|Retold by Alan Benjamin; Illustrated by Jeffrey Severn; Published by Western Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin|
Those of a certain age may remember this little story of two friends who live in very different worlds. “A city mouse was once invited to visit a friend who lived in the country.”
The city mouse was curious about country life. Simply curious. Apparently, she had no preconceptions about country life. Or if she had, she was keeping an open mind.
She found country life rather pleasant, until she and the country mouse sat down to a meager supper of “nuts and berries and a few stalks of wheat.” (We hope the country mouse was not gluten intolerant.) Although she found the meal boring, she was polite and ate just enough so her friend’s feelings would not be hurt.
After supper the two went for a walk. The country mouse was “all ears” as the city mouse told her of the fine home and delicious food city life offers.
The city mouse had a hard time falling asleep because of the unfamiliar– and scary– country night sounds. “The country mouse, on the other hand, was peacefully dreaming of all the things her friend had told her about life in the city.”
The next morning the city mouse saw more nuts and berries and wheat on her breakfast plate and had “had just about enough of country life.”
We must give the city mouse some credit here. She gave country life a shot. She seems to have enjoyed the company of her friend. It’s the country life style she objected to. When she invited the country mouse to the city for a few days, she didn’t preface her invitation with slurs about the country. And she certainly didn’t mock her friend’s style of dress or rustic home. If she had opinions about her friend’s habit of going to church, or carrying a mouse-sized .357 magnum in her apron pocket, she kept them to herself.
The city mouse respects her country friend.
When they arrived in the city and at the city mouse’s home, they found the remains of a such wonderful dinner that, “the country mouse could hardly believe here eyes.”
But just as the country mouse was beginning to nibble on a piece of cheese a large orange cat “charged” into the dining room. The city mouse and the country mouse ran for cover under a china cupboard. I’m sure the country mouse, and perhaps the city mouse, too, said a little prayer. After the cat left, the city mouse explained to the country mouse that this was, “Just part of the excitement of city life.”
They returned to their meal only to have it interrupted by “WHAM BAM” a boy and his dog.
Now, you may be saying to yourselves, “Wait! I thought the country mouse had a gun. Clearly, the cat– and possibly the dog but probably not the boy– posed an imminent threat to their lives. Why didn’t the country mouse at least fire off some warning shots?” That’s a good question and the answer is quite simple. The country mouse had to leave her gun at home. She is a law-abiding mouse, and guns are not allowed in the city. In the city, she is defenseless.
It’s worth taking a moment to contrast the country mouse’s fear here, with the city mouse’s fear of the sounds of hooting owls, croaking frogs and buzzing bugs. The country mouse’s home appears quite secure. The scary sounds posed no real threat. But the cat sure did.
The excitement of city life was a bit much for the country mouse. “My dear, ” she said to her friend, “your house is grand indeed, and the food is truly marvelous, but I really prefer the quiet simple life of the country.” She packed her things and they said goodbye.
We must give the country mouse some credit here. She gave city life a shot. She seems to have enjoyed the company of her friend. It’s the city life style she objected to. As she departed, she didn’t question her friend’s choice to live in such a dangerous place. She made no mention of the wastefulness of the family in whose home the city mouse lives. And she certainly didn’t comment on the fact that this perpetual “excitement” must be shortening her friend’s life.
The country mouse respects her friend.
Perhaps they will visit each other again one day.
Meanwhile their mutual respect has deepened.
We are heading to the city today! We will have a wonderful visit, but by the end of the day, we will be anxious to return to the country.