Leo

"What a great thing you're doing for the mice," Leo told Valens earnestly. "I'm so glad that we could get another teacher so that the black mice from unsupportive environments won't slow down the white ones."

Valens glanced over at Leo, trying not to laugh. The two were walking back upstairs together after a long day of teaching the kits the ins and outs of the society. They padded up the unvarnished plywood, careful not to get splinters in their feet. Valens restrained himself, and, laughing on the inside, responded. "Well thank you, Leo. I was inspired by your years of gracious teaching the little mice to be good citizens."

Leo turned around, placing a paw on Valens' back, indicating for him to do the same. They sat on the top step, looking out over the massive mouse colony. "And look how far we've come," he declared, pointing to the structured rations line, the kits and ma'ams waiting patiently for the workers to return in disciplined lines. The tan city stood formidably, in Leo's eyes. Valens let out a chuckle.

"What's funny?" asked Leo. "Am I missing out on some really great joke?"

Exactly, thought Valens. Instead of speaking his mind though, he sifted through it for an excuse. "I was just thinking about the Johnny Carson reruns Susannah was watching last night."

"Oh, yes! Isn't he hilarious? The comedians today could certainly bear to learn from him."

The two turned around and slithered through the cat door in unison.

***

After a long day of napping in Susannah's room, it was once again time for Leo to return to the world of the mice, who were just waking up. He deftly leapt through the door, sticking a perfect landing on the stair. He looked out again over the waking mice, and smiled. I can't believe we used to eat them, he thought. What uncivilized beasts we once were!

Noticing the gathering crowd of little black mice in corner four, he leapt over the bannister and landed safely about ten feet down. For such an old cat, his balance was perfect.

He sprinted towards the little bumbling cluster of black in the corner, his dark green eyes shining with the delight of doing good. When he quietly screeched to a halt, he noticed a little white mouse, waiting for him, keeping his distance from the cluster of black mice.

Leo told his class to take a little while longer to prepare for class, swept the mouse up in his paw, and took a walk. "Tell me, what brings you here?" he asked with the gentle tone of ancient wisdom. The kit's intimidation was assuaged, and, with a wave of certain defiance to him, he asked, "If you're the older, better teacher, why do you teach the black mice?"

"Why not?" he asked, with more of a socratic than a rhetorical tone to his answer. He placed the tiny mouse on the ground beside him, and continued to walk with his typical large strides. The little mouse had to scurry ferociously to keep up with him.
"Well, they're inferior to the white mice, and, with someone so superior, in age, talent, and race, as yourself, I'd figure you'd like to educate the most supreme minds possible."

Leo stopped, and placed his chin on the cold concrete in an attempt to achieve proper eye contact with the kit. "What makes you think that white mice are better than black mice? For that matter, what makes you think anyone is better than anyone else?"

"Well," the little mouse responded, nose sniffing, confused, "That's what Priest Valens taught us. In the order of race, the black mice are at the bottom, and the cats are just below Man."

Leo squinted at the little mouse. His white fur shone like a glass that was just polished. "Nobody is above anybody else. We all just are," he explained. "And it's my duty, having more knowledge of how to run a society, to teach little mice like you how your world works."

"But that's not what Priest Valens told us!" he exclaimed defiantly. Leo was taken aback, and smacked against a wall.

"I'll go talk to him. You run along now," he said, and took off towards corner 3.

"But wait, I didn't get to ask you about being a modmouse!" he shouted, but leo was already out of the poor little kit's squeaking range.

Leo approached the corner with a sense of dominance, quite unusual for his egalitarian beliefs and customarily matching demeanor.

"What are you teaching these kits, Valens?" he demanded.

Valens took a deep breath and tried to react calmly. "Priest Leo, Why don't we discuss this later?" he asked civilly. "At the moment I'm teaching."

"That's exactly what concerns me!" he exclaimed. "Are you really trying to tell these kits that they're better than their dark-furred counterparts? And that you and I are better than all of them?"

"Leo," he hissed. "Upstairs, now." He paused and looked back at his class. "Take a day to observe the intellectual divide of the races in action," he assigned. "And be ready to report on it tomorrow."

When they reached the living room, Valens was livid. "Go see Justinian!" he screeched. "He'll tell you all about what you're doing. You're not building a mouse farm, you're subverting it!"

"A farm? We've created an enlightened colony!"

"What do you think happens to the mice at their thirty-sixth maun?" Valens was exhausted by Leo's apparent stupidity.

"Are you serious?" Leo was livid. "I thought we were past the dark ages! I thought we had established a symbiotic relationship with our former prey! Like Justinian said!"

"Go see Justinian. He has a lot of explaining to do."

***

An hour later, Leo stood on the roof of the house. He hadn't been outside in years, but, as he discovered, it wasn't hard to find a way out via the attic. In human time, it was only 10:30, and so the dusk was still eclipsing the light of day.

I've been living a lie, he thought to himself. All the charity, enlightening, and good I thought I was doing was only contributing to the consumption of mice!"

He saw Justinian, angrily standing below at the bottom, waiting to laugh at him when he didn't go through with it. He considered, as he nostalgically felt the rough black roofing tiles on the soft pads of his paws, his opinion of Justinian. All of a sudden, what was once forgotten in selective amnesia rushed back to him, like the air that was about to rush through his hair as he fell to the ground, like he had seen a person do once on Susannah's television set.

He lied to me! He thought. He considered all the deaths of mice he had caused, and pulled in his back legs, preparing to launch himself forward. I'll be a martyr, he thought. Then, things will change. He leapt off the roof in a streamline, feline arch, and soared through the air before landing, incidentally unwounded, on his feet, realizing the curse of the suicidal cat.

But he soon felt claws dig into his back. "I can't have you spoiling my fortune," he whispered, as he began to tear apart Leo, who, dazed, didn't bother to fight back.

The End

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