We had to write the story of a nursey rhyme from the point of view of one of the off stage protagonists. I chose to write about "Three Blind Mice" from the point of view of the farmer..
It presented some unique problems -- the rhyme says what happens, but it has nothing to say about why it happens. So not only did I have to tell the story, I also had to provide a convincing motive for what went on. That was hard and I had to re-write the opening several times in order to plant the ideas I would need later without (hopefully) being too obvious about it.
After a hard day working on the farm, there was nothing Stephen looked forward to more than returning home to an evening meal lovingly prepared by his wife. He opened the farmhouse door and as he did so, rather to his surprise, three mice raced out of the house, ran over his boots and then shot into the farmyard where they quickly disappeared in the undergrowth. As the mice ran past him, he couldn't help feeling that they looked rather odd, but they vanished from view before he could pin-point exactly what it was about them that gave him that impression.
Shrugging his shoulders at the mystery, he went into the house, and closed the door behind him. He was quickly surrounded by the mouth-watering smell of roast beef with all the trimmings. "Just what I need," he said, sitting down at the table. "That smells delicious."
"I'm sure you'll love it," said Jennifer as she picked up her carving knife and fork. She sliced thin strips off the roast and arranged them artistically on the dinner plates. She put some steamed carrots and cauliflower on each plate and then she added a pile of golden brown roast potatoes. Using a ladle, she scooped up some of the thick, rich, brown and succulent gravy that she'd had simmering in the roasting dish. She poured the gravy over Stephen's food. As usual, she left her own plate dry. She carried both plates to the table and put Stephen's down in front of him. She put her own plate on the table across from him, and then fetched a bottle of tomato ketchup from the pantry. She sat down and squeezed a dainty dollop of ketchup on to the side of her plate. Then they both began to eat.
After more than twenty years of marriage, Stephen was quite accustomed to his wife's idiosyncrasies. She detested gravies and sauces of every kind (except for tomato ketchup, of course, which she insisted wasn't a sauce at all) and she much preferred her food to be plain and unadorned. She seemed to have no objection to cooking sauces for Stephen, but since she never ate them herself, she didn't really understand them, and so her recipes were always a little bit hit and miss. Sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn't. If he ever complained, Jennifer would just pass him the ketchup bottle. "Ketchup always works," she would say. "And it's the same every time." He couldn't argue with that, so these days he kept quiet and ate whatever was put in front of him. After all, if he complained too much, she might stop cooking gravy for him, and he didn't want that to happen. Even poor gravy was better than no gravy at all.
Today was one of her good gravy days. Stephen could feel his whole body relaxing and rejuvenating itself as he ate. "Oh, Jennifer," he said, "this is just wonderful. And the gravy is particularly yummy. It complements the meat and the vegetables perfectly. Well done."
"Thank you," said Jennifer with a smile. "I'm glad you like it. How was your day?"
"Oh much as usual," said Stephen. "I ploughed the north paddock. I'll sow the seeds in it tomorrow, as long as it doesn't rain. And I think we've got some sort of bug infestation in the orchard. I'll need to keep a close eye on that. What about you? How was your day?"
"Rather odd, actually," said Jennifer. "I found three mice in the kitchen."
Stephen remembered the strange looking mice that had run out of the house and over his boots as he was coming in. He wondered if Jennifer had noticed how so peculiar they were. "I'm surprised that the cats who live in the barn didn't stop the mice from getting into the house," he said. "Clearly those cats aren't doing their job properly. I'll definitely have to have words with them."
"Oh, I think the cats are doing an excellent job," said Jennifer. "These mice had obviously been through a terrible time before they sought refuge in the house. They were wounded, and they were all quite blind. I think the cats must have been torturing them before letting them escape. Cats are like that, you know. Vicious, sadistic animals."
"How did you realise that the mice were blind?" Stephen was intrigued.
"When I first saw them they were walking in single file," said Jennifer. "Each of them had one paw on the mouse in front, except for the leader of course who was just slowly feeling his way and trying not to bump into anything. It was really rather sad to see them like that."
Stephen stuck his fork into a potato and sliced it in half. He spread gravy over it and then he speared a piece of beef. One more swipe through the gravy and he popped it all into his mouth.
"So what did you do?" he asked as he chewed.
"Don't talk with your mouth full," admonished Jennifer as she smeared ketchup onto a piece of cauliflower.
Stephen swallowed the masticated lump of meat, potato and gravy. "Sorry," he said. "So what did you do about the mice?"
"I cut off their tails with my carving knife of course," said Jennifer. "I happened to have it in my hand because I was just about to sharpen it on the whetstone. You should have seen the mice run when their tails fell off! They stopped slowly feeling their way around, and they started scampering about like mad things, bumping into the furniture and bouncing off the walls as they ran frantically in all directions trying to escape from the mad tail cutter that was threatening them."
So that explained what he had seen as he came in, thought Stephen. The mice were blind and they had no tails. No wonder they had looked so strange and behaved so oddly. He prepared another forkful of meat, gravy and potato. "What did you do with the tails?" he asked.
"I added them to the gravy," said Jennifer. "I thought they would thicken it up nicely."