Step Two: Create a Portfolio

While I wait patiently for my first writer’s workshop to start, I’m backing up all of my stories, editing them and choosing a few from each category to bring into the workshop for feedback.

I’m not going to repost every story I’ve ever written for this blog, but I did think it might be fun to share the first in each series.

Adventures in Homesteading
Joe the Bug Hunter
Mischief Makers
Audrey and the Bubblebath Kids

Adventures in Homesteading: The Tale of Three Tails 
(Originally posted 6-22-13)

Lissa was pulling the garden cart out of the garage one sunny afternoon when she first saw the mouse.

Actually, she just saw the tail wiggling away through the crack between the driveway and the garage floor.

She didn’t scream, faint or run. She stood frozen wondering how the cheeky little rodent dared to invade her garage.

Shrugging, she went back into the house and got a mousetrap and some cheese, thinking “there is probably just the one.”

This, of course, was a silly thought.

She set the trap and went on about her afternoon, watering and tending to the garden.

At the end of the day, she trudged back to the garage, tired and ready for a cold glass of water. Before she went into the house, she noticed a small scrap of paper next to the mousetrap she had set. She picked it up and saw a note. The writing was teeny tiny and hard to make out. She squinted and read:

“Dear Madam…nice try. Signed, The Three Tails”

Gasping, she looked down at the trap. The cheese was gone. Well, most of it. Someone, or something, had left one small chunk of cheese balanced perfectly on top of the un-sprung trap…as if to taunt her.

Confused a she was, she was certain of two things. One, she had more than one mouse. Two, they had chosen the wrong household to invade.

***

Lissa set out to defeat the clever mice.

She researched and researched and finally found a few…unexpected tricks to try.

They were obviously too smart to fall for traps or poison so she would have to go the way of natural remedies to get rid of this trio of troublemakers.

First, she tried cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil. She had read that mice could not stand the strong scent and that it masked the food scent that was so enticing to them.

The mice just wrote a thank you note for the “lovely perfume”.

Then she tried sticking steel wool in the cracks they always scurried down. The steel wool was said to be “impossible to break through” for mice…an impenetrable barrier.

The mice, mischievous as they were, broke through with no problem and placed the steel wool in front of the door in the shape of a smiley face.

Nothing was working. Sealing entries was impossible because they just chewed new holes. Using tubs of used kitty litter was out of the question because (1) where would she get them and (2)…gross.

Desperate, she wrote a note to try to reason with them. “Dear Mice, please leave my home or I will resort to drastic measures.”

Apparently, the mice were not frightened by her threat. They quickly wrote back. “We’d like to see you try.”

At her wit’s end, Lissa was contemplating going down to the pet store to get some dried snake poo when she found another note from the mice.

“We will leave quietly, if you teach us to cook.”

Could this be the remedy? Teaching the mice to cook??

After trading a few notes back and forth deciding what they would like to cook first, Lissa discovered that mice do not, in fact like cheese.

Sure, they will eat it if nothing else is available, but they actually prefer higher carb foods like bread, nuts and seeds.

In one particularly long note from the three tails, they explained that the story passed down through the mice pipeline was that cheese was stored in cupboards and easily available to mice, but they are not sure if this is where the myth came from.

She wanted to make something easy and something that they would enjoy so she picked “Easy Nut Bread” from one of her cookbooks.They seemed happy with her choice.

Easy Nut Bread
1 C. Sugar
1 Egg
1 1/4 C. milk
3 C. Flour, sifted once
3 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Salt
2 T. Butter
1 C. Nuts

Mix all together. Bake in loaf pan for 1 hour at 350*.

She set all of the ingredients out and grabbed two bowls, a spoon and a loaf pan. Then she waited for the mice to show up.

Once they showed up, she started to write them a note explaining the first step, but the biggest mouse (she assumed he was the ringleader) said, in a rather squeaky voice that was hard to hear, “You know, we can talk as well as write.”

“Oh. Ok. Well then…uh, I guess we will start by mixing together the dry ingredients.”

As Lissa mixed the baking powder, salt and flour together, the three mice decided they needed to get a closer look so they climbed up the side of the flour canister and perched on the edge.

The smallest one, who seemed rather clumsy, fell in the flour spilling it all over the counter in a large cloud. Lissa made a mental note to throw the flour, canister and all, away when they finished this lesson.

“Next, we will mix the butter, sugar, egg and milk in this other bowl.” She glanced their way and noticed that a tiny paw was raised.

“Uh, yes? Do you have a question?” she asked.

“Why don’t you mix all the ingredients together in one bowl?”

“Well…if you add the eggs to the flour, then the butter, then the milk…the dry ingredients will not be able to absorb the liquid evenly and the flour may become overworked and difficult to stir. I guess you could add the flour last, but then the baking powder and salt might not be evenly mixed with all the other ingredients.”

Silence.

Lissa wondered if they did not hear her or if the explanation was too difficult to understand, but after a few minutes and some quiet squeaking as they talked with each other, each mouse nodded their tiny head and waited for the next step.

“Ok, so after you have the ingredients combined in separate bowls, you slowly add the wet to the dry until evenly mixed. Then you stir in your nuts of choice, we are using walnuts…yes?”

The fat one asked if pecans could be used instead as they were a favorite of his.

Once the batter was fully ready, with pecans mixed in, Lissa took the loaf pan and a can of cooking spray to show the mice how to grease the pan. She got a little overzealous and ended up accidentally spraying the smallest mouse off the counter.

After everyone was back on the counter and the small one was done crying, Lissa poured the batter into the greased loaf pan and popped it into the oven.

“And then you just bake for an hour at 350*,” she said, looking down at them. “Now, off you go.”

The mice looked at one another for a moment. “But, you can’t expect that we can recreate this recipe? We do not have tiny ovens and the best we can do for a bowl is an acorn shell.”

“Then why did you want to learn to cook!” asked Lissa, getting annoyed.

A fit of squeaking seemed to have taken over the mice and Lissa soon realized that it was not squeaking at all…it was laughter.

“What are you laughing at!?”

“We just wanted to see if you would try to teach us! You don’t actually think a mouse can cook do you?”

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