Chapter 1: A Very Small Mouse
Once upon a time there was a small white mouse, born with a litter of small mice, in a small home where the people did not expect it. The people took pity in a pet store upon a single sick, struggling mouse because she could not get to the food through the other mice, who were bullying her. So they bought her, thinking she would die anyway, but at least in peace. They also bought her a friend (who they had no idea was a boy) so she might not die alone, for they had no clue how to treat sick mice.
But upon coming home the mouse got well - and before long had her first litter there in the little cage on the kitchen table.
At first the owners were thrilled! But they soon realized this was too many mice - and didn't know what to do. The poor family, like so many unfortunate mice, were given back to the pet store by the unthinking owners.
Of course, the mice didn't know what was going on - they lived in their tiny world, knowing only their momma and dad. When they were taken back to the pet store, they were put back in with the large, dirty population again, and certainly were unhappy.
The overcrowded cage always smelled. The mice didn't get good food, and were never held (the babies had only been held lovingly three times; each considered these moments their fondest memories, besides being licked by mom). Many of the mice were mean. They beat up Dad until he was almost dead. They chased, bit and bullied many of the little ones. Mom got sick again and soon went away, never to return. Each day, there were fewer mice in the cage.
Now, before you give up on this story as just another one of those sad traumatic mouse stories, read on, and have faith. Every great hero has it hard at some point. (Otherwise, what would make them great?)
So the little mice, new to the world, were scared and hungry. Before long dad vanished when they heard the big people say "one large mouse, please,". He too never returned. They were small and on their own.
Most of the mice played with the other mice and ran on the wheel when there was one. But one little mouse loved to perch on the hiding log and read over the shoulder of the pet store manager when he took his breaks. He read about medieval times and the Knights of the Round Table. The mouse loved it. Each day he would look forward to the big person sitting down reading his book. And the mouse would sit and read with him. How he loved the stories! So full of valor and rightness, such bravery and noble meaning to life did they give. When he woke he looked forward only to his reading time, and when he slept he dreamt of knights and heroes. He read only a few books with the manager before he and many of his cage mates were sold and taken away, but what he read inspired his tiny heart to grow well past what any man or mouse would have expected.
In a dark box the little mouse and thirteen others were bumped along. Several of the thirteen were his immediate family - his brothers and sisters. They were frightened.
"Don't be scared," he told them. "We're probably going to wherever mom and dad went. They will be there to play with us again, and lick us and keep us warm."
But the others were silent and afraid. The little mouse had to admit he was a bit scared, too. But he couldn't do anything. He was just a mouse. That's what they all said. All the time. Big people even said it. They were just mice. Not worth anything. Ninety-nine cents, however much that was. Just helpless mice.
So they went. Scared and quiet.
Little did they know they were going to a terrible fate.