This is the last story in the series. If you want to start at the beginning, head over here.
After a while, Perchi stopped crying.
She wiped her eyes with her paws and crawled over to where her battered needle had landed. She tried to pick it up, but winced. She must have landed on her wrist wrong.
She picked the needle up with her other paw and sheathed it.
The rats were long-gone through the broken window, and there was clearly nothing Perchi could do against them anyway. She trudged to a ledge overlooking Mouse Place and sat down.
“Aren’t you a little small to be a guard mouse?” asked a voice.
Startled, Perchi turned. Her heart leaped to her throat, because she thought at first that the figure behind her was one of the rats, returned to finish her off. When he stepped forward into the glow of the city below, Perchi realized he was actually just the biggest mouse she’d ever seen.
“I’m not,” Perchi admitted. “I’m not a guard mouse.”
The tears came again. She started to wipe her eyes, but the pain in her wrist made her flinch.
“Are you hurt?” the big mouse asked.
“I think it’s broken,” Perchi said, holding her wrist up. She’d never had a broken bone before, but this sure hurt a lot.
“Let me see it,” said the big mouse. “Broken bones are my specialty.”
Perchi winced as the giant’s surprisingly gentle hands worked her wrist back and forth.
“Not broken,” he said, taking a bandage from his pouch. “Only sprained. I’ll bandage it up for stability, but just try to stay off of it for a while.”
“I’m Perchi,” said Perchi.
“Grisgo,” said the big mouse. He sat down next to her.
For a while, neither spoke.
“If you aren’t a guard mouse,” Grisgo said, “why are you up here alone with a sword?”
“I always wanted to be one,” Perchi said. “But that’s not the job they assigned me.”
“What job did you get?”
Perchi sighed. “Food management.”
“That sounds like an awesome job,” said Grisgo.
“It’s not.” She looked out over the city. “I wish I were big like you,” she said.
“Well, I wish I were brave like you.”
Perchi’s heart swelled at that, and she had to clinch her jaw against tears. She and Grisgo looked at each other for a long moment, and Perchi thought she recognized something in the big mouse’s face. Something desperate.
“You work in the hospital?” she asked.
Grisgo nodded. “They make fun of me,” he said. “For being so big.”
Perchi shook her head. “That’s so dumb. Why is it so hard for anyone to find their place?”
“I don’t know,” said Grisgo.
They sat together and looked out over Mouse Place for a while, thinking of things too big for mice to think about.
“Thanks for bandaging my arm,” said Perchi.
“Thanks for liking me even though I’m big,” said Grisgo.
“Don’t be an idiot,” said Perchi.
Grisgo chuckled. “I like you, Perchi.”
Perchi smiled. “I like you too, Grisgo,” she said.
They both heard something behind them and turned.
“Now this is a mouse worth eating!” cried the rat with the club. “Boys, come look at this!”
Perchi and Grisgo froze.
Three other rats materialized from the darkness, their fur wet with rainwater. One stepped forward and poked Grisgo in the stomach. “We could make a real feast out of him, I’d say.”
“Grab him. Add him to the haul.”
“Wait,” Grisgo said. “You don’t want to eat me!”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” said the rat with the club.
Before she could think, Perchi was on her feet with her needle drawn. Her sprained wrist ached from the weight, but she held it steady. “No,” she said. “He stays.”
“Don’t make me school you again, girl,” the big rat said. He nodded to the others. “Take him.”
They grabbed Grisgo, but Perchi leaped forward, her blade flashing.
Still too slow. In spite of all her practice, the hammered needle was just too clumsy in her grip.
The big rat deflected the thrust, then hammered his club down on her injured wrist.
Perchi cried out, and her sword clattered on the ground. The rat picked it up and bent it over his knee. Then he threw it off the ledge and it disappeared into the city below.
The other rats dragged Grisgo into the dark, toward the broken window. “Perchi!” he screamed.
“I’m coming!” Perchi shouted.
“Right,” said the big rat, chuckling. He put a paw to Perchi’s chest. “You’re just one mouse.” He kicked hard, and Perchi toppled backwards over the edge.
She fell screaming. She fell through hung cloth and cheap balconies, smashing and rebounding off rooftops. Her long green scarf tangled on a nail and almost choked her, but it ripped at the last second and Perchi kept falling.
She landed in the dust of the basement floor among a hail of splinters. Right beside her lay her useless, bent sword.
Far above, a rat’s laughing face peered down at her before vanishing. Grisgo yelled again, but the distance was too great to make out what he said.
Perchi gritted her teeth and tried to rise. She put her weight on the wrong wrist, though, and fell right back down into the dust. Her whole body was bruised, and every part of her felt broken.
It was too much. It was all too much. She couldn’t even move.
Perchi lay on her back and breathed. Hot tears welled in her throat, but she swallowed them down.
She couldn’t stand by and let this happen. She couldn’t just let them drag Grisgo back to wherever they lived and eat him.
But what else could she really do? She was only one mouse, after all. And an extra small one, at that. She didn’t even have a sword anymore.
She closed her eyes and made a decision.
She wasn’t giving up yet.
Something warm fell across her face, and Perchi realized the sun was rising. Somehow, after bouncing off several of mirrored surfaces, a single beam of light had trickled all the way down to the bottom of the basement where she lay.
Perchi rolled over and rose on shivering legs.
The light caught on a strange thing, and Perchi limped over to get a better look.
She was near the wine rack, and one of the bottles had something odd jammed into the cork. It was blue and dusty, but the sunlight glinted off metal.
Perchi reached out with her good paw and pulled. What came free of the cork was a blade just her size. She couldn’t be sure, but it looked like a thumbtack that’s plastic had been ground almost completely away.
She dusted the tack and held it aloft in the sunlight. The battering and hammering it must have endured in its long and strange life had fashioned the tack into a short sword just Perchi’s size. This would do.
She shoved the blade into her sheath and started climbing the basement wall.
Halfway up, she found her green scarf caught on a nail. She untangled it, wrapped it back around her neck, and kept climbing.
When she reached the top, sunlight blazed through the basement window. The storm had passed. Brilliant beads of water dripped from the broken window and studded the grass outside.
The climb had somehow strengthened Perchi’s beaten body rather than weaken it, and when she burst into the daylight, she was running.
The yard stood wild and expansive all around her. She had no idea where the rats lived, but she found scuffle marks in the dirt where Grisgo had kicked and resisted. She followed these signs in a sprint.
Even as she ran her mind was racing. She was still just one mouse. One mouse armed with a tack, for crying out loud.
She’d nearly made it across the sandbox when her foot caught on something and she went down hard. Only instead of hitting sand, her body landed on a rusted sheet of partially buried tin with a thud.
She groaned as her body reminded her how abused it was. She started to rise, but the tin surface suddenly shifted beneath her, damp sand sliding away. With a squeal of ancient hinges, the flat tin became a slope, and she tumbled down it to land in the sand.
“Who do I have to fight this time?” asked a weary voice.
A plastic soldier climbed out of the tin box and looked around, squinting.
“Hello?” Perchi said.
“You,” said the green soldier. “Are you the enemy?”
“I’m Perchi,” said Perchi.
“Private Joseph Mandella,” said the tired-sounding soldier. He extended a hand.
Perchi shook it.
“Right. So, who are we fighting?” Private Mandella asked.
Behind him, a small army of plastic soldiers began climbing out of the tin, high-fiving each other and checking their weapons.
Perchi studied them, her quick mind fitting together pieces. “Rats,” she said suddenly. “We’re fighting rats.”
Private Mandella raised a plastic eyebrow. “Never fought rats before.”
“They took my friend,” Perchi said. “They’re going to eat him.”
“Eat him?” Mandella said, seeming fully awake for the first time.
“Please,” Perchi said. “Please help me get him back.”
“A fight with actual stakes,” Mandella muttered. His plastic eyes locked with Perchi’s. “Let’s go.”
Perchi charged across the yards, following whatever evidence of the rats she could find. A cheerful plastic army marched behind her, ready for battle.
Eventually, Perchi lost the trail. The grass around the bird bath was just too thick–not enough dirt to make out tracks. She cast around desperately but couldn’t find a thing.
Then the worst thing imaginable happened, and Perchi’s stomach and her mouth went dry with terror.
A cat’s face loomed through the grass, bright eyes bolted to Perchi. It moved forward, but Perchi drew her tack and thrust it out. “Get back!” she shouted.
The cat laughed, which is just about the scariest thing a mouse can hear.
“A mouse with a dagger,” said the cat. “You think I’m afraid of you?”
“You should be,” said Private Mandella as he and his men emerged from the grass. “This mouse isn’t alone.”
The cat studied the plastic soldiers. “A mouse with a toy army. I don’t see how this is any more threatening.”
“Look, we don’t want to fight you,” Perchi said. “We’re on our own business. Just please, let us pass.”
“We’re gonna kill us some rats!” one of Mandella’s men shouted. “Woo hoo!”
Mandella shot him a stern look.
“Rats?” said the cat, visibly softening. “You want to kill the rats?”
It turned out that this cat’s name was Taffeta, and that she and her kittens had recently been made homeless by the rats, who had taken up residence in the old garden shed at the back of the property.
“But they’ve got it too well fortified,” Taffeta said.
Mandella and his men had sketched out a diagram of the shed in the dirt and were examining it for possible tactical entry points.
“Guard rats are positioned here, here, and here,” said Taffeta. “There’s just too many of them. I mean, we’re cats and not even we could get back in.”
“We need the element of surprise,” Mandella said, almost to himself.
“The roof,” said one of the kittens.
“Hush, Velvet,” said Taffeta.
“No, wait,” said Perchi, drawing as close to the kitten as she dared. It was holding its paw like it was injured, but a cat was a cat. “What do you mean ‘the roof’?”
“There’s holes all in it,” said Velvet. “Every time it would rain, it would drip all over us.”
Perchi squinted at the shed rising in the distance. “That’s our entry point. We come at them from above.” She turned to Mandella. “They’ll never expect it.”
“I like it,” said Mandella.
“There’s no way to get up there, though,” said Taffeta.
“How do you know?” Perchi asked.
Taffeta narrowed her eyes. “I’m a cat. Climbing is what I do. The siding is too slick. You can’t get any purchase.”
Mandella scratched his helmet. “There has to be some way.”
“Excuse me,” said a small voice nearby.
The mouse, the four cats, and the army of plastic soldiers all turned to see a lone bee hovering by the bird bath.
“I hope you don’t mind me eavesdropping, but I’m afraid I don’t have much else to do. I… lost my hive, you see… But I think I might have the solution to your problem.”
Everyone present with eyebrows raised at least one at the bee.
“Please,” said the bee. “I really just want to be helpful.”
Later, Private Joseph Mandella studied the Pollen Launcher 2000 with extreme distrust.
“I admit, it’s not very good at what I invented it for,” said Macy the bee, rubbing her legs together nervously, “but for a mouse and plastic soldiers… It might just do the trick.”
“That looks extremely dangerous,” said Taffeta.
“We’ll do it,” said Perchi. “Just show us how.”
Once they’d rolled the Pollen Launcher 2000 into position outside the rat’s shed, Perchi and the soldiers all piled into the makeshift catapult’s bucket.
“Everyone know the plan?” Perchi asked.
Taffeta and the kittens nodded, and the soldiers saluted.
“Right,” Perchi said. She turned to face the roof and drew her tack.
If it was possible for a tack to gleam with excitement and purpose, this one seemed to.
“Pull the lever, Macy.”
The bee lunged down hard on the lever, and the catapult launched one mouse and a storm of soldiers into the air.
As they flew through the air, many of the soldiers shouted and whooped, but Mandella and Perchi remained stern-faced and controlled.
They all landed on the roof in a clatter.
“Go!” Perchi shouted.
The soldiers leaped toward the hole in the roof, assembling themselves into a chain using a trick they had learned after a battle with some plastic monkeys years ago. Perchi slid down the chain of soldiers into the cool dark of the shed.
When she reached the bottom, dozens of stunned rats stared at her from every direction. Her tack gleamed.
“Now!” Perchi yelled.
The chain of soldiers dangling from the roof disassembled, falling in among the rats all over and engaging them with bayonets, fists, and knees.
It was the hardest battle Mandella’s army had every faced. Even with the element of surprise and equal numbers, the rats simply outweighed the little plastic men. Soldiers tumbled off shelves and flew hard into walls, only to hop right back up and gleefully charge back into battle.
Perchi was in her element. With a blade she could actually control, all her training with toothpicks growing up came back full-force. The rats were bigger and stronger, their clubs and makeshift swords powerful and heavy, but they had always relied on brute strength. They were nearly defenseless against skill and agility.
Perchi practically danced through them, dodging clumsy strikes and disarming rats left and right. She took them three and four at a time, and they couldn’t touch her.
Parry. Evade. Thrust. Riposte.
She nicked and jabbed at them. Rats everywhere howled and clutched at their paws, unable to pick their weapons back up. Some headed for the door.
“Perchi!” shouted Grisgo.
Perchi turned and saw Grisgo bound with floss and thrown in among a heap of stolen food. The big rat who had kicked her loomed over him.
Perchi’s heart caught fire. She fought through the fray, leaping over rats distracted by soldiers and jabbing their backs and sides on the way down. In the chaos and confusion, rats poured out of the garden shed in terror, many of them limping.
The big rat turned as she arrived, and Perchi saw a flash of recognition in his face, followed by anger. He swung his club at her head, and she ducked it easily. She tumbled between his legs, cutting his feet and gouging his tail as she rose behind him. He howled in pain.
In the time it took the big rat to turn, Perchi had already reached Grisgo and cut the floss binding him.
“You came for me,” Grisgo said.
“Of course I did,” said Perchi. “Don’t be an idiot. Now, let’s–”
The club took her hard in the side of the head, and Perchi went flying. Her blade tumbled from her grip. It rolled off the edge of the shelf and dropped out of view. Perchi’s head spun, and there seemed to be two of everything.
“Stupid little mouse,” the big rat growled. Blood dripped from his legs where Perchi had nicked him. “You think you can come into my home and steal my food?” He towered over Perchi. She scrabbled for her tack, but she couldn’t think straight.
The big rat raised his club high over his head. “Just who do you think you are?”
Perchi closed her eyes, bracing herself.
“She’s my friend!” Grisgo screamed.
Perchi opened her eyes just in time to see Grisgo throw all of his mousy bulk into the unsuspecting rat. Both grunted and tumbled off the shelf to the shed floor.
Perchi shook her head, clearing it. Weaponless, she sprinted to the edge of the shelf and leaped off.
When she landed, Grisgo and the big rat had finished their struggle. Although Grisgo was massive for a mouse, he was soft and small compared to the muscle-bound rat. The rat had found Perchi’s tack and wrestled Grisgo to the ground, the tip of the blade to his neck.
“Not one more step, mouse,” the big rat hissed.
Perchi froze. She and Grisgo locked eyes for a desperate moment.
And then, all three heard something that made their blood run cold. Out of the dark, came the low, lethal purr of a cat.
Taffeta sprang forward, and the rat bolted, taking Perchi’s blade with him. He vanished into a space behind the shelves just before the cat’s claws got to him.
Taffeta gave a frustrated huff and then sprang after another rat that fled in equal terror.
Perchi helped Grisgo up, and the two looked around the shed. The soldiers outnumbered the rats now. Perchi saw one rat stumble blindly around with more than a dozen cheering soldiers piled onto it. Now that the cat had gotten inside, more and more rats fled out the hole in the door.
“You did all this?” Grisgo asked in awe.
“Not alone,” said Perchi.
Sunlight filtered in through the patchy roof, bringing light to the dim shed. Taffeta chased a whole pack of rats out the hole in the door and dove through herself to keep pursuing them outside.
“I won’t forget this,” said a ragged voice. High on the shelf, the big rat stood panting. He pointed Perchi’s tack at them. “I’ll be back. When you least expect it, I’ll be back. I’ll eat every last one of you. The fat mouse, the kittens. Even scrawny, little you.”
Perchi clenched her jaw. She started walking toward the shelf.
“What are you doing?” Grisgo asked.
“We have to finish this,” Perchi said.
“But you don’t even have a sword!” Grisgo shouted.
“But I do have the element of surprise,” Perchi said under her breath.
She climbed the shelf in a heartbeat and stared down the big rat.
The rat glanced over to make sure the cat was still outside. “You must be out of your mind,” he said.
Perchi didn’t say anything. She stood her ground.
The rat studied her, tilting his head and making sure there was nothing about this situation he hadn’t taken into account. All he saw was a vulnerable mouse standing all alone. He roared and charged her, the bright tack raised. He lunged forward in thrust aimed straight at her face.
At the last moment, Perchi whipped the bright green scarf from her neck and gripped it in both paws. She held the cloth up like a shield, and the tack pierced the scarf all the way to the hilt. The sharp point just pricked the tip of her nose, but she’d stopped the thrust.
Perchi whipped the scarf around in a flourish, twisting the blade out of the rat’s paw and into her own.
The big rat had time to blink once in confusion before Perchi drove the point deep into his chest.
The rat fell over dead, and Perchi stood over him panting and shivering. Blood soaked her scarf and covered her blade, but it was over. Sunlight poured into the shed, and Mandella’s men chased the remaining rats out.
Perchi climbed down off the shelf, stumbled over to Grisgo, and fell into the giant mouse’s arms for a long embrace.
Taffeta and Private Mandell’s men spent the rest of the afternoon driving the rats from the yard completely, and Grisgo bandaged up all of Perchi’s new wounds. When the kittens came inside to get a look at their new/old home, Grisgo noticed one of them was limping. Fortunately, broken bones were his specialty.
After Grisgo treated little Velvet’s broken paw, he saw to the injuries of the soldiers. Taffeta was so thankful to them all that she offered to share her home with them, leaky thought it may be.
“I think I can come up with something for that,” said Macy the bee.
“I mean, I’d appreciate anything you can manage,” Taffeta said.
Macy, who had never been appreciated for anything, beamed. Over the next few days, she used honeycomb to repair all the holes in the roof so the shed wouldn’t leak anymore when it rained. Perchi and Grisgo were so impressed with this that they asked Macy to help them build a home inside the shed. Macy was happy to oblige, and she installed dozens of fascinating gizmos in the house to make everyday life easier and more interesting.
Mandella’s men ran training exercises with Taffeta’s kittens, who found stalking and fighting the little soldiers the most fun they’d ever had. Mandella himself retired, happy to watch his soldiers patrolling the yard for rats during the day and watching the stars at night through a device Macy invented called a “telescope.”
In her home with Grisgo, Perchi mounted the tack over the mantle. The tack seemed very proud and satisfied, if it were possible for tacks to feel such things.
Once upon a time there was a white cat and her kittens, a tack who became a sword, an inventive bee, a weary soldier and all of his men, and a pair of brave mice, and they all lived together in the old gardening shed at the back of the yard. It was cool during the day, and warm during the night, and dry when it rained. They may not have lived happily ever after, but they found a home in each other.
Our journey continues! As always, here’s a link back to the first one in case you aren’t caught up.
Once upon a time, there was a mouse named Grisgo.
Grisgo lived in the basement city of Mouse Place, and it was his job to be a nurse mouse. He loved his job because it gave him the chance to help other mice and give back to his community, but there was just one problem.
Grisgo was really big. For a mouse, anyway. He was fat, yes, but he was just plain big too. He towered over the doctor mice and other nurses, and he could eat nearly two full slices of cheese in a single day. One day he was so hungry that he ate a whole thing of jelly beans. His father had told him that he was big-boned, and his mother said there was just more of him to love.
Sometimes–most of the time, actually–Grisgo wished that there was less of him to love. The mouse hospital wasn’t designed with mice as large as him in mind, and he was constantly toppling trays of instruments or knocking furniture around with his unwieldy bulk.
The other nurse mice teased him all the time. They called him names like “Porkchop” and “Whalemouse,” but one name hurt worse than any of the others. Worse than “Cheeselog,” worse than “Lardbucket.”
The most respected doctor in the whole hospital was Dr. Squeegums MD PhD Esquire. All the female nurses thought he was the dreamiest, and all the male nurses–including Grisgo–wanted to be him. He had the fine white fur of a science mouse and the sharp, penetrating gaze of an actor mouse. When Dr. Squeegums MD PhD Esquire spoke, everyone in the room listened.
Which is why it was so bad when one day Dr. Squeegums said, “Hey Fat-Rat, pass me that roll of bandages?”
All the nurses tittered and chuckled. The only thing Grisgo could do was hand Dr. Squeegums the bandages and mumble, “I’m not a rat.”
Unfortunately, the name stuck. Soon every mouse in the hospital was calling him “Fat-Rat.” All day, Grisgo moved as carefully as he could through the hospital while he tended to his patients. He knew that bumping into anything would bring laughter and that awful name.
At night, Grisgo would trudge home and eat a cheesy poof in the dark.
This went on for months, and he soon starting hating the job he used to love so much.
One day there was a horrible accident in downtown Mouse Place. A whole apartment complex near the wine rack collapsed, injuring dozens of construction mice. First responder mice rushed patients to the hospital, and there were so many wounds to treat that nobody had time to make fun of Grisgo’s size.
One of the patients assigned to Grisgo was a construction mouse named Nina. A falling can had broken her femur in the accident. The first time Grisgo saw Nina, his heart jumped all the way up to his throat because she was the most beautiful mouse he had ever seen.
Nina was clinching her teeth in pain. “Give it to me straight, doc,” she said. “Will I walk again after this?”
“I’m not a doctor,” Grisgo said. “I’m a nurse, but broken bones are my specialty. You’re going to be just fine. I promise.”
Once he had realigned the bone, he set Nina’s leg with a toothpick splint and let himself out of the room as quietly as he could. The poor mouse had already fallen asleep.
Femurs take a long time to heal, and over the next few weeks, Grisgo and Nina became fast friends. They discovered they both loved cheesy poofs but hated barbecue sunflower seeds. Nina talked about the construction company where she was a foremouse, whose job it was to make sure other mice were doing their jobs. Grisgo talked about nursing, and about how much he liked helping other mice get better. He started taking his lunch breaks in Nina’s room and sharing treats from the cafeteria with her.
“You know what I wish?” Nina asked the day before she was set to be sent home. She was eating half a chocolate chip that Grisgo had brought from the snack lounge. Grisgo had already finished his half.
“No, what?” Grisgo asked.
“I wish I had even one mouse under me at the construction site with your passion. I have to deal with mice who don’t care every day. It’s really special to see someone so invested in what they do.”
At this, Grisgo panicked, mumbled something about needing new bandages, and fled the room.
Later that night, Grisgo paced in his apartment talking to himself. He kept his room sparse and clean so there was nothing for him to bump into.
“Nina,” he said, “you’re the prettiest mouse I’ve ever met. Would you be interested in maybe sometime going out… No, that’s terrible. That’s the worst thing you could possibly say.” He cleared his throat. “Hey, Nina. If you’re not busy, I mean, I don’t want to intrude, and I know we’ve only known each other a few… Ugh.”
He banged his head against the wall a few times.
“More confidence,” he said. “Be courageous.”
He took a deep breath, and he tried again.
The next morning, Grisgo went to the jewelry store before work. He didn’t know much about the kind of jewelry Nina would like, but the clerk mouse who owned the store steered him toward a bright blue sapphire. It cost him a little more than he could afford, but it was worth it. Nina was worth it.
Later on, Grisgo stepped into Nina’s room to find her standing beside the bed.
“Look at you!” he said. “You made it!”
Nina chuckled. “You kept your promise,” she said.
“My promise?” Grisgo asked.
“That very first day, when they brought me in. You promised I would be fine. I can’t thank you enough, Grisgo.”
Grisgo tightened his jaw and swallowed hard. He’d practiced this enough times that he felt sure he could make it through. The sapphire felt encouragingly heavy in the supply satchel he wore around his waist. He just had to be brave. “Listen, Nina, since you can walk again now, I thought it might be a fun idea if the two of us to maybe take a walk together up by the–”
Suddenly the door clicked open, and Dr. Squeegums MD PhD Esquire stepped into the room carrying a bouquet of flowers.
Nina squealed. “Dr. Squeegums! Are those for me?”
Dr. Squeegums crossed the room and handed Nina the bouquet. He kissed her on the cheek.
She giggled. “These are too much.”
“Nothing is too much for my favorite patient,” said Dr. Squeegums. “Are we still on for tonight?”
“You bet your life on it,” said Nina.
On his way out, Dr. Squeegums said, “Nurse, please fill out this patient’s discharge papers.”
Neither Grisgo’s mouth nor his brain seemed to be working.
Nina inhaled the scent of the flowers and sighed. “So dreamy,” she said, seemingly to herself. Then she shook her head. “Sorry Grisgo. What were you saying?”
“Oh, I…” He fumbled with the pouch containing the sapphire. “It was nothing,” he said.
She gave him a knowing smile. “Grisgo… Were you about to ask me out?”
Grisgo looked away.
Nina limped closer and reached way up to put a paw on his shoulder. “It’s nothing personal,” Nina said. “You’re just too big for a mouse like me.”
“Okay,” said Grisgo.
After Nina left, Grisgo stared at the bed he had sat beside for so many afternoons. He thought of all the jokes they had shared. All the stories and the meals.
After a long moment, the door opened again.
Grisgo turned to see a female nurse poking her head in.
“Hey Fat-Rat, we need those discharge papers stat. Could you get on it?”
That night, Grisgo didn’t go home. Instead, he went for a long walk all by himself.
Eventually he found himself up by the basement window. A storm raged outside, and rain slipped down the glass in thick rivulets. He looked at the tiny blue gem in his paw.
Grisgo tossed the sapphire outside and walked away. He planned on eating a whole thing of cheesy poofs when he got home.
Bet you thought I’d forgotten about this project. Nope! Just been distracted by other things. There’s still more relentlessly upbeat fables to tell! If you’re just tuning in, you’ll probably want to head back to the first one, but long-time readers will be happy to jump right into our fifth story of seven:
Once upon a time, there was a small plastic soldier named Private Joseph Mandella.
Joseph was born in a toy factory in 1956 when hot green plastic was pressed into a metal mold. Other soldiers were born as sergeants or captains or generals, but Joseph was pressed into the mold of a private. And so a private he would remain.
Literally created to fight, Joseph waged war across a thousand battlefields, defeating tan armies curiously similar to his own, legions of superheroes with deadly articulated joints, and the occasional gigantic stuffed animal.
Joseph and his men slept in a tin box between battles. Joseph lived for the thump that accompanied the unlocking of the tin box, stirring him from his sleep and foreshadowing the thrill of combat.
He and his men would stir with excitement. “Who do we get to fight this time?”
Vicious rubber ducks. Plastic monkeys with numbers to blot out the sun. A gang of mutilated, undead Barbie dolls. Joseph reveled in it. In those days, he believed the exhilaration of war was all he would ever need.
The battles became less and less frequent. Weeks between engagements, and then years. It hardly mattered. Joseph knew nothing of age, and the sleep that visited him in the dark of his tin box was dreamless and instant.
But then one evening, Joseph got left outside his tin box. With nothing else to do, he simply stood in the sandbox and waited for the next battle to happen.
The sun went down and crickets began their stridulation. The sound tickled at his subconscious, and Joseph realized he must have heard it hundreds of times in his sleep, dulled through the layer of tin against his face.
Then the stars came out, and Joseph had never seen stars before. For the whole night, he watched as they wheeled overhead, and by morning, something had changed inside him. Something had broken, it seemed, but had been made right in the breaking.
Morning came, and Joseph watched the birds. He wondered what it would be like to feel the wind against him and to look down, to see the things below as he now understood them to be: very, very small.
By the time Joseph was returned to the tin box, sun had bleached him and rain had weathered him. His men asked for tales of his adventures, but Joseph didn’t have anything to say.
More years passed, and more battles. The attrition of countless Beanie Babies, and then Pokemon, and then fearsome Furbies and Teletubbies and Bratz and Zhu Zhu hamsters.
One after the other, Private Joseph Mandella and his men slew them. But when they woke again, their enemies returned. Some the same, some new.
Joseph grew weary. It didn’t seem to matter if they won; it didn’t seem to matter if they lost. The fights just went on and on.
Although he slept in the tin box, he knew the stars were out there somewhere. He touched the cold tin and imagined them on the other side. He couldn’t help but think that nothing could matter, if there were stars.
One night, Joseph resisted sleep. He listened to the faint sound of the crickets, and he strained and strained to think up a single thing that would matter. Some fight that would mean something against all those stars. Rain beat against the tin lid, and Joseph felt himself drift away in spite of himself.
He dreamed for the first time. In his dream, generations of toys rose and fought and fell, and rose to fight again. While they fought, the sun grew swollen and hot until all the plastic melted and all the fur burned away. Eventually the sun receded and everything grew cold and dark, and nothing was left but the stars. Then, one by one, each of the stars went out, and soon it was just black. And the black was quiet, quiet.
The box’s lock thudded and startled Joseph awake. The soldier sighed, pushed up against the lid, and stepped into the sunlight once more.
“Who do I have to fight this time?” he asked.
Nic Pizzolatto takes a break from brooding. He sits down at his typewriter and begins to write.
The detective is the apotheosis of all detectives. He lies lugubriously in bed, his face apoplectic. He speaks without looking at who he is addressing.
I cannot achieve arousal
The camera pans over to reveal… a MAN!!!?!?
It is scandalous for two males to be in bed together.
For a while, the Detective says nothing. He reaches for a bottle of VODKA on the nightstand and drinks ALL of it.
I have so many demons.
Maybe it’s not that you have so many demons. Maybe it’s that so many demons…
Camera ZOOMS in on Man’s face.
I am only making fifteen percent on a land deal. This allotment is not copasetic.
One time a nutria rat ate my little brother. That’s when I knew we were all alone in this world. Alone in a world of nutria rats. Nutria rats that eat little brothers.
Sometimes I worry that I’m not True.
I miss Stan.
Stan escaped this landfill existence. He was the lucky one.
You have so many demons.
DETECTIVE (Looking away)
Nic Pizzolatto leans back from the typewriter and sighs. “Damn, I’m good,” he says aloud.
The fourth installment in my increasing bleak series of ‘family unfriendly’ fables. The first one is over here, if you need to catch up.
Once upon a time there was a very clever bee named Macy.
Like almost every other female bee in her colony, Macy was a worker bee. It was a worker bee’s job to go out every day and collect pollen. Then they would bring that pollen back to turn into honey.
Most of this honey was for the Queen, who was the only female bee in the colony who didn’t work. It was the Queen’s job eat honey and lay eggs all day every day.
A lot of Macy’s coworkers talked about how wonderful it would be to be queen. How nice it would be to never have to work and to drink sweet honey hour after hour.
Macy didn’t think that sounded wonderful at all. In fact, she rather liked her job. She thought it would be boring to sit around all day doing nothing. She tried to explain this to her coworkers, but they all just looked at her as if she had grown a seventh leg.
Actually, Macy’s coworkers were always giving her strange looks. She couldn’t seem to relate to the bees around her at all. The other bees always wanted to talk about which types of honey tasted best, or about which male the Queen was favoring lately, or maybe about which dance moves were most fashionable this week.
Macy liked to talk about engineering, which made her a very lonely bee. She had a passion for contraptions, and she would often spend her off-hours taking apart devices she had found and figuring out how they worked. She loved playing with springs and hinges and gears far more than she loved sipping the finest honey, but none of the other bees cared about these springs or hinges or gears. She soon learned to keep her thoughts to herself.
There was one thing about the Queen that Macy was envious about. The Queen could make her own family. Macy could never make her own family, because worker bees couldn’t lay eggs. She reasoned that the only way she would ever feel like she belonged was if she could figure out a way to make her interests valuable to the colony. If she could prove that springs and hinges and gears were worthwhile, maybe the other bees would finally accept her, and she would finally feel like she had a family.
But she had no idea how to do that.
She thought about it every day as she worked.
The traditional approach to pollen gathering was for each bee to fly from flower to flower until she could carry no more pollen. Then she had to fly the pollen all the way back to the hive to be dropped off. Every bee had a quota of pollen to collect every day so that the hive would be on-target for winter, and no worker bee could come back to the hive until their quota had been collected.
While she worked, Macy realized that much of her time was wasted flying back and forth from the clover patches to the hive. It would be more efficient, she realized, if bees could somehow skip this step. But how?
Quietly, her inventive mind began working on the problem.
Several weeks later, she pulled Samantha the foreman bee aside. “I have to show you something,” she said.
Samantha checked the sun. “The morning’s already late, Macy, and you haven’t even turned in a single load of pollen yet! You’d better get to work if you want to make your quota today.”
“I will,” Macy said, “but I have to show you something first.”
Samantha reluctantly agreed to follow Macy out to the clover fields. When they arrived, Macy unveiled her latest creation.
“Behold!” Macy said proudly.
“What is it?” asked Samantha.
“This is the Pollen Launcher 2000!” said Macy. “I’ve been working on it every night for the last two weeks.”
“What does it do?” Samantha asked.
“It catapults pollen all the way back to the hive,” Macy said. “It’s portable, so we can set it up in an area where there’s lots of pollen. While we gather, we won’t have to constantly make long trips all the way back to the hive. Instead, we just make lots of short trips to the Pollen Launcher 2000. Then with a flick of this switch–”
Macy pulled the appropriate lever, and the empty bucket of the Pollen Launcher 2000 snapped upward with a lurch.
“–it throws the pollen to the hive, taking care of the long trip for us!”
“Hrm,” said Samantha. “We’ve never done it that way before.”
“I know,” Macy said. “But I think this way is better.”
“However you gather your pollen is your business,” said Samantha. “As long as you get your quota every day, you won’t get any argument from me.”
“You’ll see,” Macy said. “I’m about to revolutionize how bees gather pollen.”
Samantha seemed unimpressed. She flew back to the hive to continue checking quotas.
“They’ll see,” Macy said to herself.
Macy spent the rest of the morning and afternoon gathering from the clover patches and packing a solid yellow ball of pollen in the bucket of the Pollen Launcher 2000. Dusk was starting to settle in by the time she was finished.
Samantha flew back out to the clover to hurry along the worker bees who were straggling. “Macy,” she said, “you haven’t brought back a single load of pollen all day.”
“Almost done,” Macy said, packing the last powdery bits of pollen into the ball. “Come see, everyone!”
The bees who were still out in the clover all gathered around, and Macy gave them a rundown on how the Pollen Launcher 2000 was about to change their work lives forever. Some of the bees tugged doubtfully at their antennae, but a few were nodding their heads, impressed.
“And now,” Macy announced, “the first launch!”
She grabbed the lever, and all the bees–even Samantha–held their breaths.
Macy wrenched the lever down, and the worst thing imaginable happened.
Instead of the ball of pollen launching all the way back to the hive, it exploded in a bright yellow puff. A cloud of pollen covered all the watching bees, and they laughed until they coughed.
Macy sat beside her contraption, stunned and yellow from being completely coated in pollen.
Samantha shook her head and made a mark on her notepad. “I’ll still need you to hit your quota before you come in tonight,” she said.
The other bees continued laughing.
“Yes ma’am,” said Macy in a small voice.
As the sun set, Macy made trip after lonely trip from the clover fields to the hive. She regretted ever making the Pollen Launcher, and she wished she had just kept her head down and fallen in line with the rest of the bees. She knew she would probably be on the stinger-end of jokes for the next few months. She suspected she would feel even more alone than before.
Unfortunately, her suspicions came true in a way she could have never predicted. On her final exhausting trip out to the clover, a beekeeper’s truck pulled up next to the tree. Thinking all the bees were inside for the night, he collected the hive and took it away to join a vast community of other hives.
When Macy returned with her last load of pollen, all the family she had ever known had vanished without a trace.
The Martian | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX
Welp. Now I’ve got a deadline to read the book.
via YouTube http://youtu.be/Ue4PCI0NamI