Author’s note: I wrote this story as a children’s book but haven’t gotten around to publishing it. It is Christmas Eve and I like the story. I hope you do too.
The three men trudged across the desert drawn by a power beyond their ability to explain. All they knew with certainty was their hearts were tugging them to follow the bright star that lit the heavens, and their minds had no power to stop it. Their paths had accidentally converged early in the morning and without a word, they had joined together bent on a common mission.
Each man hailed from far-flung reaches of the empire, but felt as close as brothers as soon as they realized they followed the same course. As dusk colored the sky purple and red, the star that shone brightly during the day became a beacon nearly as bright as the sun as night fell — drawing the men forward.
They crested a hill and a small barn presented itself to them. The beam of light emanating from the star seemed focused on this simple manger. Around it milled dozens of animals, some wild, staring intently into the shadows of the humble structure. A cat slid silently through the shadows outside the beam of light that came from the star.
A conversation ensued among the men. “Surely this can’t be the place we’ve come all this way to see,” said one.
“A barn?” asked the other incredulously.
“The King of Kings born in a manger,” said the third, shaking his head. “All I know is my heart tells me it is true.” They all nodded in agreement and with that they descended the hill to the manger.
Now it just so happened that in the corner of the manger a family of mice had been born that same day. The little mouselings huddled close to their mother for warmth as she watched the animals outside of the barn. One of her babies popped his head up and said loudly, “What’s going on out there, Mama?”
“Shh,” she scolded as she watched the other animals warily. “You don’t want to draw attention.” She lovingly eyed her little boy, not quite believing that his eyes were open for one so young. He was smooth and pink, without so much as hair anywhere on his tiny body. Well, she thought, it seems to be a day for miracles. After all, just yesterday she herself could neither talk nor mount a coherent thought.
The little mouse crawled up on his mother’s belly and watched the scene being played out before him. Three men were reverently offering fine gifts to a baby lying in a crib made of straw. Beside the baby a man and woman lovingly watched the proceedings and nodded as each man approached to kneel before the child and offer a gift.
“What’s going on out there, Mama?” the little mouse asked again.
“A king has been born today.” she replied.
“Are those men sure they got the right kid? I was born today, too.”
Mama Mouse laughed at this outburst. She watched as a young boy approached the swaddling child and began to cry because he didn’t have a gift for the child. He offered the only possession he had and the woman nodded her approval. The boy began to play his drum.
Suddenly the cat lunged into the barn and appeared directly in front of the mouse family. Its eyes were ablaze with the light from the star, its ears were laid back tightly against its head, and its fangs glistened with saliva. One paw, claws distended dangerously, stood ready to swipe the mice off the face of the Earth.
For their part, the mice felt nothing. No terror, no instinct to run — nothing. On a normal night a normal mouse might have died from the fright of a cat with death in its eyes, but these were no normal mice. And this was no normal night.
Outside, the drum played. Ba rump abump bump. The cat turned to listen. Ba rump abump bum bump arump bum. Its eyelids drooped noticeably and it dropped its killer paw to the dirt and retracted its deadly claws. Bump arump bum. A low purr from deep inside it began and then became louder. The cat lost all interest in the mice and walked out to lie down in the light of the brightest star to ever shine. And the drum beat. Ba rump abump bum, rump abump bum, rumpa bump bum. The cat purred.
The little mouse, not knowing how close he had been to death, watched intently.
“Mama,” he cried. “I have nothing as special to give the king as those men with their fine oils. I can’t even play a drum. But Mama, I want to present the baby with a gift.”
The Mama mouse smiled at her special baby and spoke, “My son, this king requires no special gift. What you have is all you need to give.”
The little mouse thought about that for a moment and said, “Thank you, Mama.”
He fell off his mother’s belly, rather than hopped as he was still quite young, and quickly moved a little closer to the baby king. He moved again, scurrying as all mice do, a little closer to the boy. When the parents of the child noticed the hairless creature creeping toward their child they recoiled — but just for a second. The little mouse stopped again and looked up at the mother of the child. She nodded.
He scampered up the hay that made the crib and slowly walked along the soft belly of the king. He delicately crawled up onto the boy’s face and stood triumphantly on his tiny nose. The baby mouse’s little black eyes looked into the eyes of the king. And the King of King’s eyes strained, then crossed and focused on the mouse. A gurgle of happiness emitted from the boy’s throat.
The mouse, sensing the love from the boy, spread his little legs as wide as they would reach and hugged him as hard as he could. He could barely touch each side of the baby’s nose, but he hugged with all of his might just the same. He hoped upon hope that the baby could feel his love.
The baby tried to touch the mouse, but his arms couldn’t quite reach him. He tried again and finally ran his fingers down the slender body of the baby mouse. And the mouse planted a huge kiss right on the baby’s nose.
The mouse, feeling that his gift had been received, left the crib. He rejoined his mother in the corner of the manger. “I gave him my gift, Mama,” said the mouse.
“I know, my son. And I think you’ve learned your first lesson. The finest gift you can give is your heart and all of the love that it holds.”
The little mouse was so pleased with his gift that he ran to each of his sleeping brothers and sisters and gave each a hug and a kiss. He ran out to the wise men who had come with material gifts for the boy and kissed each one as they slept. He even kissed the purring cat.
His mother laughed at his antics, and when he returned she kissed him just to make it even all around. The light of the star shone in his black eyes, and she was proud of her little boy.
She eyed the scene in the barnyard. The men, the animals and the cat joined in brotherhood to give love to a child — and each other. She sighed and thought about the miracles of the day. Then she eyed the cat again, thought about tomorrow, and said to her little mouse-king, “We need to move our family.”
And they did.
Johnny Boyd’s published kid’s books, First Tracks and The Yellowstone Kid, are available at Explore Booksellers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .