Fiddler was making dinner. He first washed his tiny paws, then clipped back his whiskers so they wouldn't fall in the soup. After ushering the twins out of the kitchen, as they were more nuisance than help, he got out the ingredients and his mother's old cookbook.
It was his father's wedding anniversary, and Fiddler had been presented with the task of preparing a romantic meal for him and his wives. You see, Fiddler's father, Tiddler, had five wives. From what he had told his son, he had gotten five proposals on Christmas Eve and accepted every single one. Fiddler wondered why he hadn't just chosen one mouse instead of all five, but whatever the reason, there was a dinner to be made.
Fiddler flipped through his mother's cookbook, which had been passed down through her family for centuries. Though his father had married five mice, Fiddler only had one mother, a beautiful white mouse named Delilah. She was also the mom of his three brothers and sisters.
Fiddler's eyes rested on a few particularly delicious recipes he had cooked many times before. Fiddler had become the family cook after he presented his first dish, cheese n' peanut casserole. He was exceptionally good at making food, hence his father's request
that he prepare the anniversary supper. He had chosen an acorn and cheese soup for the appetizer, almond mozzarella pasta for the main course, and for dessert there would be raspberry sorbet with a special nutty sauce. As for drinks, there would be lemonade. Fiddler made delicious lemonade.
Just as Fiddler was getting out the cheese (which, he was quite ashamed to admit, had been stolen from the
human's pantry) one of his father's wives entered the kitchen. She was brown all over, and her name was Shell. It was a rather unfitting name, Fiddler thought, because shells were beautiful and this mouse was anything but. She was most likely the fattest mouse in the history of mice, and her face was bulbous as if it was always stuffed with food.
"How's them dinner coming along?" She asked gruffly, pushing Fiddler aside to look inside the bowl he was using. He had only just put diced acorns in it.
"I've just started," Fiddler said, annoyed.
"Mm..." Shell popped a piece of acorn in her mouth and chewed loudly. "How long 'fore it's done?" She swallowed with a cringeworthy dry gulp.
Fiddler quickly calculated the prepping and cooking times in his head. "About three hours," he said, grabbing a wood splinter and slicing cheese.
"Make it two." Shell turned around abruptly (taking a whole log of cheese as she passed) and exited the room. Fiddler sighed as he sliced more cheese and melted it, mixing it with water and adding fresh herbs that he had picked that afternoon. Shell was his least favorite mouse in the entire mouse-hole. She was pushy and gruff
and acted like she owned the place, even though her husband was the one who was really in charge. She claimed to have married Tiddler so he wouldn't be alone, but in truth she was there for the food. Fiddler's food.
Fiddler had taken up cooking not only because he enjoyed it, but because he wanted to be useful to his family. He was the underdog, the least loved child. He thought over this as he sprinkled nutmeg over his soup as it simmered, tasting the savory cheesiness and adding more salt. All his brothers and sisters were older than him, and much more attractive. His whiskers were stubby and his tail too long, so much that it got tangled up in the furniture as he walked past. But if there was one good thing about Fiddler, it was that he could cook.
And yet, Fiddler thought as he brought out stolen flour to make noodles. And yet, even though I cook for everyone, I still don't get noticed. They don't care about me. Nobody cares about me.
He took out water, oil, salt and eggs and mixed them up with the flour to make dough, then shaped them into pasta shapes. Noodle-making was one of Fiddler's favorite things to do. He loved to experiment with the shapes and sizes, to make new patterns and
designs. He once went through the trouble to make little mouse shaped pasta, although those didn't turn out so well.
Fiddler sighed once more as he ladled the completed soup into six bowls. There was just enough left for him, and he stored it away for later. He wouldn't give any to his siblings. If they were nicer to him, then he might, but his brothers and sisters were possibly even crueler than Shell. They hogged his parents' attention and got
the most birthday presents. They pulled out his short whiskers and tread on his tail when he wouldn't make them breakfast fast enough.
If only we were all equal, Fiddler thought sadly as he started on the pasta sauce. Things would be so much better...
A few hours later, the dinner was ready. The soup was reheated and topped with parsley; the pasta was letting out a mouthwatering aroma of almonds and cheese, and the raspberry sorbet was
practically glowing in little wooden saucers. After pouring ice-cold lemonade into cups, Fiddler placed the soup carefully on a tray and carried it into the dining room, where his father and the five wives were waiting.
Tiddler was at the head of the table, back straight and whiskers neatly brushed. A little bow tie was around his neck, and his five wedding rings were on his tail. Closest to him was Delilah, his favorite wife and lifelong companion. Shell was next, patting her stomach. Sitting at the other end of the table were the two sisters, both grey and black mice with an endless supply of energy. And then there was Rah-Mouse, a skinny spotted creature who neither liked nor disliked anybody.
"Finally," Shell moaned as Fiddler served the soup. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
"It looks lovely,, Twiddler," Delilah said absentmindedly as she pulled the soup closer to her. Fiddler lowered his eyes.
"I'm Fiddler, Mother," he corrected her gently. Her eyes widened and she smiled apologetically. She had mistaken him for his older brother.
Fiddler left the adults to their soup and wandered into his father's bedroom. He wasn't entirely sure why, as he should be back in the kitchen and making sure the sorbet didn't melt. But his body had other ideas. Fiddler crawled over to the small wooden box at the
foot of his father's bed and opened it. He was never allowed to open this box, as it held Tiddler's most personal items. But Fiddler was curious, and this was his only chance to have a quick peek. The adults, after all, were all occupied, and his siblings had gone out for the day.
He opened the lid. Surprisingly, there were only three items inside: a letter, a framed picture, and a tuxedo. He brought out the letter and skimmed it over. It was written by his father's mother, Fiddler's late grandmother. He expected it to be deeply personal, and filled with motherly love, but instead it was written in a businesslike manner, describing happenings at home and news on some cat's sickness. It wasn't anything interesting. Why had his father kept it?
The tuxedo was next. Fiddler suspected that it belonged to his grandfather, the late Dwindler Whiskerkin. He was famous in his time, good at composing poetry. Fiddler set aside the tuxedo fondly. He had always liked his grandfather, and was very sad when he died.
Now for the picture. Fiddler found it to be extremely heavy and dusty, and first had to rub the dirt off with his tail before he could see the photograph clearly. It was a scene from his father's wedding, and it was quite a funny picture. Tiddler looked very
smart in his father’s tuxedo. Fiddler glanced back at the suit in the box. So, Tiddler had worn it to his wedding.
In a straight line in front of Tiddler were his five wives, all wearing white gowns and a single ring on their tails. Shell's overlarge stomach bulged out of her dress, the sisters looked bored from sitting so still, and Rah-Mouse's face was expressionless.
But it was Delilah's face that struck Fiddler. Her eyes were filled with love and hope, of happiness and wonder. She was gazing up at Tiddler, and he gazed down back at her with the same loving expression. He wasn't bothered by the other four wives that he was
forced to marry. He only cared about her.
Fiddler felt tears roll down his face. All his life, he had been seemingly unloved by his parents, pushed around by Shell and harassed by his siblings. All he wanted was that love, the love that he saw in the wedding photo. If only someone loved him that much, he would be happy. So, so happy.
Yes, it would happen. But not yet.