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MOUSEL
©2004-2009 Bonnie Watson

A blood-curdling scream echoed throughout the underground passages, causing bits of dirt and dust to fall between the cracks that had yet to be patched. The tunnels were ancient, built generations ago when the first mouse set its tiny paw prints upon the dirt. Now it was home to thousands. Each mouse lived according to the laws set down by their ruler, King Sniff-it. His generation had come and gone, but still he ruled with a strong paw and clean whiskers, and not a cat or bird of prey or human dared to intrude. In fact they could not, for the kingdom of mice lived entirely on an oasis of islands, linking to and from each one by climbing over ropes that were tied to a single tree to each island. In total there were three islands.  

“What? What is it?” King Sniff-it came scurrying toward the cry as fast as his little legs could go. “What’s happened? Tell me! Tell me quickly!”

The king’s nephew, known mostly as Scratch, lay huddled in a ball on the floor of the tunnel, his little nose and whiskers quivering in shock. His stubby tail curled around his body as far as it could reach, and he just sat there trembling without a peep. Several other mice were already beside his uncle approached.  

“Quit twitching! Sit up and speak, lad,” Sniff-it demanded. “Now what’s this all about, and no nonsense this time.”

“Oh, it was terrible, Uncle Sniff-it! Just terrible!” Scratch shook all over. “You won’t believe your eyes when you see what I’ve just found!”

“What did you find, lad? Well, spit it out! I’m waiting.”

“A…a…” He lowered his voice so that it was barely a whisper. “A hairball …”

Someone gasped in the crowd. Loud murmuring started up, but Sniff-it held up a paw for silence.

“Now come now, lad. You know as well as I that this cannot be. Why, the only creature capable of creating such a thing is a cat, and there are certainly no cats on this island. Not a one.”

“But if you would go up and look, Uncle Sniff-it, you would see. It’s a hairball I tell ya! A hairball!” There was more murmuring. Fingers began to point toward the surface. A few started moving out.

“Well, I suppose there’s only way to be certain,” Sniff-it sighed. “Lead the way, dearest Scratch. I will follow.”

Nodding nervously, Scratch got to his feet and began climbing toward an opening in the top tunnel. It was a sunny afternoon as they reached the top. The woodlands were full of song from the neighboring wildlife. After climbing out of the tunnel, Scratch pointed to something that lay on the ground not far away from the hole’s entrance. It was round and furry looking with a few feathers sticking out of one side.

“You see there?” Scratch said, still pointing. “What did I tell ya? It’s a hairball!”

Sniff-it could not believe his eyes at what he was seeing. It certainly looked like a hairball, and he soon filled with dread. Everyone watched him as he moved in closer for a better look. Their little faces were filled with worry, that is to say, all but one.

Sniff-it’s niece, Mousel, looked on in interest. She was the younger of her family’s siblings. So small was she that most forgot that she was even around, and toady’s event was no exception.

It certainly did not look much like a hairball as Mousel crept closer. It was brown and weedy, not furry, as she had expected. Strands stuck up in all directions, which certainly made it look hairy, but she not convinced. As her uncle sniffed it from the front, Mousel took the opportunity to explore its backside.

“Mousel!” her uncle scolded. “Go back toward the tunnels; we’re not sure what has caused this to appear.”

With her little pink nose twitching and round black eyes full of wonder, Mousel turned the thing around so everyone could view the backside, which was followed by more gasps.

“You see, Uncle? It’s not a hairball,” her tiny voice squeaked. “It’s a bird’s nest. The wind must have tossed it loose from above.”

“It’s not a bird’s nest!” Scratch protested, glaring at his sister. “It’s a hairball. It’s nearly fell on top of me too!”

“Like Uncle Sniff-it said, there are no cats here on the islands,” Mousel held her ground. “Besides, cats are afraid of water. They wouldn’t be able to come here in the first place.”

“Then how could it have fallen?” Scratch demanded. “There was no wind blowing. But I saw something move, and I tell ya it’s a hairball!”

“Perhaps it was a bird,” Sniff-it adjusted his whiskers. “Its shadow must have frightened you.”

“What bird do you know that has a nest this big?” Scratch cowered before the object. “You know we only have small birds here. I tell ya, if it’s not a hairball, then something must have eaten whatever sat in it, and spat out the feathers too!”

This aroused a whole group of mice, and they chattered in alarm. Mousel could see that her uncle was even more convinced than before, but she was not about to give in to her spoiled brother.
Don't know whether I'll finish this or not, but it's a cute little tale of island mice who think they see a hairball. Everyone knows a cat can't swim, so why would there be a hairball on their island?

Well, one little mice named Mousel doesn't think it is...
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August 12, 2009
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