"Hum-de-dum-de-dum-de-dum... Hum-de-dum-de-do..." I sang softly, sidling up to Peep #1. "Oh Peepers, have you been in the front hall lately? I think Mason pooped in your shoe."
"Mason did what?" the peep cried before dropping what she was doing and running into the hall. In a flash, I was up on the kitchen island and had snagged a brick of cheese. Heading into the family room, I heard the peep behind me saying, "No one pooped in my shoe, Seville."
"Did I say shoe?" I called back to her. "I meant litter box. Sorry," and I waved her off with a paw.
"You told the peep I pooped in her shoe?" Mason cried, paws placed firmly on her hips and looking rather indignant.
"Never mind that, Mason," Anderson told his sister before looking at me to ask, "Seville, did you get the cheese?"
"I got the cheese."
Hearing my answer, Rushton appeared in the room. "Did someone say cheese?"
The four cats stared down at the brick of cheese before them and began to purr, loudly.
"Gosh that was good," I said, wiping my mouth with a paw. "Time for a nap, I do believe." Anderson, Rushton and Mason nodded in agreement before heading off to their various favourite sleeping spots. I, myself, jumped up onto the chesterfield and settled in for a snooze.
"Psst... cat. Psst... CAT! CAT!!!"
I opened one eye to see a little grey mouse before me, holding a clipboard. "Awww... MOUSES!" I cried.
"Your assistance is required," I was informed.
"My assistance is required. My assistance is required? Of course my assistance is required!" and I flung my front paws up in the air. "What is it this time? Someone lose their cheese?" I asked the mouse.
The little grey mouse stared back at me. "Lose their cheese?" he asked.
"Never mind. It's just an expression," I explained, rising to my paws. "Lead the way oh royal mousiness. Your desire is my command."
Again the little grey mouse stared blankly at me. "Another expression!" I cried. "Boy-oh-boy-oh-boy... MOUSES!"
I watched as the little grey mouse surveyed the family room. He quickly scribbled some notes on his clipboard and although I tried to get a glimpse of what he was writing, he held that board close to his chest. Besides, the little I did see told me he was using cursive writing. Might as well have been in secret code as cursive writing is no longer taught in Nova Scotian schools. Clearly the Mouseland schools have recognized the shortsightedness of this.
Stopping in my tracks, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was different. Was it the mouse? No, he looked like all the other Mouseland mice. Was it the cheese? Had the cheese I had recently snacked upon been off in some way? I glanced around the room and saw Mason snoozing peacefully over on a chair. Nothing had upset her tummy and she had eaten as much cheese as I. Maybe even more. Clearly, the cheese had been okay. So why did everything feel different in some way?
"Are you coming?" the mouse asked impatiently and I picked up my pace. As we rounded the corner, ribbons of light swirled before my eyes as time and space morphed into what I had come to know as the great halls of Mouseland.
I could hear the sounds of construction going on in the back corner of the hall. Several mice were wielding saws and hammers and goodness knows what else. The commotion was both annoying and interesting at the same time and I made a mental note to investigate the first chance I got.
A second little grey mouse came running to the side of the mouse who had summoned me and was now whispering in his ear. Together, they conferred over the notes the first mouse had taken at my house. The second mouse nodded enthusiastically in agreement. "Oh yes, yes... Most definitely yes," I heard the second mouse say. "That should do nicely."
I stuck my nose between the two mice before asking, "Anyone want to enlighten me as to what's going on?"
The second mouse coughed nervously before saying, "Er-hem... We're going to need your condominium, Mr. Cat. It is required."
"IT'S WHAT?" I cried. "Wait a minute, I don't have a condominium. I live in a house." Then it came to me and I knew exactly what the mice were on about. "You want my kitty condo. Well no can do, my friends. That condo belongs not just to me but to my fur-sibs as well. Besides, moving it requires peep assistance. No way for cats and mice to move it on their own. It's too heavy, you see."
I sat back on my haunches, remembering the time Constance had taken a running leap, almost knocking the kitty condo down, thereby moving it without the aid of peeps but quickly decided not to mention that incident to the mice. That condo was staying in my family room no matter what.
I stared at the mice and they stared right back. "How come you guys need a condo, anyway? No condos here in Mouseland?" I asked.
"Our main residence requires repairs," a third mouse answered as he approached. "It is currently unfit for mouse occupancy."
"That's awful!" I cried. "Look, I can certainly commiserate with you. Every mouse needs a house but tell me, how did it get so far gone? Hurricane? Tornado? Flood? Some other unexpected disaster like a newly purchased high-powered vacuum with cyclonic speed?"
"None of the above," the first mouse sadly shook his head. "Nothing so unforeseen. It was simply neglect. Years upon years of neglect. Warnings were given. Warnings were ignored. Now the residence is practically falling apart. We're making repairs as fast as we can but," and the mouse pointed to the far corner of the hall where I had noticed construction being done earlier, "as you can see, they won't be completed any time in the near future."
"WOW. I feel for you, guys. Really, I do. Looks like you have a big old mess on our paws but," and I narrowed my eyes, "you're not getting my kitty condo and that's just how it is. MOUSES!"
The great halls of Mouseland suddenly became deathly quiet and I'd swear you could hear a kitten's whisker fall on a deeply piled rug.
"What can I say, mice? The condo belongs to us cats. Besides, I'm not sure if you noticed or anything but it's not in all that great shape, either. Needs some new carpeting in spots. Got my paws crossed Santa will take care of that in a couple of months."
"Anyway," and I strode across the hall with an air of determination, "exactly who is to blame for your residence falling apart? Someone must be. Someone must be responsible for the neglect. Make him fix it up. After all, it's kind of HIS FAULT!"
At that, all the mice began to talk in unison but I couldn't make heads nor tails about what they were saying. The mice who had been working in the construction area began constructing once more and I crept up behind them. Suddenly, one turned toward me and put down the hammer he was using.
I peered at this new mouse and licked my lips with a grin. I even made a sudden move towards him but alas, I couldn't spook him at all. He stood his ground and smiled back at me, almost knowingly.
This mouse was different from the rest and that was for sure. He had an air of authority about him and confidence, too, and yet not so overly confident as to be annoying if you know what I mean. He was clearly in charge but not bossing everyone around.
I approached closer, giving the air a good sniff. "Excuse me, Sir, but you don't smell quite right for a mouse in charge of this place.. I don't smell any of that stinky ol' Gorgonzola cheese at all." I inhaled even more deeply. There was a cheesy smell all right but not... "Cheddar!" I cried. "You've been snacking on Canadian Cheddar. Ten... No... Twelve-years-old. Am I right?"
We were nose to nose now, this new mouse and I. I gazed into his eyes and wondered, could this be The Big Cheese in disguise?
"Of course!" and I slapped a paw to my head. "You changed your hair. I should of known. NICE. Yup, yup... Very nice hair, indeed."
I turned to the little grey mouse who had summoned me earlier and whispered in his ear, "Get the name of his groomer for me, would you? I could do with a groomer like that. He's good."
"So why AM I here?" I asked. "Anyone know? Taking my kitty condo is a non-starter but I'll tell you what I will do. I'll lend a paw with helping to fix up this residence of yours. What needs to be done first? Might I suggest you get rid of these Gorgonzola cheese crumbs lying about?" I picked up a couple crumbs and tossed them out of my way. "Crumbs like that are gonna stink up the place, for sure."
Grabbing a broom, I started sweeping the area and noticed the mouse with the nice hair heading back to his work, hammering supports together for what I assumed was part of a foundation. "Seriously, mouse," I cried over to him. "You really ought to make whoever refused to take care of this mess earlier, fix it up now. After all, if the place hadn't been neglected for so long, it wouldn't have fallen into this state of disrepair."
And then all of a sudden, just for good measure and kind of on a whim, I cried out at the top of my lungs, the cry of my people. "MOUSES!" I yelled. I yelled as loudly as I could.
"Mice," I heard echoing from all four corners of the Mouseland hall. "The plural of mouse is mice."
"Nice to hear the Grammar Mice Police are still with us," I smirked to myself. "I was wondering when they'd make their presence known. Was even kind of missing them, there, for a moment at least. Thought they might all have gone home."
Then back to work I went, sweeping Gorgonzola cheese crumbs off the Mouseland residence floor, surrounded by mice who were busily repairing damaged floors, walls and ceilings along with goodness knows what else.