Lord of the Mice

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Creative Nonfiction
Youth activities at church always aimed to teach us some new skill. We rarely fantasized about service projects and even the most honorable among us would likely miss a “wonderful opportunity” if he could find an excuse worthy enough to convince his mother. Nonetheless, our ever-so-righteous leaders often planned things without our knowing. Usually, we dutifully did as directed and left feeling grateful, even if there wasn’t a treat planned for our efforts. But once a project shifted into something entirely different, something barbaric.

Lots of families had chosen to spend that Spring Break vacationing so only a few of my friends and leaders were in town for our activity. Our group consisted of two leaders, the Bishop and CJ, and three teenagers, Adam, Trevor, and me. I arrived without any preconceived idea of what was planned. I heard the younger boys playing wiffle ball in the gym and my honest suggestion included something about humbling them. After all, losing to the big kids builds character. Nonetheless, CJ ignored my reasoning and ordered us to the parking lot to clean out the scout shed. I trudged my way outside. Organizing tents and sleeping bags didn’t meet my idea of a “good time”, especially during Spring Break.

But right at the beginning, something hinted that maybe this project would be special. CJ commented that he noticed something move when he opened the shed door, and my interest for the project peaked. However, we all quickly forgot and continued with the monotonous task.

We awoke from the mindless work when a mouse leaped out of a rotting box Trevor set on the ground. Adrenaline and bloodlust surged through our hormonal bodies as Trevor, Adam, and I rushed after the rodent. As the mouse scampered across the parking lot we tried to crush its brittle body beneath the soles of our sneakers. But nobody wanted mouse guts smashed into their shoe tread so we attempted quick jabbing stomps. Our half-committed efforts brought no results. But as the mouse bounded into the grass, the rodent inexplicably stopped. Adam, in his heavy boots, ended the creature’s pitiful existence with a single step. We returned to the shed triumphant victors.

As our frenzy faded, we cleared out the shed. I walked in looking for a tent to move and I noticed something clinging to the wall. I couldn’t believe my luck, another mouse. This time I didn’t wait for Adam’s death boots to claim the kill. I kicked into the wall. BAM! The mouse dropped dead. Two down. Adam 1, Me 1, Trevor 0.

After I chucked the latest corpse into the neighboring cornfield, Trevor realized that he was the only one that hadn’t killed a mouse. He started prowling for an opportunity. Eventually, he kicked that same rotting box from earlier. The box offered a new quarry as a second mouse leaped out and bounded across the parking lot. With a whooping warcry, the three of us gave chase.

But this mouse had more sense than the others. It sought safety underneath a nearby van. It darted from tire to tire just out of reach. Adam smoked it out by throwing his keys beneath the vehicle and the mouse rocketed into the empty parking lot. We set out in pursuit opting again for the quick stomping jabs. About halfway across the pavement, the mouse turned back, sprinting towards the van. We couldn’t change direction fast enough and whipped around to watch our prey escape.

Bishop noticed our failure. He was dressed in a suit with a white shirt and dress loafers. Bishop saw the mouse careening towards the van and readied himself. As it got closer, he calmly raised his foot, stamped it down and twisted, grinding the mouse’s bones into the blacktop. Three down. Adam 1, Me 1, Bishop 1, Trevor 0.

After gaping for a few moments, CJ ushered us back to the task at hand. I was banging away with a hammer on new shelving as Trevor opened a rumpled blanket and found three blind and bald baby mice. He tenderly scooped them into his hands and rested them on the pavement. I looked over and SMACK! I swung my hammer and crushed the nearest mouse.
Trevor and Adam gathered around the two remaining baby mice and I got up and joined them. For the first time all evening, I saw them without a bloodfrenzied lens. They were so helpless and so doomed in this cold world. You could even hear their soft squeals if you kneeled down and leaned in.

Adam’s voice broke my trance. “Hey Trevor, would you pay me five dollars to eat one?” We didn’t believe him. We couldn’t believe him. “Really?” we asked. And Adam confirmed “Really.” Trevor nodded and started reaching for his wallet when he paused and remarked, “I don’t know if I want to see that.” My abandoned savagery returned. I urged Trevor to take the deal. Eventually, Trevor pulled out the money and handed it to Adam.
Adam folded the bill and slipped it into his pocket. Then he crouched down and picked the smallest remaining mouse.

Bishop interrupted. He waved his arms and said, “Wait, wait.” We were worried he would end our gleeful spree. He continued, “If you’re going to do this, we need pictures.”

Bishop snapped three photos:
One with Adam smiling holding the mouse.
Another with his mouth open and the creature dangling above.
And a final picture of the mouse heading down his gullet.

Adam swallowed it whole and said later he could feel it writhing as it slid down his throat.

I was stunned and quietly finished installing the shelving and returning the equipment. After it was all cleaned up the only thing left in the parking lot was the final living mouse still squirming. I looked at Trevor and asked, “Want to finish it together?” He agreed. We stood above the mouse and stepped on it together.

Final score: Trevor .5, Bishop 1, Adam 2, Me 2.5.