I have a story to tell you, young readers. This is a long story, one that occurred when I was a mouse your age. It has been a very long time, so I might not remember everything. But if you listen carefully and quietly, I will tell you about the time when the moon really was made out of cheese.
In the olden days, it was easy for us to live. There were few humans to disturb us, and they left us in peace. We built our homes out of old wood strips, and shredded fabric was used for bedding. Every home was large enough to hold ten mice, but discreet and small enough to be hidden from passing humans. We spent much of our time indoors, taking care of siblings, gathering fabric to shred for bedding.
One day, I decided to explore the great outdoors. I had heard from family members that everything was different.
“It’s dangerous, you know,” my sister said. “You never know what’s out there!”
Shrugging off her concerns, I prepared to leave, packing a bag full of food, wood strips, and fabric in case I needed to shelter in an emergency or lost my way. For the rest of the day, I was extremely restless, eager to get outside. I tried to pretend everything was the same, trying to keep a nonchalant attitude. My strategy didn’t work.
“You’re awfully quiet tonight,” my mother remarked as she passed me a bowl of soup. “It’s minced morsel stew, your favorite, and you haven’t said a word!”
“Yes,” my father added. “Is something wrong? Is there anything troubling you? If so, you can always ask your mother and I for advice.”
“No, it’s fine. Everything’s okay. I guess I’m just tired,” I say, hoping the conversation will end soon.
“Charles has been thinking about-!” I cut my sister off with a warning glare.
“Thinking about what, darling?” my mother intervenes.
“I-I didn’t really mean that,” my sister says. “I think we should all sleep early tonight. We all seem tired.” Kayla lowers her gaze, picking up her spoon, gesturing to everyone to do the same.
“Let’s eat!” my mother says, rubbing her hands together. “The stew’s getting cold. Charles, if you’re not going to eat that, dump it back in the cooking pot. Otherwise, stop playing with your food and eat a decent meal.”
I decide to leave the dinner table, and brush my teeth for bed. However, I don’t sleep. I spend my time planning my escape into the outdoors world. Hours pass. Night falls. I hear Kayla come upstairs, stepping softly, trying not to “wake” me. She tucks my blankets more firmly around me then closes the door and leaves.
I wait three long, excruciating hours in bed, until the clock chimes. Midnight. I know Mother and Father must be asleep, but I stand up to check. Pressing my ear to the door, I listen. Not a single squeak. I grab my bag, check my inventory, then scribble a note to my parents telling them of my decision to explore the outside world. I stick the note to my bedroom door, and creep down the stairs, silent as a shadow. I am looking back at my home for the last time. I turn around, my hand firmly around the doorknob. I am turning the cold, smooth handle when-
“Charles!” my father’s voice comes to me. I start, my hand releasing the doorknob. My father comes racing down the stairs, stumbling and tripping on the last four in his haste to reach me. “Wait, son! Don’t go!”
“Father?” I say, my confusion evident. “How did you know I was leaving tonight?” Suddenly, I realize. “Kayla! She told!”
“Yes, she did, Charles. And she did so for good measure. Kayla didn’t want you to go alone. We arranged a way to help you during dinner,” he says calmly.
“But you can’t stop me from going on the adventure of my life, Father! I’ve been dreaming of it! Besides, you and Mother can manage without me just the same. Kayla can cook, and Sarah can sew! You don’t need me here!” I protest, whiskers twitching in frustration.
A sad expression crosses his face. “Charles, I don’t want you to go alone. You’re my only son. Just let me go with you,” he says.
“No, Father. I’m sorry, but this is my mission. I promise to return as soon as possible. I just don’t want to leave Mother with Kayla, Sarah, and Baby Nellie to take care of. Please let me go alone. Please!” I beg, awaiting his decision.
We stand in silence, until Father straightens, opening the door. “Good luck, Charles,” he says, “and I wish you the best on your journey.”
Readers, do you remember when my relatives said that everything was different in the outside world? It certainly was. After leaving the house where I had spent my entire childhood, I had stood outside in the dark, dim light of the world when it was sleeping. There was not a sound, just the calm, warm resonance of lake water lapping at the shore, the scent of a summer breeze being carried through the trees, sending blankets of soft, green leaves down onto the carpet of green grass. I stood outside for nearly one hour, breathing the scents of summer beauty, admiring all that I could see at one time. Finally, lying in the shade of a tall, sturdy maple tree, I fell asleep, comforted by the smells and sounds of nature.
In the morning, I awoke to the sounds of birdcalls. I had never before heard them, because my home had been so isolated from nature. I watched the sun rise from the horizon, watched the darkness of night fade, to be replaced by the vivid, bright golden colors of dawn. I slowly climbed up the maple tree, and sat on the lowest branch to eat my breakfast. I was so immersed in watching the sun rise that I did not notice an angry bird squawking and screeching above me.
The bird turned to its nest, reached in, then dropped a squirming, wriggling worm square on my head. I shook it off in anger, then threw it with all my might to where the bird was. The worm was too heavy for me, and I dropped it onto the carpet of green grass surrounding the tree. The bird fluffed up its feathers in contempt, then flew away to get more food for its chicks. I heaved a sigh of relief, then gradually slid down the tree trunk. I kicked the worm away, where it wriggled twice then stopped moving.
Sitting on the bag I had brought with me, I began to plan things out. I found a piece of tree bark which I used for a notebook to plan my journey, and I found some sticks to use as a calendar. I went back to the maple tree to grab more tree bark, and I stuffed the pieces into my bag. I found two old, rusted bottle caps, and I attached them to the bark pieces to make a wagon. I held everything together with some tree sap, and I put my bag onto the wagon. Now was the time to gather materials, I thought to myself. I should make use of the daylight while I have it.
Pulling my wagon, I searched the base of the tree for any materials I could use to write with. With no luck, I sat down, brainstorming. My eyes wandered to the decaying worm, and I leaped onto my feet. I raced to the top of the tree as fast as I could, and sat on the highest branch. Looking down at the abandoned bird’s nest, I measured the distance with my eyes, and jumped. I landed on the very edge, but my weight caused the nest to tip over, and it sailed gracefully in the air before landing several feet away from my wagon. Panting with the effort, I slumped against the nest, trying to catch my breath. Once I had restored my energy, I hauled the wagon to the nest, and piled the eggshell bits into the wagon. The dried-up eggshells would work perfectly as chalk, and when I used up one piece, I still had some to spare. I counted the shell bits, and recorded it in my tree bark journal. Exhausted from all the muscle-stretching work I had done – building a wagon was no easy task – I ate a simple lunch and fell asleep. A day’s work had been done.
After waking up from a long and luxurious rest, I stretched, twitching my whiskers and waving my tail. My muscles felt very tense and sore, and I was unwilling to get up. I was unaccustomed to the hard, rigidness of the ground I slept on, and I longed for my warm, dry bed at home. My bed at home had been lined with the softest, smoothest fabric my mother could find, and it was always fresh and clean. My makeshift bed of fabric strips was meager in comparison, and it was wet with morning dew. Undaunted, I laid the fabric strips onto the dry bark of my wagon, hoping it would dry throughout the day.
Shaking the sticky dew drops off my ears, I picked a dandelion stem to eat for breakfast, but the stem was too tall and slick for me to hold. It blocked my vision, and I ran into the maple tree. A piece of bark fell, opening a hole in my new shirt. I realized it was time for a change. I decided to spend one whole week under my maple tree shelter, patching clothing, gathering food, and doing other miscellaneous activities. I wanted to gather food, but my clothing was in need of repair, so I decided to patch my shirt in the bright daylight, and I could use the dim light of the night to gather food. That way, I could make use of my time while staying safe under the cover of night.
I grabbed a clean, white shirt from my wagon, ducked behind the tree to change, and emerged with the torn shirt in my paws. My day of sewing was about to begin.
I had never been good at sewing – that was always what Sarah had loved to do. My younger sister would happily patch clothing while I gathered food and materials for the family. I never had time to watch her sew and mend, so it didn’t surprise me that I was clueless right now. However, I was spared the trouble by the surfacing of a distant memory. In the memory, I was watching my mother sew, her furry paws warm and soft from hours of chores. She was mending a pair of overalls, and she was instructing me. “Charles,” she had said, “I know you don’t sew. But even if you do, some time in the future, you need to remember to always watch the needle and the fabric. You can’t let your eyes wander and stray or you could hurt yourself.”
With the memory fresh in my mind, I set to work. Grabbing some tough weeds and grass, I tore the grass into thin shreds. I had found a human-sized needle, and I worked the shredded grass into the hole of the needle. The job was a lot harder than I thought. The needle was too big, so I had to hold it with two paws. It took me the entire day to patch the paw-sized hole, but it was better than nothing. Only until I had finished did I realize how hungry I had been. I had been concentrating so hard that I forgot to eat lunch! Oh, well. I guess I’d transition straight to dinner!
For dinner, I ate the leftovers of the dandelion stem I had eaten this morning. The plant was delicious, and it satisfied my hunger and thirst. Sitting on my favorite tree branch, I reflected on my day. I realized that this was the life I had always wanted, one where I could explore and figure things out for myself. I enjoyed my new independence, and I wanted to make it last. Watching the sun set, I could form only one thought in my mind. Nature has given us many gifts in life – my gift is the ability to explore and enjoy life in a completely different perspective.