Excerpt from Tiny Makes a Friend
Not too long ago, there was a mouse family that lived in an animal refuge park. The refuge park was at the edge of a friendly forest where many animals lived and played. The mouse family made their modest home in the wall of a cage where a tiger lived. Mr. and Mrs. Mouse had seven children who were always hungry. There just never seemed to be enough food to fill so many tummies. Every day, Papa Mouse would say to Mama Mouse, “I must go out and look for something to feed my big family,” and that is what he did. But try as he may, day after day, he would come home with very little food for such a large family.
On the side of the wall where the tiger lived were several cages separated so other animals could have their own place to live. The mouse hole opened into the cage of Mr. Tiger—that’s what the mouse children called him. Through their hole, they could see that the tiger was well taken care of by keepers who loved animals. The keepers enjoyed taking care of Mr. Tiger because they knew there weren’t many tigers left in the world, and each was important. They also took good care of the lion cubs, the young leopard, and the monkeys in the cages next to Mr. Tiger’s. These animals and many others that lived in the refuge park didn’t have any mothers or fathers or were old or not wanted. Every day, the mouse children would watch a nice keeper bring Mr. Tiger lots of good food to eat, and Mr. Tiger would eat every bit of it.
Each day in the mouse house, Mama Mouse would put what little there was to eat on the table and call to her children, “It’s time to eat. Don’t forget to wash your hands.”
When the children were all seated around the table, Mama Mouse would say, “Children, remember to eat slowly and take only your portion so everyone will have something to eat.”
But each time, Tiny’s older brothers and sisters were quick to eat all of the meager meal. All I ever get to eat are the crumbs! thought Tiny.
Tiny could never get enough to eat, and he was always hungry. After lunch, Tiny’s brothers and sisters would run off to play, but Tiny never joined them. I wish I could run and play like my brothers and sisters, but my tummy aches and I’m just too hungry. I don’t have any energy to play. All I can think about is food,” said Tiny to himself. Tiny would then go to his favorite place by the mouse hole to sit and look out into Mr. Tiger’s cage, where he could see all the food Mr. Tiger had to eat.
Seeing Mr. Tiger’s food made Tiny even hungrier. His brothers and sisters often teased him and mockingly said, “Look at Tiny! He has his eye on the tiger’s food, but he’s a scaredy cat and too chicken to go get some.” Then to be mean, they added, “We dare you to go into Mr. Tiger’s house and nip some of his delicious-looking food.”
Mamas and papas always seem to know what is in their children’s heads, and Tiny’s mama and papa were no different. Mama Mouse told Tiny, “Don’t you ever go into Mr. Tiger’s cage. He is very big and you are very little, and it would be very dangerous.”
Papa agreed and said, “He could swish his tail and knock you across the room, or he might accidentally step on you with his great paw and squash you. It just isn’t safe for you to go into his cage. We love you all dearly and don’t want any of you ever to get hurt.”
Day after day, Tiny would watch from his mouse hole as the keepers would bring Mr. Tiger’s food. He would see a big bone with meat on it and all kinds of delicious-looking foods. Tiny would think to himself, Oh, how I wish I could taste those round red things, and the yellow and green things, and oh, so many things I have never seen. Day after day, Tiny’s eyes would get big, and his mouth would water as he watched the tiger eat and eat and eat until he was full. I must figure out a way so I can have just one little taste of Mr. Tiger’s food, thought Tiny. I’ll show my brothers and sisters just who is afraid to go into Mr. Tiger’s cage.
One day Tiny was talking to his mother and said, “Oh, Mama, why can’t I sneak into Mr. Tiger’s cage and take just a little bite of his food? I could go very quietly when he is taking a nap. He couldn’t hurt me if he is asleep. He has so much to eat. He will never miss it.”
Mama knew how Tiny longed to eat like the tiger next door, but she also knew the danger, so she looked at little Tiny and said, “Timmy”—that’s what his mother called him—“it would be just too dangerous. You are very little now, but you are growing and soon you will be big enough to find your own food.” Day after day, Tiny watched Mr. Tiger eat his lunch and thought about what his mother had said.
It wasn’t long before Tiny was so very, very hungry, and his tummy was making all kinds of noises. He just couldn’t stand it any longer. He said to himself, I made up my mind. I might be little and it might be dangerous, but I am really hungry. It just isn’t fair for Mr. Tiger to have so much to eat when I have so little. Tomorrow, I’ll take my chances and just venture into Mr. Tiger’s cage and have a bite of his food. I don’t care if he is awake or not!