Henry stood, gaping up in awe at the bustle of the village. In front of them, feet and legs crossed and darted left and right. Giant bags, swung like ripened fruits dangling from tree branches in the wind. People were shouting randomly out of their dens towards passersby. They seemed drawn in by the noise. The humans lingered around the entrance of the dens, looking down at the offerings in each. They would point, speak some gibberish, before handing over some shiny coins in exchange for whatever they appeared to want.
Around the edge of the market square, children whizzed round in circles on strange contraptions. They stood on two pegs which they moved with their feet in a circular motion, which appeared to make two hollow circles, one in front of the other, propel them forwards so smoothly it was as though they were flying. They held on to what looked like shiny branches, attached to the rest of the contraption, and sat on a squishy black seat, shaped like a foxes head.
In the far corner, there was a giant fluffy animal, with big floppy ears and a drooling tongue sat, tied to a fence. Every now and then, it would lean to a passerby with neck outstretched, whining for in for attention, it’s front paws patting left, right, left, right.
‘OK, here’s the plan’ Walter said with conviction, snapping Henry out of his overwhelmed gaze.
‘You see that den there’ he pointed to the very nearest structure on the right hand side. It was fairly quiet compared to the other dens, there didn’t appear to be any humans approaching, and the man inside wasn’t shouting like the others. He was sat, in a shadowy corner at the back, with a big white sheet covered in black markings held right up in front of his face.
‘That’s our target’. Henry looked on; it looked like a very tempting target indeed. Just as Walter promised, the den had row upon row of fruit, from plump and juicy strawberries, to deep red cherries, to crisp green apples.
‘You’re the smallest, so you’re less likely to be seen, therefore, your mission is to climb up there, pick out all the best bits, and throw them down to me. I’ll be waiting at the bottom, to catch them. We’ll fill up our bags and voila! We’ll feast for days! No more manky moss for dinner!’.
Henry was sceptical at how easy Walter made the task ahead appear. None the less, the temptation of the shining fruit before him was too hard to resist. Henry furrowed his brow, gave a decisive nod and darted forwards towards the blue and white den. Henry was so tiny that he was able to scurry between the stampede of feed without being noticed, he made it to the den with relative ease, even if he was a little out of breath. Walter, slightly larger than Henry, took a more discrete route stopping for shelter behind a bin and a post box, but soon joined Henry at the foot of the table, upon which the berries were displayed.
‘Ready?’ asked Walter
‘Ready’ Henry nodded.
He wrapped the silk string around his waist, attaching one of the dandelion petals to the very end. After a few circular swings, Henry launched the dandelion up to the top of the table, letting it catch on the edge. He gave it a good sharp tug to check it would hold his weight before working his way up the table leg with his hind feet, pulling his chubby little body along with his arms. Although slightly overweight, Henry was still incredibly light - harvest mice were famous for it.
He made it to the top of the table in no time, and with great excitement dove headfirst into the first punnet he saw: a glimmering sea of blueberries. The sweet sugary scent of surrounded him, he felt dizzy with joy as he sank back into the pile, until just the very tip of his nose was left poking out.
‘Just one little nibble’ Henry mumbled to himself as he set his sights on the biggest, juiciest berry in the box. He took a huge bite, the blueberry juice staining his sandy fur, turning it a deep purple around his mouth. It had been so long since he’d tasted something so good. The last time he’d had something this good must have been September, when we foraged for the last of the blackberries in the brambles by the river.
But one little nibble wasn’t enough. Before he knew it, Henry had eaten half of the punnet he sat in. He hiccupped as he sat back in his gluttonous stupor, only to be disturbed by the frustrated ‘pssst’ of Walter, waiting down below with an empty satchel, tapping his foot impatiently.
‘STICK TO THE PLAN’ he managed to whisper in a very loud way.
‘Oh yes, sorry, yes, right you are’ Henry was suddenly jolted back to the mission in hand and began hopping form fruit to fruit, throwing only the ripest, juiciest berries down to Walter, who caught every one. They really were rather a good team.
‘Mission accomplished’ confirmed Henry, ‘I’m coming back to base’. Walter scurried back with his bag into the shadows to avoid being caught as Henry, a little more sluggishly with his bag full of berries, made his way back down the table leg, bottom first.
Reunited on the ground, once again the friends high fived in triumph.
‘Oh Walter, I can’t wait to get back and munch my way through these goodies!’ Henry could hardly conceal his excitement as we wiped his salivating mouth.
Walter and Henry turned their back on the plundered fruit punnets, and headed back towards the open countryside. But they had barely taken two steps, when a great darkness loomed over them. Both sensing something wasn’t right, they instinctively froze on the spot, rigid and perfectly still, apart from their tiny noses twitching, sniffing out their surroundings and their ears moving up and down, backwards and forwards, trying to pick up the faintest of sounds.
‘WHY YOU LITTLE...’ A huge, deep voice bellowed down on them. They froze, both hovering on one leg, mid stride. Plucking up the courage to slowly turn their heads and reveal the face behind the giant shadow enveloping them, Henry and Walter gasped in unison.
The man behind the big sheet of paper was now standing behind them, his paper rolled up, clenched tightly in his chubby fist, raised high in the air.
‘RUN!’ Walter declared, just as the hand with the paper swung down at them. The pair darted in opposite directions, propelled by the waft caused by the loud thud of the paper landing in the spot they had just fled.
‘Take cover!’ Walter shouted again as he darted towards the crowd, now frenzied by the knowledge of Walter and Henry’s, their uninvited visitors.
Henry scurried and halted, darted and dotted, his way through the market square, desperately trying to avoid the hundreds of feet whirling around him in the panic. He noticed a tiny gap in the side of an old stone building which stood at the head of the square. He made a beeline for it. As he ran forward he noticed a sign swinging high above the doorway – it had a red drawing which vaguely resembled the drooling animal he and Walter had encountered earlier, with more markings like those he had seen on the white paper earlier above and below the image, but this time they were much bigger.
Following one or two near misses at the feet of alarmed market goers, Henry had finally made it to the gap in the wall. He hurtled straight through it, with some force, almost instantly coming to an abrupt halt. While his head, shoulders, and body were now safely hidden in the shaded little crack, Henry was very much aware the rest of his body remained on the outside of the wall! His chubby bottom wouldn’t fit! Frantically, he wriggled and huffed and puffed with all his might, terrified someone was approaching from outside, until finally he popped through the gap, landing with a thud in a widened area inside the wall. He remained there for a moment or two, rubbing his sore behind, panting.
‘I do hope Walter is ok’ he worried.