowly panned, the sharp rings of a cell phone interrupted the serene environment.
“Hello?” said the photographer.
“Yes? Andy, is that you!” asked the caller.
“Yeah, it’s me Backlot. What’s up now-”
“Did you get it?” interrupted the caller.
“Not yet, I’m-”
“Did you get it?” he asked again, frantically.
“I’m looking, I’ll let you know-”
“But you got it? You did? You got it?”
“Yeah yeah, right, I got it. I’ll call you,” the photographer hung up the phone.
Andy Markowitz, nineteen year old amateur photographer, was an employee of the eccentric millionaire Mr. Backlot. Backlot had an excessive amount of money, and was quick to throw it away on frivolous, impulsive endeavors. Currently, his obsession was portraits. He wanted detailed, quality prints of Pokemon he considered beautiful. Flyers were sent out all across Sinnoh, urging “Photographers of Any Skill” to “Flock to the Pokemon Mansion, located off of scenic Route 212 for a potentially life-changing assignment!”
It was the break Andy Markowitz was waiting for. A chance to put the photography skills he’d been developing to the test. His first few shoots impressed Backlot, leading the old-timer to send Andy on more adventurous assignments. And that’s what put Andy on the beautiful shores of southeast Sinnoh. An unusual ocean current had caused a grouping of Shellder to be swept from their typical Kanto habitats, to the sandy beach where Andy stood. Backlot wanted a portrait of a Shellder, and Andy was available for dispatch.
The young photographer was of slim build. He dressed in a sporty ensemble that allowed for quick and comfortable movement without a lot of noise. He didn’t care much for Pokemon training, and thusly did not own any. Backlot urged him to take a Pokemon with him for protection, but Andy consistently refused. He wanted no part in the world of Pokemon battles; his calling was to immortalize the animal’s beauty in color.
The tides were receding. Andy figured his best bet would be to pick out a spot and watch the tide, hoping to see a Shellder carelessly riding the waves, as they so often do. He put the camera to his face, closed his left eye, sand peered through the viewfinder.
“This would be a perfect landscape shot,” he whispered to himself. “But no. All that old coot wants is Pokemon. And Shellder, of all things. Who wants to look at a portrait of a Shellder all day when they could have a Gyarados, or at least something cool? A Shellder print isn’t even worth the film…”
As the minutes passed, Andy continued to focus on the calm seas. Then he finally saw what he had been waiting for. The tide pulled back, revealing a beached Shellder. The purple clam was dripping with salt water, and wrapped in a delicate strand of seaweed. A small, foamy wave tried to swallow up the clam, but wasn’t strong enough, leaving only a trace of whitewash forming around the shell.
“This is going to be iconic, even for a dumb old Shellder.”
Andy focused in on the Shellder; his right index finger clicked a dial for the light, and another for the speed. The finger made its way to the shutter button, and firmly pressed it. The scene depicted by the viewfinder quickly turned black, before opening again to reveal the shore. But Shellder wasn’t there.
“What? Where’d it go? Oh god, I hope I got the shot…”
He would have no second chances, for the wild Shellder was finally swept away, back into the sea. Andy Markowitz would have to return to the Pokemon Mansion’s custom built darkroom before he could tell if he caught the Shellder in the print. And even if he did, he couldn’t be sure that Backlot would like them.
Back at the Mansion, Andy was developing the picture in a darkened room dimly lit by an amber light. The photographer dipped the blank, glossy piece of paper into a tray filled with developing chemicals. He watched the paper, waiting for the Shellder to reveal itself. Slowly but surely, the image he’d captured was painted on the white paper; the shot had been a success.
Andy was relieved, to say the least. He proceeded to finish up the picture, taking the print through the necessary steps. Thirty minutes later, he held in his hands a stunning image of a purple clam shining in the water. He quickly made his way down the hall to Backlot’s office to present his work.
“Mr. Backlot?” Andy asked through the tall double-doors.
“Yes? Andy? Yes? You have it, yes?”
“Yeah, right here. It came out great.”
“But you have it? You do?”
“Unlock the door!”
“You have it!” shouted Backlot as he opened the door for Andy.
The photographer walked into the room. It was the kind of room a millionaire would be expected to reside in. Hand-stitched maroon carpet cloaked the hardwood floors. Each piece of furniture, from the chairs to the end-tables was hand-made and custom ordered from the finest artisans. But the pride of the room, what Backlot had obsessed over, was the pictures. The walls were lined by professional-quality prints in gold frames. Some of them were taken by Andy, along with the other freelance photographers Backlot hired.
Backlot hurried back to his desk after letting Andy in. Andy approached him there, and confidently held up the portrait of Shellder.
“Mr. Backlot, I present to you, Shellder!”
“Shellder!” Backlot repeated excitedly.
“Yep. I got the shot. Pay up, boss.”
“You got it!” Here, here!” said the eccentric man, waving a check at Andy.
“Thank you very much,” he said, folding the paycheck and depositing it into his pocket. “So, what’s next? Hopefully something more exciting than a clam. Oh! Maybe a shrimp or a goldfish! That’d be a good picture, right?” he said with sarcastic tone.
“Natu. Those green birds that nest nearby. That’s the next portrait.”
“Alright. Where do I go to find them?”
“No, not you. Felix,” said Backlot.
“What!? No, you’re not stiffing me on another job!” Andy was outraged.
“Not you. Felix. He’s already there. He’s already taking pictures.”
“So what am I supposed to do, sit around with my thumb up my ass until he gets back?”
“Felix is taking the portrait.”
“Ahh! You’re killing me Backlot!”
Andy stormed out of the Mansion, angry and frustrated. Felix Raymond, a long time competitor of his, seemed to be gaining most of Backlot’s favor. But rather than wait around for him to finish, Andy hatched an ambitious idea. He took out his phone, and gave his rival a call.
“Hello?” answered Felix Raymond.
“Hey Felix. What’re you up to?”
“What do you want Andy? Backlot gave me the job, so I’m telling you right now to back off.”
“No, Felix, you’ve got it all wrong – I just want to catch up on some things, you know it’s been so long,” Andy said craftily, lying through his teeth.
“Not happening Andy, I’m not falling for it,” Felix hung up.
“Damn…” Andy said into the phone.
The photographer was disappointed that he couldn’t smooth-talk the job away from Felix. He needed the money, and the only person in all of Sinnoh who paid good wages for pictures was Backlot. Andy was thinking about ways he could get the job away from Felix. And he came up with an idea he believed would work.
Andy rushed into Backlot’s office, shouting and flailing his hands. His mannerisms alone began to throw Backlot into an eccentric panic.
“What is it Andy, what, what!?”
“I need to borrow a Pokemon! Someone attacked me, and stole my… something! I don’t know, but it’s gone now, and I need a Pokemon! Hurry Backlot, hurry!”
“You need a Pokemon, Andy!” Backlot repeated.
“Yeah! Hurry, the thief’s getting away!”
“No! Here, take this Andy, hurry! Oh, please, don’t let it get away!” Backlot said hysterically, as he tossed Andy a Pokeball.
“Thanks! And away I go!” Andy said, laughing hysterically as soon as he was out of Backlot’s range of hearing.
Back outside the Mansion, Andy continued to develop his plan. Using Backlot’s Pokemon, he would find and ambush Felix, take his photography equipment, and get the picture of Natu himself.
“This is bound to work. Felix won’t ever see it coming. What kind of Pokemon did I get?”
Andy released the Pokemon from within Backlot’s Pokeball. A glowing white silhouette formed in front of him. As the light faded, it revealed what Backlot had given Andy to use. A stout little creature, green and blue in coloration, with a lily pad growing atop the head. The Pokémon’s face advertised an expression of idiocy, as it slowly gazed at its surroundings.
“… Oh what the hell is this!?” Andy shouted.
“Lombre!” replied the Pokemon, without altering its dimwitted stare.
“Lombre… Well, it doesn’t look very strong, but you never know… Lombre, are you male or female? Say your name once if you’re male, or twice if you’re female, ok?”
“Lombre! Lombre! Lombre!” it shouted mundanely.
“Yeah… I saw that coming… Alright Lombre, from now on, you’re a male, ok? You like the sound of that… boy?”
“Bre,” he replied simply.
“Well Lombre, I hope Backlot taught you something about thievery… Because I know a photographer whose possessions need to be liberated.”
Andy, followed by Lombre, hiked a short couple of miles to a spot where he knew that Natu were local to. From there, he would pick up on Felix’s trail…
Andy was on the path that led him past a tall oak tree; the very tree he’d seen a bunch of Natu roosting in. The soft dirt path was littered with thin bird-like footprints, and coated in red and green feathers. Treading through the delicate little prints were those of a human, presumably Felix Raymond.
“We’ve got ‘em, Lombre,” said Andy to the borrowed Pokemon.
“Om-Ombre,” the Pokemon said, as he sat on the ground and put his own foot in his mouth, seeming to savor the taste.
“Wow…” said Andy in disbelief of the Pokémon’s behavior. “Get up, and let’s go… Your feet will be just as… delicious later.”
The footprints seemed to be leading in a certain direction. They were each a few inches apart, corresponding with the way Natu move by jumping around. Though young Natu are capable of flight, they don’t become particularly good at it until they grow into Xatu. Until then, the young birds typically will hop around, only flying when necessary to escape predation.
Following the footprints, Andy noticed that every so often a couple of Natu split off, maybe to perch in a tree and nest for the night. Then he saw the shoeprints go a separate way as well, following a specific set of Natu footprints.
“Felix… came this way, following the flock. Then, when this bird went his own way, he went with him. I’m right behind him, Lombre, I know I am.”