This week, in Chapter 5, Wire visits his grandmother, Hyacinth.
Hyacinth Brown, expert advice giver and excellent cook, is modelled on my own grandmother, Grandma Norma, also known as Gram, or Normski. This year marks my first Mother’s Day without her.
I’d give anything to have tea and a chat with her right now.
But, she lives on in my heart, and as a lovely fictional mouse. I’ll be thinking of her as I celebrate Mother’s Day this coming weekend. Celebrate your mothers and grandmothers this week, truly the wisest and most amazing among us.
The jars clinked together as Hyacinth shifted them on the shelf.
“I know that jar is in here somewhere,” she muttered, standing on her tiptoes to get a better look.
The half- finished tart sat on the counter as she searched for just a bit more sugar.
“What a time to run out of sugar!”
The sun was slanting across the kitchen floor. She’d have to stay up late to see her tart finished at the rate she was going.
“Aha!” She exclaimed in triumph. “I knew I had another one squirreled away in here!” Hyacinth maneuvered the jar out from behind the others stashed in her cluttered pantry and hurried to finish her tart. She wanted to celebrate the first blackberries of the season from her favourite, hidden berry patch.
The front door opened with a squeal. Hyacinth jumped.
“Grannie? Are you here?” Wire called.
“You gave me a start, Wire! In the kitchen, dear, come on through.”
“Wow! It smells awesome in here!” Wire said as he gave his grandmother a squeeze.
“What a pleasant surprise!” Hyacinth said, wrapping her energetic grandson in a tight hug. “What brings you all the way to Brightpond?”
“I came to bring you this,” Wire said, drawing a lavender wrapped package from his battered messenger bag. “And I was in the neighbourhood, anyway.”
Hyacinth took the package. “Thank you, dear. Why were you in the neighbourhood?”
Wire stood straighter. “You are looking at M.P.S.’s newest long-distance messenger.”
Hyacinth beamed. “Congratulations!
“Oh Grannie,” Wire sniffed the sweet air in the kitchen. “Is that a blackberry tart?”
“Yes, it is. I felt like celebrating. Now I know why! Can you stay to enjoy some with me?”
“Blackberry tart? Yes, please!” Wire smiled. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Oh, that sounds serious. Let’s get comfortable.” Hyacinth gestured towards her cozy front room.
Wire settled into his favourite chair, the one with the view of Gran’s flower filled front yard. Hyacinth settled into the chair opposite Wire, the one in the best light. Wire noticed a big stack of books next to it and smiled.
“So, what’s this you need to run past me?’
“With me moving up to a long- distance route, M.P.S. needed to hire another messenger.” Hyacinth nodded. “They held tryouts, and my friend Ario tried out.”
“Ario wouldn’t happen to be a banana slug?” Hyacinth asked, her eyes twinkling.
“How could you know that?”
“I run into him, occasionally. We chat. He’s a well-travelled slug, that one. How did it go?”
Wire looked down at his paws, clenched in his lap. “Not well. No- it was awful, Gran.”
Hyacinth frowned. “Why was it awful?”
“Mr. Blanco humiliated Ario. Told him he’d never hire a slug. I was so embarrassed of M.P.S. I just didn’t think, today, that a rodent would treat another creature so unfairly.”
Hyacinth ran a paw down her snout and sighed. “That is awful, but unfortunately there are many rodents who feel the same as Periwinkle Blanco. I didn’t realize he still had that ghastly policy in place, however.”
“That’s not all of it. Now, Ario wants me to help him set up a night delivery service. He says the creatures of Balsam Creek need it.”
“And what do you think?”
Wire looked out the window at the giant pink peonies that loomed over his grandmother’s yard and sighed. “I’m scared, Gran. If Mr. White finds out, I could lose my long-distance route, or worse, my job. This is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, since I was a mouseling.”
“Sometimes, we need to be the change we want to see in the world, dear. That takes courage.”
Wire snapped his gaze away from the garden to look at his grandmother. “Ario said the same thing. But dad,”
Hyacinth raised her paw. “Let me stop you right there. Your parents wanted foremost for you to be a good mouse, Wire. Whether you were a long- distance messenger wouldn’t have mattered to them. I think you know what you need to do.”
Wire looked down at his paws once again. The scent of sweet blackberry tart had filled the burrow. Hyacinth sniffed and then grinned.
“I think the tart is done. Come on into the kitchen, dear. I’ll fix us a snack before you head back out.”
Wire trailed after his grandmother, mesmerized by her skills in the kitchen. How was it possible to know something was ready just by how it smelled? Amazing. Wise.
Exactly why he’d come to her.
“Get the plates down for me, dear,” Hyacinth said as she bent to remove the tart from the oven. Wire set the plates onto the time-smoothed bark table and turned to fetch the forks. Hyacinth set her steaming purple masterpiece into the centre of the table. “Would you like some tea while we wait for this yumminess to cool?”
Wire was absently stroking his right ear. “Hmm?” He asked, roused by his grannie’s question.
“Oh! That’d be nice.”
Hyacinth poured boiling water from the kettle on the stove and returned with two cups of pale green tea. The sharp aroma of mint mingled with the jammy smell of the cooling blackberries.
Hyacinth settled into her chair. “So, what are you thinking about?”
“Me? Nothing,” Wire answered, paw still on his ear.
“Wire Brown, your paw is telling me otherwise.”
Wire peeked up at his paw before dropping it into his lap. “Oh,” he said, taking a sip of his tea to cover his discomfort.
“Mind still on the Ario situation? Figured it out yet?”
“Yeah,” Wire sighed. “You’re right, Gran. I know what I to do. I’ve got to help Ario.”
Hyacinth grinned and patted Wire’s paw before grabbing the pie server. “Now that really calls for a celebration!” She slid an oversized slice of tart onto Wire’s plate. Once she had one of her own, she raised her mug of tea in a toast. “To the Mouse Postal Service’s newest long- distance messenger, and Balsam Creek’s newest entrepreneur. Good luck!”
Wire smiled as he clinked his mug against Gran’s. Then he ate not one, but two pieces of tart.
Uncle Cobble was sitting on the front step in the late afternoon sun when Wire returned from Gran’s house.
“Hey Uncle Cobble, you’re home early.”
“Oh. Yeah. Violet has a workshop, so I picked the mouselings up from school. How was your visit with Gran?”
“Awesome. She says ‘thank you’ for her gift.”
“Gift?” Cobble asked.
“Yeah. We got her lavender biscuits and a new scarf for her birthday?”
“Oh,” Cobble replied. “Violet told me. I must have forgotten.”
Wire moved to step past his uncle and into the burrow.
“Um, Wire. Wait a minute, will you? I, um, want to discuss something with you.” Cobble patted the space on the stoop next to him. Wire sat.
“Your new friend,” Cobble began.
“Ario,” Wire offered.
“Yes. Um, Ario. Did you put him up to trying out for a messenger position?”
“No,” Wire said, turning to look at his Uncle’s sharp profile. “But why does that matter?”
Cobble looked down at the ground beneath his paws. “The other messengers at M.P.S. don’t want non-rodent messengers. They fear they’ll take away jobs.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Wire squeaked, moving as if to jump up.
“No, it’s not,” Cobble said, placing a paw on Wire’s knee. “There’s only so many positions to go around.”
“It’s not fair,” Wire said. “The nocturnal creatures and non-rodents have every right to try out.”
“No, Wire, they don’t.” Cobble turned to look at his nephew. “I think it’d be best if you didn’t hang out with Ario.”
Wire’s mouth dropped open. He felt the slow burn of anger ignite in his abdomen. Wire thought about his conversation with Gran earlier that day. He stood.
“I’m sorry you feel that way Uncle Cobble.”
Cobble looked up at his nephew. Wire could see a smattering of grey hair across his uncle’s snout. “It’s for the best, Wire. You’ll see.”
“Who’s best?” Wire asked, before turning his back on his uncle and the late afternoon sun.