They had waited a year for the opportunity and now it had finally come. They had spent twelve months planning and preparing and at last the hour was upon them.
They waited until dark then Dad reconnoitred the garden. It was clear. The guests had all left. The music had stopped and everything was still. The tantalising smells of dropped or discarded food enticed him but he forced himself to stay focussed. He gave the signal and his sons brought out the basket, while his daughters carried the provisions.
“Are you sure it’s safe, Dad?” little Harriet asked, her voice little more than a squeak. Her father patted her head.
“Of course it is, my love,” he said, although the furrows of his brow suggested otherwise. He glanced at the sky. It was too cloudy for his liking. He had been hoping for a clear night and moonlight to help him find his way.
With everything loaded, the time came for his departure. He kissed his offspring in turn, saving a special hug for little Harriet. At the end of the line was his wife.
“You’re a damned fool,” she told him, tears glistening in her brown eyes. “Just like your brother last year and your own father the year before that.”
“I’m not like them in the slightest!” he told her – they had had this argument many times. “I am prepared. Planning is everything, my dear! You know I have to do this. I have to go. There is no other way. Now give me a kiss and your loveliest smile. Do you really want that sour face to be my last memory of you?”
“And you will send for us, Daddy? Soon?”
“Yes, my boy,” he winked at little Thomas. “As soon as I can.”
He climbed into the basket and nodded to his eldest son, Harold, to untie the knots. The basket lurched upwards as the balloon strained for the sky. How quickly it ascended! Already his family were shrinking away, tiny figures on the grass, straining up to see him. There was little Harriet, waving her pink paw.
“Goodbye, my dears!” he whispered, for fear of waking the cat. Within moments, his family and the garden were gone. The balloon bobbed and danced on a current of air, taking its message of HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ALAN into the unknown. Mr Furface gripped the edge of the home-made basket, woven by his family from dried strands of grass.
This is one small step for a mouse, he thought proudly. One giant leap for mousekind.