Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Mouse and the Moon

© 2015, by Anthony Kosky. All rights reserved.

A long time ago, in a land far away, there lived a small mouse.

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “That’s not a very interesting start to a story. After all there are mice in almost every place on earth, and mice, or their ancestors, have been around for a hundred million years or more1.”


But this mouse was unusual. Her name was Guinevere and she liked cheese.

Of course now you’re probably saying to yourself “But all mice like cheese,” and you’re right. At least most of them do.

But here’s the thing: Guinevere Really Liked Cheese. I mean she really, really, REALLY liked it. Even other mice thought she was pretty fanatical about it. She had a large burrow with many rooms and tunnels, and it was always full of cheese. There was Havarti in the hallways, Chevre in the cellars, Brie in the bedrooms, Compté in the cupboards an Tomme on the tables. And of course there was chedder: chedder was everywhere. Guinevere collected all the cheese she could find. Once she rolled a whole wheel of mimolette all the way home only to find it was too big to fit in her hole, and it sat outside her front door for a month before she ate enough that she could fit it inside.

But it wasn’t just that she liked to collect and eat cheese - she also studied it. Her thesis on Sheep Cheeses of the Eastern Himalayas was considered by many to be the definitive work on the subject, and her paper entitled “On the Benefits of Washed Rinds” had lead to a small revolution in the manufacture of goat cheese. She had served not once but twice as the keynote speaker at the annual conference of International Mouse Association’s Special Interest Group on Blue Cheese.

One warm, summer evening Guinevere was lying in a field of grass looking up at the sky -- she’d just finished her dinner of Fioré Sardo with a little fresh sheep’s milk cheese for dessert, and was feeling pleasantly drowsy -- when she noticed the moon hanging in the sky. It was aperfect, round, silvery disk, against a backdrop of black pricked with thousands of glittering st ars.

She remembered a nursery rhyme that her mother had sung to her when she was little.

The moon’s a great big ball of cheese
Hanging in the starry sky
It hangs upon a great cheese tree
Please don’t ask me why.

“But I wonder,” she thought, “what kind of cheese is it.”

At first she thought it might be a giant chevrot. “But surely,” she said to herself, “there aren’t enough goats.” She wondered if the craters might be the holes in a Swiss-cheese; perhaps a huge Gruyere. “But the colour is wrong,” she thought. The more she thought about it, the more puzzled she became, until she decided she just had to find out for herself.

First she tried to reach up and grab a piece of the moon, but, even standing on tip toes she couldn’t reach it. “Oh well,” she thought, “I am a mouse after all”. She tried jumping as high as she could. She went to fetch a big block of Jarlsberg from her larder, another of Cheshire, and one of Camembert;  piled them on top of each other, and climbed  to on top of them, but the moon didn’t seem to get any closer. When eventually, tired and frustrated, she gave up, it was nearly morning. “Tomorrow,” she said, “I will get a step ladder’.

The next night Guinevere borrowed a step ladder; she dragged it to the top of the tallest hill she could find; she stood on tip toes; she put a cardboard box on the top step of the ladder; she stood on tip toes again, this time on top of the cardboard box. And yet, try as she might, the moon seemed just as far out of reach as ever.

“It’s odd,” she thought as she balanced on the edge of the box one last time, stretching out her paws as far as she possibly could, “but the moon seems a little smaller than it did yesterday”.

The following night Guinevere borrowed a trampoline from a friend.

She jumped. She bounced. She leaped. She went up …

and down …

and up and down and up and down, getting higher and higher and higher. And yet, she still could not reach the moon.

By the time she was finished she felt quite queasy and dizzy. So much so that she had to make herself a midnight snack - a little Roquefort on a toasted breadcrumb - to settle her tummy. As she nibbled she thought to herself, “The moon really does seem a little smaller tonight, but how could that be?”

The night after that Guinevere went to the forest. She searched for the tallest tree she could find, an ancient, towering oak. She climbed to the very top, and clutching tightly to the topmost branches with her hind paws, she reached up as high as she possibly could.

This time there was no doubt. Where the moon had been a perfect round circle, it was now an oval, as if someone had been eating away at one side of it, while leaving the other side alone.

“Someone,” she said in shocked disbelief, “is stealing the cheese.”

In the nights that followed Guinevere tried everything she could think of to try to reach the moon. She climbed mountains and towers. She took the biggest ladder she could find and balanced it in the high branches of the oak tree. She even asked a bird to pick her up and fly her there, but the bird said she was too busy looking after her eggs. I’m sure if rocket ships had been invented then, she would have tried one of those too. But she still could not reach the moon.

And yet clearly someone else was able to reach it. For, night after night, it got smaller and smaller, until half the moon had disappeared, like a Crotin that had been chopped straight down the middle.

Guinevere decided she must find out who was stealing the moon, and put a stop to it. She asked everyone she knew. She tried a private detective, Philip Micelow, who promised to investigate but came back empty pawed. She asked all the cheese industry insiders she had as contacts, but she could find no clue.

By now the moon was almost gone, only a thin sliver remained, and Guinevere was getting so worried that she almost lost her appetite. Even a particularly pungent Gorgonzola did little to calm her nerves.

“Perhaps it is the cats,” she thought to herself. “After all, they love to taunt us mice.” But no, she knew that cats had no interest in cheese.

“Maybe it’s the rats,” she thought. “But no: the rats are greedy, and some of them are evil, but none of them are very smart.” No rat would be be able to steal the moon.2

“So it must be a mouse,” she concluded. “But it’s much too much cheese for one mouse to eat, so they must planning on selling it or giving it to other mice.”

And then Guinevere came up with a plan.

“Maybe I can’t find out who stole the moon, or even how they did it. But if I can convince the Mouse Who Stole The Moon, and all the other mice that might want some of it, that it isn’t made of cheese at all, perhaps he will put it back. After all,” she thought, “I do have some influence.”
The next morning she phoned a radio talk show. “I’ve just found out,” she said, “that the moon isn’t made out of cheese at all”. Then she typed a long letter and sent it to all the major newspapers.

That night the remaining sliver of moon looked a little bit wider.

The next morning the New Mouse Times published Guinevere's letter in their editorial column. The headline read “Shocking New Scientific Discovery: Composition of the Moon Mostly Rock”.

That night the sliver of moon was a bit wider. “It’s working,” Guenevere thought, “but I must make it stick”. She stayed up late that night trying to come up with a new rhyme. The next morning she went to the school playground and taught it to the little mice playing there.

The moon is just a ball of rock
It’s not a tasty treat
If you bite it you will break your teeth
It isn’t good to eat.

All day the children sang the song to each other. That evening they went home and sang it to their parents and grandparents.

The next day the parents called their  nephews and nieces, cousins, and uncles and aunts. Soon mice everywhere were singing it to their children at bedtime, and the children were singing it to their friends at school next day.

In the mean time many important mouse scientists and scholars chimed in, agreeing with Guenevere. They didn’t want to seem left out, so they cited new evidence, trying to pretend they had also been part of the great discovery, or that it was what they had thought all along.

And every day the moon got a little bigger.

Soon mice everywhere believed that the moon was not made of cheese, and, of course, all the other animals, and the humans, learnt it from the mice. And soon the moon was a full round circle once again.

In fact Guinevere’s plan worked so well that, in a little while people forgot that they’d ever believed that the moon was made of cheese, and started to think it was just a silly story for children. And so it is that, even today, if you were to ask your parents, or your teacher, or a scientist from NASA, what the moon is made of, they’ll probably start talking about rocks, ice and mineral compositions. And, if you tell them it's actually made of cheese, they won't even believe it.

But You and I and Guinevere know the truth.


2 The author would like to emphasize that these are the opinions or the character Guinevere and are in no way condoned by the author. Rats are not evil: they are highly misunderstood creatures and are, for the most part, good natured and kind. Now squirrels on the hand...

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