Plays

All in a Mouse's Night

by Narandar Harvant

Cast of Characters:

NARRATOR
MOUSE
WATCHMAN
THIEF
GUARD
SLUM DWELLER

The Narrator crosses the stage slowly, hunched over and aged, until very nearly reaching the audience. She then sits.

​The Narrator ponders the words she wants to say, as though lost in a reverie.

​The Mouse, almost concealed in darkness, is carefully rolling a bundle small enough to fit into the crook of his arm.

​The Narrator says:

Crossing gives rise to many breeds. Among them are the ‘gamin’, which most of you would know as street urchins. Frequent wars… unsuccessful adventurers… epidemics– all these birth dozens of orphans of the city.

​The Mouse makes his way very quietly into the darkness, cradling the bundle in his arms.

​The Narrator says:

Urchins have names that are earned, as most have forgotten their birth-names over time or were so young they never really knew them.

​The Narrator says:

Mouse is one of these latter. He never knew his real name. Growing up realizing that he was small, it didn’t take much to realize being quiet got one further, on the streets.

​The Narrator wryly says:

Quiet as a church mouse, he is.

​The Narrator chuckles at her own joke.

​The Mouse, in the background, eases over a low estate wall without a sound. Almost immediately, though, there is a distant hue and cry for the Watch in the distance.

​The Mouse tries to sneak off into the night, but the bobbing of an approaching lantern heralds the coming of a lone watchman.

​The Watchman says:

You there! Halt!

​The Watchman peers at the Mouse.

​The Watchman snorts.

​The Watchman says:

Just a street rat, then. What have you got there, little rat?

​The Mouse unconsciously steps back, hugging his package to him. His eyes flick nervously to either side of the watchmen, looking for an escape.

​The Watchman says:

Don’t even think it, little man. Hand over the package.

​The Mouse shakes his head, then eyes the guard’s weapon apprehensively.

​The Watchman takes a step closer and says:

You know you can’t get away, boy. Now hand it over.

​The Mouse reluctantly extends his hand with the parcel, as though to give it to the watchman, then suddenly turns on heel and sprints off!

​The Watchman yells:

Halt!

​The Watchman gives chase!

​The Mouse runs like the Void itself is at his heels, but his lead on the guard shrinks steadily.

​The Mouse reaches a rickety fence that bars an alley and presses between two loose boards.

​The Mouse pants.

​The Watchman reaches the fence and notices the boards awry, but they are too narrow to let his larger body through.

​The Watchman swears.

The Watchman begins kicking the boards until they splinter and crack.

​The Mouse nibbles his lip worriedly, then slips towards the deeper darkness where a sewer opening yawns. Behind him, the guard shoulders through the gap in the fence to find an empty alley.

​The Narrator shifts her weight.

​The Narrator says:

Just as they know where all the routes are, urchins of the city are wise to those who use them as well.

​The Mouse, just inside the sewer, gazes into the darkness with some trepidation. The nearby guard is mere paces away.

​The Mouse takes a deep breath, and takes his first timid steps into the darkness, water rippling about his rag-clad feet.

​The Narrator wryly says:

Indeed, they know most alleys and paths like a moon mage knows his stars. Doesn’t promise that they’ll be any safer, though.

​The Mouse sloshes around the water that comes over his ankles, trying to be quiet. One hand feels the slick walls of the sewer to guide his way, while the other protectively clutches his burden.

​The Narrator says:

The path of the gamin often crosses those of rogues and villains…

​The Mouse squeaks suddenly as a hand comes out of the darkness to grip his wrist!

​The Narrator says:

… though they seldom owe each other any loyalty.

​The Thief pulls the hood from his jar of foxfire, letting its feeble glow stream into the tunnel.

The Thief says:

Wot have we got here, hey? Looks like a little church mouse!

​The Mouse blinks in the light and wriggles his wrist loose from the thief, who eyes him closely.

​The Thief says:

Found some goodies, did ye? Get caught, hey?

​The Mouse shrugs uncertainly, then nods– a little truth goes a long way, sometimes.

​The Thief greedily says:

So wot ye got there, then? Jewels? Some squire’s silver, hey?

​The Mouse shakes his head.

​The Thief says:

Well, whatever you got there in that bundle, you best hand it over. This here is a road, mousie, and you must pay a toll.

​The Mouse shakes his head again and turns around to walk back the way he came.

​The Thief darkly says:

Oh no you don’t! Hand it over, you little sprat!

​The Mouse breaks into a run, footsteps splashing loudly through the otherwise silent tunnels.

The Guard perks up, hearing approaching footfalls.

​The Mouse bursts from the sewer opening, almost doubled over in his need to protect his bundle. He crashes headlong into the guard, and both fall in a tumble of arms and legs.

​The Guard swears vilely as his lantern crashes to the ground and goes out.

​The Thief emerges from the tunnel with a knife in hand.

​The Mouse hastily disentangles himself from the watchmen and rolls to one side.

​The Guard rises to his feet, nose-to-nose with the thief. The fight quickly ensues.

​The Mouse smiles quietly to himself in satisfaction as the guard and thief struggle. He then scurries off before they remember what led them to that spot in the first place!

​The Narrator raises eyebrow.

​The Narrator says:

So, where then does an urchin sleep? Wherever they can. The whole city is their home.

​The Mouse wanders the twisting streets, cold and wet in the chill night air. His path leads him from cobbled streets of the well-to-do and onto the muddy track of the slums.

​The Narrator says:

In the slums, urchins that are already beneath notice in town are all but invisible.

​The Mouse walks along the muddy track, shivering and tired.

​The Slum Dweller spies Mouse walking slowly as he tries to be inconspicuous.

​The Slum Dweller says:

Hey there. Is that you, Mouse?

​The Mouse pauses with a faint frown, recognizing the slum dweller as a fellow urchin, now grown up.

​The Slum Dweller hopefully says:

You wouldn’t happen to have a bite to eat in that package, would ye?

​The Mouse shakes his head.

​The Mouse nibbles his lip thoughtfully.

​The Slum Dweller’s shoulder bow from a deep burden.

​The Slum Dweller wistfully says:

Is that something you scupped from a rich boy, mebbe? We could hock it for a bite to eat, hey?

​The Mouse glances at his bundle, then shakes his head sadly. No, it’s not really all that valuable, his gaze seems to say.

​The Mouse gazes at the Slum Dweller sympathetically.

​The Slum Dweller smiles wanly and waves half-heartedly.

​The Slum Dweller helplessly says:

Well, take care of yerself, hey?

​The Mouse nods thoughtfully, looking after the young man. In not so many years, Mouse may very well be in the same shoes.

​The Mouse continues on for a short ways, then ducks through a low doorway of a hovel.

​The Mouse stands near the Narrator.

​The Narrator beams at the Mouse.

​The Narrator kindly says:

Why, there you are! I wish you wouldn’t go out so late!

​The Mouse smile at the kindly old woman who had taken him in not all that many years ago.

​The Mouse quietly says:

Hush, Old Mother. I’m home. All’s well.

​The Mouse unfolds his tightly wound bundle, revealing a down-filled quilt. Well-made. Expensive. But otherwise quite ordinary.

​The Mouse sits near the Narrator.

​The Mouse tucks the quilt about the aged woman tenderly, bringing it up to her chin.

​The Narrator smiles contentedly, warm at last, and drifts off to sleep.

​The Mouse smile to himself quietly.

​The Mouse quietly says:

Tomorrow night, I’ll find you a new shawl…