Dear reader, magic is all around us. From the soft glow of a summer sunset through the leaves of a silhouetted maple tree to the fluttering of excitement in your chest when you feel truly known and understood by another person, magic is everywhere. Take a moment to look around you now – I’ll wait. Find some magic. It’s there.
The stories you are about to read are tales of magic. Magic not of wizards and wands, but the kind of magic that comes in moments of bravery, or silliness, or laughter. The kind of magic that comes in moments of adventure with true friends. Friends with their own stories and histories, friends that look and act very different from each other. Some large, some small. Some powerful, some not. Some joyful, some lonely. And all living in a world of magic and wonder. And I wonder, dear reader, as you meet the many characters that are to come, I wonder where you will see yourself in these stories? Who will remind you of yourself? I wonder if you were in these stories, what decisions would you make? And I wonder, if you were an adolescent male moose with enormous antlers, what would you do if your antlers got caught between some trees?
I ask this, because deep in the woods of Maine, Montgomery the Moose was stuck.
He had been following the smell of chocolate – his favorite food. But his antlers, which seemed to be growing out of control this year, had been too wide to make it between two between the branches of two nearby oak trees without getting caught up in their limbs.
He tried forcing his way through, but that didn’t work. He tried backing up, but that didn’t work either.
Hmmm, he thought, wondering what to do next. Between the late Summer growth of the trees, and his own body parts getting larger, he got tangled almost daily now. Sometimes he would spend time carefully maneuvering himself out so he didn’t damage the trees around him. But this was getting more and more difficult as his antlers changed shape, and eating chocolate seemed more important right now.
He twisted his head and pulled his huge torso back and forth, until… Crack. The branches snapped, and a small shower of acorns tumbled to the ground. One hit Montgomery in the eye. But as he shook the branches out of his antlers, he decided it was worth it. Now he could eat chocolate.
Chocolate is an uncommon food for moose to eat, but Montgomery was an uncommon moose. Like most moose, he didn’t spend time with others of his kind, but unlike other moose, he really wanted to spend time with others. Any time he saw another animal in the woods, of any kind, he’d try to show how friendly he was by running fast towards it. Montgomery being six feet tall and weighing over 900 pounds, though, he’d often scare the other creature away. When he was young, Montgomery was small – at least, small for a moose – and he grew slower than the other calves he saw, but even at age 8, he was still growing, a few years past when other moose his age were fully-grown. He often felt like his legs were longer than he expected – like they weren’t really his own – and it often caused him problems in the woods, where he’d have to climb over fallen tree limbs. Of course, some of those tree limbs had fallen because of his own antlers. Sometimes he wished his body would just stay the same size and shape.
Unlike other moose, Montgomery had a full set of upper front teeth, letting him bite into things that other moose couldn’t. Perhaps this was why he enjoyed chocolate so much. He’d discovered it by accident once when investigating what was left behind by some messy humans after they’d taken their small fabric house out of the woods; humans often only stayed in these small fabric houses for a night or two, so he decided they must not like them very much. The smell of the chocolate attracted his attention, and he sniffed it for a while before taking a bite. The sensations in his mouth were different than anything he’d ever tasted before, and he savored it as long as he could. He decided there and then that he was done with plants – chocolate was so much better! Of course, moose need to eat a lot to grow as much as he did, and he discovered after a few hours that chocolate wasn’t something he could find easily, so he had to go back to eating tall grasses. After his first taste of chocolate, though, he pretty much stuck to eating from the land in case he found more, and he rarely ever went back to the common moose diet of eating marsh weeds and water lilies unless he got too thirsty and wanted some water too.
At night, if he saw people through the woods with a fabric house and a fire, he knew chances were good that he could go the next day and find some chocolate on the ground. Late in the Summer, he could find some almost every day – humans seemed to like making something called a samoa (he wasn’t sure, but that’s what it sounded like they were saying), and they seemed to get very clumsy when making them.
Now that he was free, he followed the smell of chocolate to one of the usual sites of these small fabric houses, and found some small chunks of chocolate on the ground. They were much smaller than the usual pieces, though, and with such a large snout, Montgomery couldn’t see what his tongue was reaching for as he licked them off the ground. Suddenly he heard a noise from below.
“Eek!” went the noise. Small but high-pitched, and surprisingly loud.
What was that? Montgomery wondered.
“Don’t eat me! Please!” the small voice continued.
Montgomery panicked. The chocolate chips were talking! He backed up to see what was happening, and his long back legs caught on some rocks, causing him to trip and land awkwardly on a pile of logs.
He looked at the ground where he’d been eating, and there, in amongst the chocolate chips, was a small light-grey mouse. It was standing upright on its back legs, and seemed to be holding its front feet in front of its eyes, afraid of what was going to happen next. As Montgomery struggled to get back up, the mouse slowly moved its front feet away and its expression changed as it saw the effect it had had on the enormous creature.
“Oh,” it added. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you… you must be an elephant.”
“An elephant?” Montgomery replied.
“Yeah. I mean, mice don’t usually scare bigger creatures, but every mouse knows that elephants are afraid of us… I’ve never seen one, but I guess I scared you…” Montgomery had to agree with that. “And you surprised me,” the mouse continued, “so I figure you’re one of those things called an elephant of surprise.” Montgomery was puzzled. The mouse could see the confusion on Montgomery’s face, and after a pause, it added, “So… are you an elephant?”
“Umm, no,” Montgomery replied. “At least, I don’t think so. I’m a moose.”
“Umm, I think you’re confused. I’m a mouse.”
“What? No you’re not – moose are big like me. With antlers…”
“No, they’re small, with pointy noses and long tails, like me…”
They squinted at each other for a moment, each sure that the other one was wrong.
“Wait, what did you say you were?” the mouse asked.
“A moose,” Montgomery replied.
“Ooooh,” the mouse replied, understanding the confusion. “You’re a moose! I’m a mouse…”
“Moose!” the small creature interrupted, pointing at Montgomery. “Mouse!” it added, pointing to itself.
“Ohhh!” Montgomery the Moose finally understood, with a laugh. The mouse laughed too, relieved that his new friend understood the difference.
“Okay, now that we’ve got that sorted out,” the mouse continued, “my name is Montgomery. What’s yours?”
“What?! How did you know my name?”
“Excuse me?” The mouse was confused again. “I said my name is Montgomery. Montgomery the Mouse. What’s your name?”
“I’m… Montgomery too,” although at this point he was increasingly unsure of his own name.
“Montgomery Two?” Montgomery the Mouse replied.
“No, just Montgomery.”
“Wow, that’s close to my name! Nice to meet you, Justmontgomery.”
“No, my name is Montgomery… the Moose…?” Now he was confused by his own identity.
“Yeah… Montgomery the Moose.” He regained a little confidence, but not much.
They both looked at each other for a few moments, puzzled and bewildered, before both burst out laughing.
“You’re Montgomery the Moose?” the mouse asked.
“You’re Montgomery the Mouse?” the moose asked.
They burst out laughing.
“Wow,” Montgomery the Mouse finally broke in.
“Yeah, wow,” Montgomery the Moose added, full of joy at having made a new friend. And not just any new friend, but one with his own name!
“Anyway, Montgomery the Moose,” the mouse started, enunciating his new friend’s name, “I’m sorry for scaring you. It’s just that I thought you were going to eat me. And I don’t really want to be eaten.”
“I’m so sorry, Montgomery the Mouse. I don’t want to eat you,” the moose replied. “I just wanted to eat the chocolate that humans leave behind.”
“Ooh, me too,” Montgomery the Mouse replied, excitedly. “Isn’t it good? They leave it behind every time they make s’mores.”
Montgomery the Moose tried the word s’more in his mind. So maybe that’s what they were called. He knew he’d found a kindred spirit.
“Would you like me to take you somewhere where there’s always chocolate?” offered the mouse.
“Yes, please!” Montgomery the Moose replied. “Is it around here?”
“Pretty close. Well, close for you, I suppose – you have much longer legs than me. Maybe, if you wouldn’t mind, I could ride on your back to get there?”
“Sure!” Montgomery the Moose felt warm inside, happy to have made a friend who wasn’t afraid of him.
Montgomery the Mouse climbed up his large friend’s fur and onto his back, eventually settling on his head. He felt comfortable and warm in his fur.
As they continued walking, with Montgomery the Mouse pointing the way, they kept laughing at the coincidence of their names; anytime there was silence, one of them would giggle a little, and then before they could stop it they’d both be laughing so much that a few times Montgomery the Mouse fell off Montgomery the Moose’s head and tumbled all the way to the ground. By the time they got where they were going it was starting to get dark.
“Okay, here we are, Montgomery the Moose,” Montgomery the Mouse announced, emphasizing his name and pointing at a series of wood cabins facing a lake.
“Thank you, Montgomery the Mouse,” replied Montgomery the Moose, returning the favor. “But I don’t understand, where’s the chocolate?”
“It’s inside these cabins. And now that it’s getting dark, that’s the best time to look. We find a place without lights on, and then go inside.”
“But how do we get in?”
“Oh, there’s always a hole to get in somewhere,” Montgomery the Mouse explained. “Look, I’ll show you.”
He could tell Montgomery the Moose was doubtful, and he led them both around the side of a cabin without lights on, and climbed down from Montgomery’s back, running straight up to the side of the building, and in through a small hole. He came back ten seconds later, announcing “Yep, this is a good one. There’s lots of chocolate in here.”
“But I don’t think I’ll fit through that hole,” Montgomery the Moose sighed.
“Well, you might be right. What I do when it’s a tight squeeze is to just run fast at the hole, and before I know it, I’m through the hole and on the other side,” his new friend explained. “I’ll go back in and get us some chocolate.” He ran back through the hole.
As Montgomery the Moose waited, he thought about what his friend had said. Hmm, that hole does look like it would be a tight squeeze, he thought to himself. And I can run pretty fast…
He backed up, and squinted his eyes as he focused on the small hole at the bottom of the cabin’s wall. Then he closed his eyes and ran straight towards it, tipping his head down to make sure his big antlers didn’t stop him from squeezing through the hole.
Montgomery the Mouse stood motionless in shock as he looked at the rubble in front of him. The chocolate he’d been holding in his paws dropped, and more fell out of his mouth.
Montgomery the Moose opened his eyes and was thrilled to discover he’d made it through the hole and was standing right in the cabin’s kitchen.
“Wow, you were right!” he proudly announced to his new friend. “That was easier than I thought!”
Montgomery the Mouse stood still in shock, staring at his giant friend and the destruction all around them.
“Ooooh, chocolate,” Montgomery the Moose said excitedly, and started munching off the floor. After a minute of eating, he looked around while his friend still couldn’t move. “Wow, they left this kitchen a mess, didn’t they? And look at that hole! How did I think I wouldn’t make it through that? It’s much bigger than it looked from the outside!”