This week in the third installment of Wire: Messenger Mouse, Ario meets Wire’s family, which includes some very curious mouselings, and Wire learns his new friend is not only brave, but wise.
Ario is one wise slug. It is often the least among us who have the best perspective. If we want the world to change, we must change ourselves. As you continue to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, remember that you too, are brave and wise. Be proud- hold those eye-stalks up high!
They heard them before they saw them. The mouselings were playing a rousing game of “kick the pebble” out in the fresh-mown field in front of the Brown burrow. As soon as they spotted Wire, they abandoned their play and tumbled towards their cousin and his exotic guest.
“Wow!” Bran, the smallest of the bunch, said as he squeezed between his bigger siblings. “You’re so slimy!”
“Bran!” Wire exclaimed in horror. “That’s not nice!”
Ario, however, was chuckling. “No worries, dude. He’s only curious. I like it when the youngling’s want to know more. Beats being ignored.”
Alarmed by the sudden, unnatural silence, Violet poked her head out the front door.
“What are you…” She trailed off when she spied her nephew and his guest. “Oh! Wire dear, you’re home early. Who’s this?” Violet stepped out into the yard, wiping her paws on the apron she wore.
“Aunt Violet, this is my friend, Ario. The Banana Slug.” Wire added.
Violet smiled. “Hello, Ario. Nice to meet you.”
Ario dipped his head in a slight bow, setting his eyestalks bobbling as he did so. “Pleasure, Mrs. Brown.”
“Uh, I met Ario on my first trans-yard route, remember?” Wire reminded his Aunt. The mouselings were tugging on their cousin’s paws, bored by the adult formalities.
Violet nodded, recalling Wire’s story. “You saved our young mouse Ario and helped him get home in time for supper.”
As the adults had been talking, Bran examined their new guest.
“Ah! Bran don’t touch…” Wire yelled when he noticed what his curious cousin was about to do. “That.”
The inquisitive mouseling had touched Ario’s tail and both paws were now coated in slime.
“Ew!” The rest of the mouselings chorused. Violet sighed.
“Bran, please keep your paws to yourself. Come along, let’s get you cleaned up.”
Wire worried about his new friend. How much indignity could one creature handle in one day? Glancing at the gleaming slug, he noticed only concern.
“Ma’am, don’t, like, wash his paws,” Ario said.
“Should I lick them instead?” Violet wondered.
“No!” Wire and Ario shouted.
Aunt Violet’s eyebrows jumped towards the sky. Ario slid towards her and explained. “My slime, like, expands in water, so it’ll only get worse if you wash them. If you lick it, your tongue will go numb. Best way to get rid of it, roll it in dirt and then, like, brush it off.”
“Hmm… I had no idea,” Violet said. “Thanks for letting me know.” She shooed young Bran towards the freshly dug garden on the edge of the field. “Get on with it, rascal.”
Bran stood rooted for a second before realizing his mother was telling him to get dirty. With a smile and a whoop, he headed for the exposed soil and began rolling with gusto. Soon he returned, his paws breaded in soil.
“What now, mama?” Bran asked.
Ario took the lead. “Just rub your paws together, little dude. That’s it. Presto! No more slime.”
“Hey, cool!” Bran exclaimed. The other mouselings crowded around him to have a peek while Violet poked her head into the scrum to inspect for cleanliness.
“Well, I’ll be,” she muttered. “Okay you lot, off to play. Dinner’s on as soon as your dad comes up the walk.”
The mouselings scattered across the clearing in front of the burrow like dandelion fluff in the wind.
“Aunt Violet?” Wire asked before his busy aunt dashed back into the burrow. “Um, do you think Ario could stay for dinner? He’s had a rough day.”
“It’s the least I could do,” she said, her sincere smile turning into a concerned frown. “Ooh, I’m not sure you can eat what we’re having. Do you like mushroom casserole?”
Ario beamed. “Mushrooms are like my all- time fave Mrs. Brown.”
Violet grinned. “Well then, it’s settled. You’ll stay.”
“Need a paw?” Wire asked.
“No dear, I’ve got it under control. I’m just heating the casserole your uncle made. You relax out here with your new friend until Cobble gets home.” She tugged Wire’s whiskers with affection and then bustled back into the burrow.
Ario was watching the mouselings chasing each other through the field and tumbling into the forest. “What’s it like, having a family?”
Ario’s question startled Wire. “You don’t have one?”
“Nah, bro. Slugs don’t do parenting or families. Been on my own since I was an egg.”
Wire’s chest hurt for his friend. “Well, mostly it’s great. The mouselings are hilarious. Sometimes it’s too much. Too much noise, too many mice, too much activity. Hard to find a minute’s peace.”
Ario looked thoughtful. “Must be awesome, having someone to come home to.”
Wire’s eyes found Bran, laughing as two sisters caught and tickled him, and he sighed. “Yeah, it is. Hey, can I ask you a question?” Wire looked away from the tumbling mouselings towards Ario.
“Fire away, little dude.”
“What made you try-out for M.P.S.? I mean, you had to suspect it’d be hard.”
“I knew it’d be tough,” Ario said, lowering himself so his eyestalks were on level with the small mouse. “But I learned a long time ago that you have to stick up for yourself.”
“But they were so terrible to you,” Wire said, his snout growing rosy.
“Yeah. But you’ve gotta be the change.”
“Be the change?”
“If I want the world to change for me, and other nocturnal creatures, I’ve gotta be a messenger because there aren’t any non-rodent messengers right now. Get it?”
Wire nodded. “You’ve got to be the change you want to see. Wow. That’s brave.”
“Nah, bro. I’m not brave, just a little crazy!”
Just then, the mouselings let out a united whoop of welcome as their father walked up the path. When Cobble made it to the front yard, he had a mouseling hanging from each leg, one on his back and a great big smile on his face. Bran trailed behind, proudly carrying his father’s postal satchel.
“Evening Wire!” Uncle Cobble said, tickling mouselings to remove them. “Go inside and wash up for supper. Who’s this?” The mouselings filed into the burrow and the yard grew silent.
“Uncle Cobble, this is Ario the Banana Slug. He helped me that time on my trans-yard route. And he tried out for M.P.S. today.”
Understanding dawned on Uncle Cobble’s face. “Oh. Yes, I heard about that. Hello Ario, nice to meet you.” Cobble extended a paw, turning it into an awkward wave when he realized his mistake.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Brown,” Ario said, waving a lower tentacle.
“Aunt Violet’s invited Ario to stay for dinner, isn’t that cool?” Wire said.
“Totally cool.” Cobble said.
Wire laughed at his uncle’s attempt to be hip.
“What?” Cobble asked. “Didn’t I say it right?”
Ario rescued the middle-aged mouse. “Totally, man. You rocked it!”
“Thanks,” Cobble said as he put Wire into a headlock with one paw and beckoned the slug to follow with the other. “C’mon in.”