The Mice
Jo Hewlett

    Once upon a time, there lived in a large grand piano a colony of mice. They were good and happy mice and they somehow knew that they were greatly blessed. Beautiful green felt was provided everywhere for them to eat, and when this became sparse it was miraculously renewed; and, for their special delight, heavenly music played, filling the air with tinkling sounds.
    Sometimes a dreadful crashing and banging was heard in the piano, and then the mice knew that God was angry with them. As soon as the cacophony began they would run away and hide and say their prayers. Before long the beautiful music would start again and they knew that God had forgiven them.
    Sometimes, above the sound of the music, the mice could hear words floating through the air. Then the wise old mice would tell them that these words were the names of God’s angels, so these names were always used for the baby mice when they were born.
    There was one particular mouse whose name was Chopsticks. Now Chopsticks never accepted anything without questioning it. The wise old mouse who taught him his lessons, and whose name was Do-stop-that-noise, got quite tired of answering his endless questions.
    “What does God look like?” enquired Chopsticks.
    “No-one has ever seen him,” replied Do-stop-that-noise, “but we believe he must be very wonderful to behold. His tail would be long enough to go right round the piano; his paws, though strong, are surely very gentle, and his whiskers must be longer and whiter than you could possibly imagine!”
    “How do you know?” countered Chopsticks. “Where does God live?”
    “Up there!” said Do-stop-that-noise, pointing with his paw. “Up there, where the heavenly music comes from.”
    And with that, Chopsticks had to be content, although he had many more questions running round in his head.
    As he grew older, Chopsticks was determined to go exploring in the mighty piano. He and his little sister, Minuet, would lie in their nest at night and plan how they would go adventuring in the dark recesses of the piano, where no mouse had ever set paw.
    When Minuet grew up she quite forgot their plans. She married a handsome, ginger mouse called Chopin, and they had three baby mice: Pizzicato, Andante and Jazz.
    But Chopsticks never forgot his plan to be an explorer, and, when he was old enough, he set out on his great adventure to find answers to all his questions.
    For many days he travelled, squeezing himself through narrow places, heaving himself up onto dark, slippery ledges, until at last he found himself in a great cave. He saw, with amazement, great wire cables, thicker than his tail, suspended across the cave. Chopsticks stared at them with his mouth open, wondering what their purpose could be, when, at that very moment, a tremendously loud noise rang out, quite clearly emanating from one of the wires. Chopsticks reeled back in terror, covering his eyes with his paws. There was another note, and then another. As he recovered a little from his fright, Chopsticks realised that each of the wire cables was giving out a different note. What did it mean? He didn’t know what to think. Do-stop-that-noise had never taught him to expect anything like this. Greatly wondering, he made his way home.
    When he arrived back, the other mice were delighted to see him as he had been gone for over a week and they had feared that he was dead. When he told them all about the great wire cables stretching across the mysterious cave, as far as the eye could see, they were amazed.
    “Do you mean that there is no God up there?” asked a thin, white mouse called Ivory. “Does all the music come from these wires?”
    They were all very puzzled, and talked and argued about it for hours and hours, unable to make sense of it or make up their minds what it could all mean.
    For a long time the mice continued to live in their colony, but they were not quite as sure of their simple faith as they had been. The older mice still believed in the benign and bountiful God who sent their food, played them beautiful music, and allowed them to call their children after his angels. But the younger mice were beginning to believe that there was no God, and all the music came from the wire cables in the heart of the piano.
    After a long time, another adventurous mouse, called Forte, decided to set out and discover, once and for all, what was the secret of the Universe. He followed in the paw prints of that famous explorer, Chopsticks, and, after a long and dangerous journey, he arrived at the cave of the singing wires. Forte decided to explore even further into the mysteries of the piano, in an attempt to find out where the heavenly music really came from.
    He noticed that the wire ropes were thicker and further apart at one end of the cave than at the other, and he worked his way along until he came to the thickest wire. Forte gave a great spring in the air and landed, swaying slightly, on the wire. As soon as he had properly regained his balance, the gallant mouse ran along the wire into the unknown. To his amazement he saw before him a row of enormous, wooden hammer-heads stretching away into the distance, and, while he stood precariously balanced, the hammers suddenly started to descend upon the wires in a rhythmical manner!
    Forte struggled desperately to maintain his balance. The whole world seemed to be singing and vibrating madly so that he thought that his head would burst. He jumped off the wire and retreated, with great relief, into the darker, quieter recesses of the piano.
    It was several minutes before his head stopped throbbing and he could hear the normal sounds of everyday life again. Greatly shaken, he made his weary way home.
    In hushed tones he told the other mice what had happened.
    “There is no God!” he said. “And the music doesn’t come from the wires alone! The music comes when the wires are struck by mighty, wooden hammers!”
    The mice nodded wisely to each other, feeling sure that at last they knew the secret of the Universe; and, with this deeply satisfying thought, they made their way back to their nests where they lived happily ever after …….. and the little girl continued with her piano lessons!