RMCA Fiction:
The Mouse Knight

Cutter Hays

Epilogue / Afterword

The Mouse Knight's beginning is very true except that he wasn't taken back to the pet store. I kept him. He and five of his brothers enchanted me from their very first moments, and most of them were sick as little mice. That's why I took them. They were sick.

The abuse and neglect of mice is very real. People don't value them (they're only worth 99 cents or so) and therefore treat them as worthless.

This ranks way up there in the list of humanity's crimes. Yes, they're only mice - but there are billions of them! And less than a millionth of ONE percent of those are treated with any decency at all as a living being that can suffer... and love.

I took those five mice away from someone who wasn't taking proper care of them. She didn't know how. It wasn't cruelty then, just ignorance. Still, they suffered, and they died (there were more than five, but some didn't make it, this being before I knew of antibiotics for mice). I healed some of them, and then did not wish to return them to their poor existence. They begged me, and I kept them. And they were grateful, unlike many, many people in the world. I didn't think they'd make it very long, every one of them being sick or inbred. But they all passed the two year mark while I was writing this story. Hurray for my kids! They made it to old age. They weren't killed by cats, or stupid people, or accidents which could have been prevented, or put out in the cold, or eaten by snakes. Or any one of a thousand horrible fates these creatures suffer thanks to ignorance, neglect and what amounts to animal abuse. Yeah, snakes have to eat too, but try putting your snake and the mouse on the floor of your apartment and have the snake earn its dinner. It would starve, perhaps, along with the mouse, because humans have nearly ruined everything in our megalomaniacal tyranny of nature our "domination" of the earth (at which I scoff, because unless we learn quickly to back off, we're finished here). These animals can no longer exist in the wild. Mice are domestic. In reality, every mouse that escaped in my story would have died within days, if not hours. It is fiction. Mice cannot read, or fend for themselves. They do not wear armor and they don't know to stay out of the middle of a road. They depend on us. And I firmly believe that once we take an animal into our homes, we are responsible for them as much as for any life, 99 cents or nine thousand dollars. Think of some of your friends and family. Put a price tag on their heads. Go ahead. Now put them in a pet store and sell them to random people. Do you think those people are going to value your family near as much as you did? Or you yourself - how much are you worth? Now how much are you worth to the person on the freeway you just cut off?

Life... is life. There is no price tag.

I can prove it. Hold a mouse for more than five minutes. Let it get to know you - trust you a little bit. Look at it the same way you might for a dog or cat or bird you had as a kid that you dearly loved. It has a soul, just like your childhood pet did. Its feelings can be hurt. It can be overjoyed to see you come home at night. Spritely was there every night that I walked through my door, balancing on whatever was highest in his big cage, waiting for me to greet him, kiss his little face and play with him. He never missed a night. He knew I was home before I unlocked the door. I skipped vacations and long journeys to be with him, because I knew he only had two years, maybe a little more, and that he counted on me so much. For most of his life he was alone. Because of my ignorance, I didn't know any better, and so my best little friend on the whole world suffered from acute loneliness because of my stupidity. And yes, mice can get very lonely. They are inherently social animals. They should never be alone. But males fight with other males badly, and I was afraid of breeding my mice, so my males, sadly, stayed alone. I tried to make up for it by giving them a lot of attention. But I cannot be another mouse.

See how easy it is to mess up? And the smallest mistake on our parts often means the life or death, happiness or sadness for our little pets.

Give them a chance and I guarantee you'll never be able to feed a snake ever again. The first time Spritely crawled up onto my neck and licked my nose I was sold. My heart was his, forever. I did not plan to love mice. I was just caring for sick, neglected animals. I taught martial arts for 15 years. I work out at a gym and ride a Harley Davidson. I look mean (see picture). People cannot imagine me playing with a tiny little mouse and speaking to it in a baby voice and feeding it my own dinner. But I did. And I loved it. I wouldn't have traded Spritely for anything. Not for anything. He was the only son I'll ever have. Him, before him a chinchilla named Nemo, and before that a hamster named Arnie. Yeah, I put all my little friends in the story. (See the credits.)

So I champion mice. Someone had to do it. They are worthy. I kick over the D-Con displays when I go to grocery stores. I stop in on pet stores and if the mice are at all sick, or underfed, or cold, or even uncomfortable, I complain and write nasty letters to powerful people. Who mostly don't care, but I try. I do whatever I can and whatever it takes to make their lives better, because we have made them suffer greatly. And what amazes me the most is that the mice know I try. Even the ones who look on me for the first time, they know. I am never bitten, even when I am giving them medicine they hate. They express their gratitude to me always, and never forget (again, see comment on people). They come right to my hand most times. They trust me. I go so far as to say they love me. Spritely loved me Unconditionally.

That doesn't sound like a stupid animal to me. I wouldn't be surprised at all if one of them could read.

Befriend a mouse (get at least two!) and I will guarantee that every once of kindness you give will be returned to you tenfold by those little angels. Their hearts are clearly bigger than ours. They have managed to forgive humanity for all we've done.

If only we could be like the mice, perhaps we might find our paradise someday, too.

My thanks to the Rat and Mouse Club of America, who hosted this story and supported me emotionally through hard times while I wrote it. Mary Ann, Kristin, Heide, Karen, Tracy, Christina, Susan, and all the others who showered me with encouragement and heartfelt empathy through this long journey. This club is a gathering of kind humans. May it endure forever, to the ends of the earth and beyond. If you wish to learn about mice and rats, this is not a bad place to start. WWW.RMCA.ORG.

This story is dedicated with all my heart to Spritely, who passed away mere days after I finished the last chapter. He died on a Wednesday morning, at 7am. I held him all night. He waited for me, as always, until I was able to let him go. If strength were measured by spirit, there was none stronger than he. He will remain my inspiration for the rest of my life, in times both hard and happy. Peace on your journey, my son.

Peace on your journey.

The Credits

The Mouse Knight Played by Spritely Hays Spritely (Copyright 2002 Cutter Hays)
Michael Mousefriend Played by Stu! Stu! as Mike (Copyright 2002 Kristin J. Johnson)
Tree Played by Herself Tree (Copyright 2002 Cutter Hays)
Squibble Played by Herself Squibble (Copyright 2002 Cutter Hays)
Bigfat Played by Darknose Darknose as Bigfat (Copyright 2002 Cutter Hays)
Nemo Played by Himself Nemo (Copyright 2002 Cutter Hays)
Other Mice (like the old warrior in Chapter 2) were played by Spritely's brothers: BJ, Tom, Squinty and Scratchy.
The Kind Human Played by The Author Cutter and Friends (Copyright 2002 Cutter Hays)

Tree with Spritely (Copyright 2002 Cutter Hays)
Spritely and Tree

The Mouse Knight is 153 pages, 50 black and white illustrations. Limited editions numbered to 100. Signed on request. $15 plus shipping.
Book with a sketch in it is $20; or $40 with an inked drawing.
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