Editor’s Note: Today is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. While folks can certainly find classic fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, Oscar Wilde, and Hans Christian Anderson, among others, to read today, Freeline Productions is introducing a new fairy tale by author Michael Freeman, simply titled “A Noisy Night.”
Teddy had been pleasantly dreaming – dreaming that he was excitedly walking along a pathway in the woods that was leading him to a majestic castle on a hill, not knowing what was in the castle, but feeling certain that once he reached it, he was sure to find amazing riches and treasures there.
But while he was marching up that hill with enormous enthusiasm, something happened — and Teddy never got there. A loud noise woke him up, and he found himself back in his bed on this cold winter night.
“Mama?” he said, as he rubbed his sleepy eyes.
Teddy was a young mouse, one who loved it when his Mama read to him stirring, rousing adventures tales, transporting him from their little cottage to the high seas and other great jaunts. Teddy lived in that little house with his mother and father, and his father was out on the road now, traveling into the big city to conduct business, so Teddy was alone with his Mama. They were both very eager for Papa to arrive back home in a few days. There had been talk around their village of possible trouble brewing, and Teddy and his Mama were both nervous about Papa’s safety.
The door to Teddy’s bedroom opened, and a flash of light shined in. Mama was standing in the doorway, peeking in.
“Are you all right, my darling?” she asked.
Before he could answer, there were more noises outside – a loud crash, then the sound of angry voices shouting into the darkness. There seemed to be an evil wind in the air.
“What’s going on outside, Mama?” he asked. The shouts were getting louder, rowdier. Teddy didn’t like those sounds one bit.
Mama sighed. “Are you all right? Would you like a glass of milk and a piece of cheese to help you get back to sleep?”
Teddy shook his head. “No, Mama, I’m fine,” he said. “Why is there so much noise outside?”
Mama sighed. “It’s the cats again, causing trouble,” she said.
Teddy and his parents lived in a small village that was almost entirely made up of other mice – except for an owl, a few turtles, and some raccoons. Every once in a while, the cats would come into their village at night and start howling, making threats, promising to commit all kinds of cruel and nasty mischief. They also tended to drink a lot, and often times they would pass out in the streets before dawn, eventually crawling off to their homes. In the meantime, all the mice in the village felt far too scared to open their doors and venture outside. It was miserable for them whenever the cats arrived.
“Why do they hate us so much, Mama?” Teddy asked. He could hear the cats getting more unruly and disorderly by the minute.
Mama came into the room and sat down on the bed next to Teddy. “It’s just their nature,” she said mournfully. “They feel an obligation to harass us, to show us they’re the boss, to make our lives difficult.”
“But why? Why be so cruel?”
“Because cats know they can, and there isn’t much we can do about it,” she said. “Now, I want you to go back to sleep, my child. The cats will all be gone by the morning.”
“Are you sure, Mama,” he asked.
Mama started to speak, and then — for a moment, she hesitated. She sat there, perfectly still, as if grasping for a reasonable response. Mama seemed to be struggling with her answer.
“I think they will,” she finally said.
“All right, I’ll go back to sleep, Mama,” Teddy said. “But I sure wish they didn’t hate us so much.”
“And so do I,” Mama said, as she kissed him goodnight, then got up and walked out of his room, shutting the door behind her.
In truth, Teddy really didn’t feel sleepy any more. He found himself lying there in bed, listening to the commotion and ugliness going on outside. There was a real ruckus happening just outside his window, that was for sure.
Curiosity started to nag at Teddy. Finally, he pushed aside the covers, got up, and went over to his window. He glanced out into the street.
There were several cats prowling right near his home. They had bottles in their hands, and repeatedly took swigs from them. A couple of them were staggering a bit. That only seemed to make them even more rambunctious, crude and unruly. Except … one of the cats did not have a bottle in his hand, and didn’t appear to be drinking at all. He was far less disorderly than the others. Instead, his eyes were darting left to right, right to left, looking for …. something.
And as the cat’s eyes prowled the street, he happened to glance up and notice Teddy standing in his bedroom window. The cat smiled – a devious smile, to be sure – and moved closer to Teddy’s cottage. Still looking directly up at the young mouse, he said, “Are we keeping you awake, little one?”
Teddy said nothing. He just watched silently as the cat started to surreptitiously inch closer toward his home.
“It’s almost time for Purim, isn’t it, child,” the cat said. “The entire village will be celebrating. We should start celebrating now, just you and I. So why don’t you come outside, and have some fun with us?”
The cat began purring, affectionately. “As you can see, we’re all having a delightful time out here. There are so many ways we can help you celebrate your holiday.”
“You don’t want to play,” Teddy said. “You want to hurt me.”
“Awww, now why would we want to do that?” the cat smiled.
“Because you hate mice,” Teddy said.
“How can you say that?” the cat frowned. “If yiu come outside, we can laugh and tell jokes together. Say — why do mice avoid the water?”
Teddy didn’t respond.
“Because they’re afraid of the catfish,” the feline laughed. “Why do we need to oil the mice? Because they squeak! See, aren’t we having fun? What does a cat like to eat on a hot day? A mice cream cone!”
It took only a second for the cunning feline to realize that his last joke had been an error in judgment, one that accidentally revealed his sinister true intentions. At that point, he appeared to have abandoned efforts to politely lure the young mouse outside.
Then his entire demeanor changed. A look of absolute malice and spite rushed across the cat’s face – an expression that was so savage, so ferocious that it sent waves of fear running through Teddy. It completely justified in his mind that this cat was out to terrorize him, and wanted nothing more than to pounce on top of him and sink his sharp teeth into poor Teddy’s little body. The cat started to brace himself — to possibly jump up at Teddy’s window and maybe even break through. Teddy’s tiny heart was racing.
And then it happened — so quickly, so unexpectedly, that at first this latest development startled Teddy. But as he kept his eyes fixed on that street, he realized that the unimaginable had become a reality. Because what happened then had also startled — no, horrified is perhaps a better word — those malicious cats. Because as that sinister cat was moving closer to Teddy’s little cottage, a pack of wild dogs charged into the village, moving at rapid speeds that the cats, still a bit tipsy, hadn’t expected and were completely unprepared for.
Teddy was thrilled. He liked dogs – for one thing, they seemed to have no problems whatsoever with mice. A mouse could walk right past a dog, his head held high, and the dog would simply nod and say “Good morning.” There was no tension between the two, no hostility whatsoever.
But that wasn’t true for the dogs’ attitude toward cats. Everybody knew that dogs, for the most part, had as much animosity toward cats as cats did toward mice.
There had been rumors for years that the next time the cats attacked this village, the Allies of the mice would finally decide enough is enough, and move in to protect them. The mice had hoped and prayed for that outcome for years — but it had never happened before. Some of the mice were very troubled by this and felt completely abandoned, while others remained hopeful that the rest of the world would someday wake up to the horrors being thrust upon them. But for so long, the optimists always seemed due for disappointment.
And now Teddy could see they had good reason to be optimistic after all.
In a split second, the sounds coming from that streets changed, and quite dramatically. The noisy commotion of cats hissing and snarling at the houses throughout the village, and daring the mice to come outside, was replaced by the sounds of those very same cats screaming in agony, panic and dread. And Teddy watched quietly as the streets seemed to turn into a sea of red, as the dogs used their strong and mighty teeth to tear each and every cat prowling around that village into a seemingly endless amount of hideously bloody pieces.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Koby’s New Home”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com or call 321-209-1561.