Danielle N. Calhoun
Tear drops falling from my eyes;
the music of my heart suddenly died
I spoke to you as more than a friend
I called you a Sister, and forever you remain
deep in my heart where music once dwelled
I feel regret for what, who knows
what the hell
The rain of tears falling from my cheeks
suddenly feels like knives on my face
The bitter heart that once had mended
now has broken once again
The music I heard when we spoke offline
must have been angels
even though I knew not why
I spent my lifetime trying to make friends
only to feel the heart ache and pain
of losing those who mean so much to me
I already miss you Tina
One day we shall meet
where angels dwell and sun fills the sky
and the music of my heart
will once again bring sunshine
©Copyright September 2, 2008 by Danielle N. Calhoun
A MOUSE ABOUT TOWN
It has only been a few days
The flag half staff
flowers still fresh
the cemetery plot
bearing a name
Calhoun County still mourns
and a little mouse wanders
wondering what for
Snippets of cheese
she used to get
she was not
She shuffles along
on tiny feet
tail on the ground
a tear like a rain drop
falling to the ground
the little mouse alone
scampering about town
She reaches the plot
after hitching a ride
on Calhoun Country Transit
on the bumper, what a ride
Laying a piece of paper at the site
her tiny teeth holding it just right
She’d written a poem
with the tip of her tail
She will always remember
the lady so well
©Copyright September 5, 2008 by Danielle N. Calhoun
I CAN’T STAND THIS ANY MORE
The tears still fall
when I see your name
and I hear your voice
I saved it on my answering machine
and still cry all the same
I knew you for a while
much like others who passed
I grieve if only for a while
but this grief sure feels like hell
You passed just after I
finally opened up my heart
and you called me sister
I wish that I could have known
that soon after you’d be gone
I would have spoken more
without a single hesitation
I hope you’re still my sister
I wish I could stop this pain
©Copyright September 6, 2008 by Danielle N. Calhoun
Introduction: Mouse Tales is dedicated to the memory of Tina Rice, a beloved writer and member of the International War Veteran’s Poetry Archive and various other online groups.
Tina was a military veteran, and a good friend to those who knew her. Her writings on Calhoun County, and various other works, are my inspiration for this site and the story it contains.
This is the story of the perilous adventure of Mouse, a little critter with the heart of a lion and the spirit of a stallion. Free and beautiful, she will take you places you probably never dreamed. But once you finish this journey, you will (hopefully) want to come back for more. This story is a work in progress, so please, don’t hesitate to bookmark it!
Danielle N Calhoun
All the trouble started the day her favorite human left her. The little girl’s mother had forced her to give up her mouse, demanding its capture and release far away. Now alone, her body matted from the rain, Mouse sat shivering in a shoe box going where she knew not. Suddenly she felt the box falling. Her cardboard prison slammed to the ground. She could have escaped – thanks to the lid popping off; but her body was too frail to run. She lay there breathless and weary.
A cat started sniffing around. No!
She closed her eyes and curled up, hoping to look like a ball, or a rock, anything the cat would not want a taste of. The cat sniffed around closer and closer to the box. Mouse tucked in her tail. If the cat saw that she was done for. She dared not let out a squeak. What’s that? Barking?
The cat flew off with the little girl’s red Labrador in fiery pursuit.
Soon it was quiet again. Rain fell in a soft mist, keeping her coat matted. Renewed with fresh hope and energy, she raced to the backyard and rushed to a certain bush she had once lived in. It wasn’t much, but it allowed her to dry herself off and calm down. So weary, she thought, I need sleep.
Mouse woke up to a rustling noise. The rain had stopped. Or had it? She looked around and found herself in what appeared to be a gopher hole. What gopher could possibly have had the courage or strength to carry a mouse into its home? She opened her eyes wider.
A sweet voice said, “Well, it’s about time you woke up.”
A large rodent, not a gopher, sat in a chair made of twigs and grass. She was stirring a cup of what smelled like… ? Mouse had smelled it on occasion before, while talking to her friends in her human’s window. Dandelion tea. That’s what it is.
“What’s your name, little one.” the prairie dog asked. Her voice was nearly a coo.
“I’m Mouse….my human calls me Mouse…… but she had to give me up.”
“I see. Well my little friend, you are not ever going to have to worry about living alone again. You may stay here as long as you wish. Just be sure to watch out for Manx and Rocky. Those two animals can be very rough; they always try to intimidate us here out here on The Farm.”
A little plot of land in the middle of the Australian outback, The Farm was not a farm per se; rather it was a shelter for lost or mistreated animals. The humans who ran it could ill afford to take care of all the animals. But they did what they could to keep them alive and healthy enough until another larger shelter, or sometimes a zoo could take them in. The man human tried to chase off any prairie dogs; that or catch them and get them off his property, but not the woman human. She tried to convince him that all God’s creatures had a place; even if it was under ground, below their vegetable garden or anywhere else they might live.
The road they lived on was dusty. Anytime someone came to collect the animals, they knew they were coming from far away. Dust would rise in an approaching cloud as the vehicle pulled over the hill on the horizon. But because the rain was so severe the day before, they didn’t see this one coming. Without the usual advance warning, Mouse and Prairie Dog were surprised as they heard that familiar sound. Then a big black car pulled up to The Farm and parked.
A man in a black suit got out. As he walked over to the man in the field, the daughter ran into the house in hysterics.
“Momma, Momma – they’re back. They’re going to take the farm!”
Momma hugged her and said, “They can’t, Hon. They have no right, we are a working business.”
They both walked outside, the little girl holding tight to her mother’s skirt, whimpering. The father walked up to the man in the suit and said. “You have no right coming here. We have orders – you can’t just come here anytime you want to.”
The Black Suit Man sighed and said, “Oh, but I can. You have to hand over your farm, or it’s being torn down.”
“With you around, it would be torn down anyway. We’re not leaving.”
The father took the paper he was handed and tore it to shreds. His faced reddened.
“You have no bloody right being here. Now get off my property!”
Momma held her little girl as she cried. She had never seen her father so upset. Father sat on the chair on the closed-in porch, sighing as he said, “No bloody right, that man has no bloody right.” He stood and stomped his foot. “We are a working business!”
Momma finally calmed her daughter down and sighed herself. She said, “Perhaps it’s time we do settle. The animals are almost gone, and they have that new hospital in town, it’s a wonder we get any animals here in the first place anymore.”
“Momma,” the little girl said, “Can I go find Mouse? I really want her back.”
“No, Hon. She was too sick for you to keep. You can’t have a mouse running around; it would only eat our grain and make the other animals sick.”
“You need to listen to your mother, Anna,” Father said. “You know good and well, we can’t have our animals getting sick. Although those damned prairie dogs could sure use a lesson too.” He walked over to a rough patch where they had started a garden, pointed in disgust and said. “See, they did it again.”
“That’s not prairie dogs, Hon,” Momma said, “It has to be that badger down the road. It’s been coming and going ever since you started that garden with Anna.”
“Maybe. But those prairie dogs are always running around making holes, caving in some spots – it’s making our place look like a crater.”
Mouse had heard and seen everything. She was sitting by one of the fence posts that Prairie Dog had indicated would be a safe lookout spot. She scurried back to the hole and exclaimed through heavy breathing, “They – they – they’re going to sell the farm!”
Prairie Dog got up from her chair. She seemed way too casual for Mouse. “No they won’t. They’ve never done it before, they won’t do it now.”
“But what if they do? Anna will be so sad. She will be away from everything she knows. She’ll never be able to see me again.” Mouse’s eyelids fell to half mast over her brown eyes as she cocked her head to the side in a pout. A tear slipped over her furry left cheek.
Prairie Dog just smiled. “Are you sure about that?” She strolled over to a metal matchbox drawer where she stashed various things, shuffled around a bit in it, and then produced a photo. She showed it to Mouse and said, “Take a look at this.”
There was Anna, her beloved little girl human. It was an up-scale city setting, and Anna was much smaller than she was now. Prairie Dog explained that Anna’s family once owned a well-to-do shop. They had been forced out of their store and their livelihood. The store they owned burned down in a great fire that consumed everything in its path. It destroyed the entire block where their store had stood. Since they hadn’t had enough money to rebuild, they had taken over the little sanctuary once owned by little Anna’s Grandmother who had later passed on.
Prairie Dog nodded to where the humans still stood talking. “That garden there? That’s where she’s buried. That’s why her dad is always chasing things away from it. It was his mother, and he misses her. Terribly.”
Mouse heaved a weighted breath and slumped into a bed of twigs. Prairie Dog knew she didn’t have to continue the story. Mouse realized now why Anna had wanted to keep her. When Anna had first found her, she was sitting on Grandma’s plot under a tulip leaf, small and frail, and Anna must have felt it was her Grandmother’s way of bringing her a little friend to play with. She had been living with them for a few months before the Black Suit Man first came around. Then The Black Suit Man started coming around often, and Anna would run to her room crying every time. She would talk to Mouse, and Mouse would do her best to listen, to try to understand Anna’s anxiety. But it was human talk. All Mouse really knew was Anna was sad.
Mouse thought back to all those days she had spent in The Farm house while Anna was in school. Mouse would sit in Anna’s bedroom window and talk to Blue Jay who would fly in often to see how she was doing. She would tell him everything Anna had tried to tell her, and he’d tell her everything he thought he knew. He too had once been Anna’s pet; but when Anna’s father found him in her bedroom, he asked her to leave him outside. He didn’t want bird droppings all over the place.
A few days had passed since Mouse had decided to stay on with Prairie Dog. The ground was nearly dry now, and she had learned how to do things she could’ve never done in a cage. She learned to leap. Really leap – higher and higher and farther and farther. She learned to sniffle out her own food, rather than just standing on her hind legs to get at the food Anna used to give her. She also discovered a hidden talent. As she was scurrying about one day she was startled by a sudden noise and found herself squeezing under a fence post. How a mouse could do that and not get hurt she wasn’t sure, but it was awesome!
She befriended other animals on the sanctuary. She met a Goose with a broken beak, a duck with a tear in her webbed left foot, and a mean looking mouse. This mouse was extremely large and flabby. Not at all toned like her. Mouse’s fur was silver brown and his was black – so black she could barely see his eyes. One day she was nosing around close to him when he was eating. He looked at her and growled, “Get away from my food.”
Mouse triple quick-sniffed the air. Rotten apple cores, spoiled cabbage and some other garbage. The rankling airborne assault caused her snout to twitch and her face wrinkled in disgust. “I’d rather not eat your ‘food’ – if that’s what you call it,” Mouse said as she scampered away. He is so big and scary looking. And anyone who would eat such trash – yuk. She picked up speed and was about to turn the corner toward Prairie Dog’s hole when suddenly-
“Now now, don’t go off so fast.” Big mouse was right in front of her, standing on his hind quarters, looming over her like a tower of bad breath. He’s not only big and ugly, she thought, he’s sly and cunning too. And fast. How’d he know how to get here so quick without me seeing him? Mouse was nervous – scared, in fact. The big mouse surprised her as he said, “I’m so sorry I was mean to you. I’ve never met a mouse such as yourself around here.”
Mouse let down her guard some, still cautious. She said, “I’m Mouse – and you are?”
“Rat. At least that’s what the humans call me.” He shrugged. “They don’t like our kind, always chasing us away. I won’t leave though; I’m too brave for them.”
Mouse giggled and thought he’s not so bad after all.
A bag slammed to the ground. Rat jumped two feet in the air as Mouse recoiled in fear.
Father, carrying grain to the horse stall, had spotted Rat. He yelled at his wife who was feeding the Emu, “Helen! It’s that damn rat again. Where’s my hoe?”
Helen heaved a long breath and said, “Well just make sure it’s not Mouse. Anna can’t keep her inside I know, but she can at least visit her out here. Please don’t kill her.”
Father huffed and muttered as he grabbed the hoe and said, “I hate mice, and I hate this damned heat. The garden’s going dry and the damn watering holes are bloody warm. Not good for the animals.”
A horse’s sneeze broke the air and its feed bag went flying. Thousands of little grain missiles pelted the old oak floorboards as Mouse and Rat stared at the scene.
“Damn!” the Father human shouted, “Helen!”
Helen was so sweet, no matter how irritated her husband was. “I know, I know… now you need the broom.”
Mouse and Rat breathed a collective sigh of relief as Father walked into the horse stall to clean up the mess.
“That’s old Pete,” Rat said. He and Mouse relaxed under a floorboard where they could not be seen. It was dank and dark. The place reeked of droppings, but Mouse didn’t recognize them as mouse droppings. She turned up her nose and asked, “Where are we, Rat?”
“Well, it’s not much, but it’s home.” Rat pushed aside cobwebs as he and Mouse crept through a corridor. “Old Pete’s been ill since they brought him. It’s a wonder they’ve kept him this long. He was a rescue.”
“What about the farm?” Mouse said.
“What about it?” Rat looked Mouse in the eye. Omigod, he thought, I’m attracted to her. He kept staring.
Mouse gave him a quizzical look after what seemed an inordinate time for him to be staring so and said, “Are you listening to me?”
“Wha – ?” Rat gulped and blinked his black eyes. “No.”
Yes you were, and we both know it.
Mouse giggled and thought, foolish Rat. She said, “I was telling you what Prairie Dog told me about the Humans and the Farm.”
Rat snickered. Suddenly – a noise – what was that? Floorboards creaked above them. They both peeped through a knot hole to see what it was.
Helen was in the kitchen; she was baking bread and humming a tune.
Helen answered, “Yes? Yes, this is she. Anna? Oh no, what is it? Oh dear, we’ll be right over to get her.” She hung the receiver up and ran to the back of the Farm House shouting, “Pa! It’s the school. Anna’s taken sick again. You’ll need to be picking her up right away.”
Rat and Mouse heard the father groan and huff. He dropped what he was doing, bolted out the front door to his truck and drove off, leaving a cloud of dust in his trail.
Mouse looked over at her new friend. “Rat?”
“How do humans get sick?”
Rat thought for a moment. Then he said, “I’m not sure, but Anna’s been ill for some time. She’s got something they call a sickness, but that’s about all I know. She’s had it ever since I’ve known her. Some of the other animals, the ones that will speak to me, tell me she’s had it since they moved here.”
Mouse thought about this for a moment and shook her head as she thought; I wish I could understand these humans.
Rat knew what she was thinking. “I know. Humans are hard to figure sometimes.” He did that silly shrug of his. For such a great big rodent he sure could look goofy. Mouse was starting to be endeared with him.
Soon after they went back outside and there was Prairie Dog was waiting for them. She looked Rat up and down and said, “You haven’t been taking care of yourself, old friend.”
Rat snorted and said, “I’m not interested in your tea rituals and mud baths. I’m fine.”
Prairie Dog said goodbye to Rat. She started leading Mouse to their home and said to her, “Young Mouse, you really need to be more selective in your friends, my dear.”
Mouse pondered this, and then said, “Why?”
Prairie Dog didn’t elaborate, but Mouse knew what she was thinking, because she got that look she always had when a Prairie Dog was troubled about something. There was something Prairie Dog didn’t like, and Mouse knew she was soon going to hear about it.
“But Mommy!” Anna protested later that evening, “I don’t want to go to bed. I want to go out and help Daddy with the Garden!”
Anna loved the Garden. She often referred to it as Granny’s Garden, and she thought so many times of that time when she found mouse, so small and so frail lying under the flower petal.
She had been sick herself for some time, but no one knew what it was, or how to control the sudden episodes of convulsions.
They did not know until weeks after Granny died that Anna had Epilepsy. They could not, or at least, from what Prairie Dog told Mouse, would not pay for any treatment, which they felt was too experimental at that time.
Father was so distraught about the diagnosis, that he often blamed himself for it, saying Anna was his Angel, and he did not want to lose her as he lost his mother. Mouse listened to the tale of when Granny was found passed out on her sofa by a church friend, and how they tried many times to revive her.
It never was discovered what caused her to die the night they found her, but she seemed at peace, so everyone just felt she knew she was going. Before she died however, she did talk to her church friend. She told her to tell her family that she loved them, and that they would all one day meet on the other side.
Granny was such a loving woman, and a church patron above and beyond
what others expected of her at such a frail age of 90 years old. Anna was her little angel, and when Anna found out from her parents that Granny died, and that they inherited her old cottage in the outback, she begged them to help her make a garden.
So, tonight was really no different than any other night, except that after today’s episode, mother insisted that Anna stay put and not leave the house for anything unless the doctor told her otherwise the next day.
Anna huffed and ran back to her room, where she kept the little cage she made for her little Mouse and cried into her pillow saying, “Oh mouse, where are you…… “
Mouse and Prairie Dog both sat below the floor level bedroom and Mouse said in her heart, I’m here, Anna, and I’m not ever going to leave you.
Prairie Dog and Mouse went back to her hole. Prairie Dog said, “Mouse, you must realize something, something very important about Rat.”
Mouse expected this, but pretended to be shocked as Prairie Dog sighed and started her tale of Rat.
Prairie Dog sighed, deep and long. She said to Mouse, “Rat is a very disgusting creature. He is unclean, unmannered, and most assuredly un-likeable. I want you to stay as far away from him as possible. He carries germs all over the place, he is the reason the feed is tainted, he’s the reason Pete is ill, and he… “
Before she could continue, Pete the Horse could be heard neighing as the sounds of men trying to hold him steady became a barrage of, “Hold him down.” “He’s going to buck, watch out!” among other various words that Mouse blushed over.
Father had called in the local vet. It meant a lot of money for them to pay, but he hoped it would be worth it as he allowed the horse to be examined.
Pete was horrified. Never in his life had he been tied down like this. They placed a harness and a muzzle on him, and one man, the younger of the two, held what appeared to be….what was that thing called? Mouse had seen one once before… a needle? Yes, it was a needle.
Pete bucked and reared hard as the needle was thrust into him. The young man ended up on the floor while the older gentleman, the vet himself, steadied the horse saying, “Damn it Tim, I told you to hold on!”
Tim was shaken, but stood as he said, “I tried, sir, he’s just too strong for me.” They steadied the horse to the floor, and as they did, Anna came running out of the house.
Father shouted, “Anna, get back inside, girl.”
Mother was out hanging the wash during the entire episode. She had not heard her daughter as she sneaked out of her room and across the hall to the very door she was standing beside. Mother scolded Anna and demanded she get back inside. She then turned to Father and said, “You make sure that Pete gets tended to. I’ll take care of Anna.”
Anna begged to know what was wrong with Pete. Mother said, “He is ill, Anna, the vet needs to look him over to decide if we should keep him or let him go.”
“But Mommy, Pete’s my best friend. Why can’t I be there with him?”
“Pete is too big for you, Anna; you would be hurt if you tried to help your father and the vet, sweetie.”
“Are they going to shoot him?” Anna asked, wide eyed, “I don’t want them to shoot Pete.”
Mother sighed and said, “Let’s hope not.”
“Well, here’s the problem right here,” The vet said as he examined Pete’s hind quarters “See that bump there, it’s infected. No wonder he won’t pull the plow for you lately, he must be in terrible pain. And that cough, that’s something else altogether, has he been exposed to tainted grain?”
Father looked around for the feed bag he had opened up to feed Pete for the last week. They looked around the bag. Father located it and upon examination found small holes in it. Tiny, but not too tiny for little varmints to crawl in.
“You have mice,” the vet said. “You need to get this place fumigated. There’s been a terrible mess of illness among farm animals this year.”
Father agreed, indicating he heard about it over the radio and said, “What about my wife and daughter. Are they going to catch it?”
“Fortunately, no. But I suggest you flush out whatever mice you have. The prairie dogs may be annoying, but you must get rid of any mice you see.”
Anna was incensed as she listened through the screen. She stomped her foot and said, “NOOOOOOO!” as she burst out the door. Before she could reach her father, Pete woke up and started moving around.
The vet’s assistant had just finished dressing Pete’s wound when the horse coughed and sneezed and began to stir some more.
Confused and frightened, Pete reared quick as a whip and bucked into father, who fell back hard against the wall. Mother rushed out, pulling Anna back and screaming for father.
Mouse watched in shock as Pete ran and disappeared in the distance. Everyone was so concerned for Father they had not noticed Pete running.
Mouse and Prairie Dog stared as mother tended to father. He was still conscious, but his speech was a bit slurred, and he complained of pain in his back and legs. Fearing a head injury, the vet called for help on his radio.
©Copyright 2008 by Danielle N. Calhoun