The idea is to post a story, poem or interpretative dance (note: I could be wrong about that last one) with a cat in it, to be compiled and turned into an anthology to benefit a cat shelter.
I just so happen to be a fan of all four-legged creatures. (Eight-legged creatures...no so much) Like April Ludgate said on an episode of Parks & Recreation, I, too, believe animals should be rewarded for not being people, so participating in this hop was a no-brainer. So, of course, Kyra Lennon has permission to use this story in the anthology.
I don't write short stories very often (read: pretty much never), but fortunately, I had written one. A true story that just so happened to involve my own menagerie:
|Big Brave German Shepherd (left) and Gator Girl (right)|
So here now, for your reading pleasure is my short story (approximately 1800 words), The Morning of the Mouse.
The Morning of the Mouse
by M.J. Fifield
The day began as any other day.
The Gator Girl sat poised, bedside, waiting for any sign of movement to take as an invitation to spring onto the bed and cuddle between her parents. The Big Brave German Shepherd lay on his bed on the floor, lamenting the hard truth that he was just too damn big to get up there without the aid of a crane.
Slowly, The Man got out of bed. The Gator Girl followed him as he shuffled across the room, dragging his feet in his search for clothing. The Gator Girl did not drag her feet. The Gator Girl never had dragged her feet in her entire life. She pranced.
Taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap filled the air. The sound roused the Big Brave German Shepherd, who immediately came in search of his mother. The Woman was not amused. The Woman had been up late and had been hoping for a modicum more of sleep before being forced to face the day, so The Woman laid in bed, her eyes firmly closed in order to give off the illusion of sleep. The Woman had learned long ago to fake it until she could make it.
The Man, having finally gathered his clothing, left the bedroom in search of a shower. With his departure, the Gator Girl jumped on the bed and nestled close to The Woman. The Big Brave German Shepherd lay down as well, with a thud that shook the bed. Still, The Woman did not move.
She didn’t even move when the bedroom door re-opened and The Man said, “Hey.”
The Woman chose to ignore him, as did the Big Brave German Shepherd. The Gator Girl, who never had ignored anything in her entire life, leapt off the bed with joy.
“Hey,” The Man said again.
The Woman reluctantly opened her eyes and looked at The Man.
“There’s a mouse hanging off the shower curtain,” he said.
The Woman had to think about this. She understood all the words individually, but when put together in a sentence in the order in which The Man had placed them, they lacked all meaning.
“There’s a what where?” she asked.
“There’s a mouse hanging off the shower curtain.”
The Woman thought some more. Mouse. Hanging. Shower curtain. Huh.
“The cats are freaking out,” The Man continued.
Mouse. Hanging. Shower curtain. Cats.
“Wait—you mean a real one? A real mouse?” The Woman asked, fully coming out of the illusion of sleep.
“Yes, I mean a real mouse.” His tone minutely questioned The Woman’s intelligence. “Look. You can see it from here.”
With that, The Man opened the bedroom door. Both the Gator Girl and the Big Brave German Shepherd pranced now, alight with the possibility of breakfast. The Man, however, did not allow them to pass. The Woman lifted her head from the pillow and squinted into the bathroom.
The Woman was not wearing her glasses and was still slightly groggy from sleep, or the lack thereof, but after a moment of squinting and focusing, she saw a small, dark shape at the top of the shower curtain. After a little more squinting and a little more focusing, she could see that it was, indeed, a mouse hanging off her shower curtain.
The Woman said a not-nice word. The Woman actually said several not-nice words.
She sat up and took in the sight of the little brown mouse clinging for his dear little life at the top of her shower curtain. The two cats—Scaredy Cat and Fat Cat—sat below him, tails swishing and eyes riveted to their prey.
The Woman said more not-nice words.
“What do we do?” The Man asked.
“What the hell do you mean ‘we’?” The Woman responded.
The Woman normally liked to think of herself as one of those hairy-legged, bra-burning feminist types who needed a man like a fish needed a bicycle, but the truth remained that she shaved her legs year round, appreciated a bra’s support, and was not about to deal with a big, fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail.
No, The Woman was going to find herself a bubble and move into it. Immediately.
“How am I going to take a shower?” The Man said then.
“Yeah,” The Woman said, now entirely accepting the fact that the hope of further sleep had dissipated upon first uttering of the sentence ‘There’s a mouse hanging on the shower curtain.’ “That’s what we need to be concerned with right now. You showering.”
“I have to go to work.”
“You’re not leaving me with that thing in there.”
“I kill the spiders,” The Man said. “It’s only fair that you deal with the mice.”
The Woman said a few more not-nice words.
“What if we got a bucket from the basement,” The Man started.
“Again with the ‘we’,” The Woman muttered.
“And, like, knocked the mouse into it,” The Man finished. “Could he climb out, do you think?”
The Woman didn’t respond. No, she was too busy imagining the absolute horror of either standing in the bathroom holding a bucket with which to catch a big fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail, or knocking a big fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail into a bucket.
“I hate nature!” she proclaimed.
The Woman actually liked nature. The Woman actually loved nature. She enjoyed spending time in the Great Outdoors. She did not, however, enjoy it when the Great Outdoors was hanging from the shower curtain in her bathroom.
“Hey, are you going out today?” The Man asked.
“How else am I going to buy a bubble in which to live?”
“I’m thinking we’re going to need some mouse traps or something because if there’s one mouse, there’s probably—”
“Don’t finish that sentence,” The Woman commanded as she climbed out of bed. “Just go close the bathroom door so I can get the dogs downstairs without interrupting the standoff.”
The Man laughed. “Could you imagine the Gator Girl with a mouse?”
“Yes,” The Woman said. “Yes, I could. Which is why, in the absence of any mouse removal solutions that don’t involve me holding a bucket, I want you to close the bathroom door.”
“The mouse could fit under a door.”
“What is wrong with you?” The Woman asked. It was possible that she had screeched the question, but she would never admit it. “Just close the damn door!”
The Man closed the damn door, and The Woman took the dogs downstairs to prepare their breakfast. While she did so, the Gator Girl puked. Twice. Because the morning hadn’t been awesome enough.
Meanwhile, The Man was pondering solutions. The cats could take care of the problem, he decided, and it would do Fat Cat some good to spend time chasing a rodent. The Woman wasn’t as convinced about the cats’ mousing abilities. Fat Cat had chased mice in the past but had only toyed with them a bit before letting them disappear back into whatever hole from which they had come. And as for Scaredy Cat—well, her name wasn’t exactly ironic. Still, The Woman had no better plan, so she kept her mouth shut and watched The Man work.
“How long do you think the mouse can hold on?” The Man asked.
“I don’t know,” was The Woman’s answer. “I don’t know how long he’s already been up there.”
“Well, he’s going to get hungry at some point.”
“Well, when faced with hunger or the two cats waiting to satisfy their own, I think the mouse just might choose hunger.”
“Right,” The Man said. “Hey, do you think I should put a ladder in here? Could the cats climb a ladder?”
The cats, in fact, could climb a ladder. The Woman had found that out one night when The Man had used a ladder to access the attic crawlspace, and Scaredy Cat had followed him up. But before Scaredy Cat could exit the crawlspace, the ladder had been taken away, leaving Scaredy Cat to cry forlornly until The Woman had found her. The Woman related this story to The Man, but he was not listening.
No, The Man was scheming.
He fetched his ladder and set it up in the bathroom for the cats’ use. Scaredy Cat was, perhaps, still traumatized from her previous experience with the ladder and, therefore, was uninterested in it now. Fat Cat didn’t comprehend its purpose, so The Man took it upon himself to teach Fat Cat to use the ladder.
The Woman would have sold her soul just then for a video camera.
But, as there was no video camera nor any deal-making demons present to help procure such a device, The Woman eventually drifted away to contend with the dogs’ other morning needs. The three of them were outside when she heard a high-pitched shriek coming from the house. She left the dogs in the yard and went back inside to investigate.
The Man met her at the top of the stairs. “Did you hear me scream?”
Against her better judgment, The Woman asked what happened.
“So, I put Fat Cat on the ladder,” The Man said, “on the second step, where it wouldn’t be as easy for her to get down, and she realized she was closer to the mouse, right? So she starts climbing up, and he falls—”
He falls. Oh joy.
“And he runs under the vanity—”
Under the vanity. Oh joy.
“And Fat Cat goes after him and was, like, battering him around, so he came out from the vanity, right? Then Fat Cat swatted him some more, but now he’s in the heater—”
In the heater. Oh joy.
“And Fat Cat has her head stuck under there,” The Man said. “You should come see it. It’s pretty funny.”
The Woman returned to the bathroom. Fat Cat, indeed, had her head wedged under the heater, her tail still swishing madly. Scaredy Cat, The Woman noted, was absent from the scene.
“He’s got nowhere to go now!” The Man said.
Satisfied at a job well done, The Man removed the ladder and went to work. The Woman reassured herself of Fat Cat’s well-being before removing herself to her office to check emails. In the middle of composing a message to a friend, The Woman heard a thud and the pitter-patter of angry four-legged mammals on the move. The sound cumulated in a loud crash, followed by silence. The Woman sighed and went to investigate...by standing at the top of the stairs and cautiously peeking around the corner.
The bathroom was empty. Fat Cat’s orange-and-white stripped tail was slinking into the bedroom. The Woman followed and watched Fat Cat curl up in the middle of the empty bed for a nap. There was no sign of the mouse, leaving The Woman with the unsettling feeling that the big fat squirmy mouse and his little wormy tail had gotten past Fat Cat and was now, once again, running free on his little mouse feet somewhere within her walls.
“I hate nature,” she whined, slowly making her way back to the stairs.
Armed with a long and lasting love of chocolate, purple pens, and medieval weaponry, M.J. Fifield is nothing if not a uniquely supplied insomniac. When not writing, she's on the hunt for oversized baked goods or shiny new daggers. M.J. lives with a variety of furry creatures—mostly pets—in New Hampshire. Visit her online at mjfifield.com.
It seems weird to post my bio here, but I'm pretty sure I was supposed to. If I wasn't, I offer my apologies.
At any rate, I thank you for stopping by today. Please be sure to check out the other participants of this very worthy blog hop, and have a wonderful weekend.