One sunny morning I went out into my garden through kitchen door to feed the birds. It was a lovely sunny day , the air felt fresh and cool, the sky was blue and a gentle breeze blew over the grass. I began to throw the bits of bread in my hand onto the lawn for the birds to eat, when suddenly I heard a loud squeak,
"Please, Please, Please."
I looked around to see where it came from. The door was closed, it could not be the hinge squeaking.
"Please, Please, Please," came the squeak again.
This time it sounded like someone talking in a very high voice, who could it be?
"Hello, who's there I cried.
"It's me, I'm here."
But I could see no one on the patio or in the garden. I looked over next doors fence, but there was no one there , just the usual weeds. "Where are you?" I called.
"Here, here." said the squeak.
I looked into Brian's garden, "Hello!" I shouted, but there was only Brian's big dog Lewis, in there.
"Rrrrfff, Rrrrfff, Rrrrfff," he barked.
"Shut up Lewis, this is my garden, just guard your own garden"
"Rrrrfff, Rrrrfff, Rrrrfff," came the usual reply.
"Oooohhhhhh, ooohhhhhh, don't let him in, I'm scared," said thensqueak.
Who on earth was it? I was very puzzled. I turned around.
"Ooooww, oooowww!!, Mind your big feet that was my tail!"
I looked down at my feet and there was a small mouse sitting on his hind legs with his tail curled right round in front of him and held in his front paws so that he could suck the end.
"That hurt", he complained.
"I'm very sorry," I said, "I could not see you there."
"Couldn't you hear me ?" squeaked the mouse.
"Yes. But I did not expect a mouse to talk."
"Well, I do, and if you could see and hear better I would not have a sore tail!"
"But, mice do not talk!"
"Not most mice but I am a rockery mouse. Rockery mice have always known how to talk because we are the oldest kind of mice in the world. We come from the rocks of Mount Olympus,where the gods of the Ancient Greeks lived. When that brave giant Prometheus first stole words and fire from the gods to give to his human friends we were there. The gods saw him and chased him over the rocks. In his panic he kept dropping word crumbs all over the place. Well, when the chase was over my ancestors, the Ancient Greek rockery mice came out of their holes in the rocks and ate up all the crumbs. Ever since then we have been able to talk all sorts of languages, even ones that had not even been invented then, like English.
"Well, I never knew that," I said.
"That is because your a stupid human being."
"Very polite I am sure. It's a pity Prometheus did not steal some manners from the gods and drop a few politeness crumbs around while he was at it." I said, "When my children were not much bigger than you they had better manners than you"
"Children! Children! There aren't any children in this house are there?"
"Oh no, more's the pity, they would have loved to meet a talking mouse. No they grown up now and gone to live in Liverpool."
"Good, because I hate children, nasty, noisy, nosey things, always poking sticks down mouse holes and trying to pick us up and stroke us."
"Well you had better watch out next week," I said, "because there are four children and a big boy coming to stay here, my great nephews and nieces,and they will be out playing in the garden."
"Oh no. How will I ever get enough food to feed my children. It is hard enough to to find food for them now, what with all the animals in this garden."
"Are you looking for food now?" I asked.
"Yes, that is why I shouted so loud."
"It did not seem like a very loud shout to me, more like a loud squeak."
"Well it was a very loud shout for a rockery mouse! That is how you did not think we could talk. We usually speak so quietly that people cannot hear us. As I said before you people are very stupid, not clever like us rockery mice!"
"And I said before, rockery mice are very cheeky!"
Well it is a very hard life being a rockery mouse, you would not get very much to eat if you were polite to all the bids and the rats and said, `Please, do go first, take all you want, after you I`m sure! We will wait` "
"Hmmph! " I said.
"Well, I said people are stupid, I did not think that you could be that stupid! What use is bread on the lawn to us! The starlings come down with their big sharp beak and poke you in the eye if you try to eat it, then when they have finished the blackbirds hop along with their big claws and grab it. They are supposed to eat worms, but do they? Oh no! They are too lazy and would rather eat bread, that is easier to find than hopping over the lawn listening for worms making holes and digging them out. Then the sparrows come and peck up all the crumbs, and the jackdaws and magpies grab all the big pieces in their huge beaks and fly off up to the chimney tops to gobble them. You might as well throw the bread in the bin as on the lawn for all the good it does us!.
"Well I`m sorry I`m sure. I never thought about feeding the mice. I like feeding the birds, it`s fun to watch them on the bird table and hopping about the lawn, especially the pretty blue tits and robins."
"Birds, birds! What do you want to feed them for? Now I know people really are stupid. Birds are nasty feathery greedy things, fluttering around and swooping at you just when you`re least expecting it. They haven`t got any nice soft fur and if you pull their prickly feathers off they have hardly got any tail at all," he said, pulling his long tail up again and giving it another lick.
"They just sit in the trees all day and half the night jabbering and squeaking away and doing messy white poos all over the place - look while you`ve been stood here talking that sparrow has just splatted a big black, grey and white one on your coat!"
I did my best to wipe the mess off with my hanky - "Well I agree with you about the droppings because the car parked out the front under the tree is always getting covered in them and needing to be washed, but I like to listen to the blackbirds singing."
"Singing .singing! is that what you call it? Those birds are disgusting - if you could understand bird talk like rockery mice you would not want to have to listen to them half the morning. That robin that screams from the tree by the shed, he`s a foul-beaked aggressive little yob. As soon as he hears another robin somewhere he`s off again. `Sod off you bastard, get out of my garden! Sod off, get out of my sight. Come any nearer and I`ll peck your bloody eyes out!` And that`s the clean version - I could not repeat the dirty version to human ears."
"Well, I did know that robins were a bit aggressive, but I like them. Its nice to hear them in the winter when all the other birds stop singing, but my favourites are the blackbirds in the spring."
"Blackbirds, blackbirds - they are even more disgusting than the robins."
"Why, why? I think they sound beatiful in the evening singing from the top of a tree or roof."
"You can`t call that singing - you might as well call striptease ballet!
"What do you mean? What are they singing ?"
"No, I couldn`t repeat it. It`s too disgusting it`s depraved."
"It`s alright I`m an adult , I`m over fifty years old. There is nothing |I haven`t heard before."
"Really I couldn`t repeat it, it`s filthy, too filthy to repeat to a human being. Look, this is the censored version:-
`I`m the biggest cock blackbird around here, come and lay eggs with a big cock blackbird. If you want a big black cock blackbird come and make a love-nest with me!"
"Well, that does not sound very depraved to me."
"I said it was the censored version. Just say it again and miss out all the blackbirds and then you`ll see what I mean."
"Oh...", I said. "Anyway, I still like the blackbirds and look forward to when they start singing again at the end of December. It always cheers me up in the middle of winter to hear that the blackbirds know spring is coming."
"Hmmph! They are just arguing and fighting over the best lawns and bushes. It`s `get off my lawn you bloody trespasser, that`s my bush - go and find your own you scrawny, broken feathered, mite ridden piece of pigeon squirt! I could ever understand why humans would stand around listening to such uncouth, foul language. And why do you want t o waste your good food on all those feckless, foul beaked birds when there are intelligent , civilised rockery mice going starving for the want of a few bread crumbs? There used to be bread crumbs on the patio beside the rockery , at least we had a chance to grab some food then before the birds got it all, but since that tall wooden table appeared in the garden we haven`t had so much as a crumb!"
"Oh, you mean the bird table."
"There you go again, - birds, birds, birds, that`s all you humans care about, not a thought for us poor mice. Last winter we were so cold and hungry we had to risk life and limb climbing up the table leg and down the wire holder with the peanuts in just to keep my grandchildren alive! I suppose you put the nuts out for the birds as well!"
"Yes, they`re for the the blue tits and great tits. You should be pleased about that because their proper name is blue titmouse and great titmouse."
"Titmice, titmice! What about the real mice. It`s not fair it`s Micism, Micism! There should be a law against it!
"All right, all right, you`ve convinced me. In future I will remember the mice. Tell me if you can speak does that mean you have a name?
"Yes, of course, all rockery mice have names, very old and proud names."
"May I ask what yours is, my name is Dave"
The rockery mouse sat up on his hind legs and drew himself up to his full height saying, "My name is Socrates, it`s a fine aristocratic name with three splendid syllables - not a weak monosylabic appellation like `Dave`."
"Actually `Dave` is short for `David` and though it only has two syllables it is a very old and Kingly Jewish name, at least as old as Socrates. I am just called Dave for short and because it sounds friendlier than David. Socrates is a bit of a mouthful, especially for rockery mice with very small mouths. Don`t you have a pet name among your friends and family?"
"Well ........., yes"
"Well then, what is it? I have told you mine."
"No..., I`m not saying."
"Oh, go on it can`t be that bad. I promise not to laugh."
"Come on I`ll give you a bit of bread if you tell me." I said, holding up a particularly crusty piece of granary bread with lots of nice bits of toasted wheat in the crust. The rockery mouse looked up at it his eyes glinting brightly and tiny mouth moving and salivating.
"Oh, all right , they call me .. Old Socks."
"Old Socks! Ha, ha, haa, haa! Sorry I just could not help it, what a wonderful nick name."
"Where`s my bread then?" Old socks said indignantly.
"Here Socrates." I said as gravely s possible, "Take this with my apologies for laughing. I think that you are a very brave and intelligent mouse - though with a tendency to be a little cheeky - and you thoroughly deserve to have such a proud and philosophical name as `Socrates`. If you agree to talk to me again, I will promise to always call you by your proper name of Socrates , and to further express my apologies, I will go and get you a large piece of cheese for you and your grandchildren. How is that? I cannot say fairer than that." Old Socks took the piece of bread between his front paws and began chewing thoughtfully a large well toasted grain of wheat.
"All right," he said politely, when the grain as gone at last, "Your apology is accepted, and if e can come to some suitable arrangement about the cheese and other titbits, I will agree to meet you and socratically discuss the affairs of the garden with you."
"Right then." I said "I will in future put plenty of bread on the patio here beside the rockery, and go and get the cheese now and leave it here as well."
"No! No!" said Old Socks, "That is the main reason why the Rockery Mouse senate asked me to come out here and speak to you in the first place. Even the Patio is too dangerous now."
"Too dangerous? Why?"
"It is that big black murderer of course."
"Who can you mean? There are no murderers in Gosforth, I hope."
"Yes, yes, that cat."
"You mean our pet cat, Bobby."
"Your Cat! Are you saying you are harbouring a murderer, humans are so inmusane, how can you keep a mouse killer in your house - and provide a door specially for him to get outside and chase the mice. We have heard the squeaks and seen the blood, he`s too slow and stupid to catch rockery mice, but he kills baby birds and the baby field mice from the compost heap and hr tries to catch rockery mice. We used to be able to hear him coming , but since he lost his collar with the bell on he has been a menace. The other night he gave Old Cronos such a biff with his right paw tat he could hardly run back to the rockery and had to stay in bed for a whole week, to let his back and left leg to recover."
"Yes," I said, "I forgot he likes to go out hunting in the garden at night. I am sorry, it is all my fault. He did not lose his collar. Last summer he had fleas. They were a terrible nuiscance. They used to bite him and make him scratch so much his neck bled, but worse was they hid in our carpet when he was asleep on it and jumped all over the place. I had to do something, so I bought him a new collar with a special smell to kill the fleas. I never thought about replacing the bell when I replaced the collar. All right. This is what I will do. I will buy him another collar with a new loud bell and put it on with his flea collar. I will move some of the rocks in the rockery to make a nice hole for putting out food where the birds and hedgehogs cannot get in to eat it and you rockery mice will not even have to come out of he rockery to collect it. Next week as I said, my great nephews and nieces are coming to stay for the holiday....."
"Children!, Children! Oh no!" exclaimed Old Socks, "First you set your cat on us and now you are going to set children on us. I can`t take any more. We`ll have to move and find another rockery and another garden to live in. Oh dear, Oh dear, it`s all too much."
"Listen, listen," I replied quickly, "I will write the children a story about |Rockery Mice and tell them how to behave when they play out in the garden. , and I will ask them to put some bread and bird food in the feeding hole in the rockery every day while they are here and you will get to learn that human children can be very kind and considerate. And if they like the story you can tell me more about all the things that happen in the garden at night and about the history and philosophy of the rockery mice. I will put it down in as book for children to read and understand about rockery mice. How is that? Is it a deal?"
Old Socks sat on his hind legs and thought for a bit.
"All right." he said, "It will be very good for human beings to be properly integrated into Rockery Mouse Society, and this sort of Educational Program is just the right way to go about eliminating Micism all over England. The Ant-Micism Society will be very pleased.
If you put a large rock over the hole in the rockery it will make a fine dining hole for us, and stop anybody from trying to put a paw down while we are eating. Then when you want to talk to us you can just bang on the roof of the dining hole and if I am not too busy keeping an eye on young Plato teaching the next generation of Rockery Mice Philosophy in his new Academy I will come out and see you."
"Agreed," I said, "I will go and get that cheese now" . I went to the fridge for some cheese. There was a small piece of very hard, very strong, Parmesan cheese that I thought the mice would probably like but I knew that if I gave them that my wife, Mavis would put on her hen face and give me a good pecking for using her best organic Parmesan to feed the mice, so I cut a large lump off the nice piece of Jarlsberg she had bought me for my sandwiches at work, as well as the stale end of a French Stick that I was going to eat for my breakfast. I took them back outside to give to Old Socks. When I got back outside Old Socks had disappeared together with his piece of granary bread. `He must have gone back to the rockery to keep an eye on Plato,` I thought. So I moved two large rocks to make a mouse sized hole in the rockery and found a third that would make a nice roof for the feeding hole. There were some gaps in between the big rocks and I filled these with smaller ones so that even the tiny wren that lived in the bush behind the rockery would be able to get in and steal the rockery mice food. I placed the food in the hole and replaced the roof, then went indoors for my breakfast.
That evening when I came home from work I went straight into the garden to check the feeding hole in the rockery. All the food had gone. The rockery mice must have taken it back to their homes in the rockery, so I went back inside to find Bobby the cat and show him the nice new collar I had bought him from Consett Market. He was not very pleased and wriggled and scratched when I tried to put it on, but at last it went around his neck. Now whenever he gets up off his bed by the radiator, or comes in from the garden through hi little cat door in the kitchen door you can hear a pleasant high tinkling sound, that is especially loud to a mouse.