Meet Professor Higginbottom, the Literary Mouse: An Introduction
by Glen Draeger
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Hello Story Lovers,
When I work on this web site I often sit at my desk with a dozen books scattered before me. Some are stacked in piles, others are opened to interesting passages that I've marked carefully with a pen and the one I'm using is propped up behind my keyboard. In the midst of these books are papers, pens, computer wires, files and usually my cup of tea - - - usually cold.
The other day as I sat in front of my computer I heard something rustle in the papers. There is a window above my desk and at first I thought the wind had made the noise so I kept working. Then I heard it again. This time it sounded like someone scratching a piece of paper. When I looked up I noticed the window was closed. While I pondered this I heard another sound, a tiny voice.
"Hello up there!"
I jumped up from my chair and stared at my desk. Initially I thought the voice came from my computer, maybe from some game that my son had been playing, but then I heard the voice again.
"Over here," it said.
I looked slowly, with some trepidation, across my desk. Next to my computer stood a live mouse, small and gray. I've seen mice before but this one wore tiny, round, gold spectacles and had long, silver whiskers. I didn't know what to do. Slowly, he stood up on his hind legs, cleared his throat and said:
"My name is Bartholomew Higginbottom and I am a professor of literature." He said this in a very official way, as if he were very important.
"I'd like to help you," he said.
"Help me?" I replied. I knew I wasn't dreaming. Dreams feel different than when you're awake and I knew I was awake. "What do you mean?" I asked.
"I've been watching you for some time now. I happen to know that you are building a literature web site for children. Well," he said triumphantly, "I have a large library."
Before I had any time to react to this incredible offer I suddenly felt very strange: the room seemed to spin around my head and I had a sensation of falling down a long, long way when, to my great surprise, I found myself standing next to a giant mouse—the very same mouse who had been talking to me. He stood as tall as I am, over six feet. Then I looked around. My computer screen looked like a movie screen, my desk lamp towered above me like a giant redwood and the pencil I had been using looked like a log. I was standing on my own desk! I had been shrunk in my own house by a literary mouse!
"Don't be afraid," he said. "Just follow me." What else could I do? He scampered to the back of the desk, grabbed hold of the electrical cord that powered my computer and slid down to the floor like a firefighter going down a pole. I did the same, though not nearly as gracefully. Behind my desk, in the wall, in a place that I had never seen when I was bigger than a mouse was a small hole, with a small door and a small sign above it that read:
Professor Higginbottom's Library
Welcome Readers & Future Readers
I followed him through the door. I could not believe what I saw: a sign with words and arrows read:
There I stood, inside the wall of my own house, in the entrance to a library! To my left, in the corner sat another mouse behind an empty tuna can that served as a desk.
"This is the librarian, Dr. Jitmiggle."
"Hello, sir," he said genially. "Where would you like to go?"
"It's his first time here," Professor Higginbottom said, "so I think I'll just give him a general tour."
"Indeed," he said stroking his chin. "A scrumptious idea, Professor."
We proceeded through a hole in a 2x4 stud. How the mice cut through an inch-and-half of solid wood I did not know.
"These are reference books," the professor said waving his small front paw upward.
There before me, from the floor to the ceiling some 20 feet above my head, was a beautiful, wooden bookcase filled with books: big ones, little ones, old ones, red ones, green ones, black ones, thick ones and thin ones. On the other wall hung paintings and sometimes pictures that looked a lot like the pictures your parents probably have of you in their picture albums or stuck to the refrigerator with magnets only these were pictures of animals and insects with captions underneath like: "Professor Jingleton Teaches" or "Graduation Party 1965". In the corners of the room sat two big, overstuffed chairs with reading lamps next to them.
The lighting had a strange familiarity. From each light, lights that seemed huge to me, a wire ran to and had been spliced into the electrical wiring in my house. Then I realized where they found the lights. Every year I pull out long strings of colored and white lights that are always missing some bulbs. I chuckled to myself. This was where all my missing lights had gone! They were Christmas tree lights.
"We've borrowed many things from you, Mr. Draeger," the Professor said. "I hope you don't mind."
"It's quite all right," I replied.
We continued walking through the rooms and as we did Professor Higginbottom, a big talker, and a fast walker, told me all about the library.
"The library has 10 floors and was started by my Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandmother, Grandma Emma in 1948 soon after this house was built. We have books in every wall of your house and we plan to expand into your garage. Grandma Emma loved books. She always told me that books can teach you about many, many things. Do you want to read a story about talking animals? We have those books here. Do you want to learn how to paint or speak another language? You can find books that will do just that. We have books that tell exciting stories and other books that teach you about right and wrong. Do you want to learn about the past? Our books of history are excellent. You can learn about dinosaurs and wooden ships and the Queen of Egypt. Maybe you just want a fun book—we have lots and lots of fun books, but, of course," he said turning to me with a smile on his face, "I think all the books in my library are fun."
When he had stopped talking we stood before a cereal box that had a door cut into it. To the right of it two big rats sat discussing the books each of them held in their feet. Beside them a large rope hung from a system of pulleys.
"Good evening, Professor," one of them said.
"Good evening to you, Professor," the mouse replied.
"Emma's Hall," Professor Higginbottom replied. Then he turned to me and said, "After you," gesturing to the cereal box.
"In there?" I asked. "What is it?"
"It's our elevator. It will take us to Emma's Hall."
We stepped in. The professor closed the cardboard door and the elevator slowly began to rise. I heard the creaking of the pulleys—the exact same sound that often wakes me in the middle of the night. I always thought it was rats. It was rats, I just didn't know they were working the library elevator.
"Here we are," Professor Higginbottom said.
The doors opened and we stepped into a gigantic room. Above my head huge wooden beams spanned from one wall to the other. Rows and rows of chairs lined the hall. I pointed to dozens of round pieces of wood attached to the rafters.
"What are those?" I asked.
"Perches for birds," the Professor replied.
I had forgotten I was in my own house and blurted out, "Where are we?"
"This is your attic," he said. "It's a good thing you never came up here. This is our lecture auditorium, Emma's Hall. Professors from all over the city, the country and world come here to teach on a variety of subjects: literature, biography, history, science, religion and philosophy." The mouse pulled his glasses off and began cleaning them with a small, white handkerchief. "There's Professor Huzzin, he's a grub and Professor Underwood, he's a red-tailed hawk and many, many more. This is the only place the bigger animals can meet. Most of the rooms in the library are too small."
"Do you think," I said as an idea sauntered into my brain, "I could come here to meet your professors and write about what happened on my web site?"
"Of course!" Professor Higginbottom said elatedly. "That's exactly why we contacted you. We want to help you."
"Great," I replied.
Well, I know it sounds unbelievable, sometimes I can hardly believe it myself but every time that noise wakes me up in the middle of night I know Professor Higginbottom is probably going to Emma's Hall to hear or give a lecture. I'll let you know when I see him again.
©2005-2013 Glen Draeger (all rights reserved)