And Now a Happy Story
One of my favourite writing exercises is writing to a prompt. A few years ago a prompt from author Sarah Selecky asked me to “write about a character named Wire”, and out popped a courageous little mouse named Wire. Over the next few weeks, I found out more about this special little character, and the world he lives in (my backyard and surrounding neighbourhood). Writing about Wire brought me great joy. I want to share that brightness with you.
Here is the first installment of my middle grade animal fantasy, Wire, The Messenger Mouse. Enjoy!
Photo by Monique Laats on Pexels.com
Wire, The Messenger Mouse
“Come on you guys, you’re gonna make me late!” Wire called from the front door. The fresh morning a promise of clean starts, the tidy yard glittering in the rising sun. Wire tapped his foot and began counting. By the time he got to eight, five mouselings scurried out the burrow door.
“Everyone got all the stuff they need?” A chorus of “Yes” and one “No” meant another trip into the burrow before they set out into the village. Once they were organized and ambling down the hill, Timothy slipped his paw into Wire’s with a soft “Sorry”, while the other mouselings regaled him with stories- often at the same time. When they reached the school gate and said goodbye, Wire’s heart was full. He was ready to face whatever the day would bring.
Wire walked into the village. Nestled beneath the lacy leaves of the giant purple maple, the village of Upper Forest side was coming alive. Wire’s Aunt Violet was already at work in her textile studio.
“Aunt Violet?” Wire called.
She popped out from the alcove with a ball of vibrant blue yarn in her hand. Sunshine streamed into her studio from the gigantic front window and the skylight above her loom along the back wall, filling the studio with golden light. “Morning! Mouselings give you any trouble?”
“Nah. Timothy almost forgot his homework, but he remembered it in time to get it.”
Violet stepped over and gave Wire a quick hug. “Thanks for helping me on your day off sweetie, I appreciate being able to get some solid work done before the shop opens. Have any big plans for the rest of your day?”
“I’ll head over to M.P.S. headquarters and watch the try-outs. I want to see the poor rodent who’s gonna get stuck with my old route.”
“Be kind, Wire. Everyone has to start somewhere,” Violet said as she wound the vibrant wool she held between her paws into a ball. “See you at dinner?”
Lost in thought, Wire tugged at his right ear. “Yup. See you tonight.”
The young mouse continued down the street, waving to the baker and the bookstore owner before he made it to the headquarters of the Mouse Postal Service- M.P.S. for short- bustling beneath the roots of an orange-flowered rhododendron. It housed the messenger service headquarters; the oldest and most impressive building in Forest Side. Wire loved the silvered bark on the front that soared above a thick carpet of spring green moss. Within the mass of brown and grey fur weaving in front of headquarters, Wire spied a splash of bright yellow off to the side. Sitting on a rock above the commotion watching the scurrying was Ario, the banana slug he’d met on his one and only long- distance run, when he had filled in for Uncle Cobble two moons ago. Wire had run into Ario, literally, and the slug had helped him find his way. Ario waved an eyestalk, so Wire scampered towards the slug’s rocky perch. As he grew closer, he could see Ario’s vivid yellow skin patterned with the lacy shadows from the overhanging maple.
“Dude! It’s nuts here!” Ario said as Wire scrambled up to sit next to him.
“Yeah- it’s busy at the start and the end of the day. What brings you here? You’re a long way from home.”
“You inspired me, little dude. I’m trying out to be a messenger, like you.”
“Really?” Wire felt his ears grow warm. “That’s cool. Are you ready? They don’t take it easy on fresh recruits.”
“For sure. I was like, born ready.”
“Go, Ario, go!” Wire laughed. “It’s time to head in.”
As the pair moved closer to the building, Wire stroked his ear and reflected on the try-outs. The sooner the local route had a new messenger, the better. His first long-distance run was scheduled for tomorrow, and he never wanted to run the boring, local route again. If Ario won the new messenger position, he’d also be the first mollusc to work for M.P.S. It was a win-win situation!
Wire pointed to the small fenced yard beside the dispatch building. An enormous banner raised over the gate declared it the location for the try-outs. There was a cedar -bark table and some stools set up next the side of the building. A handful of nervous rodents, sharp-nosed shrews, small round voles and one striped chipmunk, were milling around or perching on the picnic tables scattered around the small yard as they waited. When Ario slid through the gate, one fuzzy grey vole squeaked out loud before he scuttled to the farthest table.
“Usually this is a lunch area,” Wire explained. “It’s too busy in dispatch, so this is where the try-out will start.” The pair moved to the only empty picnic table left furthest away from the front table.
“Cool,” Ario said, eye-stalks twizzling to take in the competition. “Where are the other creatures, bro?”
“What do you mean?”
“I thought there would be lots of critters like me at the try-out today.”
“Um,” Wire admitted. “I guess not? You would be the first non-rodent messenger M.P.S. has ever hired.”
Ario swayed for a moment, thinking about the situation. Wire’s paws clenched tight behind his back. Would Ario still try-out?
“I guess that’s cool,” Ario said after a lengthy pause. “Just wish I’d known the bit about being the first non rodent.”
Wire unclenched his paws and scuffed the dirt with his toe. “I bet you get in, Ario. Someone has to be the first.”
Ario’s eyes became bright as he smiled. “That’s cool of you to say, dude.”
The door from dispatch creaked open and Mr. Blanco, the president of M.P.S. filed out, followed by the veteran message dispatcher, Soleil Dew.
Wire’s stomach flopped end over end and he wasn’t even the one trying out! He glanced at Ario, who was still smiling.
“Knock ‘em dead,” Wire whispered.
“Dude! I will!” Ario whispered back with a wink.
As the try-outs went on, Wire and Ario sat patiently at the back of the gathered hopefuls, Ario telling every candidate “Kill it bro!” when they headed out to do their run. Wire waved to Soleil sitting up front with Mr. Blanco. Sol nodded before turning her attention to her notes when one of the first try-outs returned, breath ragged from her run.
Mr. Blanco looked at his list and barked, “Ario? You’re up next.”
The gleaming slug flashed a smile at Wire and began sliding to the front.
“Ario?” Mr. Blanco called after a few moments.
“I’m coming, sir.” Ario called, gliding between the gathered rodents.
Mr. Blanco looked up, his eyes growing wide. “Is this some kind of joke?” The older mouse looked to the other rodents at the try-outs. A wave of shrugs moved through the crowd, along with the quiet murmur of whispers. The crowd sensed a storm brewing.
Ario was now in front of the table, lifting his head so his eye-stalks were the same as level with Mr. Blanco’s eyes, which were flashing with something Wire didn’t recognize.
“Good morning, sir,” Ario drawled. Wire was happy Ario hadn’t called the head cheese “dude”. “My name is Ariolimax Columbianus and I’m here to try-out to be a messenger.”
The crowd snickered. Wire turned to glare at the field mouse tittering behind him.
Mr. Blanco scowled, and his snout wrinkled as if smelling mouldy cheese. “You want to be a messenger?”
Wire’s stomach wiggled and flopped again. His hackles twitched and tingled.
“Totally,” Ario answered with confidence. The rodents behind the gleaming slug took a slow step back to distance themselves from the coming fallout.
“This is preposterous! I’m not sure who put you up to this, but there is no way I would ever hire a slug to represent the Mouse Postal Service.” Mr. Blanco sneered.
Wire looked around. Many other rodents were nodding, or even saying “Yeah” out loud. Wire felt his snout flush pink. He felt angry words burble up to the surface. Just as he opened his mouth to set them free, Sol caught his eye and shook her head. Wire snapped his mouth closed and swallowed, the words sliding back down like ice.
Ario was swaying, but holding his ground. “No one put me up to this. I want to be the first non-rodent messenger.”
Mr. Blanco laughed, short and sharp. “As long as I’m running this company, that will never happen. I suggest you leave -Ariolennox- or I will have security escort you out.”
The rodents surrounding Wire were silent now, most looking anywhere but at the disgraced slug at the front of the crowd. Wire felt a lump in his throat as Ario slowly turned and headed out the banner festooned gate, rodents stepping away to distance themselves from the mollusc. Others looked at him, eyes full of sympathy.
Mr. Blanco looked at his list once again and called, “Daisy Grayson!”
Wire pivoted and darted out the back gate. He needed to talk to Ario.