“Excuse me, excuse me, move over, coming through, ahem, pardon, beg yours,” said the mouse, as he scurried rather randomly through the empty field. Mice are by nature nervous, for extremely understandable reasons, but they’ve adapted by talking nonstop to no one about nothing. The talking developed as a technique to divert their attention away from an unresolvable problem, Death.
A well-cared for pet mouse would be proud to live to the ripe old age of four, but a field mouse, living in the wild, would be lucky to make it half that long. The spectre of Death comes in so many forms. Owls, house cats, foxes, hawks, snakes, falcons, bobcats—just about every carnivore in the whole wide world has occasionally (or often!) snacked on a defenseless and death-defying rodent whose fear has been transformed into an endless monologue intended for, and heard by, no one.
“It’s entirely possible, by which I mean entirely true, that the rain we expected so fervently last week has been rescheduled. In a certain light, that blade of grass could easily be mistaken for a tree if I were much smaller and had no concept of either. I sincerely believe that a rock makes a terrible bed and yet rivers insist on them,” muttered the tiny mammal as he gathered seeds and such for supper.
A mysterious voice
“To whom are you speaking?” said a voice, as high and as clear as the wind itself.
“The most important part of any meal is striking the right balance between eating and running,” replied the mouse. Actually, replying might be an optimistic interpretation of the mouse’s intent. In fact, he hadn’t heard the other voice at all. It’s really hard to hear while you’re talking—try it!
“I would be so happy to share my moment with someone,” said the voice that moved through the ear of the listener like a soft spring breeze moves the leaves of an aspen tree.
“I would be happy for a moment of shared insurrection, provided nothing would fall directly on me,” replied the mouse, who, in a weird and pretty incoherent way, seemed to be intuitively replying to something not exactly heard yet not precisely unheard.
“Oh my,” said the voice that coaxed baby birds from their nests and into the arms of air currents and updrafts. “I wish you could see me before I’m gone. It would mean so much to me to know that someone knew I was here.”
The mouse felt a sudden yet undeniable urge to sit down and look straight up. He had no idea why, but the itch needed to be scratched, so he sat down, looked, and shut up, in that order. This was the first time his mouth had been closed since his weaning. The silence was terrifying. He was about to restart his monologue when he finally recognized a voice other than his own.
“Oh mouse, you do hear me,” she said. The relief in her voice sounded like giant raindrops on a sun-parched land.
A perfect dandelion
Oh yes, the mouse had heard. Looking up, he saw delicate salmon sun rays bending down to kiss the gossamer wisps of the most perfect dandelion. A halo of soft pink light outlined the insubstantial lace that was her head. The evening breeze gently tussled the delicate bloom and it bent slightly, demurely, in the mouse’s direction. He did the only thing a mouse could do in such a situation: He fell immediately and completely in love with her.
“I once met a peculiar woodchuck that turned out to be an unspectacular sheep. We were both disappointed,” said the mouse, with a tone of extraordinary import. When you talk constantly yet say nothing, it can be quite hard to do the reverse. He took a deep breath, mustering all of his will and internal fortitude, and said, “By which, of course, I mean that the sun has never looked so beautiful as it does shining through your perfectly perfect perfection.” As he spoke, the colour of his nose suddenly rhymed exactly with the sun’s salmon rays. He would have looked down in embarrassment, had love not made him bold. Well, bold for a mouse, which is not exactly bold at all.
“Thank you,” whispered the voice that recalled the sound of willow branches gently stirring the surface of a stream.
The mouse was so moved by the dandelion’s beauty that huge tears pooled in his eyes and eventually splashed down on his toes.
“Why are you crying?” asked the dandelion, tenderly.
“I love you,” said the mouse. “I love the way your voice sounds like every beautiful thing I’ve been too scared to see. I love the way your head bends and sways with the breeze, so delicate but so strong. I love the way I feel when I talk to you. I love you.”
“How lovely,” breathed the plant. “I am here so lightly and for so short a time. Nothing has ever loved me before. You must’ve learned to love the leaving thing if you can give your heart to me.”
“Leaving?!” cried the mouse. “But where are you going? And if you must go, please, oh please, let me come too.”
“Oh, sweet mousie,” the dandelion said, her voice so like the puff of wind a hummingbird makes in flight. “To love me truly, you must love the thing that cannot stay and that you cannot follow. You must love me now for my being here but also love me for my going. To love the temporary is to love my very nature.”
“Oh flower, oh bloom, oh blossom, how unfair to organize my thoughts only to have them speak of loss,” sobbed the mouse. His tears had formed a small puddle around his feet. “Your beauty has divined poetry from my madness, sonnets from my insanity and love from my frightened, quaking heart. Tell me that you will stay, or take me with you, and I will build ships to launch in your honour, palaces to house you and armies to protect you.”
Neither will nor way to stay
“Sweet mouse, I’m so sorry, but I’ve neither will nor way to stay. The wind makes my decisions and chooses for me my time. When it’s my time for leaving, you’ll feel an empty place where I used to be. At first, it’ll hurt as if your heart is starving. The heart must open to allow your love to encompass loss and, in opening, there is pain. But over time, the hurt you feel will begin to remind you of our time together. Instead of crying, you will smile, remembering. And you will find a specific place in your heart that keeps my love brand new. True love is an alchemist; it transforms temporary loss for eternal love,” said the dandelion, so tenderly that a bee listening nearby would never think honey as sweet again.
As her words were spoken, a large gust of wind blew across the field that was once empty and was now quite full. For a moment, the dandelion was quite still, and then, just like that, she burst apart and lifted on the wind’s wings. The mouse saw her fill the sky, just for the merest moment, and then she was gone.
The mouse threw himself on the ground and wept. He wrapped his little mouse paws around the stalk, all that remained of the flower he’d loved, and cried.
“Why do you weep, mouse?” asked a beetle passing by.
“I loved a dandelion and she is gone,” he replied between sobs.
“Don’t be silly,” advised the beetle. “There are thousands of dandelions in this very field. They all look exactly alike. If you’re foolish enough to love a dandelion, take heart. They’re everywhere.”
The mouse listened to the beetle and sadly shook his little head. “I have loved a dandelion that is different than all other dandelions. It’s my love that made it unique. It gave me eyes that were able to see into its soul, and changed my own. There are no other dandelions in the world for me.” He fell back to sobbing.
The mouse was sad for a very long time. When he thought of his lost flower, tears would well up in his eyes and his throat would start to lump. He still missed her beautiful head and the sound of her voice that was like the sigh the wind makes just before it blows itself out. His stomach was never hungry, but his heart felt empty all the time. In a way, he loved the emptiness because it reminded him that she’d lived there once.
Reopening of the heart
“Sometimes when the summer comes sauntering from the south, I sing stupid songs to the sun’s spectacular show,” said a tiny, mousy voice. “If I walk over here, I shall only barely still be over there, I dare say,” it went on.
Mouse peaked out from behind the stem he could not seem to leave. He saw a tiny mouse, scurrying and talking to itself, as he’d done not so long ago. He realized that he loved the little thing, if only for the fear it would have to overcome to love him back.
Kathy lives in the Midwest (U.S.) with her significant other, their four horses, three dogs and a sweet old cat. In between feeding and vacuuming, she writes.