by Jeffrey Murrell

Chapter 7
The Mice

"Oh, what 'er yuh cryin' for, boy? Yuh miss me?"
The old woman cracked as she hobbled on in
with a small pail in one hand
and a bundle of wood over her shoulder.
She threw the bundle of sticks down by the stove,
set the rusty tin pail on the table,
then noticed his bloodied, torn clothes.
"Oh! Ah see yuh made Gustav's acquaintance!
Must o' said somethin' he didn't like!"
She cackled, went to a drawer and pulled out a bottle,
unstopped it, clump-hopped on over his way;
"Now this will fix up them scratches!"
she said drizzling his wounds with its contents.
"Ah! It burns, lady! Cut it out!"
"Shush! Ah don't want them legs ta git infected!"
And the cat again reared its big, scabby head
to greet its master from out of its den.
"Oh, there's mah Gustav! Mama got a treat for yuh!"
She clump-hopped back around the table,
took a pair of old shears from the drawer,
and a plate from the cupboard she set on the table,
then drew up a chair and sat down.
She peered down into her bucket,
Whisp! Whisp! Whisp! inside,
stuck in a hand and pulled out, squealing,
a tiny grey field mouse with little black eyes,
all worried, whiskers twitching,
little paws stretched out and reaching,
thin little tail twirling and whipping.
He could see the fear in its eyes!
Snip! Snip!
Off came its tiny little hind feet,
dropping down on the plate;
such fear in the poor creature's eyes!
"There yuh go, kitty! How 'bout that?"
she soothed the black beast with its surprise,
tossing the little mouse to the floor
to hobble forth on bloody little thighs,
its back legs now just crimson match sticks
as it tried to scurry away from its demise!
And the demon growled as it slinked over,
pinned the tiny thing down to torture
before sucking it up in its maul to devour.
Snip! Snip!
Off came two more tiny feet,
dropping like little grey twigs!
And in the pail with walls so high,
a dozen others struggled to fight
to escape that vessel where they waited to die
a crippling fate from a merciless old broad,
a monster unfit in the eyes of God!
Snip! Snip!
the scissors haunted his head.
Snip! Snip!
the vision stays with him yet
of the tiny little field mice
whose existence was their crime,
stumbling on their bleeding stumps,
stumbling through his mind,
making him pay for misguided times;
making him ashamed he had been so beguiled
into leading such a cruel life
by forces dark and evil
who used him for waging war.
The cat choked them down, one after the other,
playing with them first, making them suffer.
And her blood-stained hands continued to snip
until her pail was empty and her plate was full.
She dipped her hands in a bucket of water kept at the stove,
wiped them clean on the rags she wore,
then up with the runny plate of legs,
and into her big black iron pot,
dumping them in with a wooden spatula
then stirring the grizzly slop.
And the rain subsided, but the light was gone
as frog-croaking night replaced the sun.
She reached up with a burning kitchen match
to get her hanging kerosene light on,
leaving it to swing back and forth a while,
swaying over the raw kitchen air
among the flies and mosquitos
who nibbled at him at their leisure;
but he couldn't feel their bumps
through the pain of his wounds that stung
from the disinfectant stuff.
"And now, if ye'll excuse me, Ah'll go;
them dolls 'er back there for a reason, yuh know!
Ah got to exercise a debt some folks owe
for gettin' on mah wrong side."
So she hobbled back in the dark on her cane,
clump-hop, clump-hop, clump . . . ,
and the dragon-haired creature with crusty green eyes
got up on its haunches to follow her inside
the other room where she lit another lamp
and lit up her small clay pipe
and drew in its vapors deeply,
gasping and hacking and sneezing
just behind him on the other side of the wall
where he also heard her fiddling with the dolls,
taking them down one at a time,
sticking them with pins, sewing them fine
little clothes, or perhaps something other,
and changing their calm little expressions
from contentment to fear,
or from happiness to horror,
depending on what kind of mood she was in.
A peculiar way to vent her frustration!
He hoped it was just that and nothing more.