THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF
To the writer, with love.
Who Am I? Who Is Mum? Who Are Rosa and Her Father?
Once upon a time in an old-fashioned little house, so lovely with its fairy coziness, there lived a great writer. In fact, he was the greatest writer of all time. Yes, he was—at least for me, because I had never seen any other writers, and him I knew well. As I said, he was the greatest writer of all time. He was handsome, slender, and tall, with little silver in his hair. I wanted to be like him so much: a handsome, slender, tall, and thoughtful writer. But most of all, I dreamed of giving joy to the world, just like he did. That’s what I had realized one spring morning, when I had just woken up. I was still very young and small, but so happy and excited that I knew immediately who I was.
“I am Joy!” I cried in my mother Margueritte’s ear, while she was trying to make me burp after breakfast. I scared her so much that she dropped me. I stretched my arms out in the air as I did so, landing on my back in my little bed. Just like everyone else, I had my own little bed. Then I started hiccupping. My mum started fussing around, as she thought I might have hurt myself. She began examining me carefully, but I just told her that she was beautiful. Then she knew I wasn’t like the other guys, because she used to say that as far as looks were concerned, she was anything but beautiful.
“I have big sharp teeth; my ears are wide, and some pieces of them are missing; and my nose is long, too long for the tiny, skinny face I’ve got.” She criticized herself while she was looking lovingly at me.
But what she didn’t notice, what even the others couldn’t notice, were her beautiful blue eyes. She passed them on to me, thank God, and I am so proud of them. I noticed and cherished them—her loving blue eyes.
So, to be conscious of yourself and to know who you are from early childhood is quite a good thing. Then it becomes quite a bit easier to do what makes you be yourself. That is why I was so happy when I found out who I was. But still…when I looked at the writer in our house, I couldn’t help daydreaming, wanting to be a little more like him. To give joy, not only to be one. And how did I know that he made people happy? To know that, it was enough for me to see the happy face of his daughter, Rosa, every time he read one of his books to her. Rosa…
Oh, what an enchanting name for such an enchanting child, I often thought while I was watching them both.
Every evening I sneaked secretly between the books on the shelves in her room and listened, holding my breath, to the countless stories. Paul, that was the writer‘s name, used to read to her before she went to sleep. There I stood, hidden behind the numerous books on the broad shelf, silently listening to their voices. Under the spell of the night’s silence, veiled in a cloud of fairy dust, these two people were for me more beautiful than the rainbow itself.
When the sun set and night came, Paul would sit in his woven straw chair near Rosa’s bed. He would open the book to the pages he’d last read, while swaying back and forth. Gently, with lots of care in order not to wake up all the sleeping angels in the room, he started reading to the most wonderful angel of all—his daughter, that beautiful morning dew. Her soft chestnut hair was spread across the folds of her pillow, and her drowsy head dropped quietly to one side as she listened with dreaminess in her eyes. When her eyes were almost closed, the writer stood up and left the room, making no noise at all. To my great regret, she fell asleep just at the moment when the story became particularly interesting and exciting for me. It was that one moment in the story when all the muscles of my body were stretched tight from the strain like a bow about to release an arrow, or when the fur on my back bristled as if from cold. I didn’t have the will or strength to stop listening to him. Just then, the writer closed the book with a weary face. And I, engaged with the story and filled with amazement, went home disappointed and stayed awake ’til morning. Because I knew he was going to read to her again, I impatiently waited for the evening to come once more. Then I sat behind one of the large volumes of someone like Shakespeare or Flaubert, whom I also knew thanks to the writer. I became all ears when he opened the book, and listened to the end of that most extraordinary story. Those were the moments when I became the happiest person…I mean mouse…I mean dreaming creature, in the world. That is because I was taught never to judge others on their appearance. And while listening to the stories of the writer, I felt I was something more than a mouse; I was a dreaming creature.
Why Mum Punished Me, and How I Stopped Being Invisible…
Let me tell you how I met Rosa and her father Paul.
Having spent so many long days behind the books on their bookshelves, I wanted to see them in reality so much. Yes, in reality; everything you can’t touch seems so unreal that you can easily mistake it for a fantasy. I didn’t want them to be a mere fantasy. I dreamed that I would see them and they would see me, as I said, in reality; that they would pet me; and that together with the writer, I would muse over the profound and insightful ideas of one of his interesting books. And since I really wanted and dreamed of that so much, shortly it happened.
One day (in fact it was evening), when my mother couldn’t find me in my room, she got really worried about me. And since she was one of those worrying mothers who would always cry when their children don’t come back from the playground on time, she started calling for me.
“Mercutio! Mercutio!” she cried breathlessly.
She had named me Mercutio because she liked Shakespeare very much, although she wouldn’t admit it openly; Mercutio was one of her favorite characters. She also said his name sounded proud and strong. She wanted me to be proud and strong, just as my name suggested. That is why she had called me Mercutio.
So she had been calling my name again and again, until she got really tired. Exhausted, she left our house and went into the writer’s house. It took her some effort, but she climbed onto the bookshelf for a better look over the vast space spreading out in front of her. Just then, the writer was putting one very heavy book on the shelf where she was standing. Mum wasn’t quick to see the book, and as she was trying to hide from it in one of the corners of the shelf, the book somehow trapped her tail. Mum’s frightened scream startled Paul, and he dropped the book on the floor. Brave as she was, especially when someone arrogantly teased her tail, my mother Margueritte jumped in front of him and scolded him, dressed in her everyday wear—a pink sleeping gown and nightcap. Paul was really astonished by that speaking mouse, but I think he was mostly impressed by her wearing an old-fashioned sleeping gown and unfashionable pink nightcap. But mice are known to be old-fashioned, after all. Although I dare say, I am not old-fashioned at all. I wear a white linen shirt and long cotton trousers in a chestnut color. Sometimes mother would make me wear a white-spotted blue bow tie, which I didn’t like much. But I wore it, just because I respected my mum.
So that writer of mine, instead of getting angry with my mother for telling him off, laughed happily and stroked her reassuringly on the nose. He had never seen a speaking mouse before, and was really interested. But she stamped her feet, as she told me later, and hid behind the books of Victor Hugo, who was kind enough to provide her with the sanctuary of his book covers. All that time, I was fast asleep. When I woke up, my mother had already found me, and she was carrying me by the scruff of my neck through Rosa’s room. I rubbed my eyes with my paws and grouchily looked around. When I saw him, the writer was looking at me with a smile. He was not an illusion any more, and I was not invisible; we could now both see each other. I smiled at him amiably, as I would smile at an old friend. Then my mum pushed me through the door of our home and hid me.
After that unfortunate occasion, I was grounded for quite a while for staying away from home for such a long time. Mum refused to let me among people again. She told me that they were really tactless creatures, who would impertinently push one’s nose. Boy, how I wished the writer would stroke me, on my little white nose.
I learned from mother that he often put some little slices of cheese in the corners of the house as a gift for us. She used to bring them to me for breakfast, and still she wouldn’t miss a chance to point out how little she liked him, despite his delicious food.
“He is so big-headed!” she said. “All day long, he does nothing but work with his books. He could have tidied that big house a bit,” the house was really small, for humans, “or dusted the floor. I sneeze so much when I go shopping that I come home breathless.” My mother was a strict mouse, and keeping the house tidy was a really important thing for her. I, on the other hand, wasn’t interested in that kind of stuff at all. I saw the gentleness of the writer’s character and his daughter’s, and that was enough for me to love them.
On the Habits of Sorrow, Paul’s Fairy Tale, and How I Got to Know Him and His Daughter.
I longed to see the writer again and to listen to his beautiful tales about life and joy. That’s why one day, I begged mum to let me out. In the end, after lots of bargaining, she agreed. She ironed my trousers, buttoned my shirt, and put a blue bow tie on my neck. She gently pushed me out the door and wished me good luck that day. I don’t know why she acted as if I was going on a long journey, but that attention somehow inspired me. I stepped ahead on four legs, and being so excited I ran to Rosa’s room. There I climbed onto the high bookshelf and stood on the top of it. Hidden in the shadow of Andersen, I poked my pink nose out and listened. But something in the atmosphere of the room had changed. My two favorite people were there, but a kind of deep sorrow had settled between them. I didn’t know at the time what kind of sorrow that was, but instinctively I felt very sad. I even wept, if I remember correctly, because sorrow has the habit of coming inside anyone it reaches. I didn’t know why I was weeping; I was just sad. The writer was holding a little book then, and he was nervously turning over the pages with the tips of his fingers. Immersed in his thoughts, he was turning the pages without even looking at the text.
“Dad,” I heard her clear voice ring in the room. “Tell me the story of the brave king, who roamed the world to find a cure for his cursed child. I like it very much.”
Her father looked at her, startled, as if awakened from a bad dream; then his look became gentler, and he smiled at her. I still remember that tale, which I, just like Rosa, liked very much.
“In the far away northern lands, among the snow and ancient ice, there once lived the coldest prince of all time. He was a handsome, tall young man. with long white hair and deep grey eyes. He was so cold and unemotional that everyone in that ice-cold kingdom openly avoided him. The prince didn’t know why no one wanted to be his friend. Therefore he often sat alone, lamenting his fate. He wanted to cry, but something inside wouldn’t let him do it. The sorrow turned into a heavy burden in his gentle heart. One day, it became so unbearable that it turned him into a boy who despised the whole world. Even the king and queen, who loved him so much, were in despair because of his great badness.
“One day, the desperate king decided to ask the Sun for help.
“‘Tell me, Sun,’ he said, looking at the sky, ‘do you know what curse has come upon my young son, and why he is so downhearted and estranged?’
“The Sun didn’t know what to say and kept silent. But soon it got an idea.
“‘Ask the Stars, fair king. I can’t answer your question.
“The king kindly thanked the Sun and waited for nightfall. When it came, he questioned the Stars.
“‘Tell me, little Fireflies, do you know what curse has come upon my son’s heart, and has made him so cold and hard on me?’
“The Stars didn’t know what to say and remained silent. But soon, one of them twinkled more brightly.
“The brightest Star said, ‘Dear king, we do not know why your son is so cold, because we ourselves are warm and gentle creatures. We do not understand the evil that can be found in human nature. But listen; you could ask the Clouds beneath us. They are so clever, and often roam here and there. There isn’t a land that they do not know, there isn’t a character with which they are not acquainted. It is only they who could give an answer to your question.’
“The king nodded and looked at the greyish Clouds. They hastily replied with one voice.
“‘Greatest King, it is true that we have been everywhere and have seen everything, but never have we seen such a temper as your son’s. Do not look for an answer among the creatures of the skies, if you want to reveal the intentions of the human creatures. Look down at the ground you set your feet on. The knowledge of your ancestors has flown into it. Ask the Snow, gently covering all four quarters of the globe, for he is the good landlord, who keeps the secrets of mankind.’
“The king thanked the Clouds and the Stars, and stroked the snow under his feet. The fresh, mild, blue Snow was pleased by this attention.
“‘Tell me, my king, what is bothering you? Why are you still awake in these dark nights?’
“‘My great concern is my son, who used to be so kind and good to us and now he sees in us nothing but eternal enemies. He lives in his own sad world where the suffering has made him a slave,’ the king said, sadly.
“The Snow thought for a while and said, ‘I remember when the prince was born, sixteen years ago. He had fair eyes and beautiful hair. That was the happiest event in these lands. I loved him there and then. I decided to take care of him and protect him from all evil. But I couldn’t keep that one away.’
“‘Which one? What evil could have come upon my son?’ the king asked urgently.
“The Snow sank into his thoughts for a moment, and then began telling the story. ‘It happened one pitch dark night. The Witch of the Three Seas thought no one could see her. She went all alone into the darkest caves of the Great Kingdom. In those black caves, never touched by the sunbeams, she found the coldest piece of ice. Hidden from the eyes of other living souls, she carved a little blue heart from it. As she carved, she chanted.’
“‘A river of tears, of tears
You shan’t be able to cry,
But with heart heavy of fears
Away your closest you will drive!’
“‘She was singing this devilish curse, and she infused it into the cold heart. She kept repeating your son’s name while she was singing this. And when everything was over, she came looking for the young prince in his room.’
“The king nodded. ‘Oh, I remember that witch. When he was born, she said she wanted to marry him. I didn’t give him to her of course, and she was furious. She said she would do anything to take revenge.’ The king moaned and started crying.
“The Snow continued, ‘But wait a minute, my king, let me finish. Black as a midnight ghost, with hair scattered in the dark air and fetid breath, she then secretly slipped into the room of our newborn lord; her aim remained unknown to me. And when she came out of there, she was holding his dear, live heart in her hands. She hid this heart under her dress, and disappeared with a burst of ominous laughter.’
“‘Oh,’ cried the poor king, ‘is it possible that the witch had exchanged his pure heart for the one made of ice?’
“The Snow did not answer, because it was such a burden for him to tell this sad story that he’d fallen asleep before he knew it. The king went back to his palace and told his wife the whole story. The queen started crying when she knew the truth.
“‘May she be cursed!’ the queen screamed. ‘Because of that pointless feud, she took my only child from me, and made him cold and rough like her own heart.’
“Just then, a little titmouse perched on the windowsill of the hall where they were standing. It had heard about the king’s sorrow from the Clouds high in the sky. The bird had come down because it wanted to help him.
“It tweeted to get the king’s attention and said, ‘Do not be sad, my King, for I have good news for you. A few days ago, I was in the witch’s castle and saw your son’s heart. It is alive and beating, but it is still very small, because there was no human chest in which it could ripen. It is in a high, remote tower that has neither entrance nor exit. Only a little window above it illuminates its high pedestal and golden lid during the day. Spring flowers have grown around it, and birds gather there to whisper gentle words to it in daytime. And since that little heart is so kind and good, and full of love, it listens to every single problem they have and gives them good advice. These birds love it so much that they would certainly be glad to help save it from the evil witch. Should there be someone to hold the heart in their hands, they will manage to carry it out of the window.’
“The king was so moved by this news that he immediately asked the little bird to take him to the castle of the black witch.
“‘But we have to be very careful in order not to wake her up,’ the bird warned the king, ‘because this is the time when she likes to sleep.’
“The king put on his heavy armor, said goodbye to his queen, and headed off with the little titmouse on his shoulder, through boundless frozen lands toward the castle of the witch…”
When the writer finished reading his story, I was fast asleep. I woke up when I heard Rosa’s voice.
“I like this story, because in the end the king manages to save his son from the curse.”
“That’s right,” her father agreed. He was looking at her lovingly, while stroking her forehead. And that inexplicable sorrow emerged from nowhere, spreading into the room again. It reached me and wafted around, as if it was a light wind in my chest. Something happened at that moment—I myself don’t know what, but my heart started bumping so sadly in my chest that I started crying at once. With my head lifted up toward the sky I cried selflessly and bitterly, until the tears wetted my feet and I sank into a little pond of salty water. Meanwhile, Rosa and Paul, who had heard me crying, started searching through the books and found me. At that moment they were looking at me with such an enormous interest that it seemed as if they wanted to devour me with their eyes. The writer was standing opposite me, bent over the bookshelf, and Rosa was looking at me from her bed. I was so embarrassed that I ran to hide as fast as I could.
“Don’t be scared,” Paul tried to calm me down, and stretched out his hand toward me. I sneaked deeper among the shadows of the books, but he reached to pet me on my back. I shivered with pleasure when he touched me. The writer picked me up with one hand under my belly, and carried me to Rosa’s bed. When she saw me, she was so happy that she started clapping.
“This is the loveliest little mouse I have ever seen.”
I stood and put on an air of importance. I lifted my head and puffed off my chest.
“What’s your name?” Rosa asked.
“My name is Mercutio,” I declared proudly, and drew my paw over my longest whisker.
“What a grand name for such a small mouse,” Rosa laughed.
“I may be small, but my heart is grand.”
“That may well be so,” she smiled at me. “You have beautiful eyes.”
“Thank you.” I was a bit embarrassed. “You have beautiful eyes, too. They look like the chocolate cookies that my mother makes every Saturday morning.”
Rosa laughed with a jingling, clear voice. I thought she was the most beautiful princess in the world. I turned twice around myself and curled up to lie on the pillow next to her. I yawned. I was so tired I fell asleep immediately. When I woke up, Rosa was still there.
“So I wasn’t dreaming,” was my discovery for the day; or in that case, for the night.
On How I Learned to Read…
I put my paw on Rosa’s nose to wake her. She stretched and yawned.
“Good morning, Mercutio!” She gave a euphoric cry and briskly rose from her bed. The writer was just coming into the room.
“Great! You’re awake. Get ready for school, your breakfast is waiting.”
Rosa nodded, stood up, and opened the doors of her little wooden wardrobe. A pile of disorderly clothes came down and covered her up to her knees.
“I simply can’t get on with that wardrobe! So many times I’ve told him to put my clothes in order, but he refuses to. What a disobedient wardrobe!” she complained, and suddenly started laughing. I couldn’t see anything funny in that, because my wardrobe was also of the disobedient kind and didn’t follow my orders, so I had to fold my clothes by myself.
“Mercutio, when I come back, we’ll play, won’t we?” Rosa turned toward me while she was trying to pull a dress from the pile of clothes on the floor. “Do you go to school?”
“No,” I answered with my head bent down, because I didn’t know what the word school actually meant.
“How come?” Rosa was looking at her dress carefully, as if she was conducting scientific research or trying to solve a mystery.
“Because we—mice—do not have schools,” I answered hesitantly.
“And how do you learn to read and write, then?”
I didn’t answer, and she looked at me with sympathy.
“Father will teach you,” she said.
I almost jumped for joy, but I didn’t want to look too agitated. I just smiled and added, “I’d like to learn, very much.”
At that moment Rosa stumbled in her dress and fell on the floor.
“Ah, it is so difficult to get dressed. I wish we could do without clothes.”
When eventually she overcame her dress, she tied her hair in a ponytail with a little blue ribbon.
“And what do you do, when you don’t go to school?” she asked.
“I talk to the flowers and ants in the yard,” I replied.
“Oh, how interesting! I would like to be able to talk to them, too.”
I stood on my back feet.
“I can introduce you. They like attention.”
She nodded. Then she took her large, heavy school bag in her hand and swayed toward the kitchen.
“Come on Mercutio, we wouldn’t like to miss breakfast.”
I rushed after her and climbed the legs of the white table until I reached the top of it, where freshly fried warm pancakes and a cup of maple syrup were waiting for me.
“Dad, will you teach Mercutio to read and write?” Rosa turned to her father, her mouth full.
“Why yes, of course!” he answered swiftly. “We’ll start today.”
“Оh!” I exclaimed.
He continued, “Everyone must learn to read, and it doesn’t matter whether they are mice or people.”
He stood up and went to take a thin book with a colorful cover from the library. He flipped through the pages on the table in front of me. Interested, I stared at those pages. They were studded with all kinds of pictures of strange creatures, with big noses or very short legs. The writer told me those were letters with faces and I laughed, because they were really funny indeed.
“Studying without laughter is so boring that it can lead to nothing but sadness. And when you study and laugh, you improve your memory,” he told me. I immediately agreed with this statement.
When Rosa went to school, we both bent over the merry pictures and spelled out loud together.
“Gee…,” I pronounced slowly, then drawled, “De-e…,” I divided the letter D, and stretched my neck to the front. Paul was careful with me, and encouraged me the whole time. Thanks to him, I learned ten letters that day. My lesson for the day ended with the letter J. Then I went home to tell my mother. When she saw me covered with maple syrup all over, she pulled on my ear and we headed toward the bath to get me bathed.
On How Easy It Is to Believe…
I stood up on my back feet on the kitchen windowsill, waiting impatiently for Rosa to come back from school. It was afternoon, and I was tensely waving my tail while trying to count the pink tulips in the front garden.
“Twenty-one, twenty-two…there are so many!” I was nervously quivering, stepping from side to side. But then I saw her coming. She was still far away, on the road to the house. I jumped to the floor, went through a little hole in the stone wall, and went outside. And my dear Rosa, when she saw me, she laughed so loudly that the freckles on her face glowed like stardust in the moonlight.
“What a wonderful welcoming party I have!” She hugged me and kissed me on the nose.
That day we were engrossed in jolly games, and forgot about the world around us. We first went to the backyard of the house, where I wanted to present Rosa to my favorite flowers. She stretched out her hand to shake with each one of them personally.
“Hello, nice to meet you! How are you?” She talked to them merrily, and the flowers answered by shaking their little green leaves.
“We’re fine,” they replied with one voice. “We’re very well, thank you.”
But Rosa couldn’t hear them as clearly as I could, so I encouraged her. “Just believe it.”
She thought for a while.
“What are you doing?” I wondered, seeing the odd faces she was making.
“I’m trying to believe.” And she stayed like that, staring at the flowers, her eyes far away and her forehead wrinkled as she thought it over. Soon, she opened her eyes widely and smiled. “How beautifully they’re singing!” she exclaimed.
What Rosa had heard was the song of the flowers of the forest.
“It is so easy to believe!” she cried, and lay among them on the grass. They went on singing their favorite song to her, because flowers never sing just for themselves. They sing for the whole world.
On What Is Small, What Is Big, and the Meaning of the Whole…
I noticed the ants’ path to the house, and pointed it out to Rosa with my paw. She squatted without speaking, because she didn’t want to disturb them while they were working. They were humming a merry song and passing on some pale pink brier leaves to one another.
“Those ants are so small,” Rosa whispered, comparing them to the big, fat snail that was slowly sliding by. “I wonder if they know how small they are.”
“I don’t think so,” I said confidently. “I think ants are so many that most of them probably think they are very big.” Rosa laughed, and I went on importantly. “The whole and the small are tightly linked, but we can’t see the beauty of the small until we realize the greatness of the whole that it forms.”
“That is so,” Rosa nodded, and continued observing the ants carefully. We had made a shadow over them. They thought that it was getting cloudy and it was going to rain, so they looked up to check the weather. Then they saw us and waved at us happily. We waved back at them.
“How are you today?” I asked them in a good-natured, neighborly manner.
“We’re fine,” the ants answered my greeting. “Today is a great day for sunny songs and happy games, don’t you think?”
“But the only thing you do is work. When do you have time for games?” Rosa wondered.
“Our work is like a game for us, because it brings us great pleasure.”
“But don’t you ever stop to have a rest?”
“We can’t, there’s no time! The winter’s coming soon, and we have to be prepared.” Together, they turned and started on their work again.
“Well, winter’s not even close. There’s the whole summer ahead,” she whispered to me. “This seems to me a bit meaningless—only work and no fun.”
“Everything is meaningless until we give meaning to it,” the ants said with one voice. They had small heads, but could hear perfectly well. Rosa was a bit embarrassed, and stood up.
“Maybe they are right.”
We walked away on the bright path ahead, searching for other happy, hard-working creatures in the garden behind the house.
Where Birds Fly to in the Winter…
The evening came unnoticeably, settling us in her hospitable cool comfort, and we dreamily looked at the lights shining above us. The stars twinkled, animated by our attention. A star would glow brighter here and there in order to impress us, but the others quickly overshadowed it, with their light just as bright and strong. So they blinked on the sky, their legs and arms spread; one could easily mistake them for shiny little sky ghosts with small triangular heads. A flock of wild geese flew above and cried loudly to greet us, but said nothing more as they were in a hurry. Suddenly Rosa’s face became serious.
After a while she asked me, “Do you know where birds of passage fly to in the winter?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted, and was silent. I was ashamed of not knowing.
“I also do not know where. But I know that they go back home.” She became silent again. “Someday I will go back home, too,” she said, absorbed in her thoughts.
“But you are at home!” I was bewildered.
“Father says that our real home is not here, where we are at the moment, but somewhere out there among the stars, where mother is now.”
“Don’t you like it here?” I asked her, feeling a bit offended. Rosa laughed.
“Of course I like it,” and she turned her head toward the stars.
“Rosa, if you decide to go home for the winter, will you come back to us again after that? Birds of passage always do so, don’t they?”
Rosa nodded. “I would very much like to.”
“But why do you want to go?” I just couldn’t stop being interested, after all.
“That’s what the doctor said to dad. He said that I would soon go back home. I heard them while they were whispering at the door. I do not know why adults think that children don’t understand when they whisper. As if they were invisible when they whispered.”
“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “Mum is always yelling at me, so it is hard to not understand her.”
Rosa laughed with that wonderful, melodious voice that could make a flower blossom from the ground even in wintertime. And I grew sad, really sad indeed—I did not know why. Now I know. But then, I still didn’t understand.
On How to Submit Our Fears to Other Magical Creatures…
A few days later, I woke up to find out that the writer and Rosa were not at home. The absence of them both so early in the morning was so worrying that I complained to my mother, and she baked chocolate cookies to calm me down.
A dozen cookies and two cups of milk later, Rosa and Paul came home, but they were strangely silent and very absent-minded. Something had made them sad, but they didn’t want to share with me what exactly it was. Rosa went to bed immediately, and Paul leaned over his typewriter and rattled away on it. I was alone again. A little tear rolled down over my nose, because nobody paid attention to me. Why did people not want to play with me today?
Rosa was fast asleep until the evening. When she woke up she looked at me anxiously and said, “Mercutio, I had a nightmare.”
“A nightmare is just a bad dream,” I told her.
“But I was frightened.” She wept, and a star fell from her eye onto the soft pillow.
“Then let me tell you a story about fear.” I jumped onto my back feet and waved my hands melodramatically. “Let me tell you how another little girl managed to overcome fear. She was as beautiful as you; she had eyes, a nose—and even ears! She often liked to sing and laugh. But every night, just before she went to bed, she grew really frightened. That girl was such a coward! She was so frightened by the darkness that she refused to go to sleep without the light of the night lamp in her room. She often had nightmares caused by her fears, and didn’t like to get up from her bed during the night. She claimed the paws of some fierce and ugly monsters were down there under the bed, waiting for her.
“One evening, this beautiful and easily-scared girl couldn’t sleep yet again. She called for her parents, but they were too far away to hear. Then the girl grew even more scared, because she thought they had been attacked and taken away by the evil monsters. She huddled under her blanket, trembling, and held her little fluffy dragon toy tightly.
“But suddenly, the girl felt really thirsty. She nervously lifted her white blanket and hesitantly stepped onto the floor. In no time she’d trotted through the corridor toward the kitchen, as if she was being chased by someone. In the distance the kitchen looked so dark and dangerous to the innocent mind of the child that she started weeping, and held her little toy even more tightly. The girl stopped timidly just before the door of the kitchen. She made one tiny step ahead, and then one more, and one more. She felt a breath in the dark, and heard faint steps just in front of her. She felt unknown eyes looking at her face, and that gave her goose pimples. The child ran ahead, her heart bumping, and switched on the light in the kitchen.
“When the light spread through the room, she saw some really strange creatures in front of her: tall and short, one-eyed and four-eyed, short-legged or with no legs at all. They seemed frozen in front of the closed doors of the refrigerator, with food in their hands or paws, and they all stared at the girl. At that moment they opened their big mouths and roared at her. The startled child dropped her fluffy toy and cried so loudly that it drowned out all the monsters. Because of her overwhelming fear, she couldn’t see how they were running across the kitchen in panic. They were bumping into things and stumbling into one another. The girl gave them a puzzled look. Then she realized that they were really frightened. The monsters were crying because they were scared, just as she was.
“After some running around the room, the monsters scattered on their way and disappeared, leaving no trace of themselves. Just one small creature, very much like a cockroach, was still roaming the kitchen in a fog of fear. It hit the wall twice and disappeared.
“The girl was alone again. Her worried parents came running out of their bedroom and hugged her, but she was not afraid anymore. She even found it a little funny, when she remembered those clumsy, harmless creatures. She went back to her room, squatted, and bravely looked under her bed.
“A pair of round eyes were anxiously looking at her. The child apologized for scaring them, and asked them to come out of their shelter. A little pink animal emerged from beneath the bed. After it seemed OK, a few more of those ugly but kindhearted monsters appeared. They explained that they were hunters of bad dreams and children’s fears. They told her that people often cast them out of their homes, disgusted by their long nails or snouty faces, thus making it impossible for them to help children and take care of them.
“The girl and the monsters became friends and she was never again afraid of them, because she knew that she was protected by lots of magical creatures.
“That’s why, my dear Rosa, whenever you have a bad dream, you just have to call on one of those luminous, magical creatures, and they would gladly help you forget it. Give your fear to them, just as you would give away something you don’t need. Because someone is waiting for what you have to give away, in order to turn it into fairy dust and scatter it around the world.”
Rosa hastily closed her eyes.
“I give every worry, fear, or trouble of mine to those bright magical creatures that would gladly accept it. And I thank them.”
After a while, she opened her eyes and smiled.
“It worked! I’m not afraid anymore.”
I was so moved that I clapped.
This is how I, Mercutio Polinski, helped Rosa overcome her fear caused by the bad dream. But this is not the end of my story. Because the most beautiful things always happen when we free ourselves from our fears.
On the Stories of the World and Other Interesting Things…
There are stories that we tell to the world, as well as stories that slowly come to life and tell the world about us. They assume their own spirit and individuality; they become independent of their creators, just like a child who grows up. And then the time comes when they start to talk to us with wisdom, and teach the moral beauties of the world to us.
“What’s morality?” Rosa looked me straight in the eyes. I was embarrassed, because I was so in love with her.
I stammered, “Morality is…is…when we talk about our spirits.”
“Aha,” Rosa nodded. “It means about spiritual beauty.”
“That’s right.” I nodded my head in agreement and rubbed my nose with my paw. “So, as I was saying, there are moments, in which the story of a fairy tale is so gripping that it begins to clearly come to life in front of you. It turns into a fairy with the wings of an angel, or into a monster from the marshlands with a playful smile. They both are wonderful creatures, because they bring so much love with them.”
“I haven’t seen any ugly monsters.”
“I think you haven’t seen any monsters at all.”
“That is so, but it seems to me that if I see one, I most probably won’t be scared, because I believe that all beings are good.”
“I think so too.” I smiled.
A few weeks had passed since Rosa had stopped going to school. At that time, she was at home every day. Only in the mornings would she and the writer go out. They were absent for hours, and when they came back at noon they seemed exhausted and troubled. At such moments Rosa paid almost no attention to me. She was in a hurry to go to bed and sleep, but when she woke, she was again that playful, glowing girl I knew so well.
Soon enough, for reasons unknown to me, the fur on her head started to fall out. Back then, I thought that people, just like animals, changed their fur for the summer season and strongly believed that hers would soon grow again. But her hair didn’t grow again, and Rosa became more and more discouraged because of that.
“I’m so ugly, aren’t I?” she asked me once, when she was very sad. I tried to cheer her up.
“I think you’re even more beautiful than when you had your fur.” Rosa smiled at that. I added, “Don’t be sad, because you may cause a flower to dry out.”
“Sometimes our bad moods may do that—be the reason for the lovely flowers to dry.”
“I wouldn’t like to harm the lovely flowers,” she said, and leaned her head on her hand.
Yes, my dear friends, sometimes there are stories that speak to us instead of us telling them to others. This story is one of those.
On Good and Bad, and a Bit on Those Who Often Grow Sad When They Are on Their Own…
“Will I go to hell?” Rosa asked.
“Hell does not exist,” her father said.
“They say that bad people go to hell.”
“Who says so?” the writer asked.
“Maybe those who do not believe in heaven.”
Rosa rested her head on the pillow. The writer put the little book he was holding aside and leaned forward.
“You are not bad, my dear Rosa.”
“I lied once.”
“If this is so, you must know that even the worst people go to heaven. We are all born to go to heaven.”
“That is so nice,” the girl sighed and smiled.
“True. We suffer only when we forget it. There isn’t any soul on earth, not even in the whole universe, that does not deserve to go to heaven.”
“Even those who steal biscuits?” I asked, because I remembered that time when, unnoticed by anyone, I snuck a biscuit from the kitchen at home.
“Even those who grow sad when they are by themselves.” Paul looked at me with his warm eyes. I hung my head because I had been feeling sad when I was left on my own, recently more often than ever. I didn’t think anyone had seen me, but the writer knew it. He was smiling kind-heartedly.
“Yes,” I said, a bit embarrassed. “I am sometimes strongly grief-stricken, I myself do not know why.”
“We all feel a little miserable sometimes. Those are the graceful moments of our lives, when we clearly realize who we really are. Sometimes I am sad when I’m lonely, and then I find out I need a hug. There are other times when I grieve that I see the sun setting, and then I realize how much I love the day. And sometimes we may be sad because of things that we think we want, but actually we don’t.”
“How so?” I asked, at the same time as Rosa.
“When you don’t really know what exactly you want,” the writer answered gently.
“But how can we know what we really want?” I leaned toward him impatiently.
“That’s very easy. Listen to yourself. You always know what you want; you just have to hold your breath and listen to your soul. Then you will hear a little voice that will remind you about your real wishes. You will feel a light warming in your stomach when you reach the right decision.”
“And what is that voice I will hear?”
“That is you, your own self that is hidden deep inside of you, waiting to be recognized.”
I grew pensive. So, of me there were more than one inside, just the same as me? Was that possible? Paul, as if he guessed what I was thinking about, quickly explained.
“Your true self is hiding from you when you are sad, and appears again when you are happy. That’s why the faster you find out why you are sad, the faster you can return to the you who is always happy.”
I nodded in agreement.
“I’ve known since I was very young that I am Joy!”
“Then tell me, my dear little mouse, do you know why lately you have been Sorrow?”
I sank into deep thought. It is so easy to realize something about yourself when you know why you are sad, but what can you learn when you don’t know why you are sad? With droopy ears, such as I had every time I was unhappy, I went to him and cuddled in his neck.
“Some day you will know,” he said, and went on reading his book aloud.
How I Knew the Reason for My Sadness…
Rosa was so lovely, with her sparkling look and beautiful bright eyes. She was a mystical creature that soon started to fade away in front of me. Unnoticeably, almost invisibly, she melted like a fallen autumn leaf in a rainy forest. She became hollow-cheeked; her face became thinner, her look darker. It took me a long time to notice all that, because for me her real beauty arose from the depths of her breath. With this change in her came my awareness of what had caused my sadness. The insight about this reality, which at the beginning was only smiling at me from a distance, was now weighing on my chest invisibly. Before that I couldn’t understand where it came from, and I was wandering between smiles and seriousness. But what you realize can set you free, is that not so? It happened to me, too. The moment I knew the reason for my sadness, I was freed from the burden of it. But at what price?
Rosa spent almost the whole day in bed. She slept a lot more than before. She was exhausted. I tried to cheer her up with funny stories and merry adventures, but this could only bring a temporary smile to her face. It brightened up the atmosphere for a very short time, and then she sank back into the infinite world of the dream. I tried to keep her away from that world, because I could see how it gradually drove me away from her, and her father as well. The writer was worried. More and more often he stood beside her bed, and he rarely wrote. There was no time for writing. He was trying to transfer his love to Rosa, to support her in her dream.
They say that people sleep because their spirit is looking for a rest after long, tiring days. But if this was true, then Rosa‘s spirit was not only looking for a rest, it was looking for freedom. What the writer was doing every day was trying to inspire her soul with peace and love.
Every morning I impatiently climbed to the windowsill in Rosa’s room. I opened the shutters wide and met the rise of the day, my breath held. And when the sun rose from the somber fields beyond, it touched Rosa’s eyes, kissed her nose, stroked her with its warm hand, and woke her up from the dream. She gazed at the sunrise and started to daydream of those wonderful places the sun had touched during the night, when it was on the other side of the world.
“Mercutio, let’s travel the world together,” she suggested sometimes. I readily agreed, because I wanted to see the world very much.
Every time the boiling sphere stood high in the sky yet hidden from us, I used to bring different flowers to Rosa in flower pots. In fact, it was the writer who brought them and put them on the windowsill, but the idea was mine. I chose them, because I knew very well which ones were her favorite plants. She loved sunflowers most, because they reminded her of the sun and kept the sun’s warm breath on their surface for a long time.
The Day When Everything Changed…
It was a summer evening, the time when bird couples had already gone to bed in their nests and the moon hadn’t yet dropped her white yarn over the city. That night, it was as if everything had stopped to take a breath. Rosa was sleeping, breathing imperceptibly. The writer was watching over her as usual, his head leaned against his hand. His hair was scattered, and his look said his mind had drifted away.
I cuddled in his hands, on his chest. The air was still and dry, and we could hardly breathe. Paul petted me when I twitched, and that calmed me down. I peeped through his hands toward Rosa. She was still sleeping.
“Mercutio, someday we will all disperse around the world just as the leaves do in the autumn,” he told me, feeling that I was restless. “Parts of us will be put in every living creature, thus contributing to its beauty. Rosa will also be part of this magic. She will be part of eternity.”
His words made me think. I jumped on Rosa’s bed and whispered to her, “Your real story is just about to begin.”
Her fingers quivered. An unknown calmness came over me. And as if an invisible guest settled down between us came the dense energy of love. I started to talk to her about that—about love.
The fairy tale that I told Rosa was about the prince with the beautiful blue eyes, because in my dream I was that prince and Rosa was the princess of his dreams. That is to say, of my dreams.
“A long time ago, three troll women as dark as tar threw the prince’s beloved into faraway worlds where no man could reach her. Their eyes were big and black, and their noses looked like snouts. They envied the beauty of the princess, and turned her into an invisible spirit. She roamed here and there; she was confused and alone, and couldn’t find the way back home.
“But one day, she was called upon in the dream of the prince. She didn’t know how she got there, but soon she found out that the prince was longing for her so much that he had called her unconsciously, with his thoughts. They hugged and cried, because they were happy to be together again. They held each other and talked so much that they didn‘t notice nine years had passed. The kingdom of the prince had changed a lot during that time. The country had become deserted without the king and queen, who had died of sorrow over their long-sleeping son.
“But the princess raised her head from the shoulder of the prince, and being a spiritual creature, she immediately saw what had happened with his kingdom. She embraced him, and so three more years passed.
“Then she told him, ‘My prince, we shouldn’t hug any more. The years pass in timelessness for us, but there beyond the dream, your kingdom is in deep agony. Wake up and help your kingdom, because I saw how much it suffers without your protection and care.’
“‘But I love you,’ the prince cried in the dream. ‘I don’t want to be where you are not. You are here now—that’s why I want to keep on sleeping.’
“‘Don’t be unwise, my prince. I love you, too, very much. But if we go on like this, soon there will be nothing left of you but a soul. And you must fulfil your destiny. Please, feel compassion for your people and forgive me for keeping you in thrall to myself for so many years. You are a man now, and when you wake up, you will be a king.’
“‘I can’t live without you,’ the prince whispered. ‘Please don’t leave me.’
“‘You don’t need me to be happy, but I’ll tell you this. Whenever you stretch your hand toward the trunk of a fir tree, when you feel its pulse and let it flow through your veins, then you must know—that is me whispering to you. And then you will realize that I can smile at you even through the pale glistening of the foam of the youngest river. I will smile at you even from here, from your pure heart. And when you feel it getting warm as a stone in the embers, then you should know that I have put my hand on your chest.’
“The prince started crying from happiness. When he woke up, he brought prosperity and peace to his people, and strength to his country. But his aides noticed an odd behavior in him. The prince often liked to stay alone in the wild forest where, they thought, he was looking for a long-lost elf-woman among the trees. They heard him talk to the fir trees, and sometimes they could even distinguish the quiet, gentle voice of a woman, carried on the backs of the horses of the wind. That voice was talking to him. At such moments the prince smiled so sincerely that it looked as if an invisible nymph with clothes crocheted from the morning light stood before him and kissed him on the lips.”
I saw Rosa’s lips part and she gave me her last smile, saying “Thank you.”
“Continue talking, my dear little mouse,” the writer told me, his eyes shining with dampness. “You are a great storyteller. Some day you may save the world.”
I felt happy. Did he really believe that I could be like him? That I could give joy to the world? He nodded, feeling the stream of my thoughts.
“You can do a lot more than that.”
Rosa sighed. This breath bestowed a kind of dizziness upon me, intoxicating me with love. I tried to close my eyes, but I don’t know why I gazed at the ceiling. I felt that presence again and suddenly started crying, but so gently and softly that my tears turned into a pink mist. I looked around; I hadn’t realized the mist had spread across the room, and was now gently covering Rosa from her feet to her beautiful chestnut hair. Paul was smiling with benevolence, and I knew that he had met it before. Maybe it had once embraced his wife, I thought. The writer nodded at me.
“Rosa is becoming one with eternity.”
I blinked at him in astonishment.
“But how?” I protested. “We can’t just let her leave and do nothing!”
“There’s nothing we could do. There are moments in which we are nothing but mere observers in the lives of our beloveds. We have no right to choose for them. We can only be thankful for them, once we have hugged them and set them free. But where Rosa’s going now, thousands of flowers will be singing for her.”
“Will there be sunflowers?”
“If she wishes it, there will be.”
I sighed, as I was struggling with the idea of freeing Rosa. I was jealous of the pink mist. Was it more important for Rosa than me or the writer?
The mist thickened, and as it assumed density I could feel its great nature. I couldn’t resist it any more. I gave my permission to the mist, and now it could do what it came to do.
I don’t know how long we stayed like that, staring into the distance, dreamy; without knowing it, we gave in to sleep. When we woke up, Rosa was gone. Her bed was deserted. It had lost its essence, and now it was just a piece of wood. The writer petted me on the head. Then I saw her in his brown eyes, where a piece of the purest soul sparkled; Rosa’s soul. I knew he had seen her in mine, as well. I felt tears coming to my eyes and turned aside.
“Dearest mouse, remember, never to be sad on your own again. Turn to those who love you most, and then you can cry out your sorrow in their embrace.”
Why We Live and How I, Mercutio Polinski, Began to Give Joy to the World…
I realized one thing—there were lots of ways to give joy to the world, and one of them was through love. I have given my life to love. Even though my heart is so small, it holds and gives out all the warmth that could ever shine, even during the night. This strength was given to me by thoughts of Rosa. This is also what her father taught me.
I chose to tell you about Rosa and the writer, because they were the people who inspired me to write, to create. They revealed to me the magic of the book, and the joy of their poetic solitude.
The writer and I, we often muse over the profound and insightful ideas of an interesting book, just the way I once dreamed we would. Under his guidance and support, I wrote down all those fairy stories that had been inside me, urgently coming to the surface since I was very young. I freed them, as one lets a genie out of a bottle, and gave them to the world. Have you ever let a genie out of a bottle? It’s very easy. You just close your eyes and declare: “I choose to create!” And then all magical creatures, fantasy fairies, forest leprechauns, and wizards of the seas, will come to help the one who has wished that. And when you yourself have fulfilled that, you will feel the cork popping out; there, from the bottle, a new fairyland will start flowing out, in order to settle down in the world. And then all your dreams will come true, because you have wished it so.
And why do we live? Probably every one of us has his own view on the matter and wants to say it out loud, but for me the reason is and will always be this one—for love.
Now your turn has come,
In one short verse to say,
What makes you glow,
Or even play.
But remember: The words you choose to use must be frank and pure as a sculpture of the first snow. Just think…dig deeply, think seriously just once more, and say out loud:
“This is what I’m living for…”