Silvius, short and stout, small and surly, packed his back-pack for the journey. There was news of a fresh crumb trail, but he had better hasten before the crows got wind of it. Fortunately for him, they were usually taken to the fields in search of easy carrion. Still, he mused, it would be pertinent to include the packing of the anti-crow device – something that was manufactured by his great great grandfather during the Black Era.
He left a hastily scribbled note to Musskit on the rickety wooden table in the kitchen:
I’m off again to another calling, so I expect I won’t be back in time for supper. There’s plenty of red berry and mushroom broth left. Do help yourself! I might love you like my brother but don’t think you can sleep in my bed again!
Taking one look back to the one roomed abode – a space of irregular surprising shape and a slanting floor that still caught him out if he’d drunk too much apple cider – he wondered, like all the other preceeding times, whether he’d see Home again.
Musskit discovered the note pinned under the butter knife, and glued to the table – inadvertently? – by a blob of unrestrained butter. It led a merry dance, trickling in a stream generally southwards along the table top because the slanting floor dictated so. From the edge of the table it dripped languorously onto the wooden floor. A kind of Butter Falls. He was just relieved he hadn’t earlier slipped in it.
The note was obviously difficult to decipher having been soaked in buttery fat. Parts of the words had disappeared entirely, and those that were left had barely survived the immersion. Musskit held it close over the burning candle light to fetch a better inspection which then led to a flurry of successive movements to put out the fire in his hands.
“What are you cooking?” Petiole said.
“Shhhhhhhhsh!” Musskit yelped smacking his hot paws in a handy bowl of cold water. The note was now fragments, like one dimensional fat snowflakes floating in the water. He hadn’t realised that Petiole had entered the room until he’d spoken.
“Don’t you knock on the door anymore?” He said with some irritation.
Petiole – small footed, resembling a kind of black mole with bad eyesight to boot – was ever patient and understanding. “Oh! My error. I thought for a moment there was a fire. Saw it from the window. Which then led to thoughts of you cooking. Fire. Heat. Food. That kind of thing. Of course, at first, I assumed you were Silvius.”
Musskit with tender paws still immersed in the cold water, just gave him a Look. Which of course, was rather wasted on Petiole, him being too far away to see. “Petiole, I am not cooking.”
No one uttered anything for a while.
The newcomer, not fond of silence, added: “I could have sworn I smellt fire.”
“That you did.” Musskit replied.
Petiole, taking the verbal injection into the conversation as a friendly invitation, wandered over to Musskit. His small bare feet slapping on the wonky wooden floorboards. Feet, whose soles never bore splinters or cuts from the terrain, since they were hardened and tough like old leather boots. Just before reaching the gruff hamster type creature – who was like a brother to Silvius – he executed something like a smooth dance floor move which took him from point a to point b in the fastest time possible. In a far distant parallel world it was known as the ‘John Travolta’.
“Whooooa!” He yelped.
“Steady there!” Musskit shrieked. “You’ll smack into that…”
“Wall.” Petiole finished for him. Ever pleased to be helpful.
They were two poorly injured creatures now. Musskit who, in his clumsy impatience, had been burnt by fire. And, Petiole, in his eager haste, who had been bruised by the collision into the wall and the fall, and from all the other things! – such as heavy saucepans and various brutal cooking utensils – which had landed on him, at point of impact. Pointing him in the impact.
The pair had tidied and cleaned the kitchen, hanging up the cooking implements above the shelf, and wiping the butter fat from the table and floor.
They sat at the table, drinking dandelion tea, each silently wondering where Silvius had hidden the apple cider.
“Oh crumbs! I wonder what the note said.” Musskit wondered out loud.
“I would take it, it mentioned his foray into the crumb hunting of the day!” Petiole said.
“No doubt, my friend, that is true.” Musskit spied the clay lidded-casserole dish on the stove. “And, no doubt, he left us something tasty to sup.”
Miles away whilst some fortunate creatures took their supper in the early evening, a lone figure traipsed through an ever darkening wood.
His lamp – a jar of lowly-paid fireflies – dimly led the way, as Silvius, hunched-over and determined, followed the trail of bread crumbs. Either side of him the densely packed fir trees, reeking of pine, touched the stars with their pointed heads. The moon danced through the torrent of branches ahead – bulbous and yellow, but not yet properly round.
He thought of Musskit sitting at his kitchen table eating his red berry and mushroom broth; of his annoyingly pleasant neighbour, the mole like creature who went by the name of Petiole, peering through his window with a smile and a wave, in the hope of being invited in.
He thought of his squishy armchair by the fire; the low bookshelf, bulging with favoured volumes passed down through his family, within arm’s reach. He favoured a life of peace and a good wedge of solitude, although Musskit he held in his heart.
Each and every mission undertaken was fraught with danger. Wild wolves, tricksters and hags may cross his path. Yet, it was something that must be done: If the crumbs were left unfollowed it would bring the ultimate terror to their part of the world. Then, life as they knew it, would be no more.
To be continued…….!
Silvius = Surly, short tempered, short statued admirable crumb hunter. Sort of like a terrier-dog.
Musskit = Resembling a hamster, impatient, clumsy, physically strong, loyal to Silvius.
Petiole = Little-footed mole like creature with bad eyesight, tons of patience and ever helpful.
Hänsel und Gretel – Illustration for Grimms Fairytales, by Professor Paul Hey
Writing prompt: n/a
Writing inspiration: A certain little dog who goes by the name of Oscar Dandelion, who favours tidying up the residue of crumbs on my chest. He does love a good sandwich crust!
What’s a Chi Tale?: n/a
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.