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Squiggles: Excerpts from Nleimen's Journals (Part 2: Second Form) (1505.01.30): Nleimen attends Second Form. She begins taking art classes and seeks to establish the squiggle mouse as a breed.
~ 3560 words, Created by: Elizabeth Barrette (Writer), Posted: 07/05/13  


Where did the month go? I've been in school for tendays and this is the first chance I've had to write something other than homewriting. Second Form is much harder than First Form.

I don't mind, though. Science classes are more exciting now! Once a tenday we get to have a special "lab" class and watch the teacher do an experiment. That's a lot better than just reading about it in a book. Teacher Offamori says that we will get more lab days later in Second Form and eventually we'll get to do experiments ourselves. He makes it sound so exciting.

The only thing I regret is that I don't have as much time for my mice as I did before. There is more homewriting and it's not as easy to do. I'll just have to figure out ways to make time for everything.


For my tenth birthday today we went to a little sale in Rainbow Park, hosted by the Art Guild. Lots of different artists put up their own tables, not like the one big art booth that the Guild runs during the festivals. Other tables sold art supplies. The food vendors brought carts full of artsy-looking things to eat. Dad bought me a set of color pencils in a canvas case that rolls up. Mom got me a little painting of a flower garden. Everyone else gave me candy.


I'm finally starting to get a handle on Second Form. There are just so many more things to do!

Soon we're going to take a field trip to the Fall Horse Fair. Teacher Offamori wants us to choose a topic for an essay. I wanted horse genetics, of course, but he said no -- it has to be something new to us. So I am still thinking about that. I went to the library and looked up the history of the fair but it was mostly old news about how the first one got broken up by a riot. I did find one article about the challenges of getting travel licenses for all the horse breeders and their horses, though. I wonder, why is it so hard to get travel licenses?


The Fall Horse Fair was amazing! I had no idea that there are people who spend the whole fair talking about nothing but genetics. I met so many horse breeders that I couldn't remember all their names and had to write down who was who. I think they were surprised that I could follow most of what they said. Well, some of it, anyway. They were nice to me.

I also found out why it's hard to get travel licenses. Travel can spread disease or bugs or other bad things. One year some of the horses that came were sick but nobody knew it in time. They passed it around to other horses. Then the sick ones weren't allowed to go home, because nobody wanted the disease to spread any farther. Some of the horses even died. People think the disease came from the borderlands, because sometimes weird things cross over after a boundary disappears. So it's really important to make sure only healthy horses are licensed to travel! That takes time and money, which makes it harder.

I'm going to write my essay on travel hazards. Teacher Offamori suggested that I research how the old boundaries affect licensing, too -- there are reasons why we try not to mix things up any more than they already are. That sounds interesting. I know that different places have different kinds of animals and plants and stuff. I wonder what happens when the boundaries come down and the wildlife starts to wander around.


I want a hole mouse! They come in lilac. They're rare around here, though, and it's not lawful to keep or transport them because they are considered pests. They've spread pretty far from their native range, and people are trying to control them. So I can only have a hole mouse if I move to a city where they're already well established. I still want one!

I borrowed a book from the library to help with my essay. It had lots of articles on animals from different regions. The hole mouse is just my favorite. The chapter on diseases was pretty scary, though. You never know what might be lurking in some forgotten corner of the world.

* * *

I am so excited! The school offers an introductory art class for students in my year. This is not like the art sessions we had back in First Form. It is a whole separate class with its own room, which Teacher Bimani calls a "studio." One entire wall of the classroom is glass, to let in as much light as possible. Teacher Bimani is teaching us a lot of new words; she says the student stations are "easels" instead of desks. Plus there are some big flat tables to share, for drafting.

We get to explore all different kinds of art. Some of the stuff includes sketching, painting, sculpting, and textile arts. Textile means art that uses fiber or cloth -- macrame, quilts, embroidery, that kind of thing. Teacher Bimani promised to take us on field trips to the art museum and a couple of galleries. I have seen the museum before (it's mostly paintings of flowers and horses) but maybe it will be more fun to talk about the pictures with someone who really knows art. She even made the textbook sound interesting.

Our science class this year has two lab days each tenday, one at the beginning and one at the end. So now the teacher can do experiments that change over time. The older students talk about an experiment with a white flower where the teacher waters it with dye and you can see the color creep into the petals. That sounds amazing.


Mom says that I have to get rid of some of my mice. I still have all the old kinds, plus now I have some solid fawn ones. I don't mind losing some of the extras but I want to keep up the variety.

I am trying to breed different colors of squiggle mice. So far I've had no luck. I'm not sure why.

I want the squiggle mice to become a real breed. They only live here in Tifirf because nobody has a license to export them yet. Sraffi says they need to be licensed as a breed first, and of course that costs a lot of money. She wants to try it though, so she's going visit the Domestic Animals Guild to talk with a license clerk about how much paperwork needs to be done. She also hopes to get me licensed so that I can sell my squiggle mice, not just trade them. (Right now Sraffi has to sell them for me and give me a share of the profit.) Normally you have to be an adult for that kind of thing, but Jiju was born to my pet mice so that puts me in charge of the squiggles. I bet that turns into a blizzard of justification forms! Sraffi is such a good friend to help me with all this.


Mom talked me into hosting a slumber party this year. She says it is some kind of tradition that every girl should do at least once. It was all right, I guess. The best part was playing in the kitchen. We made rock candy in four different colors and broke it into pieces. Then Mom helped us stick the pieces together with special icing to make candy butterflies.

I don't know why they call it a "slumber party" though. We didn't get much sleep at all, and tomorrow is a school day. Sure, I can stay up for two days straight and then sleep all through the third, but most people need sleep every night. Girl traditions can be so dumb.


Sraffi says that the first round of paperwork has been approved, so we are one step on the long road to having our own official mouse breed. The Domestic Animals Guild acknowledged the squiggle mouse as different from anything already registered as a breed. So I'm listed as the discoverer; we've applied to list me as the primary developer, with Sraffi as a secondary developer, for turning a sport into a reproducible breed. If we successfully establish the breed, then we'll earn a little royalty on every sale of a squiggle mouse for years.

I've started a file for the breed records now. My room is starting to fill up with so many papers and books that it's getting hard to find what I need. No wonder Mom calls me her little license clerk! But I don't want to be a license clerk. I want to be a scientist.

Sraffi also wants me to start showing the squiggle mice in the pet shows. There are always some around the Fall Horse Fair because animal fanciers come into town for that and sometimes they arrive early so they can do other things too. Apparently the pet shows will let you enter just about anything, so we can show the squiggle mice as "Mouse (White)" or "Mouse (Other)" and see what the judges think. We don't know which category to pick because these aren't like ordinary white mice, but the pet show staff can tell us that.


Well, we didn't win anything in the pet shows. Sraffi and I are determined to try again next year. I met a lot of interesting new people, though. One lady had a mouse that looked like gold! I would love to have one but I don't really have room -- or time -- for another mouse. And it wouldn't be just one, of course; I know I'd want to cross it with my other mice.

* * *

This year Teacher Bimani offers two kinds of art class. One specializes in dimensional art: sculpture and textiles. The other specializes in flat art: charcoal and ink sketching in the first trimester, ink drawing and color pencils in the second, then watercolor and oil painting in the third. I enrolled in the flat class. So now I have my own set of sketch pencils and pens in a neat little wooden case. This class sounds kind of fun.

I am more excited about science this year, though. For the first time, we get to do our own experiments! These will be real science experiments, not just the little class projects we did back in First Form. Our lab session for this is in the middle of the tenday. Teacher Rronesh will still do harder experiments on the first and last days. He promised to take us outside and do one with gunpowder. I like him already.


I'm sure of it now. One of the fawn pups is a squiggle mouse! I'm going to call it Omalv, out of Eshers (a white squiggle mouse) by Dalelth (a flat fawn mouse with some squiggle ancestors). Now I have another color of squiggle mouse for my breeding program.

This should help make our case that the Squiggle is a real breed and not just a quirk. It helps if you can show a main characteristic and then variations of it in your breeding stock. You have to demonstrate that your animals will breed true for at least three generations. We'll probably start with one official color (White) and hopefully add others later. I'm sure glad that I raise mice and not horses! That would take years and years to establish. Pet mice can breed safely at about three months old, though wild ones often breed a lot sooner.


I love sketching. Teacher Bimani brings in all kinds of interesting stuff for us to sketch in class. Some days we take numbers and one person models for the rest of the class to sketch. It's more fun to use a live model than a random pile of things, but most people would rather sketch than model.

So I volunteered to share some of my pet mice for everyone to sketch. Mom took a day off from work to bring in the mice for class and then take them home again afterward. There was one mouse for each student, plus Teacher Bimani. Of course her sketches turned out way better than ours. She can sketch amazingly fast. She drew her mouse in about ten different poses! I only managed three with mine, but I think the one of him cleaning his whiskers is really cute.


Odd birthday this year -- Mom took me to the Judge's tree, just the two of us. We sat on one of the benches near the tree and talked. She told me all kinds of things about responsibility and citizenship, growing up and becoming a woman. I told her that I'm more interested in growing up and becoming a scientist. Mom gave a funny little cough and said that she didn't see any reason those two things couldn't go together.

Then she took me shopping for some nice clothes. She bought me a pair of heeled sandals and a long tunic with flowers on the hem. I forget what else we got.


Jiju died today. I am so sad. He was my very first squiggle mouse, the father of the whole breed! I will miss him. He lived to a ripe old age for a mouse, though.

I'm going to have Sraffi sell off some of my extra mice. I've got some money saved. I want to buy a time crystal case to preserve Jiju's body. Mom thinks it's gross but she won't say no. Scientists do it. Museums do it. So I can do it too, if I can afford it. Time crystals are really expensive, but I don't care. For Jiju, it's worth it.


Teacher Bimani took my whole art class to the Fall Horse Fair today. On the cablecar ride to the fair, we listened to a lecture about sketching fast to catch a moving model. Our assignment said to find three different subjects: a horse, a person, and an unusual object. I like my horse sketch the best. I found a horse trotting slowly around a pen, which gave me plenty of time to make the legs look right. Tomorrow's assignment is turning one sketch into a finished ink drawing, so I want to ink the horse.


It's official! The Squiggle Mouse is now a licensed breed, standardized by me and Sraffi. You can buy a Pet Transportation License at Sraffi's Pet Shop if you want to take one out of town. Now more people will buy them, because tourists can take them home during the festivals. Sraffi and I are really looking forward to that.

* * *

This is my last year of Second Form. It feels like I just started! This year we're doing a big project again, but it's not like First Form which was just for applause. This time it really matters, because only the top 60% of the class will get to advance to Third Form at government expense. Teacher Rufirth says that the project is only a part of our score -- there are lots of other tests and grades and stuff -- but it's important. She showed us how it can bump you up or down a few points. Everyone says I'm at the top of the class but I am still nervous. I want to be the best.

I'm not doing mice again, although I still love my fuzzy little darlings. Well, not pet mice. The hole mouse plays into this project a bit. I'm going to explore the Empire's patchwork ecosystem. We have all these regions pieced together now, places that used to be separated by borders that have since collapsed. Now everything is jumbled together. Sometimes that introduces good things, other times bad. If we look at the way animals have moved around -- with and without our help -- then maybe we can predict what will happen the next time a border goes down so we'll be prepared. That's my project. Teacher Rufirth likes my idea; she says things like that are why we need scientists.


Today the papers arrived from Guildmaster Kudaranu, the man in charge of the Domestic Animals Guild. I am now officially licensed as a breeder of Squiggle Mice, entitled to sell them as fancy pets. I hold first claim on the breed because I discovered the first mouse and then worked to establish Squiggle Mice as a breed. This part of the licensing took longer because I haven't completed my education or taken the classes in animal breeding and merchanting that a breeder's license usually requires. Sraffi and I had to apply for all kinds of waivers and fill out a stack of justification forms.

I'm glad that Guildmaster Kudaranu and some other people at the Guild helped us. They feel very strongly that whoever discovers and establishes a breed should profit from it. Some people make their whole career that way! I respect that, although for me this is just a fun hobby. Guildmaster Kudaranu says that I should take pride in my work and put some of the money toward my education. That makes sense -- even if the government pays for my tuition and basic supplies, I'll still be able to upgrade certain things for myself, like buying better art products or books outside the official reading lists. Now I just need to write a nice thank-you note to Guildmaster Kudaranu. He should enjoy knowing that I appreciate all his help and advice. I may even draw a Squiggle Mouse under my signature.

I wonder what the poor railway staff are going to think this fall. A lot of exotic pet fanciers will want to take home a Squiggle Mouse after the Fall Horse Fair. Sraffi and I are going to make so much money that month. I know just what I want to buy too.


Dad and I had so much fun today! He took me out for my birthday this year since Mom swiped me last year. We went to a little cafe with a family game room attached. Dad showed me how to play hexball. I didn't do very well -- my best science is biology, not geometry. I still enjoyed learning, though. We also played cards and some other games.


My new ant farm is all set up in my room. It's inside a fast-time bubble. This way I can watch the colony grow without having to wait forever. Ants live everywhere but each region has some different species. Some species live in many regions, others only one. So ants give terrific clues about how ecosystems bump against each other and merge or push back and forth. I'm gathering lots of data for my project this year and my ant farm will look great in the display.

Mom is still screaming about it on the other side of my bedroom door, though. Guess I forgot to ask permission before spending an insane amount of money on pet bugs. I'm pretty sure she'll give in eventually since it's for school.

I can't believe how much money I still have left. Those Horse Fair tourists bought out every Squiggle Mouse except our breeding stock!


Two more fawn Squiggle Mice have emerged from my breeding program. These are both girls, Akaale and Alemi. The one from last year is a boy, Rale. They are not too closely related (except for Jiju being the patriarch of all Squiggle Mice) so I'll be able to breed them together soon.

So far, the Squiggle breed has one standard color, White. Everything else counts as Other. Sraffi says that her customers keep asking for other colors. Hopefully the fawn color will set well enough to standardize. Even so, it will take a while to raise enough fawn Squiggles that we can afford to part with some.


Egram and I spent all tenend assembling the display for my school project. The backdrop is a huge map of the Empire. It took me days to paint! At least my drafting and coloring skills have improved. The art classes definitely paid off. So now I have a nice backdrop that shows where the old boundaries were, along with some cities and other notable locations referenced in my report.

The report focuses on three examples: the hole mouse, which came from one place; ants, which live pretty much everywhere; and border chicory, which shows the boundaries. I have my ant farm and a potted plant to put on the display table for the last two, but I couldn't get a real hole mouse, only a toy one. Stupid licensing laws! Well, no, not stupid because without them the vermin and diseases would spread everywhere, but it's still frustrating that I can't do my year-end project perfectly. I wish I'd picked something else for my mammal example. But I bet nobody else displays a fast-time ant farm!


Yes, I definitely should have chosen a sample mammal that I could display live. The judges docked points for my frassy toy mouse, and some boy scored best on the year-end projects with his display about time crystal appliances. I came in second, though. In the future, I will know to check my resources before I start a project.

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