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Squiggles: Excerpts from Nleimen's Journals (Part 1: First Form) (1502.01.11): Nleimen attends First Form and begins breeding pet mice.
~ 2668 words, Created by: Elizabeth Barrette (Writer), Posted: 04/12/13
Teacher Treliff says to keep a journal for class. A journal is a book to write in. I don't have much to write but she says anything will be fine.
I have two pet mice. Kriki is a girl and Iko is a boy. My brother Egram gave them to me for my birthday last year. I hope they have babies someday. Then I will have even more mice! Egram has so many mice that he keeps them in a hutch that looks like a city.
Today is my seventh birthday. We all went out to the Eclectic Eatery, the restaurant where my mother works. It has foods from all over the Empire. Mom made some cupcakes with icing faces and candy tails so they look like mice.
My pet mouse Kriki had six babies. So now I have eight mice. Egram says baby mice are called "pups." The pups are still all pink. Egram says they will grow fur in a tenday or so. Right now they just look like a little nest full of thumbs.
The pups don't look like thumbs anymore. They have all their fur on now. They are white just like Kriki and Iko. One of them looks a little funny. I hope he will be all right. I don't want to lose any of my mice even though Mom says I will have to give some away.
That one pup sure turned out funny! He moves around just like his brothers and sisters but his coat is all different. It looks like he slept on a bed of curling tongs. His coat is all twisty so I call him my "squiggle mouse." His name is Jiju. I play with him more than the others so he is really friendly.
* * *
My parents let me throw a party for some friends after school. Mom brought home some sweets from the restaurant so everyone got to taste something from far away.
I showed my pet mice but some of the girls screamed. The boys thought they were neat. Maybe boys are just smarter than girls. Boys are usually the noisy ones, though.
Our class took a field trip to the Summer Flower Festival today. Tourists come to look at our fancy flowers. Our town is famous for its flowers and festivals. I like living in Tifirf because there is always something going on here.
Some people buy seeds or plants to take home. They buy all kinds of other things too. The Eclectic Eatery has been busy all tenday. Even Dad's shop is packed and it only sells housewares. The whole town kind of goes crazy but that's all right, because we make lots of money this way.
This tenday I earned some extra money helping Dad at his shop after school. I wish I could help Mom too, but Dad owns the shop and she just works at the restaurant, so I can't get around the child labor laws with a family exception over there. Today I went to Sraffi's Pet Shop and bought a girlfriend for Jiju. I have to keep him in a hutch by himself or else his brothers and sisters pick at his coat. I think he's lonely. Maybe he'll be happier with a girlfriend. I'm going to call her Emarn. Sraffi helped me pick out my new mouse; I want to shop in her store some more.
I wonder if Jiju and Emarn will have squiggly pups. I have kept Kriki and Iko together. They've had more pups but never another one like Jiju. Mice only live a few years so I don't know how much longer I will have them. I hope that I get some more squiggle mice one way or another. Jiju is so cute in his fluffy little coat!
Emarn had 7 pups today! I'm so excited, I keep wanting to peek into the hutch. Mother mice don't like that, though. I'm trying to leave her alone with her family.
So I went to the library and borrowed some books. They have a new book on pet mice. It shows pictures of some fancy breeds. There are black-and-white mice and fawn mice and chocolate mice. There are even silver ones that are darker on top and lighter underneath. I can't afford anything like that yet, but I would love to have some!
None of the Emarn's pups look like Jiju. They all have flat coats just like their mother. I don't know why they don't take after Jiju. I asked my mother about that and she just laughed. She says that sometimes babies don't look exactly like their parents.
So then I asked Teacher Arben about it. He said it has to do with genetics and it's complicated. I went to the library and borrowed a book on genetics. I read the first couple of chapters but it was really hard. I took that one back and asked the librarian for something a little easier. She showed me a book about cats and why their colors are different. This one has a lot more pictures that show how it works. I'm copying some of my favorite ones.
Kriki died today. She was Jiju's mother and her mate Iko is his father. I'm sad that I can't repeat the original breeding anymore, even though they never had another pup like Jiju.
* * *
This is my last year of First Form. Teacher Vretho says this year we will be doing special projects that we present at the end of the year. He wants us to start thinking about ideas now so we can plan ahead and make something really good.
My favorite subject is science. I am most interested in genetics. I have a couple dozen pet mice now. Sometimes I trade them with friends who also raise mice. We have started keeping track of our mice so that we know who the mothers and fathers are. Mom says my bedroom is starting to look like a little license office!
My favorite is my squiggle mouse Jiju. He is the only mouse I've ever seen with a curly coat. I'm studying genetics because I want to raise more mice like Jiju. So far he has sired four litters with different mothers but none of the pups look like him. I'm going to do my project on mouse genetics.
Now Iko is dead. He was Jiju's father. At least I still have some other mice besides Jiju that came from Iko and Kriki. But my class project is not exactly getting off to a good start.
Teacher Vretho is terrific. He looked over my notes for my project and gave me some new ideas. He said that I should think about buying one black mouse to mate with my white mice. That way they should have babies of both colors so that I can see how the genes mix in the litter.
I think that's a good idea but I'm going to have to save up for it. I also need to save money to build a great display. I want it to have separate hutches for the different kinds of mice, with wire or glass fronts so the judges can see them. That won't be easy even if I get Egram to help me build them.
Teacher Vretho also said that I should bring in the family trees for my mice. He's going to read them and see if he can give me some hints.
I showed my mouse family trees to Teacher Vretho. He said that horse breeders call those records "stud books." He also suggested that I try something called "inbreeding." That means mating mice who are relatives. It seems weird but he says they won't know they are related anyway. As long as I don't overdo it the pups should stay healthy.
It worked! It worked! I mated two of Jiju's pups together and two of their eight pups have curly coats! So now I have three squiggle mice. I am keeping careful records and making lots of sketches for my project. I will definitely try more inbreeding with Jiju's other pups.
I love my family. Dad gave me a black mouse for my birthday. Egram gave me a fawn-and-white mouse with a white belly and white stripe over the shoulders. Both of those are males so I can put them with different females to get lots of pups. I can't wait to see what happens.
Mom gave me a book on genetics. This one is about horses -- draft horses, race horses, riding horses. It has color pages in the middle that show all their different breeds. A horse's genes shape its size and what it can do. This is my new favorite book.
My little sister Inaleir gave me a pillow with a wheat-sheaf pattern. Hey, life isn't all mice and science! Then we started a pillow fight and Mom made us go outside until supper.
My new breeding programs are doing well. First, I have seven squiggle mice now. Soon it will be six because I am going to trade one of the squiggle pups -- not Jiju, of course! -- to Sraffi's Pet Shop for materials to build the mouse hutches in my project display. I know how I want it to look and it's going to take a lot of time for me and Egram to build.
I have two litters of pups from the black mouse, De. The first litter has four white pups and three black ones. The second litter has eight pups, half of each color.
I have one litter from the fawn-and-white mouse, Ofare. All of them are white, though. I guess that means the white color is stronger than the fawn color. Maybe if I breed these pups together, some of them will look like Ofare.
I wonder what I would get if I mixed De's pups and Ofare's pups. I know there are black-and-white mice because there are pictures of them in a pet mouse pamphlet that I have. That would look so cute!
I am so busy! This school year has been lots of fun. I am ready for the last trimester, though. My project is coming together. I have kept up with it, not like some students in my class who goofed off during the vacations. Now they're running behind. I don't care -- I will score higher than them because I'm working harder.
For the first time, I bred two squiggle mice together and their whole litter is curly! According to my books, this means the gene that makes the fur curl must be recessive. So the pup needs one gene from its mother and one from its father. I think Jiju is what the glossary calls a "sport" -- he just turned out that way even though his parents had flat coats.
I am still keeping most of the squiggles for my project, but I am giving a few of them to friends. The other people who like fancy pets just love the squiggle mice and I am the only person who has them, except for the one I traded to the pet store. So now everybody wants to talk to me about my mice! I think Egram is getting jealous. I'll make it up to him, though. I got invited to a garden party some of the fanciers are throwing, and I'm going to take Egram with me since he gave me my first mice.
I put one of De's black pups, Rersh, in with Ofare. Rersh had a litter and it looks like all of them will be black -- they are dark instead of pink -- except one of them has a pink belly and shoulders. I'm going to call that one Deli!
I'm excited because I thought I could get a black-and-white pup and then it actually happened. Or at least it will if Deli grows fur to match the skin. Deli is not really new the way Jiju is new. There are other mice like Deli. I don't care, though. Deli is new to me!
I was right. Deli's fur is growing in now and it's black-and-white. Deli looks like one of those fancy pigs that some people keep as pets, only about the size of my thumb and much cuter.
Egram and I finished building the mouse hutches for my project display, all fastened together in a neat little cabinet. I will be showing one each: white mouse (with a flat coat), squiggle mouse (also white), black mouse, fawn-and-white mouse, black-and-white mouse. Teacher Vretho says I'm allowed to get help building stuff that just displays my work, like the hutches, but not with any of the actual project. So Dad helped me make a folding board with three pieces to stand behind the hutches, but I have to do all the drawings myself. I don't think my art is all that good. I enjoy art sessions in school, though. Maybe I should take an art class when I get into Second Form.
Anyway, the left side of the board shows my frassy drawings of the mice and their colors plus the squiggle mouse. It has little charts showing when I got each kind of mouse and how many I have. The middle is the biggest part and it has a family tree showing Jiju's descendents and another showing Deli's ancestors. The right side has some grids showing how the parents' genes can combine. These are just easy 2x2 grids. There are fancier ones that show more stuff but I haven't figured out how all that works yet.
Then there's the big notebook I made to explain the whole project. I wrote out my main idea -- what Teacher Vretho calls a "thesis" -- and then I copied my supporting materials. I used my own journal entries about the mice, quotes from books, and some of the pages from the mouse stud books where it shows how I bred the mice displayed in the hutches. It took me hours and hours to copy all that but I don't mind because it looks really scientific.
The judging is later this tenday and I'm so scared and excited I can hardly tell which is which.
I'm going to kill my little sister. I will kill her deader than border chicory. She is dead dead dead.
Inaleir took Deli out of the hutch to play with him and he got loose. We have all looked and looked and he is nowhere to be found. Now Mom is mad at me because I yelled at Inaleir. I don't care. This is my project and now it's going to look stupid because I'll have five hutches in the little cabinet and only four mice in them. And the judging is tomorrow! Maybe I'll get lucky and have the flu tomorrow and won't have to go to school.
She is so dead for this.
Inaleir gets to live after all. She confessed to sneaking out of bed last night after Mom made us all stop searching, and she found Deli and put him back in his hutch. So now my display will be perfect, but I'm still so nervous I can hardly sit still.
I won! I won! The judges picked my project out of the whole class. They said it showed "exceptional skill and initiative." They gave me a big shiny ribbon. I'm going to hang it over my mouse hutches at home.
Teacher Vretho says he's very proud of me. He thinks that if I keep studying hard, I will get to go to a big university someday and the Empire will pay for it, too! He says I'm already ahead of my classmates so I just have to stay there. My parents are also proud of me. Even Sraffi from the pet shop is proud of me! I don't know who invited her but she was in the audience at the project fair with all the parents and everybody.