Jeanette never slept in Dad’s bed, but she did so now. She may have done so before she could remember, but she had never ever shuffled her Pikachu onesie feet to the side of the bed and asked to be let in.


After the rat-explosion, the sensible think had been to leave the house and maybe stay at a motel, but when she got to the car door, she had started to peer around into every corner of the car and was finally too terrified to go in. She was mortified, but Terence had said, “You’re right, running away is the wrong thing to do.”

Terence didn’t sleep in a bed much bigger than hers, since the divorce had happened a couple of moves ago. But the two of them in an ordinary twin bed suited Jeanette just fine under the circumstances. And while the ordinary Ransom level of housekeeping insisted only on the bedclothes being distributed in the right order, tonight every corner was tucked in securely and tightly.


She lay there in the dark, pressed up against her father’s side, and her mind was racing even as her body was exhausted. She hadn’t missed the details: The box hadn’t moved when Dada handled it; there were no airholes and no other equipment in the box. So were the rats trained? Were they intelligent? Was the delivery boy with the hat-hair part of it, assembling the box in the delivery van?


Did Dada have any enemies? Or (and she moved to this super-quickly) did Mom? Were they starting a plague in their house? Or were there boxes of rats being delivered everywhere? Would there be demands?

Despite her trying to keep all this to herself, she grunted as if in pain, and Dada stirred. “We’ll make calls in the morning. We should be safe, since they didn’t do anything immediately.” He adjusted himself. “Think Adèle Blanc-Sec.”


Adèle Blanc-Sec was her absolute hero. They had discovered the movie, and watched it over again immediately. Dada had found out about the original graphic novels, and read them to her, translating them from the French on the fly, because of course he could. She envisioned herself in  19th century poofy sleeves, big skirt and enormous hat, traveling the world and writing despatches under the name of J. Sophonisba Ransom or J. Alexandrina Ransom , and staring down monsters with a gaze of ice.

It was unfair of him to invoke her, because now she would have to face down the terrors with calm sang-froid, and if she whimpered it would be her own fault. But somehow, still wrapped around her father, she managed to fall asleep for a while.

That while ended with a


It sounded like it came from above their heads.


She felt for her father. If he was relaxed and asleep, she would be exasperated with him. If he was alert and awake, she would feel considerably less safe. The second alternative was, alas, the case.

They were silent for a very long time, both aware the other was up. She thought she could feel him thinking.


When he spoke, it was one word, soft and semi-whispered. It was “mice.”
“Huh?” She said.
“I know they seemed awfully large at first, but considering their number and the size of the box, they’re really probably mice.”

“Mice in real life are rats.”
“Point taken.”
He stayed quiet after that.

But the seed had been planted. All the cute little misunderstood mice running from the big cats--the gallant little mice, from Reepicheep to the mice in Redwall to, well, Jerry in Tom and Jerry.

That shouldn’t have made a difference--after all, she had not thought about Ratatouille when they were rats--and what she said was still true--mice in real life were rats.

But her father had worked his magic. Slowly, and with her rational functions protesting all the way, J. Sophonisba Ransom fell asleep.



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