I will tell myself a story…

He had forgotten how dark the dark of the dungeon could be. And he had forgotten, too, its terrible smell, the stench of rats, the odor of suffering.

But his heart was full of love for the princess and his stomach was full of Cook’s soup and Despereaux felt brave and strong. And so he began, immediately and without despair, the hard work of maneuvering the spool of thread down the narrow dungeon steps.

He’s reminded of the people supporting him and the people relying on him – and sometimes, the latter is just as important. When so many people in your life tell you that you’ll never accomplish anything, it can be encouraging to think that someone’s relying on you.

Down, down, down went Despereaux Tilling and the spool of thread. Slowly, oh so slowly, they went. And the passage was dark, dark, dark.

“I will tell myself a story,” said Despereaux. “I will make some light. Let’s see. It will begin this way: Once upon a time. Yes. Once upon a time, there was a mouse who was very, very small. Exceptionally small. And there was a beautiful human princess whose name was Pea. And it so happened that this mouse was the one who was selected by fate to serve the princess, to honor her, and to save her from the darkness of a terrible dungeon.”

This story cheered up Despereaux considerably. His eyes became accustomed to the gloom, and he moved down the stairs more quickly, more surely, whispering to himself the tale of a devious rat and a fat serving girl and a beautiful princess and a brave mouse and some soup and a spool of red thread. It was a story, in fact, very similar to the one you are reading right now, and the telling of it gave Despereaux strength.

The stories we tell ourselves are sometimes the most important of all, at least when we are doing something important.

But he gets a little too eager, and sends the spool of thread rolling to the bottom of the stairs…

“What have we here?” said the one-eared rat to the spool of thread.

“I will tell you what we have,” said Botticelli Remorso, answering his own question. “We have red thread. How delightful. Red thread means only one thing to a rat.”

He put his nose in the air. He sniffed. He sniffed again. “I smell . . . could it be? Yes, most definitely it is. Soup. How strange.” He sniffed some more. “And I smell tears. Human tears. Delightful. And I also detect the smell” – he put his nose high in the air and took a big whiff – “of flour and oil. Oh my, what a cornucopia of scents. But below it all, what do I smell? The blood of a mouse. Unmistakably, mouse blood, yes. Ha-ha-ha! Exactly! Mouse.”

Botticelli looked down and gave the spool of thread a gentle push with one paw.

“Red thread. Yes. Exactly. Just when you think life in the dungeon cannot get any better, a mouse arrives.”

Until next time…

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