Sunday, February 04, 2007
Phelinius P. Myszkawitz was a mouse who enjoyed riding on the railroad. But not one of those immensely huge railroads for people in which the aisles were a mile wide and the other passengers constantly stepped on one's tail, or in which rabid cats had free reign. This was a teeny-weeny, sweet little railroad for mice. Not even something as terrible as a mouse trap could fit in the aisles of the train's wagons, but there was always room for a few crumbs of cheese. It was the perfect means of transportation for mice.
As Phelinius sat comfortably in his seat the passing scenery placed him in a thoughtful mood. Half of him meditated on mice issues and the other half reflected on general questions of life which may even have been of interest to a cat. Suddenly he was interrupted by a deep, bass sounding burst of mouse squeaks. It was the portly mouse, Felix Schmelix. He was actually much shorter than most other mice, but made up for it by being twice as fat. And that made him quite portly compared to Phelinius. When Felix Schmelix was aggravated - and that was very often the case - his whiskers began to twitch in all directions. He functioned as conductor for the railroad. The two mice had known each other for a long time.
"Mr. Myszkawitz! Your ticket, please!"
"Is that necessary?"
"It is always necessary!" answered Felix Schmelix, and his purple nose become even more purple.
"Because I said so!"
"Who ever heard of a mouse buying a train ticket?"
Felix Schmelix squeaked on, "What would the world come to if mice could ride the railroad without a ticket?" and his whiskers began to twitch wildly.
"I don't know. The world is riding another train."
"I'll tell you what the world would come to. The train would be infested with mice!"
"But no mouse ever had to buy a ticket to use transportation. My cousin once took a ship all the way to Panama and he didn't have to buy a ticket. In a first class cabin he went! And anyhow, it's very comfortable here in the train, even without a ticket, not crowded at all. In fact, we're the only ones here."
"If you do not present your ticket at once, I shall have to stop the train!"
"But Mr. Conductor, Mr. Schmelix, I beg you Felix, this is the first time I ever rode on the train and before I buy a ticket I want to see if a train ride is something I enjoy!"
"Your ticket, now!"
"And besides, I plan to disembark at the same station I boarded. You can't ask me to buy a ticket for that."
"Look here, I want to see your ticket!"
"This is an outrage!" Felix Schmelix sputtered furiously.
"I just wanted to know what a ticket looks like," Phelinius shrugged his miniscule shoulders.
The conductor calmed down because he suddenly felt superior and began explaining, as to a little baby who doesn't know anything yet: "A ticket is something like a - it looks like a - people - I mean, mice hold it in their hands – I mean paws and..." He didn't know what a train ticket looked like either.
"So a ticket is small?" Phelinius P. Myszkawitz helped him.
"Smaller than a mouse?"
"Well, it would have to be."
"Larger than a crumb of cheese?"
"Is this a ticket?" Phelinius asked innocently and presented Felix Schmelix a little piece of something.
"What in the world is that?"
"It's a part from a toy out of a Cracker Jack box. I found it lying around in the train station."
"Yes. That's a ticket. Give it to me and you can ride."
It was a good thing that Phelinius had such a ticket and that the conductor didn't know what a ticket was, because this conductor was in no position to stop the train. He was working illegally without a permit. The founder and sole owner of the railroad was a little - pardon - a big boy named Lenny, who would have been thrilled to know that a tiny mouse was traveling with his railroad.
So what could Felix do now? There were no more passengers to check and he didn't care to walk back and forth through the train all by himself. He sat down next to Phelinius and the two kept each other company for the remainder of the trip. Half of the time they debated mouse themes. The other half they observed the passing landscape.
"Oh look!" said Phelinius, "It's the kitchen again!"
As it became time for Lenny to go to bed and the train suddenly came to a standstill, Phelinius P. Myszkawitz told the conductor Felix Schmelix in a firm mouse voice, "I want my ticket back. The train has stopped moving!" And as long as Lenny still sleeps, the two mice are sitting in his train quarreling long into the night.
Special message: some weeks ago a gal named Sarah wrote to me about a "Stray Story Project" she is working on, and which sounded quite interesting. You people stopping by here are all so incredibly creative and veritable reservoirs of stories, I'm sure you will have something to share with her.
Postscript: For those of you who can read German, my cousin and adopted sister has a wonderful story about rats. I wrote the above story long ago for my son and wanted to finally post it somewhere. The above photo is as close as I could ever find to go with it. I have not had much time and mood lately to write, which is why I took a time-out in this manner. The story doesn't go with the photo, I know, but for what it's worth, it was one of my rare spontaneous inspirations. Thanks to all my dear commentors and story writers for this great round!