Mike meets Maxi
Welcome To The Jungle
Mike lives in a house that his great-great-great grandfather built. It's a really cool house, with lots of rooms and places to hide things. Mike's dad told him once that his great-great-great grandfather was a famous Scientist. He loved science of all kinds! He studied plants, and animals and other science things his entire life ...
When he built his house, he even named it, "The Jungle." He made sure that all of his favorites were represented; palms and oaks, lowly weeds and beautiful ancient roses. The yard was designed more like a house than a yard - it was divided into outdoor rooms and themed sections. There were streams and ponds; a special place for carnivorous plants, and another for ferns. There was even a corner where cacti and strange-looking scrub created a mini-desert, right in their own back yard! Over the last one hundred years, The Jungle had become an odd but fascinating place, covered with vegetation that spread from one end to the other. Indeed, it became harder and harder to see the house behind all the trees.
Today, some kids in the neighborhood think Mike's house is kind of scary, because of it. Some of the trees and bushes have spooky moss and dead branches hanging from them. In the morning, the yard is usually a damp, drippy place from all the dew and moisture. Sometimes the trees get so wet it drips from the leaves and gets Mike wet as he walks down the path and heads to school. Mike and his friends think it's fun to scare people walking by. Sometimes, they hide in the bushes and jump out at unsuspecting people. Sometimes older kids dare younger kids to go into Mike's yard. The older kids know it's really not a scary place; in fact, they like to come over to Mike's! They all like to build forts and play wild adventure games in Mike's yard.. It's always fun, and there's always cool stuff to check out in The Jungle!
Mike likes the way the plants and trees cover his house, because the branches and leaves from all the trees keep the yard shady and comfortable. The house is always cool from the shade too. One of the trees that shade the house grows up close to the window in Mike's room. He can actually climb down a big branch when he doesn't feel like using the steps and the front door.
When Mike isn't having fun making paths and forts in the wild jungle with his friends, he likes to watch the animals that come to enjoy the shade and eat from the trees and the garden. All that vegetation attracts lots of bugs and slimy creatures too, and the birds sure like Mike's yard! They come in flocks to eat the plentiful seeds, and bugs and fruits, and they sit in the branches to rest and build their homes.
Mike helps around the house by cleaning up the yard and being in charge of "The Pile." All those trees and plants make a lot of leaves that fall, and most of the time there are piles of leaves and dead plant branches here and there. On Saturdays, Mike rakes up the leaves into piles. Then, he takes the little piles and puts all the stuff into one big pile in a corner of the back yard. Mike's mom puts scraps from the vegetables and fruits they eat into the pile too. Once in The Pile, the plant stuff all rots and 'cooks,' and the worms and bugs and bacteria eat it, and it changes into dirt. Every couple of months, Mike has to shovel dirt from The Pile over to the garden. All that great soil makes giant vegetables grow! And between all the cuttings and all the seeds, Mike and his family are never short of ways to grow new plants!
The Pile is a very interesting place! On any day, you can find all kinds of bugs and termites, slugs and worms. There are hundreds of different kinds of birds and animals - like snakes and frogs and lizards, mice, squirrels and rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and skunks. Hawks and other birds of prey come to try to eat them. Even though there are many different animals that live in and come to visit Mike's yard, they all have one thing in common; they're all there because of the plants!
The Unusual Breakfast
One day, Mike woke up in the morning to go to school, but when he opened his eyes, he didn't see his alarm clock like usual. Instead, he saw a mouse sitting on top of his alarm clock, casually eating the crumbs left over from yesterday's peanut butter and jelly sandwich! He didn't know if he should scare him away, or let him eat his breakfast. The mouse didn't seem to be hurting anything, he was just eating, and watching Mike. He was also cleaning up the crumbs that Mike's mom would surely be bugging him about later. So, he didn't scare him away. He decided to let the mouse eat his breakfast. He rolled over to catch a few more zzzzz's before school. Maybe he could get back to that great dream he was having before he had to get ready to leave!
Mike peeked out between his eyelids now and then to see if the mouse was still there. There he was, quietly nibbling on yesterday's crust. A few more minutes passed and Mike peeked again. And, again. After the 4th peek, however, just as Mike was closing his eyes, an amazing thing happened! The mouse suddenly put down the crust and spoke in a small but clear voice!
"You're going to be late for school if you keep dilly-dallying around in bed!"
He must be dreaming! Mike rubbed his eyes hard and sat up in bed. He could have sworn that mouse just talked to him!
"I hope you weren't saving this for your own breakfast. You see, even though there is plenty to eat here at The Jungle, my tastebuds wanted something a little different this morning. Nuts, my tastebuds said to me - we wanted some nuts this morning. But, the trees are bare this time of year, and peanuts are so hard to find outside Georgia! When I whiffed this on the air as I was passing your window, I just couldn't resist. I hope you don't mind."
Mike was stunned. "Did you just talk to me?" he asked.
"Of course I did!" said the mouse. "Oh, I realize you humans aren't used to us talking to you, but we certainly do talk when given a chance or the right occasion." "I didn't want to be rude, so I thought I would ask to be sure it was OK to eat your sandwich."
Getting over his shock very quickly, Mike decided it was OK to talk back to him. "Sure, it's OK." "Besides, you're cleaning up the crumbs that mom would have yelled at me for." "I usually have cereal in the morning anyway."
"Oh, cereal is good too," said the mouse, "but the last time she caught me in your cupboard trying to gnaw my way into a box of corn flakes, I thought I was a goner." "I'll never understand why people get so upset over seeing a little mouse in their cupboard." "You're so much bigger than we are, and a lot meaner too!" "Really, I'd appreciate it if you would tell her that next time, all she has to do is ask me to leave!" "We have manners in the mouse world too, and I always leave if I'm asked to go!"
Mike thought about the look on his mother's face when she saw a mouse in the cupboard last week, and laughed. "That was you?" "You sure gave her quite a start!" "We put out mousetraps everywhere after that - oh, I'm sorry - maybe it isn't nice to talk to a mouse about traps?"
"Vicious and horrible things!" said the mouse. "This would all be so much easier if you humans would just put out a small pile of grain or a little mound of scraps now and then." "Then, we mice wouldn't have to go intruding into your cupboards!" "Anyway, I'm done with my breakfast now, and you're going to be late for school if you don't get up soon, so I'll just be on my way."
The mouse started to leave by the window and the tree branch that Mike used so frequently. "Wait, where are you going?" Mike didn't want to lose this amazing talking mouse - even if the mouse said his talking wasn't very amazing! "Will you be back later?"
"I have a lot to do today, but if you want some company, I can come and visit again after school." And with that, the mouse disappeared down the tree and out across the yard, headed in the direction of The Pile.
After that, the mouse and Mike met every morning on Mike's nightstand, and every afternoon the mouse was waiting for Mike on the front porch as he arrived home from school. The mouse introduced himself properly the next time they met;
"My name's Maximillian the Gatherer, but my friends call me Maxi for short."
"Glad to know you, Maxi," said Mike. They soon became the best of friends. Occasionally, Mike would put Maxi in his shirt or jacket pocket and they would have wonderful adventures together at The Jungle. They played great adventure games, and Maxi was always pleased to play the part of a Scout in their little imaginary expeditions. He would run ahead of Mike, looking out for danger and tricks, and run back to warn him, just in the knick of time. Most of their adventures involved outwitting the Evil Dr. D - an evil scientist, out to take over the world and generally cause bad things to happen. Once in awhile a real catastrophe would be in the making, and Maxi saved Mike from those too! Like, when Mike was playing instead of working, and Maxi would run around the corner to warn him that his mother was coming out to check on him. Occasionally, they wished they could go off together on a real adventure, rescuing people from the Evil Dr. D. Mike and Maxi had become a great adventure team!