Matthew's Dream'


August 25, 1999|By Leo Lionni

Editor's note: Matthew the mouse lives in a dreary corner of a dusty attic. A trip to the museum helps him look at his surroundings in a new way.

A couple of mice lived in a dusty attic with their only child. His name was Matthew. In one corner of the attic, draped with cobwebs, were piles of newspapers, books, and magazines, an old broken lamp, and the sad remains of a doll. That was Matthew's corner.

The mice were very poor, but they had high hopes for Matthew. He would grow up to be a doctor, perhaps. Then they would have Parmesan cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But when they asked Matthew what he wanted to be, he said, "I don't know. ... I want to see the world."

One day Matthew and his classmates were taken to the museum. It was the first time.

They were amazed at what they saw. There was a huge portrait of King Mouse the Fourth, dressed like a general. And next to it was a picture of cheese that made Matthew drool. There were winged mice that floated through the air and mice with horns and bushy tails. And mountains and rushing streams, and branches bowing in the wind. The world is all here, thought Matthew.

Entranced, Matthew wandered from room to room gazing at the paintings. There were some that he didn't understand at first. One looked like crusts of pastry, but when he looked more carefully, a mouse emerged.

Then, turning the corner, Matthew found himself face to face with another little mouse. She smiled at him. "I am Nicoletta," she said. "Aren't these paintings wonderful?"

That night, Matthew had a strange dream. He dreamed that he and Nicoletta were walking, hand in hand, in an immense, fantastic painting.

As they walked, playful patches of color shifted under their feet, and all around them suns and moons moved gently to the sound of distant music. Matthew had never been so happy. He embraced Nicoletta. "Let's stay here forever," he whispered.

Matthew woke with a start. He was alone. Nicoletta had faded with his dream. The gray dreariness of his attic corner appeared to him in all its bleak misery. Tears came to his eyes.

But then, as if by magic, what Matthew saw began to change. The shapes hugged each other and the pale colors of the messy junk heap brightened. Even the crumpled newspapers now looked soft and smooth. And from afar Matthew thought he heard the notes of a familiar music.

He ran to his parents' corner. "I know!" he said. "Now I know! I want to be a painter!"

Matthew became a painter. He worked hard and painted large canvases filled with the shapes and colors of joy.

Then he married Nicoletta. In time he became famous, and mice from all over the world came to see and buy his paintings.

His largest painting now hangs in the museum. When asked about the title, Matthew smiles. "The title?" he says as if he had never thought about it before. "My dream."

From MATTHEW'S DREAM by Leo Lionni. Copyright c 1991 by Leo Lionni. Reprinted by permission of Dragonfly Books, a division of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. All rights reserved.

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