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  • A bedtime story for children, in English.

  • "See, Mee, and the Redheaded Menace"

  • Once there was house with a mouse family living between the kitchen floor and the basement:

  • Papa Mouse, Mama Mouse, Grandpa Mouse, Grandma Mouse, and the two twins, See and Mee. They

  • all got along together just fine, and the twins were inseparable. Mama Mouse and Papa

  • Mouse adored their little darlings.

  • This particular mouse family was musically inclined! Mama played piano, Papa played saxophone,

  • Grandma played violin, and Grandpa played clarinet. Every evening they would make music,

  • seated by the fireplace. The twin brothers would join in, imitating the arias they heard

  • over the radio in the kitchen upstairs. See had a high voice, and Mee's voice was even

  • higher!

  • The mouse family had a happy life, except for one thing. There was a cat in the house,

  • an oversized creature often waiting in the kitchen, ready to pounce on any mouse that

  • came out of the mouse hole.

  • "Stay right here till you catch those filthy creatures," said the homeowner, leaving

  • the cat's food dish near the hole.

  • When she overheard that, Mama Mouse got mad. "What do you mean, filthy creatures? We're

  • a lot cleaner than that big ball of fur that runs around shedding all over the carpet."

  • There was one good thing. The cat had never succeeded in actually catching a single mouse.

  • He was too stupid and lazy.

  • The owner gave up trying to use the cat against the mice. Then he hit on the idea of using

  • posters to trick the mice into leaving the house.

  • For two days he slaved over the project, using the kitchen floor as a workshop to paint his

  • posters.

  • Finally the posters were ready. They were masterfully executed. The mice spent a long

  • time every night admiring the artistry. See and Mee, who had just mastered the alphabet,

  • sounded out the words.

  • The tastiest morsels are in the bakery down the street!

  • And then there was a slogan so downright silly that it gave the whole mouse family a hearty

  • laugh. Free cheese is available in the mousetrap.

  • Seeing his posters had done no good, the homeowner got back onto the kitchen floor and created

  • a new poster with a new slogan. Holland: the country with the tastiest cheese in the whole

  • world! This slogan would do the trick, he was sure...

  • After the mice failed to pack up and move to Holland, the owner gave up on his war with

  • them. There was still no great love between the homeowner and the mice, but there was

  • at least an uneasy peace.

  • Every night, the mouse roamed the kitchen, helping themselves to anything not tightly

  • sealed. They had lost all fear of the cat or the homeowner.

  • One day the homeowner's red-haired nephew showed up. The boy's parents had sent him

  • there, saying they were leaving the country and planned to be away for a long time. The

  • uncle wasn't exactly thrilled. He knew that the young redhead wasn't very well-behaved

  • and suspected the parents were just unloading the boy. But you can't turn your nephew

  • onto the street! So the boy had to stay. Along with him came a big grand piano that occupied

  • half of the living room.

  • The boy turned out to be clever and inventive. When he found out about the mice, the uneasy

  • peace was shattered and the house became a war zone. First he kicked the cat off of the

  • couch, chuckling: "You haven't earned the right to lounge around all day."

  • After training the cat, the boy set about taking care of the mice. He knew from his

  • uncle that they lived under the kitchen floor. The first thing he did was to plug up the

  • hole in the wall with a piece of cardboard. By morning the hole was back, even bigger

  • this time. The boy sealed it with plywood. But Papa Mouse chewed through the plywood

  • as well.

  • "It's no use," said the boy's uncle, when he saw the disappointment on his nephew's

  • face. "They've got teeth strong enough to chew through iron."

  • "We'll see about that," answered the boy. The uncle envied his self-assurance.

  • The next day, Grandpa Mouse went up to see how far away the redheaded menace was. All

  • of a sudden he was knocked down by something coming through the air from behind the refrigerator.

  • The missile came from the boy's slingshot.

  • Grandma Mouse used her old-fashioned mustard plasters to treat poor Grandpa. The twins

  • read him newspapers scavenged from the wastepaper basket. Grandpa moaned with pain. For many

  • days he limped on his wounded paw, vowing to take revenge. And the war came to a standstill.

  • The redheaded boy stopped lying in wait near the hole for a while, thinking the mice must

  • have moved to another house. The cat waited and watched. The mice sat quietly and ate

  • their final crumbs. They had to think fast or starve.

  • Papa Mouse had the idea of gnawing a hole in a different place.

  • "Great idea!" said Mama, looking at her husband with pride.

  • "I always said that our son was a clever boy," added Grandma.

  • That night Papa Mouse set to work. The boy's uncle had long since given up fighting the

  • mice, so his home office was sure to be safe...

  • Papa Mouse returned around daybreak with a good supply of cheese and bread that the owner

  • had carelessly left on his desk.

  • The mice were in the middle of a feast when all of a sudden they heard an alarming sound.

  • Papa Mouse went up to the newly built mouse hole and saw the freckled face of a grinning

  • boy, trying to thrust his fist inside.

  • The family sat down to talk. They absolutely had to get rid of the redheaded menace now.

  • The suggestions showed just how much the boy had exasperated them.

  • "We should chew up his book bag," suggested Mama Mouse.

  • "No good," said Grandma sharply. "I think we should gnaw through his shoes."

  • "What kind of an idea is that?" said Grandpa. "He can just use that as an excuse to keep

  • from going to school. Anyway, his uncle will buy the kid a new pair first thing. The last

  • thing the uncle wants to see is that boy moping around the house all day!"

  • "I think..." said Papa, and then paused. When everyone's ears were wide open, he

  • said, "His flower bush... Let's chew up that plant he loves so much."

  • All the other mice against the idea, but no one spoke. Everyone knew how the boy felt

  • about the flower bush. They remembered how tenderly he cared for it, watering it, binding

  • the flowers, carrying the plant out into the sunshine. Disfiguring the plant would have

  • been too cruel even for Grandpa, whose paw had been injured so painfully... Papa was

  • upset by the silent veto of his idea but pretended not to notice.

  • To break the silence, the twins spoke up loudly, in one voice. "We should gnaw the cables

  • to his computer!"

  • The mice had often observed the boy playing his silly video games while neglecting his

  • studies. His uncle would lecture him, but to no avail.

  • "A great idea," Mama exclaimed. "Why didn't we think of that before?" She looked

  • at Papa Mouse as though she blamed him for not thinking of the idea himself. What a perfect

  • way to get even with the redheaded menace!

  • The twins volunteered to chew the cables. Everyone agreed; after all, they had come

  • up with the idea. They began that very night. Papa Mouse and Grandpa Mouse asked to be part

  • of the team. One was assigned to keep an eye on the redheaded boy, the other on his uncle.

  • Night came. The boy and his uncle were in their respective rooms. The cat was hiding

  • under the couch as usual. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Grandpa Mouse looked

  • up out of the mouse hole and waved to the twins once he was sure the coast was clear.

  • "Come out," he whispered. "Everyone's asleep."

  • See and Mee came out of the mouse hole and ran to the computer. There were plenty of

  • cables near the computer, but the mice were clever enough to gnaw through the main cable

  • coming from the computer -- but not the cable with the house current!

  • The next morning, everyone woke up to the sound of the boy yelling at the top of his

  • lungs.

  • "Uncle!" he hollered. "Those rotten mice chewed up my computer cable!"

  • The boy's uncle came over quickly from his home office and examined the damage carefully.

  • Once he was sure that the cable had really been gnawed through, he talked to the boy.

  • "All right. We'll get a new one and cut off the bandits' food supply. I told them

  • they should go to Holland, and they paid no attention. Now they'll wish they had listened

  • to me."

  • By evening, the new cable was in place, and the redheaded boy was back playing his favorite

  • computer game, shooting down monsters and robots.

  • The mouse family was dejected, but See and Mee volunteered to chew through more cables.

  • That night, they worked extra hard. They were satisfied when they returned to their humble

  • home. They fell sound asleep just before dawn. But soon they were awakened by the boy's

  • screams. Through the hole they saw the freckles on his face jumping up and down. The boy was

  • despondent. His uncle promised to buy new cables and punish the mice, but the boy realized

  • that the mice had declared war on him personally this time. They knew just how to hurt him!

  • "It's amazing how clever these mice are!" said the uncle, chuckling.

  • The boy screamed even louder and waved his arms, knocking a vase off the table. He wasn't

  • ready to give up yet.

  • The uncle would purchase new cables, and the mice would then proceed to chew them up. Finally

  • the strain was too much for the uncle and he refused to spend any more money on what

  • he called "idiotic video games." The boy sobbed for a day, then broke open his piggy

  • bank and bought cables with his own money. Soon his money ran out... No more video games...

  • The boy wandered around the house aimlessly.

  • One day his parents called from overseas and reminded the boy's uncle that he was supposed

  • to be studying music. The boy objected, saying he couldn't concentrate on music after what

  • the mice had done to him. But his parents insisted and told the boy's uncle to sit

  • the lazy boy down at the piano.

  • The uncle dusted off the piano lid, opened it, and put sheet music on the sheet-music

  • holder. "I have to do whatever your parents say. Please be so kind, maestro, as to take

  • a seat at the piano. Now practice your scales."

  • The boy sighed, squirmed on the seat, leafed though the sheet music, plopped his fingers

  • onto the keys, and began. His uncle frowned and asked him, "Is that all you learned

  • in two years?"

  • "That's it. What more do you expect?"

  • "You're a real blockhead, you know. After two years, normal kids are playing rhapsodies."

  • The boy didn't protest and continued to run his fingers over the keys.

  • The uncle sighed and went out to stretch his legs.

  • He returned one hour later. His nephew was still pounding the piano keyboard. Now the

  • neighbors were calling on the phone, demanding an immediate end to the racket.

  • The boy's uncle closed the lid of the piano, shooed the boy off the piano stool, and sat

  • down. He began thinking. He had to do something. The only idea he could think of was to hire

  • a teacher.

  • The following day, a young man fresh out of the conservatory showed up. He played his

  • entire repertoire to his redheaded pupil. Then he left.

  • When the boy's uncle went into the yard, his neighbors rushed at him from all sides,

  • wondering how his nephew had learned to play so well in just one day.

  • Two days later, an old lady came to the house. She had been teaching the piano so long she

  • had lost track of the years. She spent many minutes explaining music theory in the most

  • boring manner possible. Then she sang scales to the boy, without laying a finger on the

  • piano... It turned out she suffered from arthritis and hadn't played a note for thirty years.

  • Other teachers came, but none made any progress with the boy. What was his uncle to do?

  • Whenever the redhead sat down to play the piano, Grandma Mouse made a big show of walking

  • to the mouse hole and covering it from inside with a piece of plywood so they wouldn't

  • have to hear the disharmonious sounds. Grandpa Mouse became so irritable that he didn't

  • even drink his favorite coffee. Mama Mouse was scandalized. "These people truly do

  • a poor job raising their children. Human children are so lazy and do whatever they want!"

  • See and Mee, the twin mice brothers, wanted very badly to play the big piano themselves.

  • One day when there was no one home except for the lazy cat, they emerged from the mouse

  • hole. The enormous, bright black grand piano stood in the middle of the boy's room. Its

  • big white and black teeth glittered under a bright lamp. The mice crept up onto the

  • piano stool, whirled around, squealing with delight, and then climbed up onto the keys.

  • As they ran back and forth on the keys, the strings hummed and rang out. The twins were

  • having great fun.

  • Then someone entered the house. The mice were too far away to run to their home in time,

  • so they hid under the strings of the piano.

  • The redhead had just come back from school. After a snack, he went to his computer, but

  • found it was still not working. He roamed through the house a while, then tried to lure

  • the cat out from underneath the sofa. The cat didn't respond to any of his promises.

  • "Well then, don't come out, if you want to be like that!" he said in a hurt voice

  • and sighed.

  • Bored and with nothing else left to do, the boy went to the piano and sat down. He put

  • his hands on the keys -- and lo and behold, a miracle happened. The piano started making

  • real music! Chopin, no less!

  • The boy tore his hands away from the keys in shock. The music halted. He put his hand

  • on his forehead. His temperature was normal... The redheaded menace put his hands on the

  • keys again. Gorgeous music flowed from the instrument again, this time by Tchaikovsky.

  • The boy stared stupidly at the keys, unable to comprehend what was going on.

  • Then he heard soft laughter from underneath the lid of the piano. The boy gingerly lifted

  • the lid and peeked inside. There sat his two enemies.

  • "Aha, I've got you now," he exclaimed gleefully.

  • But then he reflected on the miracle that had just happened. He decided to call off

  • his revenge, at least for the moment.

  • "I won't lay a hand on you rodents, if you'll just tell me the truth. Who was playing

  • the piano just now? Me or you?"

  • "We were," answered the twins simultaneously.

  • "That's impossible," said the boy. "If that's true, then play me something."

  • The mice scurried around over the strings, and beautiful music streamed from the instrument.

  • "Can you teach me?" asked the boy.

  • "Of course," the twins answered simultaneously.

  • "When shall we begin?" asked the redheaded menace.

  • "Let's make it tomorrow," answered See and Mee. "One thing, though. You've got

  • to stop chasing us out of the kitchen and you have to put cheese and bread out for us."

  • After brief reflection, the boy gave his word.

  • "And we won't chew up your cables any more," promised the mice.

  • Then the little twins went back home. That very night, they found a piece of cheese and

  • a crust of bread under the table. Down payment made, down payment accepted!

  • Back from school the next day, the boy sat down at the piano. The mice sat alongside

  • and the lessons began. It was hard going, and there were days when See and Mee wanted

  • to throw in the towel. But the boy promised to work hard, and finally his playing started

  • to improve.

  • The boy's uncle couldn't understand what was going on with his nephew. How on earth

  • had he learned to play without a teacher?

  • At times the mice sang operatic numbers or songs with lyrics ridiculing cats... The cat

  • lay under the couch and sulked, too afraid of the boy to lay a paw on them. The budding

  • pianist accompanied the twins, putting his newly acquired skills to good use.

  • The neighbors were happy; the boy's uncle was happy; and the boy was still a redhead

  • but no longer a redheaded menace. He no longer waved his fist at the mouse hole. Every evening

  • he left pieces of cheese and bread under the table. One day he gave the mouse family a

  • piece of paper that he had colored by himself. Mama Mouse and Grandma Mouse used the orange-colored

  • paper to wallpaper their home. Now, whenever they lit a fire in the fireplace, the walls

  • glowed a particularly bright orange. The mice family had a cozy, warm home, and always had

  • plenty to eat.

  • And that is how, in one house, music ended a war and replaced hatred with friendship

  • and respect.

  • One year later, the boy's parents returned from their foreign travels and took the boy

  • to a different city. It became quiet and boring in the house. The cat was free now, but didn't

  • know what he wanted to do. Sometimes, while he sat by the window, he looked for a long

  • time into the distance, waiting expectantly for the appearance of the boy's red locks.