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Melvin the Magnificent

Melvin the Magnificent
The Tale of a Valiant Canadian Mouse

– And magnificently we will flow into the mystic.
Van Morrison

Chapter One: A Young Rodent’s Dream

Once upon a time there lived a tiny grey mouse named Melvin.

Melvin resided with his family in Mississauga, Canada. They were fortunate rodents. They inhabited a pleasant warren in the rearward western corner of a cozy warm basement with round-the-clock access to their human family’s cheeses, crackers, condiments, and other toothsome comestibles.

Melvin’s parents, his sisters Mistletoe and Minuet, and their brothers Mortimer and Margarine were confident and content creatures. Their lives were serene and secure. No owls, no cats, no inclement weather, no crushing snap traps, thick soft cotton nests, and ample flavorsome meals whenever they liked.

Melvin was comfortable but he was not fulfilled. He had a dreaming soul, a daring heart, an adventurous intellect, and a romantic nature. He longed to bid a fond farewell to his comfy cellar in Mississauga, Ontario and emigrate to an airy garret in Paris, France.

There he planned to wear a blue beret, crouch in the sheltered cusps of sidewalk cafés, dart daringly across cobblestoned patios, scoop up tasty tidbits of freshly baked baguettes, slurp succulent scraps of bold full-bodied cheeses, and sip from starched linen tablecloths scrumptious spills of rich red wines.

“Camembert and Cabernet,” he squeaked. “In my opinion that pairing is the cat’s meow.”

After each of his meals he planned to preen his willowy whiskers in a dapper manner, write sensitive poetry and thoughtful ruminations in a small leather notebook, and sway his small shoulders in unconscious accompaniment to boulevardiers playing lilting love songs on hauntingly evocative European accordions.

In time, he dreamed, he would become known throughout the perpetually avant-garde arrondissement of Montparnasse as Melvin le Magnifique.

 

Mississauga, Ontario

Chapter Two: Le Pionnier Intrépide

Melvin’s parents lovingly explained that in the entire history of the world not one mouse, let alone a wee little emotionally underdeveloped child mouse, ever had journeyed from Mississauga, Canada to Paris, France.

Melvin never contradicted his parents because he was a courteous filial rodent. However, inside his mind he thought:

Every great deed that ever has been achieved had to have been attempted for the first time by an impassioned fearless pioneer.

One day he logged onto his human family’s computer and researched the correct spelling in French for Pioneer.

Pionnier.

Then he researched the proper spelling for Mouse.

Souris.

Then for Fearless.

Intrépide

He loved the shape and the sound of these exotic French words. He imagined that hovering around their delicate syllables he could detect the scintillating scents of steaming lattes, simmering soups, and sizzling cassoulets.

From that moment on, he privately referred to himself as Monsieur Melvin Souris, le Pionnier Intrépide.

 

The Great Lakes Terminus of Ontario

Chapter Three: Across The Lake & Over The Sea

One fine day in late September during the second month of the second year of his life, an afternoon blessed with glorious sunshine and crisp tangy autumn air, Melvin set out for a stroll alongside his favorite railway tracks.

He often did this on his way home from mouse school. Most of his jaunts were uneventful, but on this delightful day he happened upon a freight train idling by a loading bay.

Many tractor-trailers had backed into the dock. Hundreds of scrambling humans piled all manner of crates and cartons onto a long concrete platform.

What a bustle there was. Ever so many short, tall, and mid-sized muscled vociferous humans dashing about, talking, shouting, laughing, lifting, packing, stacking.

Almost all the boxes contained raw or processed foods. Melvin’s eyes lit up. With elation in his juvenile heart he beheld mountains of his favorite gobble goodies. Grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, milk, cheese. Waffle mix, muffin kit, crackers, cookies. Dehydrated macaroni, spaghetti, linguini, rigatoni, orzo.

And bread. Massifs of white bread, whole wheat, multigrain, pumpernickel, and rye.

His delicate snout quivered ecstatically. “O yum.” He cried. “O bliss.”

He scurried across the quay to the edge of a mud-splattered pea-green container marked Fromages.

Its air vent was slightly ajar. He traipsed carefully to the aperture, crept through the minuscule opening, gasped, and almost fainted with pleasure. Amassed inside were thousands of cartons filled to their pungent brims with gorgeous Gruyere cheeses.

Just as he was about to slice his razor-sharp claws into the taut wrapper of a nice fat packet he sensed the presence of another creature.

A companion? A predator?

He coiled himself into a tight protective ball and peered through the dark dank air. He saw two microscopic crimson eyes peering glossily back at him. Then he heard a giggle.

“Well hello there, Little One. I am Millicent. Who are you?”

What good fortune. Another mouse. An adult female with a kind voice, a gentle demeanor, and an air of wisdom about her.

Melvin told her his name and bounded to her side. They ripped open a cellophane covering, clawed into an enticing Gruyere, and nibbled voraciously.

As they dined Melvin peeped to Millicent about his family, their home, and his burning desire to emigrate to Paris.

Millicent cleaned her paws, groomed her whiskers, stropped the edges of her minute claws against the abrasive surface of the container’s casing, stretched luxuriantly, and said: “You are in luck, my plucky young friend. Today this container will be barged across Lake Ontario. It will be consolidated with consignments from upstate New York. Then we will be taken by train to a dockyard in the Borough of Brooklyn.”

She smiled tenderly.

“From there we will be shipped all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Burly longshoremen will unload us in a port named Le Havre. Then they will convey us in a refrigerated freight car all the way to city of your dreams. Every single sack of cheese in our container will be sold in a market called Les Halles.”

Melvin squealed with joy and leaped high into the air.

Millicent gave him a great big hug.

“I get myself transported back and forth in these heavenly repositories all the time. That is all I do, back from and forth to France year in and year out. I am so happy I will travel this time with a little grey friend.”

 

A Very French Choo-Choo Train

Chapter Four: A Train Ride From Le Havre

Twenty-two idyllic days transpired on the Atlantic Ocean.

Melvin and Millicent lolled in their receptacle, gnoshed to their hearts’ content, and talked and talked about every subject under the sun.

They were mice, but they were as happy as clams throughout their long seaborne journey.

At last Melvin sensed their ship was slowing. The waves had calmed. Even through the closed container his sophisticated snout could sniff the familiar scents of soil and stone. His acute ears could hear the sounds of land life. Echoes of engines, birds, horns, and church bells wafted into his petite eardrums.

Suddenly the container lurched, ascended abruptly, shifted a bit, moved sideward, lowered slowly, and with a faint thump settled onto a solid surface.

A multitude of port sounds ensued. Claxons blared, motors belched, brakes bleated. Human voices of every pitch and caliber crescendoed across the quay and filtered into their habitat.

Bullhorns barked, chains rumbled, cranes grunted and groaned. The container lurched again, rose, paused, descended rapidly, and came to a rest with a resonant thud.

Millicent explained they had been hoisted off the deck onto a dock and lowered onto a freight train.

A steam whistle blew effusively. Melvin felt a slight wobble, a jerk, a list, a veer, a distinct forward motion, then a gradual gathering of speed.

Soon they were racing out of the port, away from the seashore, through capacious valleys and farmsteads. They heard a marvelous rhythmic clacking below them and felt all manner of exhilarating swerves and sways.

They feasted as they travelled. They spoke together about the experience they had shared, and their hopes for their futures.

After several hours they felt their train reduce its speed, shiver and sway.

They slowed to a crawl.

“Melvin,” Millicent declared. “We are arriving.”

They looked about them at all the cartons they had opened, all the crumbs they had created with the twenty-two days and nights of their ravenous gnawing, the madcap mayhem of wrappings they had shriveled and scattered all about their disheveled domicile.

“My, my, my,” she chuckled. “Won’t the supercilious stevedores and proud porters of Les Halles be startled when they open up our container, we sprint our furry selves out of here, and they discover the revolting mess we have made.”

 

Where Ontario Cheeses Find Their Parisian Home

Chapter Five: A Fond Farewell

The brakes produced a prolonged unmelodious screech. The wheels scraped shrilly on the steel tracks. The strident whistle blew once, twice, thrice.

Millicent gave Melvin a long affectionate look. Then she rose on her rear legs and beckoned to him with her front paws.

“Come close, my dear. Any moment now the workers will offload us and unpack us. The instant our door commences to open we must run like the wind. You to your cafés, I to another container, homeward bound.”

Tears formed in Melvin’s minuscule eyes. Sobs rose from his diminutive chest. He threw himself into Millicent’s embrace, thanked her again and again, sobbed that he never, ever would forget her.

“Nor I,” Millicent said. “I will remember you always Melvin, and always I will smile to think of you loving your life in Montparnasse.”

They held one another to their hearts.

Suddenly they heard a bevy of humanoid voices. Thick hemp ropes slid over their container. The workers linked the tethers, tied them tautly, and looped them through a metal ring.

A crane rumbled. The crate that had been their home trembled, rose, hovered, descended, nestled onto a concrete loading bay.

The two mice embraced once more, trotted to the edges of doorway, crouched like racers, and prepared to flee.

“Farewell,” they squealed to one another again and again.

The portal opened ever so slightly. Off they ran, Millicent to the right, Melvin to the left.

Ma parole!” shrieked a husky porter. “Quelle mess!”

The two mice giggled as they fled.

“Goodbye, goodbye,” they cried. “Farewell! Good luck to you! Long life to you!”

 

Les Halles de Paris

Chapter Six: Paradise Found

Through his misty eyes Melvin beheld as he scampered the sights he had dreamed of for months and months.

The great market of Paris lay all around him. Vivid lights. Vast carapaces of ornate windowpanes. Vistas of foodstuffs piled high, stacked wide, as far as he could see.

Fruits and vegetables. Grains and breads. Cheese, cheese, cheese. Meats too, though he cared not at all for them, reminding him as they did of his own fleshly self.

No one noticed him. The tumultuous crowds of people were thoroughly focused on foods. Lifting them, squeezing them, feeling them, tasting them, bartering for them, buying them, carrying them off in string sacks and canvas bags.

Melvin crept to a convenient cubby below a tall stall heaped with cabbages and found shelter within a comforting leaf conveniently draped on the floor.

He collected his breath, calmed his throbbing heart, gave thanks for his sanctuary, and peered carefully from his glistening green frond’s wrinkled borders.

“O, o, o” he whispered. “This is the paradise for which I have yearned all the days of my life.”

Mice are very quiet whisperers, yet someone there was who had heard Melvin.

Across the corridor, indistinctly, faintly, softly he discerned a muted reply.

“This is not Paradise, you silly. This is a market. In point of fact, this is Les Halles de Paris.”

Who could this be?

Melvin tiptoed from this withered cabbage leaf and peeked through the humans’ towering legs and shod feet. At last he saw who had peeped to him. Another mouse, a brown mouse, smaller than he, pleasing to the eye. Exquisite, in point of fact.

“Goodness gracious,” he exclaimed. “Who are you?”

She approached him, emitted a twinkling chuckle, and said, “Monsieur Mouse, I am Mademoiselle Miasma. Who are you, and what is the story with your odd Canadian accent?”

Melvin felt his breath catch. His heart pounded again.

Something there was about Miasma’s squeak that he found spellbinding. Something there was about the sheen of her fur that made the concrete flooring seem to shift beneath his feet.

He stuttered. He stammered.

Then he whispered to himself: “Melvin, you have crossed a continent. You have traversed a sea. Surely you can talk to this she.”

He drew himself to his full height, summoned his courage, bustled to her side, and told her his story.

As he spoke a blush surfaced upon Miasma’s cheeks and suffused itself throughout her lovely countenance.

“O my,” she thought, and flushed fully crimson. “I believe this handsome mouse adores me.”

 

We Are Not In Mississauga

Chapter Seven: A Mouse’s Dream Come Grandly True, Although He Had Not Previously Envisioned Cowgirls In Patagonia

Two years have passed.

We find ourselves seated at a grand café situated on a cobblestoned avenue’s broad pavement.

Aged chestnut trees are draped with brilliantly colored leaves. Their glossy russet nuts glow in the misty light cast by gas lanterns arrayed atop antique wrought-iron lampposts.

Deucedly pleasant aromas of espresso, croque-monsieur, and gratiné permeate the early evening autumn air.

An accordion is playing wistful songs of love and lamentation.

A family of mice is seated at a minute table ingeniously fashioned from shards of shattered saucers.

The debonair mother mouse nibbles a nourishing slice of tarte Tatine. The dashing father mouse sports a raffish beret, sips a rich Bordeaux from a bent thimble, and peruses a page from this day’s edition of Le Monde.

Passerby mice call out greetings and salutations. “Bon soir, Miasma. Bon soir, Magnifique.”

By this fetching couple’s side nimbly frolics a comely child.

The Mom casts a cherishing look upon her daughter, and gently inquires: “Mimosa, have you quite finished your schoolwork?”

Mimosa climbs into her mother’s lap, and imploringly squeaks: “O Maman, grammar and mathematics and history and literature have zero appeal for me.”

She adopts an imploring expression, and pleads: “Papa, why must we mice be meek? I do not want to stay in Paris, France forever and ever. A restless spirit fills my heart I have a dream, Papa, and my dream churns and burns inside me.”

Miasma and Melvin exchange doting smiles.

Melvin reaches across the table and strokes their daughter’s sleek fur. “What is your dream, our child?”

“O Maman, o Papa, I long to become the first female mouse gaucho in Patagonia. I yearn to do this, I must do this, I am born to do this.”

As one Miasma and Melvin smile at one another again, sympathetically caress the crown of their daughter’s little head, and excitedly squeak: “Atta girl, Miasma.”

 

Chapter Eight: The Moral Of Our Story

If we look closely, we may see a slight flickering of several gossamer tendrils.

Do you see them?

Slender, ever so delicate, pale silvery stalks protruding from a fine graceful snout, quivering in the pastel lamplight?

Are these whiskers?

I believe they are.

If you listen carefully, you may hear the shuffling of four elfin paws.

Is this a mouse?

I believe it is.

Is this Melvin? Is this our dreamy downy friend?

It is.

Do you hear what I hear now? Do you detect a sweet sibilant squealing?

If you will cup your ear, you will hear our Melvin chirping a helpful explanatory poem.

Please cradle your ear. Listen hard.

Do you hear him?

Hello, you lovely human being.
I, Melvin, now will tell you what my story means.

The moral of my tale is clear,
My dear.

I, a young mouse who dreamed a dream in Mississauga,
Was told he hadn’t oughta’.

If I could keep faith with my heart’s truth transcendent,
And thereby become magnificent,

So, mes petits amis,
Can thee.

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