Once upon a time, there was family of mice who lived in FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue in New York City. They were called the Von Mouseltons, and generations of them had been living there as long as anyone could remember. FAO Schwarz was a wonderful place to live, especially for young mice. During the day, the youngest Von Mouselton brothers, Toby and Ralph, would curl up on the bookshelves in the library, where they would listen to storytellers spin tales about princesses and castles in faraway lands. “I wish I were a princess,” Ralph would say. After that, they would head up to the first floor, where they would hide under a stuffed-animal display and watch children come in the door. There was nothing better, Ralph and Toby agreed, than the expression of joy on a child’s face when he or she experienced the magic and wonder of the store for the first time. Ralph and Toby loved children. Sometimes, when a child was looking for a particular toy and couldn’t find it, Toby and Ralph would help them by gently pushing the toy in the child’s direction with their small pink noses. They knew it was risky, but it was worth it, they said to themselves.
At night, when the store closed, the Von Mouseltons would have huge parties. The men would bring cupcakes back from the kitchen, carrying them aloft with their tiny paws, while everyone sang songs of joy and danced. Ralph would put on a Barbie tutu and twirl, and if he’d had too much to drink, Jim Von Mouselton would do his famous impression of Tom Hanks in Big and tap out “Heart and Soul” on the giant piano. Later in the evening, when everyone was full of crumbs and cheer, Grandfather Von Mouselton would tell stories about coming over on a ship from Austria and the hunk of Limburger he’d found at Ellis Island.
Then one day, something awful happened.
Toby and Ralph were in their usual spot on the first floor, when they saw a child crying near the stuffed-dog display. “I want a stuffed beagle,” the child was wailing. “All they have are bulldogs.”
Now, it was Memorial Day weekend, and the store was very crowded. This meant that all of the Von Mouseltons had to be especially wary of getting caught. It also meant that there was more candy on the floor than usual, and Ralph was tweaked out of his mind on sugar. “I’m going to get the beagle,” he squeaked. Toby looked out at the crowd. There was a mass of people right outside! Ralph was never going to make it without being seen. “Don’t do it, dude!” he squealed. But it was too late. Ralph had darted out onto the floor and had already been spotted. “Oh my God, there are mice in there,” Janvi Mehta, 25, shouted, causing an uproar. “What if it goes into your stuffed toy and you bring it home?”
Ralph and Toby ran like crazy to reach the burrow. “That was intense,” Ralph said, once he had caught his breath.
“Should we tell someone?” Toby said.
“No!” Ralph said. “Other mice have been seen, and no one has done anything about it,” he added defensively.
But what Ralph and Toby didn’t know was that a reporter from the Daily News had been there. The next day, the news was all over the papers, and FAO Schwarz issued a statement. “As much as we are believers in a world filled with toys and games, our store is not a place for mice to play,” they said. “We had exterminators in the store at 9 a.m. this morning to rectify the issue. As any resident or store owner in New York City can attest, it’s an issue we’ll continue to confront on a daily basis to ensure it does not happen again.”
And so all the Von Mouseltons died.