Of Cheese and Other Things
Cecil (whom we shall call 'Ce', since that is what his friends called him) was lying on his red, car-shaped bed, his parents' second-birthday present to him the day before, and just relaxing, doing nothing. He figured that, after doing nothing for at least an hour, he'd go listen at the door to see if anyone important bearing sweets had arrived; namely, his grandmother. She occassionally dropped in for a visit, and most often brought some kind of treat secreted about her person.
Before he could start doing some more nothing, his mouse, (dubbed Sir Francis for reasons unknown to his parents but quite obvious to himself as the mouse had, in fact, requested the name in memory of his previous days as traveling companion of a knight, the existance of which Ce highly doubted) spoke up in his thin, wavering voice,
"I believe a piece of cheese would be greatly appreciated right about now."
Ce looked up from doing nothing and replied, "I'm sure it would. The question is, who wants to know?"
"Well, the appreciation of cheese, of course."
Sir Francis condescended, "It's not something you know. It's something you do. And, personally, I think it's you should be doing the knowing, seeing as you're bigger than me."
"I think you mean, 'bigger than I'," gasped Ce, now quite confused. "And I still don't see what this all has to do with cheese."
At this, Sir Francis' ears perked up. "Cheese? You say you have some cheese?"
"No, I believe I said something about the connection between cheese and the knowledge of - oh, never mind."
"I don't - I make a point not to. It gets you farther in life."
"Point to what?"
"Oh, I don't care what you point to, it won't make much difference unless you actually do something to it."
Ce scratched his head. He was really quite lost by this time. "I beg your pardon?"
"And you may have it. Well now, since you're quite finished, would you happen to have any cheese about you?"
Determined to be of some help, Ce quickly put his hand in his pocket to feel for the morsel, which, after a short investigation, proved to be non-existant.
"Sorry, Sir Francis, I don't."
"Don't what?" Sir Francis stuck his head out of the pile of shavings he was tunneling under during Ce's search.
"Have any cheese, of course."
"The aged mouse shoook his head. "Sorry, old boy, I haven't got any."
"No, no, I mean I haven't got any."
Sir Francis nodded understandingly. "Yes, I've had that problem many a day."
They carried on in this fashion until Cecil came up with a proposal.
"I could go down to The Cellar and get some."
The mouse clapped his paws and danced excitedly in a circle, trampling his newly-made woodchip tunnel in the process. Then he immediately set about advising Ce on what to take on his journey which Ce rushed madly about, getting this item or that item for his pack. Finally, he was ready to embark.
"Well, I'm off, Sir Francis. Wish me luck, and if I don't return, you are to have my car-bed, and the robin my coloring set. Mother and Dad are to have everything else." This being said, he struck a daring and adventurous pose, opened the door to his room with some difficulty, and swept out, shutting it behind him with bravado. Sir Francis pulled out a handkerchief and dried his eyes, then promptly set about unearthing his trodden-on tunnel, wondering who in the world could have destroyed it.
Cecil meanwhile was finding that preparation for a daring escapade in the company of encouraging friends (or mice) was quite different from the escapade itself. Quite frankly, he was scared.
He tiptoed carefully down the hall, his pack's hangings clinking together with every step. Something creaked; he whipped around with a clatter; but everything was still. He saw a solitary marble from his pack rolling innocently away down the hall. Slowly, with a gulp, he continued down the hall, holding his breath. The worst thing was passing the open doors. When one is alone and frightened, it is quite easy for one to imagine things coming out of gaping doorways (with evil intent, naturally). But he took a deep breath and continued (would this hall ever end?) until finally he came to the stairs.
Oh, the dizziness! Oh, the height! -But there is cheese to be got, he reminded himself desperately. -And, after all, I promised I would. So I'd better. With this resolution, he continued, crawling backwards on all fours down the staris. At the bottom, he stopped to rest and ate some peanuts he had packed for sustenance on his long journey.
The lower level was not so bad, filled with sunshine and familiar noises. Ce passed quickly and easily through the kitchen and arrived at the cellar door.
It was here that he came across a problem he had not anticipated. The door knob was at least a foot or so above his fingertips when he jumped with outstretched arms! Ce sat down to ponder this problem. If it had been a knob like the one on his door, a bar you have to pull down, he could have lassoed it with the cord he'd brought. But inspection proved it to be one of the round sort that you have to twist. And, since his twisting ability was limited to those things within his reach, it would remain closed.
In his distress, he began talking to himself. "Well, if only I had a large friend who could reach it... but I don't, so there's no use wishing. Now, if I had a ladder..." his gaze fell upon a small box and a very short three legged stool. "Aha!"
Soon he had the box under the doorknob. Then, after he carried the stool over and placed it on top, he began climbing his ladder.
This, however, did not work. All those who know anything about anything know that when you put a stool on the top of a box where the flaps meet and climb it, you will fall through. This was what the unfortunate two-year-old did.
At this moment, the cat chose to stroll by. Ce called out to it, hoping to acquire some help, seeing that cats are, in fact, agile and co-ordinated creatures. The cat (whose self-appointed name was Jessie) slowly padded over to him, looking as if she had planned to go in that direction all along. Ce asked her politely (for one must always be polite when talking to a cat) if she wouldn't mind climbing up and opening the door for him. And Jessie, after some debate on how she would be rewarded ("Of course I'd do it for you, but it is such a dangerous feat that I would require just a slight recompensation for my pains."), agreed.
She sauntered nonchalantly over to the table, climbed up its leg, picked her way among the various table settings thereupon, and jumped to the top of the refrigerator with ease. From there, she paused a moment for effect and then leaped out into nothing. With dexterity she swiftly laid hold of the door knob on her way down, giving it a single turn which left the door just a bit ajar, and then let go, landing on all fours gracefully.
Cecil clapped vigorously, much impressed. Jessie bowed ever so slightly and sat back on her haunches to wait for her reward (a saucer of cream). After many thanks (on Ce's part) and much loftiness (on Jessie's), Ce opened the door and disappeared into the gloom.
When he got in at last, he couldn't see a thing. Luckily he waited until his eyes adjusted before moving on (though afterwards he always claimed it was intuition), because when he could see, he noticed the long flight of stairs directly in front of him. Grisly images of what might have happened, had he pressed on immediately, popped into his head, but he firmly pushed them aside and descended.
Shelves upon shelves! So much food it made Ce's head light. How would he ever find a single block of cheese in this huge smorgasbord? But he swallowed his fear and began the search.
After a half-hour of searching, starting painfully at sudden noises, and fatigue, he finally uncovered both the cheese and the cream. With these he quickly headed back up the stairs. However, when he got to the foot of them, he could see no comforting light at the top! With his heart in his throat, he scrambled up them and found the door closed.
Ce looked wildly about and thought to himself, -I'll never get out, I'll rot in here. At least I'll have plently of food. I won't have to starve to death. Then he came up with an idea. Since the door had been closed, this meant that someone had closed it. And since it couldn't have been the cat, (-She was waiting for her cream,) Ce concluded that someone might still be there, not knowing he was down in the cellar (for only the cat knew that). Whereupon he began banging on the door and shouting.
Footsteps hurried towards the door and opened it, and Ce looked up (way up, for he really was quite a small person) and saw Mother. She had closed the door without knowing he was down there, and certainly seemed very repentant when she realized what she had done. Of course, Ce could not understand what she said any more than she could understand him, but tone of voice tells one much. After she had finished apologizing and he had retrieved the cheese and cream (the latter which he gave to the cat straightaway), Cecil began the much happier trek upstairs, to where an admiring but quite hungry mouse awaited him.
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