Cheddar Moon – Chapter 1
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.”
Cheddar Moon – Chapter 2
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.
Cheddar Moon – Chapter 3
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.
Cheddar Moon – Chapter 4
My week of preparation had passed. Everything had gone smoothly, and I knew I would have no trouble. I had made a solid wooden shield for myself if I needed self-defense from other animals, and I had gathered enough food to eat for one month! I was proud of my hard work, and ready to begin my long journey at last. I ate some homemade candied dandelion stems for breakfast, oiled my wagon with a strong-smelling liquid called Coca-Cola, grabbed a hand-stitched backpack, and began walking. I found an enormous, worn-out compass in a garbage disposal, and I rolled it on the ground when I walked.
My goal was to hike three miles today, but I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon. So far, I’ve only gone about one-fifth of a mile, and it’s taken me five hours to do so! Well, don’t call me a slowpoke, will you? Don’t forget that I am several times smaller than you are! True, mice can scamper and run really fast, which compensates for our small body size, but it’s not very easy to run with a month’s supply of food stocked on your wagon, a backpack on your back, and a wagon that is rusting because you oiled it with Coca-Cola! Enough said; it’s time for lunch.
The salted tree bark I had packed in bulk turned out to be very nutritious and filling, and the candied dandelion stems made a very sweet and tasty dessert. I drank some groundwater from an oak tree, filled my water canteen with the same groundwater, groomed myself, and continued walking again.
It was at this part of my journey that I met up with trouble. If you want to guess, I’ll give you a chance. Okay. So, what are two things that a mouse can’t do? Okay, flying definitely counts. No, mice are extremely good at hiding. How could you not know that? Another answer, please? That’s right – swimming.
I had been walking along, my backpack bouncing on my back, and the wagon creaking and squeaking along on the rough and gravelly dirt road behind me. In my left hand was a map, and I held a long, sharp stick to help me walk on hilly trails. The road wasn’t smooth like the roads back home; instead, it had many sharp, jagged stones. The road was coarse and rough, and my bare feet were aching with pain. I had been looking down the whole time to ensure I didn’t step on any rocks, and I was beginning to feel dizzy, and my neck had started cramping. Looking up, everything seemed to sway. The trees around me, the tall, enormous buildings, even the ground. I immediately dropped my bags and sat down until the wave of nausea passed.
I was thankful to get a minute’s rest to recuperate from the tiring day and my dizziness. I hadn’t rested for several hours, and I was feeling faint with hunger and thirst. Reaching for my water canteen, which was located in a secret compartment in my rusty wagon, I let out an involuntary gasp. I had not been aware of my surroundings before, and now I noticed them for the first time. Three feet away from me lay the largest, deepest canyon I had ever seen! Do you know how large it was? The canyon was about five feet deep – hey, that’s not funny! You do realize I’m a mouse, right? Trust me – I’m not making excuses! If you’ve ever seen a mouse, you would realize how scary a five-foot drop would be! Well, if you’re still not convinced, visualize it as a canyon two stories deep!
For the first time since I started this long journey, I felt afraid. At the bottom of the canyon, there was a huge pool of dirty, litter-filled water. If it weren’t for the fact that the canyon was so deep, and the water was filled with bits and pieces of shattered glass, rusted metal, and other debris, I might have had a chance to jump down, using some scrap tree bark as a raft.
I peered down, cautiously, to search for any humans or wild animals hiding in the canyon. From where I stood, I could only see the middle of the canyon; I was oblivious to the walls and sides. I desperately needed a closer look.
I tried tiptoeing to the edge of the canyon, stepping ever so carefully; I was afraid to move my arms for fear that they would throw me off balance and send me tumbling to my death in the heart of the canyon. Moving my foot just one inch was difficult. I broke out in a cold sweat, and my hands were wet with moisture. I held my arms like a scarecrow, and I was walking stiff-legged, much like a zombie. I held my breath, looked down at the walls of the canyon, and – nothing happened. I ran back to my wagon as fast as I could, tripping over small pebbles on the ground. I collapsed on my backpack, my chest heaving with the breaths that had been waiting to be breathed.
Laying on my backpack for what seemed like forever, I finally mustered the courage to stand up, eat dinner, and lay out the shredded fabric for bedding. Raising my head, which had been buried in the backpack the whole time, I was shocked. How could time pass by so quickly? When I had arrived, the sky was a clear, cloudless blue, and the sun was shining in the sky. A gentle breeze ruffled the green leaves on the trees, and birds were chirping and singing to one another.
Now, the sky was a magnificent violet-purple, tinged with stripes of gold and ribbons of peachy pink. The sun was lowered to the horizon, a dim, auburn semi-circle. It was now sunset, and there were only faint birdcalls to interrupt the silence of the evening. A light wind made the lush carpet of grass sway and dance, ruffling my pristine white shirt and messing up my whiskers.
As I lay flat on my back on the makeshift, shredded fabric bed, I watched the beautiful, glorious sunset until fatigue and exhaustion overcame me like a wave and I fell asleep.