Marlowe is an ordinary field mouse but as mice go, Marlowe is much, much more than that. He lives alone in an underground burrow in a field not far from a farm house. Marlowe doesn’t like being alone. He lost both of his parents and slowly, one by one, all of his brothers and sisters left the burrow in search of food.
Marlowe wakes up one morning and looked around the empty burrow, filled with ratty-tat furniture made from human throw aways. It’s getting cold and he senses a need to find a new shelter. Marlowe preens his fur and notices it’s filling in and becoming a darker, reddish brown. Certainly, winter is coming. Quickly, Marlowe gathers everything that is important to him, which includes some old rings lost by the family in the house, a pocket watch with an inscription and a chain which Marlowe uses to drag the watch behind him. He miraculously found the watch one night during an adventure into the barn which turned out badly for several of his younger cousins – but that’s another adventure.
Marlowe carefully pokes his head out of the burrow opening as the sun begins to set behind the house. He drags the watch up to the opening and looks in all directions before hopping out of the hole, pulling his treasures up with him.
It is still warm but the wind carries a chill warning of the cold that is coming. The tiny mouse looks at the barn and then the house and then back to the barn. The barn is closer, but the house is warmer, and Marlow senses the heat with his nose and its whiskers. He keeps his eyes directly on the house as his little legs take off through the rock filled soil. He jumps, he hops, he scurries – slides down on his side – stands up instantly and surges forward until he reaches the wood porch which he runs under and then stops.
With every sense and all of his concentration, Marlowe smells the air, listens for sounds and catches tiny vibrations with his whiskers. Finally, when he feels safe, he pulls his treasures up and moves slowly into the darkness under the house. Marlowe has never been under the house before but he has heard stories of the large, dark spiders that crisscross the ground at night on hunting patrols. He knows about the traps and the poison, he knows about the sticky plates and sweet-smelling death devices used by the humans to kill rats and mice. He urges himself forward in the darkness. Every noise, every turn of a leaf and motion of a snail stops Marlowe but keeps his ears jumping like fish on a line.
Suddenly in front of Marlowe stands his worst nightmare: a giant, dark spider with green eyes sparkling across his head like emeralds in a black, rock forest. The spider is hunched up and ready to attack. Marlowe is hunched up and ready to retreat when a loud thud makes both Marlowe and the spider turn around to witness a rat in a human trap – killed instantly and without mercy.
The spider runs across the floor past Marlowe who then runs quickly toward a small crack of light coming from the floor boards. Above Marlowe is an old, sub floor and then further above that is the real floor of the house. He hops up onto the old, sub floor and then pulls his treasure up behind him. Marlowe stands on his back legs and tries to see through the hole in the floor of the house. He can hear people and animals moving about. He can hear a television going in two rooms.
Marlowe moves some old wood under the hole until he builds a small stair up. He carefully crawls up the wood. The light comes closer and closer and closer until Marlowe is just about to stick his head out the hole when BANG – a huge cat paw slaps down across the hole sending Marlowe careening down his wood stair to the old sub floor. The cat’s paw starts to dig at the hole until someone comes and pulls the cat away.
“What have you got down there you crazy cat? Oh my, Lloyd? Have you seen this hole in the floor by the stove?”
“Haven’t seen it yet. I’ll come look directly.”
“I think the cat found something down here.”
Marlowe waits until the sounds stop before he sits up and collects his treasure quickly and scurries off down the old sub floor. He stops when he reaches the gas line which goes up through a hole into the kitchen. The hole through the floor is large enough for him but he doesn’t know if the watch will fit. Marlowe climbs up the black, steel gas line until he reaches the hole. He pushes his head up through the floor and finds he’s behind the stove in a carpet of dust, dirt, old food and what seems to be the remains of a dead mouse off in the darkness.
Marlowe crawls up through the hole pulling the watch chain behind him. He turns around at the top and pulls and pulls and pulls with all of his strength, but the watch will not come through the hole. He jumps back down the hole and pulls the watch and chain off to one side, where he covers it and the rings ceremoniously with some old cloth from a kitchen towel used to stuff in part of the hole where the pipe comes into the kitchen.
The tiny mouse crawls back up the pipe and out the hole until he’s under the stove. He moves slowly to the front legs and looks out the crack. Marlowe sees the cat and the dog playing on the floor in front of the stove. He crawls back toward the hole but runs across some old dog food chunks. He carefully picks up each piece and smells it, and smells it again. He looks around to see that he is safe, then turns back to the dog food and tastes it. Marlowe is in love. He sits down as if he is at a dining room table and slowly eats the dog food until he goes to sleep.
Marlowe’s tiny ears twitch and he wakes up. He knows the cat is there and he knows what the cat wants. He slowly crawls to the front of the stove and looks out between its legs. The kitchen is huge. At one end there are just the first steps of a staircase going up. At the other end is a large opening into the living room. Everything is dark and quiet except for the cat that makes a purring sound as she looks for the mouse.
The head of the tiny mouse sticks out into the room. He judges the distance to the stairs and then the distance to the living room. He looks everywhere there is for a crevice or a small space he could use if he gets into trouble. Slowly Marlowe slips out into the dark kitchen and moves toward the stairs. He picks up his speed just as the cat enters the room from the living room side and sees him. The cat takes off at full speed, slipping and sliding on the wood floor. Marlowe is running as fast as he can until he hits the first stair. The mouse jumps two stairs at once as the cat careens head on into the first step and yowls loudly. Marlowe is halfway up the stairs before the cat lunges up, two steps at a time and right on the tail of the mouse.
Marlowe jumps over the top step like a sand rail coming over a huge ledge, landing and bouncing. Marlowe slips and slides forward down a long, dark hallway. In a fraction of a second the cat hits the top landing and dives across the carpet runner toward Marlowe. The mouse slides under the first door it comes to and the cat slams into the door, knocking itself out.
A young boy sits up in his bed and yells, “What was that? Who’s there?” Other members of the household get up and walk in the hallway where they find the cat.
“Oh my God. Miss Penny knocked herself out. Lloyd, the cat is unconscious.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming for darn sakes.”
“Cole, are you all right in there?” Cole crosses to the door and opens it.
“What happened, Mom?”
“It’s all right son, you go back to bed now. The cat just knocked herself out hitting your door. Must have been chasing something.”
“Will she be all right?”
“I hope so, best mouser we ever had or ever will. Good night son.”
“Good night Mom, Dad.”
“Good night Cole.” Cole closes the door to his room. He looks around but Marlowe is safe in a dark corner, shivering with fear but safe. Cole climbs back in his bed and falls asleep.
Marlowe steps out into the room and looks around at all the new treasure. There are balls and bats and gloves and shoes and clothes and books, belts, backpacks, toys, toys and more toys. Marlowe sees, in the middle of a pile of toys, a miniature house just his size. He carefully scampers over to the toy house and crawls in the front door. There are rooms and rooms of small furniture made just for a mouse. Upstairs there are beds and tables and bureaus with drawers to hide his treasure in. Marlowe is beside himself. He finds a mirror and suddenly sees himself for the first time. He looks long at the mirror – changing his pose, cropping his ears, holding his whiskers back and finally turning so he can see his tail and his back.
He leaves the mirror and looks through the whole little house and is disappointed when he finds no food in the kitchen, but plenty of boxes that look like food. In another bedroom he finds doll clothes and puts on a vest and goes back to the mirror to see how he looks. Marlowe runs back and finds pants and a shirt and puts them on and plays in the clothes, sitting in all the chairs and holding up toy glasses that are empty and toy plates with no food. Finally, Marlowe climbs up the stairs and finds a warm bed and crawls into it and goes to sleep.