It was an enormous feast. The table was laden so high it was creaking. On it was an exquisite spread of haute cuisine. There were legs of lamb, pork shanks, whole sides of beef, rumps of venison, entire flocks of pheasant, grouse, geese, duck, the finest of fish, mountains of succulent vegetables, delicious sauces and gallons of champagne.
This banquet was for a select few: Warren, Bill, Ma and Pa Walton and family, Carlos, Lawrence, Gerald…
It was far, far more than these few could eat. This feast could have fed thousands.
The guests unfolded their napkins, lifted their glasses to congratulate one another, then leaning over their fat bellies, tucked in.
They ate and ate, and the dishes kept coming. If they started feeling full they would stretch up and belch, then they would be ready for more.
‘Great buffet, Warren,’ said Pa Walton.
‘Banquet,’ his wife quietly corrected him.
The diners not entirely greedy. They were always willing to sacrifice a few morsels to their pets; they waited patiently by their feet and performed tricks on demand. Tony was a particularly pleasing poodle.
The pets didn’t always catch their titbits. Those that fell to the floor, as well as every crumb that dropped from the table, were quickly snapped up by rats and mice and other lowly creatures. There were far more eating under the table than on top, even though there was far less food below. In fact, there was scarcely enough to go round, and there was a vicious scrabble for every tiny piece. Some of the weaker ones didn’t get enough.
‘Listen,’ said Mousey. ‘Why don’t we be civilised about this? We could gather all the crumbs together and share them out evenly.’
‘Oh yes,’ said Ratty, ‘and is everyone going to do their fair share of the gathering? I don’t think so!’
‘We can’t afford free handouts,’ said another rat. ‘If you don’t work, you don’t eat.’
‘And anyone who is prepared to work hard enough can make a living,’ said a third rat.
‘Thing is,’ said Mousey, ‘it’s just the same precious few crumbs, no matter how hard we all work.’
Mousey might have been right but the rats didn’t want to know. ‘You get what you go for in this life,’ said Ratty, who tended to go for and get rather more than most.
So the rats and mice all resolved to work harder at getting their share of crumbs, although it seemed to the mice that they were now getting even less than before.
‘Look,’ said Roddy. ‘This is stupid. ’We’re fighting tooth and claw over a few crumbs, yet there’s a huge mountain of food up there.’
Roddy pointed upwards.
The rodents looked up but all they saw were four wooden pillars towering to the great table ceiling.
‘On top of the table,’ said Roddy.
‘I don’t see it myself,’ said Mousey.
‘Maybe there is food up there but I can’t get my head around it,’ said Ratty.
‘But you can sniff it, can’t you?’
They agreed that they could, and it smelled delicious. Their nostrils quivered and they jumped up in excitement.
But it was no use. That table top was far too high.
‘Oh, well, it’s no good moaning about what you can’t get anyway,’ sighed Mousey, and sneaked over to catch a crumb while the rats weren’t looking.
‘Wait,’ said Roddy. ‘There might be a way.’
‘Pie in the sky,’ dismissed Ratty.
‘Break a leg!’ said Roddy.
‘Are you trying to be cheeky?’ asked Ratty.
‘No, I mean it! Gather round. We’ll all have to work together on this.’
‘Roddy, give us a break from that socialist crap.’
‘We’ll have to be quick. All together now. Gnaw!’
Roddy stuck his teeth into the table leg and started gnawing away at it. The others soon got the idea and joined in.
‘Ah, what a wonderful feast,’ belched Warren as the remains of the main course were removed. He beamed as the waiters brought in trolley after trolley stacked with puddings, pies, pastries, gateaux, jellies, creams, cakes, bonbons, millionaires’ shortbread and vats of sweets wine, and laid them on the table.
‘Now for our just desserts,’ said Warren. He leaned onto the table to take the first helping.
Warren’s elbow skidded sideways as the table gave way under him, and the dishes and all that was in them slithered down to that corner and crashed onto the floor.
‘What did I tell you?’ said Roddy.
Nobody answered him; they were too busy eating.