Little Mouse and the Penny from Heaven


Little Mouse darted amidst the beanstalks, dodged the ladybugs, and nearly trampled poor old Mr. Devilfish on his way to work, chittering with glee. In his mouth he carried a shining thing.

"Mother! Look! I have found a golden penny! We're rich!"

Mother Mouse sniffed contemptuously and turned over the manure pile. The old mushroom farm, twenty thousand leagues deep, had been with the family since the earth was young, and Mother Mouse had tended to it faithfully for as long as anyone in the ettin-patch could remember.

"We are rich, mother! I've found a golden penny! Look!"

Mother Mouse still did not respond, her attention diverted by a worm who had been staring at one of the mushrooms too long. A snicker-snack! of the mushroom-scythe took care of that.

"Mother! Have I a golden penny found! Rich we are!"

Mother Mouse sighed and handed her mushroom-scythe to her faithful serve ant, Helios, for cleaning detail. She slowly turned around, her blue eyes smouldering. Little Mouse knew that little was more capable of drawing Mother Mouse's ire - and thus her attention - than grammatical substandardness, especially from relatives.

"What is it? Have you finally repented of your wayward wanderings, child?"

"Even better, mother! I've found--" was all that managed to come out of Little Mouse's little mouth, as the handle of Mother Mouse's other mushroom-scythe knocked the pretty little coin out of Little Mouse's hand and sent him sprawling amidst the bags of despair-spores.

"Foolish child! We can't eat gold! Gold does not live, it does not grow, it sits around and amounts to nothing. Our mushroom farm has gone on since the earth was young, and I have been tending it for as long as anyone in the ettin-patch could remember. Now put that abominable trinket back where it belongs before you infect something!" And so, despondent with rejection and the seasoned aroma of the despair-spores, Little Mouse hung his head in shame and walked out.

"And take it with you too, for the love and forgiveness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!" Mother Mouse threw the penny at Little Mouse, faster than light could travel, and it hit him fair and square on the head.

And so Little Mouse set off on his journey to put the golden penny back where it belonged. He sulked past poor old Mr. Devilfish on his way home from work, he passively suffered rapine indignities by the ladybugs because he couldn't be bothered to dodge, and trundled past the beanstalks at a snail's pace, too sad to even pull his pants back up from around his ankles. Hanging his head in shame, he didn't look where he was going and ran into a beanstalk.

"Why hello there", said the beanstalk. "You must be one of the mushroom mice! Why so glum?"

"I don't want to be a mushroom mouse", said Little Mouse. "The caves are deep and dank, and we grow so much despair we can't even eat it all! If this keeps up we will dig our way to the other side of the earth, on the night side where the sun never smiles and only volcano gods and bat guano provide light and life!"

"It can't be so bad", said the beanstalk. "I've known some very good friends who ate bat guano for a living. Ah, Celeste, you were so beautiful, you were so free..." And the beanstalk said no more.

And Little Mouse took the old beanstalk's advice, and hung his head a little less in shame. And he also took the old beanstalk's silence to be consent, and climbed him up above the clouds, into the high-lands where "ettin" was spelled with a J.

Up above he found that it was lighter, because the sun was so close. "Will you move please, Little Mouse?" demanded the sun, who was unused to such a rude violation of her personal space.

"But you are so warm, and I like to touch you!" said Little Mouse unapologetically. The sun flushed red with embarrassment, and flared at him angrily, glaring at him from her ten thousand black spots.

"Have you no shame, mushroom-mouse? You eat only of despair and your people dig to the other side of the earth, on the night side where the sun never smiles and only volcano gods and bat guano provide light and life! And yet you steal the golden pennies of our realm, and violate the personal space of mighty celestial bodies, and - the shame! - are honest about how you feel? Get off my cloud, and descend whence you came!"

And Little Mouse grew angry, and his blue eyes smouldered with anger that burned with the light of a thousand black stars. "Now listen here, sun! I will do what I like, and touch what I touch, and steal what I steal, and return to its place what I will! And no one here will stop me! Watch as I lunge for your black-spotted eyes!" And with that he turned and ran, for with his words the sun unthinkingly covered her eyes with her flares (she was more proud of her eyes than her flares) and the eyes, being magnetic, would not let her flares go. She screamed and charged after where she thought Little Mouse had gone, and the poor old beanstalk burned up and was no more.

Little Mouse darted amidst the quasars, dodged the star-dryads, and nearly trampled poor old Mr. Devil on his way to work, chittering with a panicked, gleeful terror. In his mouth he carried nothing, having long forgotten the golden penny.

Celeste sniffed curiously and turned over to the other side of her bed. The galactic honeycomb, flowing twenty thousand leagues up, had changed hands every week for as long as anyone had known, and each owner in turn had died a horrific death on their way down. Celested hated the place, but for the one little clouded atrium where Hope grew, deep within the middle of the comb.

"Hello? Is anyone there? I won't steal this galactic honey, I promise, flow as it may twenty thousand leagues up!" promised Little Mouse, hoping for some hospitality in this land of pennies and personal space.

But Celeste was lonely, and instantly saw that Little Mouse was well endowed with gifts...

[There is a lacuna in the text, lost in the cosmic gamma fires set during the Battle of Ti Emai.]

And so Little Mouse returned to the clouded atrium where Hope grew, and happily tended the plant for all his lifelong days.