In the previous episode, Mike learned that Benjamin the blue jay, the one creature in the park that might know about the fate of the she tinkers, has lost his mind. Today we will bring him one step closer to his goal.
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Mike followed Tilly and Jacob out of the burrow with another warm biscuit in hand and two in his pockets. The two field mice bounded ahead leaving Mike alone to stop and stare. Overnight, the tunnel they had traveled had transformed into a magical place. Tiny drops of dew had collected along the edges of each leaf and tipped the bending tops of each blade of grass. The whole world glittered in the clear cold morning light.
Tilly smiled and laughed as they made their way down the path, often stopping and showing Mike different sights. He marveled at dew bejeweled cobwebs, fuzzy sleeping spiders, and pine cones. Seeing the young mouse happy was a welcome change from the night before.
At first, Tilly tried to get Jacob to come and look as well, but each time he’d refuse and continue on walking, straight-backed and whiskers twitching.
“He’s a serious one today, isn’t he?” Mike asked when Tilly returned once again.
“He isn’t always like this, there must be something on his mind. That, or he’s trying to impress you.”
Mike couldn’t help but laugh. “Why would he be trying to impress me?”
She shrugged and lowered her eyes. “He always does this when I’m with new friends, it’s his way of showing what a responsible big brother he is. It’s irritating, I know.”
“No, I find it quite charming. Not every young lady is blessed to have a good big brother like that.”
Up ahead Jacob had stopped in front of what looked like a stone wall. He cleared his throat to get their attention. “Well my good sir, this is the end of the trail for us.”
Mike joined Jacob and found that the wall was actually the edge of a concrete walkway. Standing there, he could see the immense crab apple tree looming overhead, its bent and twisted branches like hands reaching out to snag birds from the sky. The ground beneath the tree crawled with a sprawling ivy.
“You’ll want to go quickly and not stop until you’ve climbed up into the branches. In the ivy you can’t see what is hiding until it’s already upon you. Once you are up there you’ll have to watch out for the squirrels. They’re generally very civil unless they think you are threatening their nuts. And believe me, don’t do or say anything that might make them think that.” Jacob said the last with a smile, making Mike thing that he might know about the squirrels from personal experience.
He twisted his cane in his hands. The tree looked taller by the minute as he stood there and he began to wonder if it was really all that important to go find a she tinker after all. Tilly set a paw on his arm and looked up into his eyes, giving him strength. No, he would complete his quest. He couldn’t let something as simple as a tree stop him, not after coming this far.
He placed her paw between his hands, it seemed so small. “My dear, it’s been a pleasure to have met and spent time with you. I promise that I’ll come back this way when I have found what I seek.”
A tear had formed in the corner of Tilly’s eye. “The pleasure is all mine. I’ll watch for you everyday until you return.” She sniffed and dabbed at her eye with the corner of her kerchief. “Please be careful out there.”
Mike knelt in front of the tiny mouse and gave her a gentle hug. “Don’t you worry about me, I’m a stubborn one. I’ll be back before long.” Tilly nodded and gave her best smile.
Mike turned to Jacob. “As for you, as much as I’d like a sturdy chap like you at my side I understand the importance of keeping the peace. Thank you for everything.”
“I would come if I weren’t needed here, it sounds like a grand adventure. You’d better come back and tell us about everything when it’s over.”
“Aye, that I will.” Mike said as he climbed up to the walkway. The sun shone brighter there, blinding him for a moment. From the top he looked down into the end of the tunnel, he could barely make out his new friends standing in the shadows. He gave one last farewell before heading off once more into the unknown.
To be continued…
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