Esoom, Assop and the Shopkeeper

There was a beautiful sunset over the vast sweeping plains. There were grasses of every kind, giving shelter to the small animals. In the distance there were some rolling hills. Concealed within these hills was a small town.

One man in the village, a shopkeeper, owned a cat named Assop. Assop ate mice that came in from the plains in search of food. Assop slept on the shops windowsill every afternoon. Sometimes Assop went hunting in the plains. Assop was always very content.

Out in the plains a young mouse lay, sleeping with one eye open. This was Esoom. Esoom was the youngest in his litter. From day one Esoom had to fight to survive. He was a tough, alert and active little mouse. Esoom lived in a dugout pit covered with dried grass.

Early in the morning the sun was rising. It was early in the summer and the birds had returned. Trees had formed the stars of fruit. Bees were busy going from flower to flower, making honey. Birds fluttered about, singing.

As Esoom got up this morning he wondered where his next meal would come from. Then he remembered that he had stumbled on an ear of corn that had fallen into a hole. Esoom smiled. That corn would last him for three days at least. He opened his door and went on his way.

Esoom was careful. He didn't want to lose a chance at three days worth of good food. As he got closer he sniffed around for danger and confirmation that the corn was still there. He could tell it was still there. However he failed to see a weasel. It charged forward and started to close its mouth. He darted away as the weasel closed his large jaws right where Esoom was a moment before.

Immediately he hid in some tall grasses. The weasel wasn't fooled by the hidden mouse. It sniffed around for Esoom. Esoom knew he had to leave quickly or else get eaten. He dashed out, feinted right and then ran under the weasel. The trick sufficiently confused the weasel. It went and slept next to the hole with the corn. On seeing this Esoom went home still hungry.

The next day as Esoom went out he saw bugs had eaten the corn. Esoom sat down and moped. Soon he heard the wheels of a cart. He scurried over to investigate. It was the shopkeeper delivering barley to a nearby town. Esoom loved barley. He followed, hoping to get some barley.

The cart went over a bump and landed deep in some gooey mud. The shopkeeper got out and said, ``Assop, guard the barley.'' Esoom was shocked! The shopkeeper had brought his cat! Esoom was determined to get some of the barley from the cart so he sneaked forward. Assop heard Esoom and made a flying jump, tipping over a barley sack as he jumped toward the sound. Esoom saw the fallen barley and thought,``If I go into a bush, I can wait for them to leave. Then I can get the barley.'' At this he ran into a thorn bush.

Assop paced, hissing and spitting, in front of the bush. Suddenly Assop shot his paw between the sharp and thorny branches and grabbed Esoom. Esoom was scratched by the thorns as he was dragged out of the bush. He managed to escape and started to run, followed very closely by Assop. Then, ``Assop, come here, we're going.'' Assop stopped and trotted back to the shopkeeper. Soon they were on their way.

Esoom went back and ate his fill of barley, resolving never to steal but to take what is left behind. Assop went back to sleeping on the windowsill. The shopkeeper was never stuck in mud again. All was tranquil as the sun went down and the stars came out.

Joseph Doolittle