A jewel with a sting
The humour Van Keulen demonstrates in Friends Of The Moon also makes Meneer Ratti (‘Mr Ratty’) into a jewel with a sting. Meneer Ratti is a shabby ‘streetcomber’. He lives in a musty cellar and wanders around the rubbish in the night with apram, sniffing around to see if there is anything to his taste there.
He notes his finds in his account book and then stores them in his cellar. He already has 54 umbrellas, 97 stuffed toys, thousands of marbles and boxes full of coins, pens and letters.
He never gives anything away. He doesn’t like people and dislikes children most of all. According to his neighbours’ gossip he looks like his name: he has a long nose, teeth that stick out, a moustache and beady red eyes.
Meneer Ratti is a fabulous character. He is described negatively and as a caricature but at the same time he is likeable from the very start. This is shown in such scenes as when he puts the ‘tittle-tattlers’ in their place and in the subtle observation that he likes reading the notes he finds because he never gets any mail himself.
Finally a child succeeds in breaking through his armour of badtemperedness, even if he still tries to stay grumpy. The cat of a little girl has ended up in Meneer Ratti’s cellar and to get him back she sticks a hand with seven big shining marbles through the letter box. And just like children, Meneer Ratti, the street skimmer, knows what they are worth! That is the start of his thawing.
Because of this warmth Meneer Ratti is not only an exceptionally witty story but is also moving and profound.