Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Tale of Mr. Mouse, part 1

I am still at work finishing Mrs. Mouse. She is a soft brown velveteen, and she's nice to hold. She's also patient. For the past three nights I've managed to get out my sewing kit, but not I've not actually sewn her. She just sits contentedly in my hand while I've gotten caught up on past episodes of Lost.

It looks as though she might be staying here for awhile. She and Mr. Mouse have definitely become good friends.

I don't believe I've told you much about him yet.
Mr. Mouse has been around our home for almost 3 years now. He manifested after Ada and I started talking about him in stories...he just showed up one day in full form. (Well, he showed up without a leg--Ada couldn't wait to play with him until I was done sewing.)

He has a strange history, this mouse. You see, as the story goes, he belongs to Martha Stewart. Yes, that one. When she was four years old, Ada had a fascination with Martha, from her magazines and her show. Through that, Martha somehow entered our story of a mouse. Before we knew it, there were other important characters finding their way into the bedtime stories I'd spin, and soon, there was a whole fleshed-out universe of Martha, her compatriots, and Mr. Mouse.

Would you like to hear how Mr. Mouse arrived in Martha's life?

Mr. Mouse used to live in the woods behind Martha Stewart's house. He lived in a hollowed out stump on the edge of the forest. He lived alone, and he spent a good deal of his time making his house comfy with castoffs--winecorks for chairs, bits of old flannel for blankets, a wobbly table made out of a champagne cap. The pride of his little house was the spiral stair he had created along the wall by notching and chewing spaces in the rotting wood. It took him ages, but when he was done, the steps spanned more than half the house, circling up and around to the splintery wood outcropping that served as his bedroom. He loved to trot up the stairs, nestle into bed, and dream of making things and going places.

On a particularly damp and blustery afternoon in February, Mr. Mouse caught the scent of cupcake on the air. It was strong enough to wake him from a sound sleep, and he scampered down the stairs to the doorway to get a better read on it. He took a few steps outside and debated facing the threat of an open yard to find the source of that smell. In the spring, especially, hungry hawks made the rounds over grassy spaces, looking for food. Mr. Mouse didn't want to end up taking an unexpected flight in the talons of a starving bird. But that day, he wanted cake more than he wanted safety. Taking a deep breath, he ran for it.

Mr. Mouse didn't know it at the time, but it would be worth the trip. Martha and her housekeeper, Anita, had been baking cupcakes for hours. Martha's original plan had been to bake 200 cupcakes cupcakes for the staff, crew, and audience of her television show. She liked to use her own kitchen; it was so much more relaxing than her television studio. Unfortunately, the cupcakes weren't working out. The baby pink sugarpaste hearts kept sliding off the too-loose swiss meringue frosting. It just wouldn't do. So, out to the trash heap with the cupcakes, all 200. (Well, almost 200. Anita secreted away a stash to share with her friends after work.) Mr. Mouse would have 189 cupcakes for himself, if he made the trip.

At top speed, Mr. Mouse could cross from the woods to the the trashheap in less than 10 minutes. He'd been up late the night before, though, scratching a pattern on the wall of his bedroom, trying to recreate the image of his brothers and sisters nestled in their childhood den. He loved to draw, but the scratches never came out as well on the bark as they did in his mind. Frustrated, he'd finally fallen asleep sometime after the short-eared owl had stopped shouting its lonely song.

In any case, today he was overtired, and slow. The grass was wet, but not yet the soft damp of spring. Instead it was old winter grass, yellowed and scratchy, and it resisted him. Between the thickets of grass were patches of ice, and big lumps of earth that the skunks had overturned while looking for grubs. Here and there were also scattered twigs and a few large branches that a recent windstorm had strewn about. Each of these things posed an obstacle for a little mouse. Though his nose implored him to run, his little legs were weak, and he slowed to a walk. In doing so, he looked up, and saw, for the first time ever, Martha's house.

Strange how we don't look up. You can go through your daily life never noticing the tops of the trees, or where the telephone wires intersect, or the shape of the spaces in the sky through the winter branches. For his part, Mr. Mouse had never looked much past the tops of the grass blades, as he usually took this path to the garbage at night, in a dead run.

There, looming god-like above him, was Martha Stewart's sprawling home. He gave a start when he saw it, and literally stopped in his tracks. While he lived near humans, he didn't live among them. He was a woodland mouse, not a house mouse. He ate humans' garbage, and was a fine connoisseur of their cast-off food (sweets and fried things being favorites), but he didn't know about their homes. Martha Stewart's home filled him with a mix of fear and curiosity. Who know there could be something so BIG, so angular and imposing? Looking at it so intently on that cloudy day, Mr. Mouse's vision got a bit blurry, and the house seemed to thrum with energy. What was it?

As Mr. Mouse was contemplating the foreignness of the house, Anita was crossing the yard with the last tray of cupcake discards. She hated to toss them, but she couldn't save all of them, either. First, Martha wouldn't have it. Secondly, she snuck enough treats each day that her pants now needed elastic waists, a shameful fact she'd finally admitted to herself in December.

As Martha had instructed, Anita had not bagged the cupcakes for the trash. Instead, she carried them, tray by burgeoning tray to the third bin in the waste area. Martha had devised three categories for non-recyclable trash, and they were organized in much the same way all things "Martha" were organized--with precision and labels. Set squarely into huge beds of pebbles were three slatted box containers, each weathered entirely grey except for its shiny chrome label. The first was sensibly labeled "Compost," and was filled purely compostable-material such as vegetable peels and coffee grounds. The second bin was for real garbage (tissues, #5 plastics, and other unmentionables). The third and largest bin was ambiguously labeled "Items that might be compostable." Anita visited this bin the most, for reasons not unlike today's cupcake fiasco. With surprising deftness, in one swift move she hefted the lid of the bin and the tray, dumping the last of the cupcakes. They tumbled down the heap to join the remains of failed coffee cake, soggy teabags, and spoiled pizza dough. She was just turning away to head back to the house when Mr. Mouse streaked past her foot and dove between the slats and into the mess.

Anita screamed. As her tray clattered to the stone path, Mr. Mouse dug faster than he thought possible, through a flurry of cake and goopy icing, furiously moving his feet until he could get a foothold. A new character had entered each of their worlds, though neither of them knew it yet.

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angela said...

Hi Kirie

What a great way to start my morning! I love Mr Mouse! This is such a good story. I can hardly wait for the next chapter!

Love, Mom

La Belette Rouge said...

This is a delicious story. I love it, Kirie. I am printing it and sharing this with my woozle. I could just feel Mr. Mouse had a good story. Ever since you first introduced him I have wanted to hear more. More please!!!

susan said...

A very nice story indeed. Will Miss Mouse be joining the narrative in future?

La Belette Rouge said...

I just read it to weasel and he was greatly disappointed that part 2 has not yet been posted. This is such a fantastic story. I am hooked!!!! Please don't leave us hanging too long.

Kirie said...

I'm so glad you all like this story. It's a little different from the one I've told to Ada "ad improv," but I like where it's going.

Part 2 is scheduled for Saturday morning.


The Storialist said...

So so so adorable and fun!!

The Seeker said...

Delighted to read, adorable....
and I'm off to part II quickly, sorry, can't wait to know more...


Lisa said...

This is wonderful! What a fun story!

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