The evening was starting well. My father called for the priest, then his first son and the bride, and lastly me as the best man. At this point Catherine, the bride stepped forward supported by her parents. Everybody cheered. She looked like a fairy all dressed in pink and white with her body covered in bows and ribbons giving the impression she was floating on a cloud of silk and satin. On her head she wore a crown that shined as brightly as the stars on a clear summer’s night. She carried a bouquet of red rose, all the petals were perfectly formed and as she walked forward a petal would fall to the ground sending a ripple of delight through the guests. My brother extended his arm and it was as if a beautiful fairy alighted, by some magic, at his side. I saw him blush with happiness. In that moment I knew I had to record this special event, acting as a historian for our community.
It was several weeks after the wedding that I finally finished writing about this event. On many nights you could find me crouched over a small desk working by candlelight writing carefully in a small hand. My hand is tiny and the pen seemed so big, but I struggled on. As the light flicked across the pages the scenes of that magical night came rushing back. We danced, we drank, we laughed, and we ate and made merry falling into the arms of our new founded friends. It was a night the countryside glowed in pride, showing off its beauty. I could not write the words faster enough as my memory raced across the scene. But before I describe in detail the bewitching scene of that special night let me tell you about my family and me.
I am small, with dainty feet; handsome long whiskers; a skin, soft and silky; in fact quite a little lad about town. I move quickly, and I am very curious. I belong to a large and gregarious family. My father is the mayor of our community. Have you guessed who I am? I am a town mouse, not to be confused with a field mouse.
As I have had already said my father is mayor of our adopted community. The community is comprised of twenty houses situated on the outskirts of a town in the middle of England. It is one of those new developments, known by the upper class as a desirable residential enclave. To the south the development is attached to the town, and to the north there is a golf course surrounded by fields. There are about eighty mice families lodged in various houses in this desirable residential area. Father keeps a large book on where each family lives, also on his study wall there is a map of the area showing each house and garden. There is also a detailed description of the various dangers lurking in the community such as dogs, cats, a parrot, and would you believe it a large pet snake. For instance, we know that in residence number five (in this area they are not known as houses), Wellington the pet cat is far to well feed to worry about mice, but Horace in resident nine is a black, mean cat that is always on the prowl.
My family. Father as you would expect, is a handsome man, well fed, with a personality that exudes authority. Mother is known for her beauty, with a lovely long silky tail, bright winking eyes, and exquisite feet. When she dresses up we all stand around in admiration, my younger sisters often cry. Unlike my father she is highly nervous, always thinking that some terrible tragedy will fall on the family. She very seldom ventures out of our housing quarters. I am the second son in a family of three girls and five boys. The eldest is George, intelligent, good looking and one day he hopes to be mayor like dad. He is getting married in a month’s time to Catherine, a gorgeous creature that lives in residence four. My name is Harry, I am far too busy running after the girls to think of marriage. George has chosen me as his best man. This is quite an honor. After me there comes the twins, Harriet and Denis. They go around together with their tails interlocked and are always giggling. I think they are rather silly, mother tells me they were like that at birth. I often wonder how they could ever get married; four mice with interlocking tails would be ridiculous. Still they seem happy, even the cats ignore them out of disbelief that they could look so stupid. After that comes Timothy, my buddy. We do everything together. He is bigger than me and can run very fast. He has one annoying habit, when he eats something he does not like he just spits it out. No only is this impolite, it leaves telltale traces that infuriate the cats.
We get up to a lot of mischief together. Like the time we took a bath in our resident’s magnificent bathroom. Timothy found some product that created wonderful bubbles. We nearly suffocated; it took us ages to find our way out of a maze of frothy bubbly foam. But what fun, did we smell good! Mother was furious; she thought we had been in some harem. Another time we got locked in the linen cupboard on the second floor. Father had to call our uncle Harold to get us out. He has some awesome tools. Father was furious and sent us to bed without supper. Mother came up to kiss us good night and much to our surprise stayed awhile. We were curious to know why; she told us she loves the smell of lavender.
Two girls, Susan and Jane, pretty little things with long tails and flashy eyelashes, follow Timothy. They are still very young and spend most of their time helping mother about the house. Mother is always telling them of the dangers outside, which makes them shake and roll their eyes every time there is talk of going to visit the family. Timothy and I tease them unmercifully. We once found a real cat’s eye and put it in their bed. Even father was frightened; we got a big beating, and couldn’t sit down for days. It was worth it, our friends gave us a party to honor the event. In fact at a later stage the cat’s eye was used to scare a dog. It worked. One dark night we rolled it in front of Bruno, a large German shepherd. First he froze and then ran. We were told he didn’t eat for days after that and his owners had to call the vet. The eye is well hidden; we might need it one day.
The last member of the family is Benjamin. The rascal. He is the only member of the family with a short stubby tail. Mother always tells us he left the rest of his tale in a door when he was very young. Sometimes we take him on our adventures, but we have to be careful. As he is the youngest he is always daring us, I am sure he wants to prove his manhood. I remember the time we found him eating out of a dog’s bowl at the same time as Cody, a husky that lives in residence sixteen. Cody was so surprised that he just stopped eating and looked at Benjamin with his piercing blue eyes. It took him a few seconds to realize what was happening then all hell broke loose. Benjamin was off to the races; he nearly did not make it. That’s the family.
We live in the largest residence, number ten. Father chose it, as the occupants have no pets. Two beautifully mannered children and a housekeeper that steals the family blind inhabit the house. Our abode is behind the boiler in the cellar. It is a large space and very comfortable. Everybody has their own room, except for the twins that even sleep with their tails attached. Father has a study where the senior members of the community meet every month to discuss the well being of the families. They spend hours discussing food supplies and old and new dangers.
From ten in the morning to early afternoon we have the run of the house as the children are at school and the owners go out to work. The housekeeper shops in the morning and takes a siesta in the early afternoon. We all agree that we have very comfortable surroundings. We are lucky because many of the residences have nasty guardians. For instance in 4 there is Polly, a wicked, overgrown parrot that sees and hears the slightest sound. If a mouse comes within range of his perch he squawks; instantly Emile the tabby cat is on the scene. Sad to relate there have been two deaths in that residence. Residence 13 is also a real problem, the cats are called Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, and four fat and ugly children adore them. The place is carefully guarded and our cousins have great difficulty in moving about. Father says they should move, but they don’t want to as the children are mess eaters and leave food all over the house so there is always plenty to eat. Our cousins say they intend leaving after the wedding as they have taken on the responsibility of supplying most of the food.
The day of the great wedding was fast approaching. Imagine the mayor’s eldest son being married; everyone in the community has to be invited. The community had been working on the planning for many months. There were many things to decide on. First, where should it take place? Unhappily, nobody has large enough digs to accommodate all our cousins. Father very cleverly negotiated with the field mice; they would supply the land in a field just off the golf course. They would also supply the band. This had been a point of much discussion; it included several of the senior citizens going out to the fields to hear them play. The general consensus was one of approval, although they all thought the violins were slightly off key, but the trumpets and drums excellent. For their effort the field mice were to be invited to the feast, but limited to one hundred. Unlike the town mice they seem to have no control over their sexual urges, it must be the country air. All the children in our community were told not to mix or dance with the field mice, considering them not quite our class.
The next important decision was the date. It had to be a Thursday, as we knew the cats had their weekly get together. They met, supposedly to discuss community affairs, but it always turns out to be a glorified beauty contest. Occasionally Timothy and I sneak out to watch them. It is a sketch, they can never agree on anything, furs were combed, even ribbons delicately tied on their tails are visible, and the smell! I am sure the next morning many residence owners missed a drop of perfume. These meetings lasted well into the night. Thursday is always dancing night for our community. Only once have we met the cats coming back from their meeting, but they were so interested in discussing their petty jealousies that they never noticed us.
Food and drink is the soul of the wedding party. This had to be managed with great care. It would require at least two months of hard work from every member of the community to accumulate enough food for all our guests. My cousins, as I have already said, were given the responsibility of organizing this. It was decided that all food should be stored in residence fifteen as this was the nearest to the field. On the day everybody would pass through fifteen and help carry the food and drink. Timothy and I really put our backs into this work of collecting food, in fact we became too daring. In our residence there is always plenty of delicious food available, as around four o’clock the housekeeper prepares the evening meal and leaves it out on the sideboard. You can imagine, after careful examination of the goodies we sliced and diced the most succulent morsels. All were carried below and transferred to number fifteen. We felt very proud of ourselves. But in our enthusiasm we started getting careless and left tell tale traces. One evening we heard the mistress of the house telling her husband she thought they had mice. He immediately suggested renting a cat for two months. He had heard of an agency that bred a variety of cats known for their mice killing ability. When we told father we could see he was definitely worried. It was now only a week from the wedding and the last thing we needed was a monster cat in our residence. We were temporarily forbidden to do any more food collecting. Two days later the monster cat arrived. Big, mean, hungry looking, all you would expect from a killer. Even his fur had been cut to give the impression of cruelty. We were told to stay inside until father had surveyed the scene. He came back from his survey to tell us to be patient for a day; the cat would be gone by tomorrow. It appears the stupid animal had sharpened his claws on Madame’s best furniture. On top of that it had hissed at the children and spat at the housekeeper…what can you expect from a killer cat. The next day it was gone. Our family cheered and all thoughts turned to the wedding…now only three days away.
The committee met, everything appeared in order. Plenty of food and drink, the list made our mouths water, cheeses galore, including French cheeses, nuts, cake, cream, bread, the list went on and on. There was even a wedding cake, carefully put together from many sources. My uncle Bert had found some fairy lighting, and his cousin William had even found a tent just in case it rained. Everything seemed set for the great day. Our house was in an uproar. New dresses for the girls, top hats and gloves for the boys. Mother’s dress was a secret. So everybody would smell divine I slipped up to the magnificent bathroom and stole some perfume…my little present…. for that my sisters gave me a kiss.
As best man my principal responsibility was first to make sure the cats were all having their meeting. Once this was determined I gave the signal. From all over the community the families left their homes and moved through residence fifteen to pick up the food. What a sight! We marveled at the gowns, glittering fur, capes, waxed whiskers, and shiny new shoes all moving to the great wedding. The girls with their eyes shining, dainty paws covered in elegant gloves, proud mother herding their flock, fathers with their chests thrown forward, their feet dancing with delight. I have never seen so many well-groomed tails, many with bows of the finest silk. We lived in a rich community ….as they say upper class.
Due to my responsibilities I was one of the last to arrive at the wedding place. A sight for sore eyes, the field mice had done us proud. They had laid out a large circle with a dance floor in the middle. Around the circle were placed tables laden with food of every nature and kind. Also on the tables were wonderful bouquets of country flowers. Primroses, buttercups, wild roses, white hawthorn and many flowers we didn’t know the name of, a rainbow of color and delightful scents. Around the tables the field mice stood allowing the town mice to congregate in the middle. The circle was covered by a tent and lit as if we were living in a fairyland. As I arrived the town mice, with opened mouths, were clapping in appreciation of the beauty the field mice had bestowed upon them. My father, I saw, was thanking a senior field mouse. Deep down I think we all felt a little ashamed as we always treated field mice as definitely lower class. Tonight they were fast becoming our dearest country cousins. I had already noticed a bevy of pretty faces, twinkling eyes, strong bodies and handsome tails. A bachelor’s delight! But first, I was best man, and the pretty field mice had to wait.
As I approached the circle I saw my mother surrounded by admirers. She was definitely the queen of the evening, dressed in magnificent deep green ball grown with a bow of delicate black lace covering her back. Her tail was arched over her head and held down with another black bow. She looked regal. Somewhere on my travels I had seen that exquisite cloth, was it not from one of Madame’s finest gowns? What matter, it clearly was made for my mother. Father was now at her side calling the community to order. He looked very regal, top hat, kid gloves, new shoes and spats, frock coat. First, he thanked our cousins the field mice for the setting. Never had such compliments been bestowed on the field mice.
The gathering was called to order; the marriage ceremony began. The priest, a large rotund mouse, read in a slow ponderous voice the marriage service.
The rings were called for; lucky I had not forgotten them. As they were placed on the fingers the priest declared Catherine and George married. Some of the older citizens shed a tear, the younger members dreamed of their wedding day. I noticed several pretty field mice with flushed faces and a teardrop in their eyes. Even the children stopped playing amongst the table to watch. It was a magical moment. The wedding kiss seemed to last for ever. Our community was lifted for a few precious seconds in the great starlit heavens; all their hands were out to take the field mice with us.
The spell was broken by my father’s voice saying, “ Let the party begin.” With that the band started up. The dancing began. How we danced, feet going in all direction, tails beating time, whirling, turning, side steps, little kisses, gentle squeezes, a roundabout of merriment and laughter. We had woken up the entire neighborhood. The frogs came and placed themselves behind the band. Every few minutes they croaked, everybody jumped, then fell down laughing. Finally we had to persuade the frogs to stop. Instead of croaking they sat there grinning, as only frogs can, and clapped their hands. The next visitors were the butterflies. They covered the ceiling of the tent and then opened their wings. The gathering below was covered with a kaleidoscope of colors. As the music changed they moved their wings as if some delicate breeze had aroused them. People clapped in admiration. Even the crickets clapped their wings in time to the music. This entire time people were eating and drinking. I noticed the field mice were sneezing from eating the strong French cheeses. There were several small groups gathered to discuss this or that delicacy. The field mice were proudly introducing the town folk to healthy country fair. I saw my father accepting a cigar from a senior field mouse. Mother was surrounded by a bevy of handsome town and field mice wanting to dance with her. Benjamin was telling some imaginary adventurous tale to a school of pretty young field mice, some even had tears in their eyes. Timothy and I were temporarily exhausted with all the dancing and eating. We gazed on the scene, enjoying ever minute.
Then the band stopped and a large field mouse stepped forward and called for silence. In a loud voice he said, “ To the bride and groom, Mr. and Mrs. Mayor, our guests the town mice in honor of this occasion, we, the field mice, have prepared a show, please leave the dance floor. As the lights were lowered much whispering could be heard, “What a wonderful surprise!”
The first act was the field mice’s girls choir. In front of us were fifty pretty field mice dressed in red and white checked pinafores, with a large red bow on the top of their heads. The band started again, and one by one, each following on, the choir started singing until all fifty voices were sounding forth. As the sound reached the top of the tent the butterflies flapped their wings in approval. The sound sent a shiver down our tails, clear, pure, romantic, it filled our very souls with music. Everybody stopped eating and stood in awe. After several minutes the heavenly sound grew softer and the singers turned their back to the audience, waved their tails and disappeared. The clapping was like thunder in the high of summer. Many people started stamping their feet.
The next act was a nightingale that sang a love song. It was beautiful, sad, and sung in that extraordinary high-pitched voice that is unique to these birds. I saw many handkerchiefs wiping many a tear. At the end even the nightingale was crying, nobody could clap, it was too moving, too sad. Instead we all knelt down and said a little prayer.
To cheer us up two frogs came on and did a juggling act. They could balance balls on every part of their bodies. But the funniest was their legs. They stretched to the ceiling and tickled the butterflies. Their legs seemed to be everywhere, at one stage I tried to reach out to touch them. Too quick, they must have been balancing at least a hundred balls, no exaggeration. Balls were all over the tent, I saw people ducking, fearful of being hit. But no, those legs and hands were everywhere. After the wedding I made a note for Timothy and I to visit the frogs and learn about their magic.
Before the next act began I had time to look around, people were smiling, laughing and telling each other stories. I noticed a few perky field mice walking about hand in hand with their tails intertwined, they must have been talking to the twins. There were a few old timers sleeping under the tables. My father was holding hands with my mother, who in turn had her young daughters holding on to her skirt, blushing as some city slickers were whistling at them. No time for more comments, the next act was up. This was great!
The bats flew in, keeping in tight formation. The soared, dived, flew upside down; we all grew dizzy watching them. Then they disappeared; within seconds they were back trailing silver paper streamers behind them. The lights were dimmed and we had the impression we were living in the galaxy amongst shooting stars. It was weird a feeling at the same time divinely exciting and a little scary. The butterflies closed their wings. We all stamped our feet in appreciation. Then for the final flight the master of ceremonies asked us all to lift our tails in the air and the bats would fly through them. What a sensation, as they passed their wing tips touched our tails and gave us a little electric shock…..the tingling was felt down our backs to the tips of our toes…..a divine sensation. I noticed some of the senior citizens were not very courageous, but those that were had a wicked look in the eyes and were grinning to the very end of their whiskers. I saw Benjamin was balanced on the top of a table and every time a bat passed he trembled, no doubt he got a bigger shock, he seemed to be loving it. It must have lasted ten minutes. As far as I was concerned it could have lasted hours. Nowadays every time I see a bat I think of their show.
So much excitement, the audience needed cooling down. The next act was perfect. A water rat stepped on the stage to give us a poetry reading about the river. He was a splendid fellow with a great tail, putting us all to shame, and whiskers, that my father would have given his right arm to have. His voice was like clear water running over smooth rocks in the riverbed. The poetry was lovely; about the river, its inhabitants, the flowers, the land it travels through to reach the sea. Just what the guests needed to cool off. He was given a rousing applause.
People started realizing this should be called the greatest show on earth, totally unexpected. This evening was going to be an exquisite memory that would be passed down to one’s children’s children. Now you know why I had to write about it. The last and final act was being prepared. Two great fences were pushed on to the dance floor. The lights were dimmed and in flew a hundred doves. They landed in pairs on the fences and start humming a lullaby of such perfection that everybody turned to their neighbors and gave them a kiss. George and Catherine walked into center stage and embraced in a long delicious kiss, I noticed their tails were raised in ecstatic joy. The doves bowed their heads, fluttered their wings, and slowly one by one flew out into the night. The show was over. We all stood there paralyzed by the sheer magnificence of the moment. I saw my father and mother embracing with tears in their eyes. There was total silence for two minutes, followed by thunderous clapping. The band started up, within minutes we were off, turning, whirling, and laughing to the merry music. Would the night never end? Nobody had left. The frogs started croaking again, we jumped and all fell down. This time many of us just lay there enjoying the moment.
It must have been an hour later, dancing was still in full swing, that we saw the first light of the dawn creeping into the tent. We knew it was time to go. The party turned into a mass of kissing and hugging. Exchanging, bows, gloves anything we could give in thanks for the greatest show on earth. I looked around; the flowers were still beautiful, bowing their heads to the first light of day. The tables were empty; every crumb had been eaten. People were leaving, the band played the last waltz and everybody cheered.
Slowly we crept home across the fields that were already sprinkled with the cooling morning dew. Many tiny hands were intertwined; the broad shoulders of male partners were shouldering several pretty heads. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the long lasting kisses that some of our younger members were giving to their newfound friends amongst the field mice. Whispers were being passed out to be careful of the cats. As I looked back I saw that all the field mice had come to edge of the field and were waving goodbye. I saw some large handkerchiefs dapping tears from a few eyes. When we entered our residence we started to spread out fearful of the cats on an early morning prowl. Sure enough a group to the right of me let out a little squeal as the dark ominous shadow of a cat cast a dangerous atmosphere over the merrymakers. Dear readers, that is a story for another day.