Once upon a time there was a little mouse named Lola, who lived in the walls of the Mission Hill School. Her mouse hole was warm and safe and her nest of forgotten mittens was as soft as a feather bed. Lola was the happiest mouse in the world, because she loved nothing more than to hear the children laugh and play and learn. And at night, after the children had gone home for the day, she would sneak out of her hole and clean up all the crumbs from the children’s lunch that day.
Because the janitor never cleaned anything. Instead, he hid in his office as though it were a human size mouse hole, and spent the night sleeping or watching TV when he was supposed to be working. But Lola didn’t mind. She would rid the floor of crumbs, and fill her cupboards with food, and every morning the principal and teachers and students would find a sparkling clean school, and everyone, especially the janitor, was happy.
But one day, the principal forgot her house keys in her office, and had to return to the school to retrieve them from her desk drawer. And Lola, who had never seen anyone in the school at night before (since the janitor never went anywhere), accidentally ran in front of the principal’s feet, who looked down and screamed “Eek! A mouse!”
Terrified for her life, Lola dropped her load of crumbs and ran for her mouse hole, where she sat shivering with fear. The principal, having recovered from her own fright, marched into the janitor’s office to tell him about the mouse, and the need for mousetraps. Only he was sleeping.
“You’re fired!” She said instead, shoving his feet off his desk, causing him to sit up abruptly, his snoring cut off in spurts and gurgles.
Fortunately for Lola, the principal forgot all about the mouse she had seen. But unfortunately for Lola, the principal also hired a new janitor. A janitor, Lola discovered to her dismay, who cleaned better than any janitor Lola had ever seen (which frankly, wasn’t very difficult, since the only janitor she had ever seen was always sleeping). Still, the next night when Lola crawled out of her hole to gather up the day’s lunch crumbs, there wasn’t a speck of food to be found. “Oh no!” thought Lola. “Where am I going to find something to eat? If I can’t get food here, I’ll have to find a new home, and I won’t be able to hear the children laugh and play and learn anymore.”
But Lola was an optimistic mouse, and she thought that maybe the janitor wouldn’t clean quite so well on her second day. Because sometimes people got lazy. So she returned to her hole to sleep and tried not to think about her tummy rumbling.
Yet, on the second night, when Lola crept out of her hole (making sure to watch out for the janitor, because now she knew that people didn’t like mice, and she was afraid of being caught in a mouse trap and thrown out with the trash) she scoured the classroom floor looking for a single crumb, to no avail. It was even cleaner than before! “What am I going to do?” Lola cried. But there was nothing she could do. So she went back to her hole, same as before, and tried not to think about her tummy rumbling.
On the third night, when Lola smelled the lemon soap and saw the moonlight shining on the squeaky clean floor, she realized there would never be crumbs on the floor again. And her tummy started rumbling so loudly she couldn’t sleep at all.
That next day, during lunch, as the children unwrapped their cheese and bologna sandwiches, Lola’s tummy rumbled so loudly, it made her fall out of her nest. And that’s when she saw them. Crumbs. On the floor, beneath the children’s feet. Quickly, before she lost her courage, Lola ran from the safety of her mouse hole and into the classroom where any one of the students could see her and scream. But they were too busy eating and laughing and telling stories to pay attention to a little mouse. So she quickly grabbed an armful of crumbs and ran back to her hole and the best lunch she had ever eaten. Fresh crumbs were so much yummier than stale ones.
For a whole week, Lola sneaked out of her hole to gather up delicious lunch crumbs, delighted that she wouldn’t have to leave her beloved school after all. And for a whole week her plan worked. But the very next day, one of the boys saw Lola crawling between the legs of his chair, which he jumped on top of, screaming “Eek! A Mouse!” And the room erupted into chaos.
Faster than she had ever run in her life, Lola headed towards the bookcase to hide. But the kids ran after her and found her. So she ran to the art table, disappearing inside a roll of drawing paper that had fallen on the floor. But the children found her there as well. So she ran to the rug, where the children sang songs and listened to stories, but the children surrounded her, and Lola looked at their feet blocking her on all sides, and realized she was trapped. “Oh no!” she thought. “Now the teacher will catch me and throw me out with the trash, and I will never get to hear the children laugh and play and learn again. Here she comes now!” And sure enough, the teacher was coming right at Lola, with a box in her hands, which she used to scoop up the little mouse, trembling with fright.
More scared than she had ever been in her entire life, Lola refused to open her eyes. Not even when the box opened. Not even when a warm and gentle hand lifted her up. Not even when her feet touched down on sweet smelling swirls of cedar. It wasn’t until Lola heard the sound of a door closing, which she was convinced was the lid of the garbage can, did Lola open her eyes. And to her great astonishment Lola didn’t see any trash at all! Instead, she was inside a wire cage, much bigger than her small mouse hole. In the corner sat a cardboard box with clouds of cotton inside, fluffier than her mismatched mittens would ever be. There was even a wheel for Lola to run in! And chained to the side of the cage was a water bottle, and right in front of her nose was an entire bowl full of the freshest crumbs Lola had ever seen.
“Now we have a class pet,” the teacher said. And the children laughed and clapped and shouted “Hooray!” They spent the entire afternoon drawing pictures of Lola, and discussing what to call her, eventually settling on Franklin, which was silly because she wasn’t a boy. But Lola didn’t mind, because now she never has to worry about stale crumbs or trashcans again. And because now Lola gets to spend all day, not just listening, but also watching the children laugh and play and learn.