Palo Alto Weekly 28th Annual Short Story Contest
Third Place Tween

An Unexpected Journey

By Anna Mickelsen

About Anna Mickelsen

Anna Mickelsen is a fifth-grade student at Duveneck Elementary School in Palo Alto. She has loved writing stories and drawing pictures since she was in preschool and is thinking about becoming a children's author or illustrator when she is older. Anna loves art, sports, music, theater, and spending time with her friends, family and her cat, Ollie.

 

From the judges...

A highly imaginative story with an interesting premise: A mouse family survives the wreck of the Titanic. The judges think this story should be a movie.

Chapter 1
Departure

Cassidy felt as if she was going to fall over. It was difficult to walk up the boarding plank to the Titanic without being seen. It was around noon on April 10, 1912, and Cassidy's family of 11 was traveling on the Titanic from England to New York City - for free. Once they were on the great ship the family had to look for somewhere to stay. They crept around, flattening themselves against walls until they reached an empty room. There, the family of brown field mice found a hole in the wall and crawled inside. Cassidy, her mother, and her younger sister started to unpack the blankets and candles as four of Cassidy's five brothers scampered up to the windowsill and peeked outside.

"Wow!" exclaimed her older brother Harry. "You can see Big Ben from here!"

"Of course you can! This is the world's greatest ship!" said Sam, another brother.

"Boys, come down, please!" called Mother.

"Just a few more minutes? Please? The view is wonderful!" they called.

"Oh, all right, but just a few minutes."

Cassidy looked enviously at the four boys perched on the round window sill. She now had the job of holding her twin baby sisters, Emily and Emma, and watching her three-year-old brother Tommy. Her younger sister Cleo and her mother were starting to prepare a meal of soup, bread, and a bit of cheese.

"Mother, may I take Cleo up to the window, please?" asked Cassidy. "Just for a few minutes? Tommy and the girls have fallen asleep," she added as her mother started to protest.

"Oh, all right," Mother gave in. "But be careful! And I want all of you down together."

"Yes!" thought Cassidy. She grabbed her little sister by the paw and they both raced up the window blind. The view from the ship's window took Cassidy's breath away. She could have stayed there forever. But instead, she heard the door creak open, ruining her paradise: a human was coming.

"We have to go!" gasped Cassidy, grabbing Cleo and Sam, and jumping off the windowsill, back into the mouse hole. Luckily, they had all returned safely before the humans had seen them.

"Are you alright?" cried Mother. Her face was pale. "All six of you are eating supper and going straight to bed! And Cassidy: I am deeply disappointed in you! You are a young lady of fourteen, and you still are jumping down from windowsills! That is definitely not ladylike at all!"

"I'm so sorry, Mother, it's just... this is my first time away from England!"

Her mother gave her a stern look, which said No more excuses, young lady! Cassidy opened her mouth as if she was going to say something, then shut it and went to bed.

 

Chapter 2
Evacuate!

Days passed. Those days seemed filled to the brim with boredom. There were no more trips to the window, let alone outside the hole in the wall. Cassidy woke up on April 14 and felt that this day was going to have an exciting event. She did her daily chores with a grin on her face. The young brown field mouse never had felt so sure of something in her life. And she was right. At 11:40 pm the family of mice - along with most of the passengers on the Titanic - was asleep. THUD! A huge noise woke up the mice. Cassidy bolted out of bed and poked her head outside the hole. The humans were asleep. She ran out to the window and looked outside. The only thing she could see was a cover of bluish-white sheets. She put her paw on the glass of the window, then yanked it away. The window was freezing! She had an urge to look down, and she did. There was a crack on the floor that had water filling in very slowly. Cassidy's stomach lurched. She had the feeling that the "unsinkable" boat was not so unsinkable!

"Cassidy," said a voice. "Come down and gather your things. The boat is leaking." Her father was poking his half-asleep head out the door. Father had obviously seen the danger and had aroused the whole family. In a flash, Cassidy was back in the hole, hurriedly packing her belongings into her big black suitcase. Mother and Father were packing as well. Suddenly, Mother did something very surprising. She picked up the twin babies, wrapped them in blankets, and put them in the suitcase holding all of the blankets, rugs, candles, and pillows. At about midnight on the leaking boat, eleven mice with suitcases and bags were running down the halls of "the world's greatest unsinkable ship." Their tiny feet went pit, pat, pit, pat, as they dashed up the stairs and down the halls. They finally reached the top deck where very, very few were realizing the danger. But Captain Edward J. Smith began to uncover the lifeboats.

"Okay, everyone," said Father. "Try to get on a lifeboat together. But if you can't..." Father's voice broke off and he gathered his family together in a big hug. At 12:45 people started to come to the top deck of the Titanic. Through the crowds, Cassidy lost track of her family. She remembered what Father had said and how he hadn't finished his sentence. She decided that she would have to take care of herself on the sinking ship. She raced to the nearest life boat, one that was about to be put down, and hopped in.

"Wherever my family may be," she prayed, "I hope that they are safe!"

Cassidy's lifeboat was set on the water with a slight splash and the humans paddled away. Cassidy kept a sharp eye out for her family. As she turned to look for them, she caught a glimpse of the Titanic and gasped. Only half of the mighty ship was above water! Cassidy was so scared that she worried herself to sleep.

 

Chapter 3
The Carpathia

It felt good to stand on something flat again, even if it was another boat. The lifeboats had rowed to the Carpathia, another big boat that was headed for New York. Cassidy felt frozen. She struggled to find a hole and when she did, she bundled herself in blankets and fell asleep, too tired to even think about finding her family. Cassidy woke up, expecting to smell the delicious aroma of buttered toast, but she realized that she was truly alone, not even knowing if her family was alive. She took out a candle from her suitcase and lit it. Then she brought out a small pot of water, boiled it, and added a few tea leaves. After she had made her "breakfast", Cassidy sat down on her makeshift bed and cried, feeling lonely and depressed. After a while, though, she stopped crying, changed into a clean dress, and started arranging a small house.

It was April 18 at 9:45 a.m., and the Carpathia had docked. Cassidy skipped down the boarding plank with mixed feelings. Part of her wanted to shout and leap for joy because she felt safe, part of her wanted to cry of loneliness, and part of her wanted to go to bed. But Cassidy had to find somewhere safe to live. She started to wander around the bustling New York City to find a suitable home. Through this process, she rode the bottom of a buggy, on top of a suitcase, and on top of the hat of a bicyclist. She decided that a very old building would make a good household. She kept a sharp eye out for a good-sized, old but sturdy building. She came across a girls' orphanage. The buggy that she was riding on was making some sort of delivery there, so she decided to take her chances. She gathered up her shawl and suitcase and dashed in while the door was still open.

 

Chapter 4
A Suitable Home

Suitable. That's the word to describe the orphanage. It was the perfect place for Cassidy to make a home. It was spacious, old, and to Cassidy it seemed like a mansion. She wandered up and up until she reached the attic. It had plenty of nooks and crannies; just her sort of thing. The children were at lunch, leaving her free to roam. Cassidy found a good hole behind the long window drapes. It was not too big, but not too small; it wasn't too dirty, but it wasn't spotless.

"Goodness!" exclaimed Cassidy. "What a fine hole!" She set to work making her home. She was proud of her progress; it looked somewhat like a hole that Mother could have organized. After a short nap, Cassidy decided that she was going to take a proper tour of the building where she was living. First stop: outside. Of course she couldn't actually go outside (she would have to open at least one door), but a window was close enough. Cassidy clawed her way up the window drapes. She felt a twinge somewhere inside her. The last time she had been up a window was in the Titanic.

"Oh, my!" she gasped. Below her on some grass were a whole lot of girls! They were all different ages, sizes and their hair was of every color.

"And I thought my family was big!" she thought out loud. "Even though this isn't a family, it's a lot of people living in one house." Soon a group of the girls outside looked up, almost spotting Cassidy. She ducked down. Phew, that was close! Too close, she thought.

Chapter 5
Alice

Cassidy had a daily routine for six of the seven days: get up, get ready, fetch scraps for breakfast, return to the hole, go back for lunch, go outside for fresh air, sew or mend, have dinner, wash, then go to bed. But on Sundays, the humans would all go to church, leaving Cassidy to eat as she wanted. One Tuesday, when she was out of doors, she watched every girl and saw all of their different personalities. She decided she was the most like Alice or Marabelle.

The next morning, Cassidy woke up with her head spinning. She struggled to sit up.

"Wait," she thought. "My bed isn't this comfortable." Suddenly alert, she stood up and did a full 360 degree turn. She was on one of the orphan's beds! She sat back down and tried to recall what had happened. Cassidy inched up the bed to see which orphan was sleeping in it. It was round-faced, brown-eyed, brown-haired Alice, the youngest orphan. Cassidy was scared out of her wits.

"Hey, are you alright, little mousie?" came a whisper. Alice had woken up and was leaning one arm on her pillow. "You've been through a lot today. You were unconscious for a while - you fell off the window!"

"I.... I..." started Cassidy.

"You can talk?" exclaimed Alice quietly.

"Yes, I can, and thank you very much for helping me rest on your bed. You see, I was on the Titanic and I got separated from my family... Can you help me?"

"Listen, Cassidy," said Alice. "I'm not anyone special. I'm just an ordinary orphan. What can I do?"

"More than you know, trust me," was Cassidy's reply.

 

Chapter 6
The Search

Alice quickly became interested in helping Cassidy, and she even volunteered to make laundry rounds to the other orphanages. When she did, Cassidy went along with her. While Alice and the other girl from the orphanage collected the laundry, the brown mouse scurried up to the attic. She knew her family well, and they would find the place in the building with the most nooks and crannies, which, in most places, was the attic. Cassidy went flying from each corner, looking for holes and trying to find something before she had to leave. She was about to leave, tail hanging low, when she heard something.

"Sam? That you?"

Cassidy spun around. There, in a hole right under a windowsill, was a brown head. It was Harry!

"Harry!" Cassidy ran as fast as she could.

"Cassidy?" Her older brother whispered. "Mother! Father! It's Cassidy!" He jumped down and bounded towards her, swooping her in a giant hug.

"Cassidy!"

"Cassidy?"

"Cassidy?"

"Cassidy!"

Cassidy turned to see seven brown figures descend from the hole, one with their arms full of two other brown things. They were all there! Mother, holding Emma and Emily, the baby twins, Father, Harry, Sam, Cleo, Philip, William, and Tommy. Cassidy felt tears come to her eyes, and didn't stop the waterfalls that fell down her cheeks.

"Cassidy," said Mother to Cassidy. "We thought you were lost for the longest time. I couldn't stand it. Look at you! You've taken good care of yourself this whole time. I am so glad you're safe." She kissed her oldest daughter on the cheek.

"Well, Marabelle, I guess we should be going." Alice's voice drifted up the stairs to the attic.

"Come, Mother, our ride home is leaving. I'll help you pack up your hole." Mother handed the twins to Cleo, and she and Cassidy talked as they packed, a few tears of joy spilling now and then.

 

Chapter 7
A Decision

That night, Cassidy stayed up talking to Alice.

"Alice, I can't thank you enough for helping me, Alice", said Cassidy. "I couldn't have done it without you".

"Oh, Cassidy, you don't have to say that. That's what friends are for. What else would I do?"

"Tell us one way to repay you, and we will do it," Cassidy insisted.

"Well, there's one thing I have to ask you," Alice said after a while.

"Anything! Tell me!" said Cassidy.

"It--it's kind of a bold request. I was wondering if- if you and your family would stay here at the orphanage with me." When Cassidy didn't answer, Alice continued: "You see, I've never had a friend as good as you, and I would be really sad if you left. I'll help you collect things to make it a very comfortable home. I know this is a big request, and I understand if you don't want to." Alice picked at a string on her comforter and waited.

"Of course we'll stay!" exclaimed Cassidy.

"Really?" Alice looked up hopefully. "Shouldn't you ask your parents first?"

Cassidy flapped her paw.

"Oh, they'll say the same thing. Besides, I'm tired of always moving, and I now have a good reason to stay-a perfect friendship." She and Alice grinned at each other, and Cassidy yawned.

"It's been a big day. Let's go to sleep," suggested Cassidy, and Alice yawned in agreement.

Cassidy hopped off the bed and combed her fur. As she drifted off to sleep, she remembered how excited she had been boarding the Titanic, and how scared she was to watch it slowly sink into the Atlantic. Cassidy could have never predicted such a perfect ending to this unexpected journey.