Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Wastage of the Willows – Branch II; Leaf III

New morning…

It was very late the next morning when the Mole awoke – startled to find himself actually in bed for once! The seduction of the now head-shaped, indented goose-feather pillow; the snug mattress with just-enough give; and the embracing eiderdown he had cocooned perfectly around himself, almost smothered his natural instinct to rise. But then, as his whiskery nose slowly started to twitch – entertained by a streel of smoked bacon, a babble of buttered toasted teacakes, and a cascade of coffee, severally wiggling energetically under his bedroom door, before linking arms for a feisty, literally in-your-face collective smiting – the piquant temptation pull of a full, and filling, brunchfast, quickly waxed utterly irrepressible. (“The lure of Morpheus wanes; and smitten I most certainly am by the sweet-and-savoury odours of Tantalus!”) It therefore did not take long for him to shamble unthinkingly into his slippers, before interleaving what remained with the dressing-gown dangling from the door-peg. Lifting the latch, those persuasive pungencies were completed by all the necessary sizzles, frizzles, spits, sputters, hisses and crackles that should always accompany the assembling of the model first meal of the day: food fit for fighting whatever it has to fling at you.

In the kitchen stood the Mouse: intent on prodding, stirring, checking, tasting, brewing, frying, grilling, buttering, pouring… – but, above all, singing!

Oh to be a mouse,
In a loverlee house,
By the kitchen stove,
With a pan, by Jove!

Oh to be a mouse,
With tons of nous,
A side of ham,
And pots of jam!

Oh to be a mouse,
And not a louse,

Oh to be a mouse…

For a moment, all the prodding, etc. stopped. “What ELSE rhymes with mouse?” he implored, looking to the ceiling for inspiration; and scratching his head with the wrong end of a wooden spoon (well, the right end for scratching, considering the other right end had been used to stir a pan of warming milk). “Howzabout ‘grouse’?” chuckled the Mole, quietly into his ear: causing the poor, startled Mouse to drop the spoon on his foot. “But THAT will have to wait for dinner!”

“Oh, Mister Mole, sir: I didn’t know you were there!” “I’m not – I’m HERE!” he replied, mischievously, taking a couple of steps back. “And ready for all of that FANTASTIC food! Well, when I say ALL, what I mean is that I’ll have a little bit of EVERYTHING, please!” And with that, he wandered over to the rarely-used dining table – which, today, pulled away from its usual resting place next to the wall, and both leaves extended, groaned with cutlery and crockery; pots of homemade raspberry jam and ginger marmalade; and piles of toast and currant teacakes – and dropped into a chair, after plumping up its gingham cushion. “But where’s Ratty?” he asked, looking at the two other chairs. “He NEVER misses breakfast, brunchfast, OR brunch.”

“I’m HERE!” came the distant reply. And a hint of an echo was joined by a crescendoing squelching and sprinkling of drips and drops: as the Water Rat – true to his name – made his way in from the passage that led to the front door in his stockinged feet, carrying a very muddy pair of Wellington boots in one paw, and a beading Stetson in the other. Water drizzled from his overcoat onto the stone slabs. “I take it that it’s still raining, then!” chortled the Mole, absentmindedly spreading his sleeve with butter.

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