Margaret Mouse heard the scream from her son’s room and scurried, as fast as she could, to see what the matter was.
“Marvin! Marvin! Are you alright?” She tugged at the covers he had pulled up over his head, “Good heavens, child! What happened to frighten you so?”
From deep down under the covers a tiny voice answered, “Bug!” And, then he shivered, and he moaned, and he pulled the blankets more tightly around his head and shoulders.
“Oh Marvin!” “Bugs will not hurt you!”
“Goodness gracious!” she thought to herself. “Whoever heard of a mouse who was frightened of a little bug?“
After chasing the poor little ladybug out of the house, Mrs. Mouse scampered outside and down the side of the woodpile, and under the barn to the home of Alabastir Shrew who knew, she knew, almost everything about anything.
The shrew listened to her sad tale and said simply, in his shrewd voice that seldom invited argument or doubt, “Oscar!”
Mrs. Mouse was not at all sure Oscar was the answer to Marvin’s problem, but she was confident in the wisdom of old Alabastir Shrew.
The next afternoon, Marvin had finished his lunch of field corn and had stuffed his cheeks full of bluegrass seeds for dessert; some of which he would save for an afternoon snack. Marvin knew how lucky he was to be a field mouse. There was always enough food to eat, and there was plenty of room to run and play. In fact, were it not for the bugs and the farmer’s cat, life was almost perfect!
While scurrying around the woodpile with his friends, Marvin heard his mother yell, “Marvin! Come home! Someone is here to see you.”
Marvin dashed home with all the speed his little legs could muster. He knew in his heart he was the fastest mouse in the entire world.
Marvin burst around the corner of the woodpile, through the crack that led to his den and came skidding to a halt in front of the most frightening sight he had seen in his entire life. With his eyes almost popping out of his head, he screamed at the top of his voice.
He then raced to his room and dove, head-first, under the covers.
Mrs. Mouse brought her paws to her mouth and said, “Oh my!”
But Oscar only laughed, deeply yet quietly, in a manner common to giant wolf spiders, of which he was one. Then, he gracefully moved down the passageway and into Marvin’s room. With the deepest and most melodious voice in the land, he spoke.
“Marvin Mouse, why are you hiding so?”
“Bug!” was the only word the little mouse could utter.
“Bug?” Oscar replied. “I did not see a bug!”
Marvin was growing curious about this individual with the marvelous voice. Then, he remembered the huge, scary beast he had seen, and he shivered again. With his head still covered he said, “Surely you saw him? He was big and hairy and had over a hundred legs.”
“Oh, that was not a bug,” Oscar replied with a laugh. “That was me you saw. I am an arachnid and I have only eight legs.”
“Who are you?” Marvin asked, not yet brave enough to uncover his head. “Why are you here?”
“I am a friend of your mother’s.” Oscar answered. “She asked me to help get rid of the bugs so her little boy will not have to be afraid.”
“You can get rid of bugs for us?” Marvin asked in hopeful surprise.
“Getting rid of bugs is what I do best in the whole world!” Oscar replied proudly. “And your mother has asked me to stay until there is not one bug left in this entire woodpile!”
Marvin could scarcely believe it was true, but he was so happy. He was, also, curious about this new friend with a voice so deep he wanted to close his eyes and let the sound rock him to sleep.
“What do you do with the bugs?” Marvin asked, still a little bit afraid.
“Son, don’t you know anything about arachnids?” Oscar answered. Then he laughed his most contagious belly laugh and, sure enough, Marvin began to laugh as well.
By this time, Oscar explained that he was a giant wolf spider who ate bugs for supper, Marvin had quite forgotten just how frightened he had been.
Oscar did stay for a few days. and he ate lots of bugs, some of which Marvin chased into his new friend’s web. Best of all, to everyone’s delight, Marvin was no longer afraid of bugs. He also learned not to judge others by their appearance because even an ugly, hairy spider may turn out to be your very best friend.
Other children’s stories, by Mel Hawkins
Alibastir Shrew’s Loose Screw
The noise from under the barn was so loud Marvin Mouse heard it all the way from the woodpile. Marvin was curious and raced out of his room and down the woodpile and almost flew around to the side of the barn. On the way he passed Oliver Tortoise, who was on his way home from yesterday’s picnic.
He also passed Horace P. Toad who yelled for him to wait but Marvin was going too fast to hear old Horace, or so he pretended. He didn’t want to be rude, but the world’s fastest mouse can’t be waiting around for a slow, old Toad!
As Marvin turned the corner of the barn, he discovered half of the free animals of the barnyard had gathered.
Marvin heard the melodious voice of his good friend Oscar and the shrill voice of Alabastir Shrew from underneath the barn. Suddenly there was a puff of dust and out came Oscar, moving faster than Marvin had ever seen him go.
Oscar laughed his deepest, most joyful laugh, a laugh quite common among giant wolf spiders. He dusted himself off, then laughed again when he noticed the gathering of creatures.
“My goodness!” said Horace P.. Toad, “what in the world happened?”
Oscar just laughed again and replied, with a gleam in his eyes, “that old Shrew has a screw loose somewhere!” Then he shook his head and walked away, gracefully, as only eight-legged creatures can do.
“Oh my!” said one of the crickets.
“My goodness!” said Honey Bunny. “Alabastir Shrew has a screw loose somewhere!”
“How terrible!” added Horace P. Toad. “I wonder how it happened?”
“I didn’t know he had a screw,” said one of the Crickets. “How did it get loose?”
“What is a screw, anyway?” asked one of the Robins. “Is it dangerous?”
“I don’t know,” answered one of the Sparrows, “but we should all help him find it, whatever it is.”
“Let’s form a committee!” suggested the old Toad, showing the leadership that, he claimed, came naturally to amphibians.
They talked for several minutes, and everyone insisted they had the most perfect plan for returning Alibastir Shrew’s loose screw.
The noise became so loud Alabastir Shrew poked his head out from under the barn. “What in the world is going on?” he inquired. Shrews always inquire, they never just ask.
Jerry Jay spoke up first and loudest, puffing out the feathers of his breast with all the pride of his jayhood. “We have formed a committee to help find your screw and put it back where it belongs!”
“You silly bird,” Alabastir said. “What in the world are you talking about? I don’t know anything about a screw!”
“Well, Oscar said you had a screw loose!” Horace said.
“Don’t pay any attention to Oscar,” the Shrew said. “That spider has gone off the deep end,” and then he turned and scurried away.
“Oh my, Oh me!” said one of the crickets.
“Oh my goodness!” said Honey Bunny. “Did you hear? Oscar has gone off the deep end!”
“How terrible!” added Horace P. Toad. “I wonder how it happened?”
“The deep end of what?” asked Mrs. Robin.
Once again the animals argued about how best to rescue the spider from wherever it was he had fallen. In the end, Marvin, who was the only creature not just a little afraid of Oscar, was elected to go in search of the spider, who had last been seen entering the woodpile.
Marvin found his mother and Oscar together and he explained the entire chain of events. Oscar’s belly laugh could be heard by all, and it sounded so deep everyone was convinced that he had fallen so deeply off the end that it must be hopeless. They had all gathered to learn the awful truth when Oscar glided to the top of the woodpile where he could address them all.
“Creatures! Creatures!” he began in his most official voice. “You have gotten yourselves worked up over nothing. The Shrew and I were simply debating a point of philosophy and we got a little bit excited in the process.”
“It was nice of you to be concerned, but when I said ‘Alibastir has a screw loose somewhere,’ I was using a figure of speech. I simply meant that I thought Alabastir’s ideas were silly. When Alibastir said I had ‘gone off the deep end,’ he was using another figure of speech to tell you not to take me too seriously.
The other creatures just looked at Oscar.
“Does everyone understand?” Oscar asked.
The creatures, each in their own way answered that they understood.
“You mean the Shrew didn’t lose his screw?” someone asked.
“To my knowledge the Shrew doesn’t even have a screw.” Oscar replied.
“And you didn’t fall off the deep end?” another asked.
“Here I stand before you. I have fallen nowhere!” the spider patiently explained. “All of us use metaphors and similes when we speak.” Oscar added. “For example, I might say that you’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest. Or sometimes, when Marvin can’t think of anything to say, I might comment that the cat’s got his tongue. Or, I might say Margaret Mouse worked her tail off to build a nice nest for her children and you would all know what I mean.
“If you listen carefully while other creatures are speaking,” Oscar added, “you will hear many figures of speech.”
The creatures just looked at the spider and nodded.
“Now, go on about your business and keep your nose out of things that don’t concern you.” And Oscar strolled away.
“Did you hear that,” one of the sparrows asked. “Someone has stirred up a hornets’ nest!” and he flew off to alert his cousins.
Oliver Tortoise who was trying to decide whether he was coming or going, asked, “the cat got whose tongue?”
And, finally, Honey Bunny scurried back to her warren to spread the news that poor Margaret Mouse had worked so hard her tail fell off!”
The Fastest Little Boy Mouse in the World
As Marvin Mouse approached the corner of the woodpile he was at his top speed. Running fast was one of the things Marvin Mouse did best and it was one of his favorite things to do.
Lately, it seemed that running was the only way he could burn off his energy. Sometimes he tried not to run his fastest, but the energy would build up inside of him until he felt as if his fur was going to pop right out of his skin. That feeling would stop only when he ran as fast as he could.
As Marvin reached the corner, he tried to make the turn at full speed. Of course, he knew turning at full speed was a mistake, but he could not make himself slow down, so great was the joy of running. The sheer speed forced him to swing wide around the corner of the woodpile and he almost crashed into Honey Bunny, who was taking an afternoon stroll.
Honey’s instincts and her ability to jump high were the only things that prevented an awful crash. Her powerful hind legs propelled her into the air, as Marvin sped by just under her feet.
Her jump did save her from a collision with Marvin Mouse, but she jumped so high she came within a feather’s breath of Junior Jay. Junior was testing his wings for only the second time in his young life.
Marvin Mouse was aware of both near disasters as he sped away, and he did not wish to be rude, but he had no time to stop. Besides, it was no big deal. No one had been hurt.
By the time he reached the corner of the barn he had quite forgotten about it. At least he would have forgotten had his friends and neighbors allowed.
Marvin’s first reminder came when Jerry Jay swooped down from the sky and tweaked him in the head.
“Marvin,” the Jay squawked. “You stop right now!”
But, of course, Marvin did not stop. He assumed that his friend Jerry Jay was playing, and Marvin reached down deep inside himself and found a little more speed. “No one can catch me!” he thought to himself.
But when Jerry Jay stayed directly over him, he somehow found it within himself to run even faster. But no matter how fast he ran, Jerry Jay was there, flying over head.
“You stop, now, Marvin,” the Jay screeched. “I want to talk to you.”
Marvin paid no attention to Jerry Jay, and he kept running and somehow, to his surprise, he went even faster. He was sure no one had ever run this fast before and Marvin was just a little bit annoyed that the Jay was still there, right above him.
“Marvin! Don’t make me peck you on the head!” Jerry Jay shrieked.
“You’ve got to catch me first,” Marvin shouted.
Marvin Mouse tried but he found he could go no faster so, instead, he began to dart this way and that. He zigged and he zagged, but the Jay was with him at every twist and at every turn. And then, all of a sudden, the Jay was gone, and Marvin felt his chest swell with pride, knowing he had run so fast that even a blue jay in flight could not keep up.
Right at that moment Marvin knew he must surely be the fastest mouse in the world. He was about ready to scream with joy over his stupendous feat, when someone grabbed him by the tale and jerked him to a screeching halt. Marvin turned in anger to confront the culprit and found himself face-to-face, eyeball-to- eyeball, whisker-to-whisker, and nose-to-nose with the creature he most dreaded at times like these.
He found himself face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball, whisker-to-whisker, and nose- to-nose with his angry mother. Marvin had no idea how his mother could have caught up with him.
“Marvin Mouse! What am I going to do with you?” his mother asked, standing there with her arms folded and her foot tapping.
“What did I do?” Marvin asked. He could not imagine what he had done to make his mother so angry.
“Well,” his mother answered. “Tell me what you’ve been doing today!”
“Just running, Mom. Honest!”
“That’s right,” Margaret Mouse replied. “Running into creatures. Running past creatures so fast that you frightened them half to death. Running even when grown-ups asked you to stop.”
“But Mom, I didn’t hurt anyone!” Marvin protested.
“And just how would you know that?” Marvin’s mother asked. “You were so rude to our friends and neighbors you would not even stop to see if they were okay?”
Marvin Mouse did not answer his mother’s question as he was beginning to wonder how his mother could have caught him from behind. “Was it possible he wasn’t the fastest mouse in the world?” he asked himself.
He looked at his mother with new respect. He didn’t know mothers could run so fast.
Marvin’s mother took hold of both of his front paws and looked squarely into his eyes. “I am so disappointed in your behavior, Marvin. You are such a good little mouse, always so kind and considerate.”
“I’m sorry, Mom.” Marvin said, and he truly meant it.
“Of course, you are, now,” his mother responded. “But you could have injured someone just the same. Part of growing up is learning that we must always think of other people, even when we are busy having fun. You must be alert always, to what is going on around you.”
“Do you like our friends, Marvin?”
“Yes!” Marvin answered.
“Paying attention to your friends, being kind and thoughtful is how we show how much we care about others. When you treat them like you treated those creatures, today, it was like they did not matter to you.”
“Now,” Mrs. Mouse explained, “you must apologize to Honey Bunny, to Junior and Jerry Jay, and to any of the other creatures you might have frightened.”
Marvin Mouse knew better than to argue with his mother, so he started back toward the corner of the barn, looking to find the creatures he had frightened. He felt sad and embarrassed.
Suddenly, it occurred to Marvin that he may not be the fastest mouse in all the world, but he could still be fastest little boy mouse. That made him smile, and when he smiled, suddenly, he wasn’t sad any longer. Then, off he went, running once again, as fast as a little boy mouse could possibly go, to find Honey Bunny and Jerry Jay, and all his other neighbors.