a flash fiction story about a mouse

What’s a mouse got to do with it?

A furry mouse or a magic mouse? Which do you prefer?

This week, Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch got herself a new computer with a new mouse. She thinks it’s a magic mouse. I hope it is.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - mouse

In her excitement, she put out the challenge to writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a mouse. It can be real, imagined, electronic or whiskered. Go where the prompt leads!

Mice feature prominently in stories, poems and songs for children.

Very young children learn the nursery rhymes Hickory Dickory Dock and Three Blind Mice.

Rose Fyleman’s poem about Mice is always popular for children to learn and recite in school.

There is the fable about The Lion and the Mouse, the story of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse and the more recent The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear.

As a child, I enjoyed the song Windmill in Old Amsterdam. Perhaps you remember it too?

But I think my favourite mouse story is that of Possum Magic, the classic picture book by Mem Fox. I’m not referring to the picture book itself, but the story of how it came to be.

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

Mem shares some of the goss on her site. You see, Hush started life as an invisible mouse in an assignment Mem produced as part of a course in children’s literature. She was awarded a high distinction for the story and, over the next five years, sent it off to nine different publishers. Each time the story came back.

While Mem found the rejections disheartening, she was encouraged by family and friends who believed in her story. So, she sent it off again, and the tenth publisher asked her to “cut the story by two thirds, re-write it more lyrically, make it even more Australian and change the mice to a cuddly Australian animal. “

Mem did as requested, changed the mice to possums, and so Possum Magic was born. The book was published in 1983 and remains one of the most popular and best-selling picture books in Australia. (While not mentioned on the site, I seem to remember reading that the book had almost 30 rewrites!)

When I first heard this story of Possum Magic, I was younger than Mem was when the book was published. The story inspired me and encouraged me to hope. I loved Mem’s yet attitude (though I didn’t yet know it as that), her belief in her story, persistence in pursuing its publication and willingness to learn from others. Without those marvellous qualities, Possum Magic may never have seen the light of day. It may have languished in the bottom of a drawer somewhere with other forgotten manuscripts.

How many manuscripts do you need to take out, dust off, and send on their way?

Here’s my little story in response to Charli’s challenge this week. I hope you like it.

A Mouse Backfires

“Eek!“ shrieked Granny, toppling back on the chair, arms and legs flailing.

“Thwunk!” Her head struck the wall, silencing the children’s sniggers.

Granny slumped motionless, eyes closed, tongue lolling from her slack jaw.

Barney gaped. “D’ya, d’ya think she’s dead?”

“Don’t be silly,” admonished Eliza, older and wiser. “She couldn’t be. Could she?”

The children tiptoed closer.

“What if she wakes up?”

“What if she doesn’t?”

“I’ll check her pulse,” mouthed Eliza.

Suddenly, Granny jolted upright, eyes staring blankly.

The children gasped.

“Gotcha!” laughed Granny. “But that is a clever mouse.”

“How did you —?”

Granny winked. “Granny knows.”

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

50 thoughts on “What’s a mouse got to do with it?

  1. Hugh's Views and News

    Windmill in old Amsterdam? Yes, I sure remember that song, Norah. One of my favourites when I was younger, but only because my Grandfather used to sing it to me.

    As for the old manuscripts in the bottom of the draw – I’m guilty as charged. I wonder why we leave them there? Is it because we think it’s a monster that will come back and bite us, or is it because ‘out of sight, out of mind’?

    I enjoyed your flash fiction. I’m glad granny had the last laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I’m pleased the song brought back a pleasant memory for you, Hugh.
      I think, for me anyway, the stories don’t get thrown out because we (I) hope they’ll be found and published posthumously to much acclaim. 🙂 I’m not quite sure who I’m kidding there.
      Granny always has a laugh. Especially when the children laugh with her.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. roughwighting

    So many thoughts on this – they’re running around in my head like …. mice! First, on the Possum Magic. Norah, my heart sank as I thought of this author needing to re-do her imagination and creativity to make the publisher happy. Perhaps her changes ARE what made the story so successful, but on the other hand, perhaps her original Mouse Story would have been just as popular (maybe even more so) if it had been given a chance. Who knows? But either way, the author’s determination and resilience saves the day. I don’t know that book and will look for it.
    Your story was a nail-biter. Being a “grammy pammy” now, I was quite worried that she’d gotten knocked out and would have a concussion (me, being a realist and all). So glad Granny was “playing possum.” :–) CLEVER.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I hadn’t thought of the story’s changes in the way you have, Pam. I guess the story was written long before the internet and self-publishing days so authors had to comply with publishers wishes if they wanted to be published. I think the publisher was right in this instance as the book remains popular and a best seller to this day. Sometimes I wonder how well SOME self-published stories do when little attention has been paid to detail. Some, of course, are wonderful.
      I didn’t want Granny to be knocked out and I wanted to show that she knew what the children were up to. I just didn’t have enough words. I will in the longer version!
      My husband and son had a neat trick they would play on others. I think they learned it from television sound effects. Hub would
      ‘pretend’ to hit son and at the same time hit the wall with his other hand. Son would reel back ‘in pain’. The first time or two, people would be horrified but would just laugh when they got to know. That’s what I was picturing Granny doing. They are all tricksters in my family. 🙂
      I hadn’t thought of Granny playing ‘possum’ – a neat interpretation after the Possum Magic story.
      Thanks so much, Pam. I appreciate your lovely comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. roughwighting

        Love your response here, Norah. Of course, as always, I “over-think” things. (1) I agree that those who self-publish without first using an editor/proofreader, beta readers, etc., are not doing themselves nor their readers any favors. But you can tell I’m a bit sensitive about mainstream publishers and their inability at times to allow the author to create from her own imagination, not theirs. ;-0 (2) I can visualize your husband and son doing their ‘knock out’ show – funny. (3) I like Granny’s sense of humor and how she tricked her grandkids. Playing possum takes some practice. 🙂 xo

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          I agree with you about the flexibility and opportunities that have opened up for indie writers. There’s good and bad published whatever the path. We readers just need to be discerning and choose what we enjoy, and I’ve enjoyed each of your books that I’ve read. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Yours would have to be a computer mouse, Jacqui. 🙂
      While I had to delete the description to meet the length required, the children’s ‘mouse’ was a floor robot (like a Beebot) covered with grey fabric to scare Granny.

      Like

      Reply
  3. robbiesinspiration

    Oooh, Norah, you Granny is a trickster. I love some of the rhymes and stories you have mentioned above. I have a couple of books is various stages of completion that I should finish. The problem is I am a creature of passion which is why I try and finish my stories quickly. When my interest shifts I find it hard to go back.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I have to admit that I probably prefer the initial creation over the hard slog of editing and rewrite. However I like to get things the best I can and can spend a long time on rewrites and proof-reading. I have too many stories and parts of stories languishing in notebooks and in files that I just never get back to. I wish I could and would.
      Granny is a trickster. I wonder where the children get it from! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. robbiesinspiration

        I must admit that I enjoy both the initial creation and the editing and re-writing. Charli developmental edited While the Bombs Fell and I learned so much from her feedback. I tried to incorporate it into Through the Nethergate and I think I did it reasonably well. Esther Chilton has edited the new book and she has come back with other things that are more fine tuning that massive overhauls so I feel I have made big progress. I really enjoy the learning part of the editing process, it is very valuable.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          The editing part is very valuable. It helps us improve our writing to make it more enjoyable for the readers. Congratulations on all you do. I wish you success with your publications.

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
  4. Charli Mills

    Mem’s story of perseverance is encouraging and shows how much work authors must do to get the manuscript published. Takes a lot of hammering to make a book sing like a gong. I like your feisty Granny, and her charges trying to figure out if she needed reviving. One of my favorite books growing up was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I loved Mrs Frisby too, and thought about mentioning her, but decided not to as they were rats. If I remember correctly, the rats didn’t think quite as highly of the mice. (There’s even discrimination in the rodent world.)
      I’ve always loved Mem’s story. She’s an amazing woman, and her books are wonderful.
      PS. Did you mean ‘sing like a song’?

      Like

      Reply
  5. thecontentedcrafter

    I’m listening to the Amsterdam mouse song while writing this – haven’t heard it in – ooooh, I can’t say. I didn’t recognise the title, perhaps I never knew it. But the minute he started singing I knew the lyrics. I never cease to be amazed by musical memory and am not in the least astonished that Alzheimer patients ‘wake up’ to music. Now to your mouse – or more properly your granny. She is a naughty granny giving those children such a fright, but she found the perfect way to deflect their possible interest in chasing a mouse 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I probably hadn’t thought of that song for years either, Pauline. It just came to me as I was thinking about mice and couldn’t resist sharing it.
      Granny is a bit naughty, but it’s just a lot of fun. The children were a bit naughty trying to scare her with a toy mouse too. 🙂
      I’m sure they all had a good laugh together, and then started to devise the next trick to play. I don’t think they are as mean as Roald Dahl’s ‘Twits’!
      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Ha! Used to use rubber snakes to get at my mother. She also stood on chairs if Ginny the gerbil “escaped”. I also mentioned mice in books at my post and missed all of the ones that you mentioned! I was more in the fourth and fifth grade range. We both missed The Church Mice by Graham Oakley. I had forgotten that story about Mem Fox and Possum Magic. She is something, someone to learn from. So are you. Thanks for all the stories, including a flash that made me laugh.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I haven’t got to your post and list of mice books yet. But I will. 🙂 I’m pleased the story made you laugh. That was the intention. Granny gets teased a lot. She needs to get her own back on those rascally children sometimes. 🙂

      Like

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