Melvin Mouse Thinks Hard

Melvin Mouse jumped out of bed. “It’s morning,” he said. “Sleep’s done. I’m going to play with my ball today. I’m going to throw it and roll it and bounce it off the wall. That’s what I’m going to do today.”

Melvin pattered downstairs to eat the seeds and bread crusts Mama and Papa Mouse had ready for his breakfast. Then he went to find his ball. Was it in his closet? Was it on his rocker? Was it under his bed?

“It’s gone!” cried Melvin Mouse. “Where is it? Did someone take it?”

“Come, Melvin,” said Mama Mouse. “Stop and think. When was the last time you played with your ball? Where did you have it?”

“Think hard, Melvin,” urged Papa Mouse. “That’s what you must do.”

Melvin thought hard and finally he remembered. Yesterday he had played with his ball on the lawn by the house. He had rolled and kicked it to his favorite places. Now he knew where to look.

Melvin pushed his way through the grass to the stump of an old oak tree. Robin Redbreast was pecking at the stump, hunting for grubs. “Have you seen my ball?” Melvin asked the robin. “It’s round and smooth and has red stripes on it.”

Robin Redbreast twisted his head to look around. “No, I haven’t seen your ball,” he chirped. “But I’ll keep my eyes open for it.”

“That’s very kind,” said Melvin Mouse. He darted through the grass to a tall pine tree he liked to visit. A soft bed of old brown needles lay under it. The tree’s bottom branches tickled the ground. And resting under the branches was a young brown rabbit. She wiggled her nose at Melvin Mouse.

“Have you seen my ball?” Melvin asked the brown rabbit. “It’s round and smooth and has red stripes on it.”

The rabbit hopped to the left and to the right. She sniffed the pine-scented air. “Sorry. I haven’t seen your ball. It’s not in this bed of pine needles. Why don’t you sit and rest with me for a while?”

“Thank you,” replied Melvin Mouse, “but I’d better keep looking.” Melvin scurried through the grass to the porch steps at the back of his house. He was sure he would find his ball there!

The porch steps were old and creaky. Many feet had walked on them, and many things were lost under them. Just now a grasshopper came hopping down the stairs.

“Have you seen my ball?” Melvin asked. “It’s round and smooth and has red stripes on it.”

“I’ve been hopping around all morning, my friend, and I haven’t seen your ball. But let me take a peek under these old porch steps for you.”

The long-legged grasshopper hopped twice and landed on the ground, where a loose board allowed him to look under the steps. “Well,” said the grasshopper, “there’re a puzzle piece, a broken flowerpot, two pencils, and a bird’s nest with no eggs.”

“It’s no use!” cried Melvin Mouse. “My ball is lost. I thought hard, I remembered, and I looked where I played with it last. I even asked for help. But it’s lost, and I’ll never see it again.”

The morning breeze made Melvin shiver. He decided to warm himself in the flower bed in the front yard while he tried to think of something else fun to do.

He ran around the house to the flower bed. New flowers had pushed their way through the crumbly soil, and a yellow tulip stretched tall, aiming for the sun. As Melvin sat in a sunny spot and watched a pretty speckled butterfly on the tulip’s leaves, tears began to trickle from the little mouse’s eyes.

The butterfly saw Melvin’s tears and asked, “What’s the matter? Don’t you like spring?”

“Oh, I do,” said Melvin. “But I wanted to play with my ball today. It’s round and smooth and has red stripes on it. I’ve looked and looked, but it’s lost.”

“Round, smooth, red stripes? That’s a ball worth finding. Don’t give up. Think hard. Where did you see it last?” asked the butterfly.

Melvin Mouse tried one more time to remember. It wasn’t at the oak stump. It wasn’t at the pine tree. And it wasn’t at the porch steps. Those are my favorite places to play, Melvin thought. I played at each of them yesterday. Then I went home. I took my ball, and I … I … I put it away in my toy chest!

Melvin ran to the front door of his house. He hurried inside, scrambled up the stairs to his room, and lifted the lid of his toy chest. There was his ball! It was round and smooth and had red stripes on it, just as he remembered.

“I found you!” he shouted happily. “Now I’m going to roll you and throw you and bounce you off the wall!”

And he did.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney