An entirely different kind of story for week 27 of my short story challenge.
Just… ignore the practical realities around field mice and owls if you want to enjoy this one, OK? I did consider going down a darker path with this story, but then decided I wanted to write a more conventional children’s story instead. As always, feedback and thoughts appreciated below.
For anyone joining late, I’ve challenged myself to write a short story every week for a year. If you want to catch up, you can read every short story here.
In itself, this is a repeat of a challenge I did a few years back which led to an entire collection of short stories, which you can buy as an eBook, if you would be so kind:
Want something notably different and considerably longer? There’s also my B-movie novel, Sharksplosion. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d think a book with that title might be like
Enough of the eBook plugging, Kidman. Time to introduce the nice people reading your site to…
It was just another ordinary Saturday.
The sun shone in through the living room window onto the spot where Jenny Mouse sat, playing with her blocks.
Dadda Mouse was busy with his paints and brushes, finishing another painting of a boat.
In time, Mumma Mouse would file the boat painting away in the cupboard under the stairs with all the other paintings of boats that wouldn’t fit anywhere else on the walls.
Dadda Mouse didn’t mind that one bit.
The joy, he told Jenny Mouse, was in the creation on the canvas and the satisfaction with the finished product.
Other mice didn’t need to see his paintings, he said. It was enough that he had made them.
Mumma Mouse wasn’t around to hear such musings right now.
Jenny Mouse had waved her goodbye earlier, just after breakfast.
Mumma Mouse had headed off on her regular Saturday catchup with the girls in the motorbike club.
One day, Jenny Mouse thought, it might be nice to have some riding gear of her very own.
Jenny Mouse finished putting the last small triangular blocks in place, and then her tiny wooden castle was finished.
Time to go and get Miss FluffyWhiskers from her bedside so that they could start playing dragons and princesses.
When Jenny got to her room, to her great surprise, Miss FluffyWhiskers was nowhere to be seen.
Jenny felt sure that she’d left her on her bedside pillow when she got up that morning.
Had she perhaps been folded into the covers of her bed when it was made this morning?
Jenny Mouse checked carefully, making sure not to disturb the covers too much.
No, Miss FluffyWhiskers wasn’t there.
Had she fallen under the bed, perhaps due to a stray gust of wind?
Jenny Mouse asked the creature she was certain lived under the bed, just behind the old suitcase if it wouldn’t mind her having a quick look.
As always, the creature made no sound at all.
It was a wily one, that creature, but Jenny figured it might be asleep, and took its silence as an agreement that she could safely peer under.
But there was nothing there but the old suitcase.
Jenny pulled it out to check that Miss FluffyWhiskers hadn’t somehow tumbled behind it, or perhaps been borrowed by the creature so it could play with her.
But again, Miss FluffyWhiskers could not be found.
Jenny Mouse went downstairs, where Dadda Mouse was still busy painting.
“Excuse me… Dadda..?”
“Yes, Jenny, what is it? Is it lunchtime already?”
“No Dadda, it’s not that. But have you seen Miss FluffyWhiskers? I can’t find her anywhere!”
‘Miss FluffyWhiskers… oh, your toy baby mouse? Isn’t she up on your bed? That’s where you usually keep her.”
“No, Dadda, she’s not. And I checked in the bed, and even under the bed and behind the suitcase!”
“That is a problem. Hmm. Let me think for a second.”
Dadda Mouse popped the end of his paintbrush into his mouth as he thought.
Jenny Mouse thought that was odd, but she remembered that Dadda Mouse had been told by Mumma Mouse that “it was better for him than all that smoking”, whatever that might mean.
“Ah! Has Mrs Owl been in today to do the tidying?”
“I think so, yes.”
“Maybe she tidied away Miss FluffyWhiskers while she was doing the vacuuming. Perhaps if we give her a phone call, we might be able to find out.
Now, where did your mother put the phone book… ah, here is it, right next to the phone. O… O… O… oh.”
“What is it, Dadda?”
“I don’t think we have Mrs Owl’s phone number. Come to think of it, I don’t think she actually has a phone.
I remember, a few weeks back, she dusted it and knocked the receiver off and had no idea what to do with it.”
“Oh. So I can’t find out if she knows what happened to Miss FluffyWhiskers?”
“Well… you could go and visit her.
She does live just in that tree down by the edge of the forest. It’s not far from here. You could pop down and ask her.
Tell you what, here’s a shilling. Why don’t you go ask Mrs Owl, and on the way back drop into Mrs Badger’s shop and get some bread and cheese for lunch.”
Jenny Mouse pulled her coat down from the rack and carefully put on her brown shoes, tying up the laces just like Mumma Mouse had taugh her.
Jenny Mouse really preferred her bright yellow waders, but she knew that Mrs Owl lived high up in a tree, and waders were no good for tree climbing.
With a ring of the bell that hung above the door, Jenny set out to Mrs Owl’s place.
It was a bright sunny day, and usually Jenny would have stopped to play a skipping game with Sally and Shaun Mouse two doors down, but not today.
She was too worried about what might have happened to Miss FluffyWhiskers.
It felt like no time at all had passed before she was at Mrs Owl’s tree.
Jenny Mouse knew it was Mrs Owl’s tree, because the whole family had been invited there last Halloween for a party.
Jenny Mouse remembered the fun balloons and party games, as well as falling asleep before the party was over, waking up with surprise in her own bed.
Dadda Mouse told her that Mrs Owl had flown her back home especially and tucked her in to ensure she was warm enough before returning to the party.
Jenny Mouse climbed and climbed and climbed. Mrs Owl’s tree seemed taller than she remembered.
She stopped at a branch to catch her breath, taking in the view of the fields that lay beyond the forest.
Wide fields of wheat rolled across the countryside, and in the distance there were larger rectangular shapes with what looked like tiny clouds coming out of the top of them.
Dadda Mouse said that his cousins, the field mice lived out in the fields amongst the wheat, but that he didn’t visit them because of a “falling out”.
Jenny Mouse didn’t know what that meant, but she presumed it meant somebody must have fallen out of a window or something. She hoped Dadda Mouse’s cousins didn’t get hurt.
Continuing on, she finally got up high enough to where Mrs Owl’s door was. Jenny carefully read the letters on the door to make sure it was the right one.
Yes, she thought, this was it. She politely knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” said a voice Jenny instantly recognised as Mrs Owl.
“It’s me, Mrs Owl.”
“And who is Me?”
“Oh, I am sorry, Mrs Owl. It’s Jenny Mouse.”
“Jenny Mouse? What are you doing up my tree at this time of day? I was just about to have a nap? Has something happened with that mother of yours, I do worry you know with her galavanting all around the countryside on that noisy contraption of hers, I don’t know, in my day polite young ladies did not get around on motorbikes, I don’t know what the world is coming to…”
“No, Mrs Owl, it’s not that. It’s Miss FluffyWhiskers.”
“Oh, I don’t think I know her, dear…”
“My toy baby mouse. I leave it on my pillow every morning, and I cannot find her. I was wondering if maybe you had moved her when you did the cleaning this morning.”
“Oh, your wee toy? Well now, let me think, let me think. I remember seeing it when I was cleaning the windows in your room, and the bedhead. I vacuumed under your bed, being careful not to disturb the creature, and then put all my bits and bobs back into the bucket before heading home.”
“So you haven’t seen Miss FluffyWhiskers?”
Jenny felt like she was about to cry. Where could Miss FluffyWhiskers be?
“Just let me check my bucket, dear. I suppose it is possible that when I was vacuuming, I… well, will you look at that, dear!”
Jenny peered into Mrs Owl’s cleaning bucket.
And right at the bottom of the bucket, do you know what she saw?
It was Miss FluffyWhiskers. A little wet and grimy, but Jenny Mouse would know those bright yellow hand-sewn whiskers anywhere.
“Ach, now, your toy is a little bit on the grubby side, my dear. Tell you what, I’ll put that nap on hold for now. How about instead of you trying to climb all the way down my tree, I fly you and Miss FluffyWhiskers back home, and you can give her a good bath and leave her to dry in the sun?”
“Oh, that would be wonderful! But Dadda Mouse wanted me to drop by Mr Badger’s shop for some bread and cheese on the way home.”
“That’s no problem at all, dearie. Just climb onto my back… yes, there you go… hold on tight… and off we go!”