“I haven’t seen you here before,” he said, tray under his arm, note pad in his hand.
“I’ve never been her before.”
He nodded. “What’ll you have?”
“A vegetarian salad and lemonade. Warm cherry pie for dessert with vanilla bean ice cream”
“And I want to see the Brown Mouse, this place is named for.”
“The Brown Mouse?”
“Yes. I want to see the Mouse.”
“There is no mouse.”
“There has to be a mouse, if the place is named after one.”
“That’s not true.”
“It should be.”
“I might be able to catch a mouse for you, or buy one, if you want to come back in a day or two.”
“If you’re naming a place, The Brown Mouse, you need to have a Brown Mouse so people can see it.”
“I’ll be back with your lemonade in a minute,” he said, walking away.
“Madam?” said a man in a pristine white half apron. The kind you see in Paris, wrapped around his waist.
“You wish to see the Mouse?”
“If it’s possible.”
“May I sit?”
“Please,” she said, pointing to the chair.
“I’m afraid to say the Mouse is no longer with us.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
He nodded. “He was a nice Mouse. My father told me the story about how he and my grandfather came to this shop. It was empty, and had been for more than a year. They worked hard and made enough money to buy the building, the shop and the apartment above. When they started cleaning, they saw the Brown Mouse. They worked long hours and the mouse would watch them, sometimes coming out of his mouse house. They fed him cheese from their lunches, and bread. They put a dish of water out for him. Eventually, the mouse became used to seeing them and came out more often. One day he even sat on my fathers shoe.” he said, smiling. “They loved the mouse and named their restaurant after him.”
“What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for telling me.”
“I have a secret,” he whispered, looking around.
She leaned in close to him and watched him put his hand into his shirt pocket. He pulled out a sleepy brown mouse. “An ancestor of the original,” he said. He has nice nest in the back and we care for him. His siblings are at our homes,” he laughed, handing the mouse to her.
She kissed the mouse and her eyes were sparkling with tears. “He’s so beautiful.”
The man nodded. “He brings us luck. There has been a mouse on the property for forty years.”
“I work for the Health Department,” she said, petting the mouse.
The man paled and scooted backward.
“I’m happy to see all is in order in your lovely Bar and Grill. I’m looking forward to my lunch. I’m sure your kitchen is spotless and I may have a look after I eat, but I know I will be pleasantly surprised.”
She handed the mouse back to the man and he slipped him back into his pocket. He took her hand and kissed it. “A pleasure,” he said.
She smiled. “The pleasure is mine, I assure you. A man with a gentle heart is a beautiful thing to see. I’m sure the mouse house is away from the food area.”
“The lemonade is delicious.”
“It’s a special recipe and the ice cubes have a flavor of their own.”
The waiter put her salad in front of her, smiled and left. The man rose and bowed. “Madam.”
“Kind sir,” she said, and picked up her fork.