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TITLE: A Doubtful Solution
By Janice Cartwright

Children ages 5 - 8. This story is meant to entertain but at the same time carry a humor-padded message about thinking through choices.
I always thought of myself as a fat, jolly mouse but after those last few months at the parsonage I could hardly recognize myself. Have you ever heard the expression, "poor as a church mouse?" Well I am here to tell you a parsonage mouse is even poorer.

Now just in case you don't know, a parsonage is a house for a parson and the thing is Parson Bellow was way too neat. Oh he was good in many ways, gentle and kindhearted, and like most Welsh rabbits he had an excellent singing voice. But so rarely did he spill any crumbs (quite frankly he loved to eat), that I often went without.

In fact it was on one of my hungriest days that I decided it was time to gather my few possessions and set out in search of a new home. I hated to do it for I had often felt the parson to be a lonely soul, but you see I had no choice.

"Now where is my knapsack?" I muttered, as I rummaged through the mousehole. Suddenly I remembered I had eaten it one evening for dinner. Now that should tell you just how far down I had come in the world. Few possessions indeed! I had NO possessions, with which to embark on my new life.

So - with nothing but lean hopes and the fur on my back I set out. Luckily I hadn't gone far before I came upon a likely house. And right in my own neighborhood. Two rabbits I had heard about lived inside: a grandfather rabbit named Grandpa and his grandson, a bunny named Duffy.

As I crept toward the house my nose began to twitch - a sure sign I should pay a visit. And so after working my way through a small opening no one but a mouse would see, I took a fast tour of the kitchen. I was convinced I need search no further. Crumbs were plentiful and easy to be had. "The mousehole's a bit dusty," I noted, glancing around, "but there's always time enough to tidy up."

So I hung my name plate (picture of label from aspirin bottle) and I was in business.

But trouble seemed dog my heels in those days. All too soon a relative of the rabbits, an Aunt Fluoridine Thompson, came along to threaten my new and easy life.

"I've decided." Florrie announced, fastening the door behind her," the two of you need someone to cook and clean up after you. As yet she knew nothing of me.

Though deep down Aunt Florrie probably had a good heart, she also had a determined look about her that made me nervous. She was tall and angular and she had ticked fur. From the very first, she took over.

"What's this?" she questioned, pointing to a mountain of yellowed magazines. They were Grandpa's hoard collected over the years. She suggested that Grandpa 'get rid of the old things' - or she would!

After that it wasn't long before she discovered Duffy's insect collection. "Bugs carry disease you know!" she advised, with a sorrowful look at the dried-up shells. "You'd better take these out to the shed!"

Grandpa and Duffy were miserable; they didn't know WHAT to do. But when Aunt Florrie came home armed with 2 mousetraps and a chunk of rat cheese, I felt it was high time somebody took action.

Early next morning I called my two best friends. They were Simon, a rabbit Duffy's age, and Tweedy, a bluebird. I know, I know - rabbits and birds don't usually pick mice as friends, but I guess I was just blessed that way!

"Simon, I began, with only a small nose-wiggle, "Are you aware that Aunt Florrie is causing Duffy and Grandpa big problems."

"Yeah, Duffy told me!" Simon shook his head. "He said she's a good cook, but she keeps trying to organize him. He doesn't want to be organized and neither does Grandpa. She made them get rid of all their favorite stuff!"

"It's even more serious than that," I groaned, forking my eyebrows into a shape to match my voice. "Now she wants rid of me!"

"No way!" Simon's eyes got big.

"It's true," I said. "And just when things were looking up for me."

"Boy, that is just a pity," Simon looked so pathetic I almost felt guilty. "You must despise Aunt Florrie! Now I was sure Simon was more than a little upset on my behalf.

"No, no," I answered, pulling at my whiskers, "mice become accustomed to being unpopular, but I do need to do something and fast! I thought of a good plan, but I need you and Tweedy to help."

"What is it?" Simon wanted to know.

"Yes, tell us!" Tweedy was nearly jumping off her perch.

"Well, tomorrow Aunt Florrie will be baking pies. She bakes three every Friday you know and sets them in the window to cool. Simon, I want you to come over tomorrow and steal one of those pies."

"What!" Simon gasped. "Stealing is wrong - and it's dangerous! If my mom found out she would ground me 'til next January. And no telling what Pop would do. Forget it!"

"But if you gave the pie away, it wouldn't really be stealing would it?" It was a ready answer I was soon to regret. You see I knew stealing to be wrong even if one does give away what one steals.

"Well. . . " Simon sounded unsure.

I tried to appear thoughtful, "I guess I could always move in with your family."

"Okay, so who should I give it to?" Simon was suddenly more positive.

I thought I had it all figured out. "Simon, you’re going to need your running shoes. After you snatch the pie, you’re to take it up the street to the parson's house. Parson never locks his door so I want you to sneak in the back and leave the pie on the table in the parlor. The parson will think some kind soul left him a surprise."

"But can't I do something?" Tweedy chirruped.

"Okay, Tweedy. You know the elm near the kitchen window? Stay there until I give the signal, then warble for all you're worth!"

"But why?" Tweedy still hadn't settled down.

"It's like this, Tweedy. Florrie loves to hear you sing, so she'll come right up to the window. Then she'll notice a pie is missing and she'll see Simon hopping away with it. She's bound to run after him."

"But why do you want her to chase Simon?" Tweedy looked all beak.

"That's the beauty of my plan," I explained with what I hoped was a patient expression. "Now what is it that Florrie likes best?"

"She likes a neat house?" Simon guessed.

"And what is she good at?"

"Cooking pies!" Tweedy chortled.

"And?" Simon piped up.

"Well, who do we know keeps a tidy house, and loves to eat?"

"I don't know," Simon scratched one ear with a hind foot.

"I do, I do!" Tweedy all but warbled out of her feathers. "It's the parson!!"

"Right!" I nodded. "Now you're getting the picture."

"Oh! Oh, wow!" Simon almost fell over backwards, but caught himself just in time. "That's a very good plan! WEDDING BELLS, huh? If we can get those two together, your troubles will be over and everybody will be happy!"

"So, will you do it?"

Simon and Tweedy touched wing and forepaw together, "Alright!'

The hour arrived and all went - well almost - according to plan. When Florrie took out after Simon, I followed at a safe distance. I watched as Simon ran down the street and into the parsonage with the pie. But just as he came out, his mom appeared out of nowhere. The last I saw of them, she was pulling him by one ear, and they were moving at a good clip.

Well, Florrie just stood outside the parsonage, for once at a loss for words. Shortly, Parson came barreling out the door, looking frightened and pale. "Help! he called. "Help! I'm ill! I've just eaten a whole gooseberry pie."

Boy did I feel terrible. I had made a jumble of everything. Now the parson was sick, Simon was in trouble, Florrie was in a dither - and it was all my fault. Instead of just moving on to a new house like I should have, I had gotten my friends into trouble. I knew I had to confess and set things right.

About that time Aunt Florrie found her voice, "Why Parson," she trilled, "Did you really think the pie that delicious? It was mine, you know, fresh-baked this morning. Well, I have just the cure for dyspepsia. Baking Soda! And I think the drug store has some." As usual Florrie didn’t wait for an answer but took hold of Parson’s elbow steering him toward the corner.

As the day wore on, I must admit to strong temptation. What I really wanted to do was lay low until this whole thing blew over. But I knew it wasn’t right to leave Simon in a lurch, and the Parson feeling guilt over eating too much gooseberry pie.

First I trudged over to Simon’s house, rang the bell, and waited for his mom to come to the door. I was really afraid she might get a broom after me, but she surprised me by saying she was proud of me for telling the truth. She gave Simon a good talking to, but she didn’t ground him.

Next came the really hard part. Confessing to Aunt Florrie was going to take every ounce of courage I could muster. But it had to be done. So I squared my shoulders, and walked right up to her. I had caught her in a good mood, just as she was leaving the parsonage. “Things must have gone well there,” I thought.

“Aunt Florrie,” I started.

“EEK,” she shrieked and backed away. Florrie was scared of me? I couldn’t believe it. But when she saw that I was trying to tell her something, she calmed down.

“Aunt Florrie,” I began again. “I have a confession to make. It was all my fault that Simon stole your pies, got in trouble with his mom, and that Parson had a tummy-ache. I was the one who told Simon to steal your pies, and put them on Parsons table.”

“But whatever in the world for?” Florrie was starting to look cross.

“Well, I stammered,” I thought you were going to, well, you know, kill me with a mousetrap. So I, uh. . . ”

But Florrie had parsons and parsonages on her mind, and I could sense she was in a hurry. Now that she was over her fright, she really didn't have time to waste on such as me. Pulling on her bonnet and scarf she hardly gave a second glance as she banged out the door. "Oh, well, I thought, "I did the best I could, and that's about all a person can do."

I felt good now. My conscience was clear. And I knew exactly what Grandpa, Duffy, and I would be doing tonight. What a party we would have! We might even invite Simon and his family. That is if they would come.

I could hardly wait to tell my "new" family that now we could bring out the crumb-y food again. Boy were those crackers and cookies going to taste good.
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