Al Kratz

Skitter scattering critters of the ceiling, we’re trying to sleep around here. I guess boundaries and borders. I guess party time for the nocturnal. Siri, what is the opposite of nocturnal? Oh, that makes sense. Let’s take a moment here. A sleep prayer for the diurnal. Our cat likes to party day and night. Skitter scattering critters of the ceiling, we set one rule: skitter away but don’t let us see you. Follow this one rule and we’ll even call you our Little Friends.

I still listen when I’m sleeping. Tink tink, the sound of glass tinking. I guess a wedding ring tinking a note off the side of a wine glass. I guess a quarter dropped on its flat side tinking in a crystal ashtray. Tink, tink. I’m still Diurnal here. Turn on the light and see cute little mouse walking off the nightstand down the hose of the CPAP I never use anyway.

We had one rule. Skitter scatter away. It’s not like we can just let them all in: the squinties, the squirrels, the shrews, the strays, the fox I saw that one night. We can’t just let them all in.

When the rule goes out the window, cute little mouse walks into the room, bold as love. Hops the floor like trampoline. Hops the floor like mouse popcorn. Like mouse on the moon. Like one small step for Mouse, one giant leap for Mousekind. I guess it’s mouse joy around here. Although it’s probably fear. It’s probably mouse tragedy around here. Stage cued up and third act to go. Climax and denouement. Hey Siri, how do you pronounce denouement? Day new ma. Oh, that doesn’t make sense.

Hopping cute mouse hop right into cat’s mouth and it’s a brand new day, Ma! Anti-Shakespearean hopper trying to skip the third act all together, but our cat’s got you in mind, Gentle Audience. Told you he likes to party. Hopping mouse, cat mouth jumper, fresh out of hop, drop to the floor, slobbered up and doing everything you can for the death besides the dying. We had one rule, Little Friend. Now the wife bagging you up, carpet hopper—tying the knot, moon walker—throwing you outside in the snow, hop popper. I guess boundaries and borders. I guess party time for the diurnal. Still, I need to do more to speed the dying of the death. Now I’m clearing a circle in the snow. Now it’s shovel up, trigger cocked, man sized mouse trap, spring springing, hammer down, short sharp shock, doing the dying thing, from death to denouement, ha-ha, take that!

We’re pacifists for God’s sake, here. We’re Diurnal Pacifists and we only had one rule. Skitter scattering critters of the ceiling we’re still trying to sleep here. The man who says he’s got a mouse is a damned fool. That fool’s got mice. Plurality still counts for something around here.

I still listen when I’m sleeping. Crack, crack goes the trap and we’ve got Schrodinger’s Mouse in the closet here. The answer is sometimes the trap’s got a mouse and sometimes it don’t. If it do, it’s always dead, that crack crack trapped mouse always knows where he’s at. We’re trying to be pacifists here, dammit. We’re keeping score here, dammit. We got two in the trap, two in the cat, and one in between. Hey Siri, how do you define denouement? Denouement is a literary term with French origins. It directly translates as “untie,” but it really means smoothing out or finishing of the story after the climax. Whatever. We got mouse blood on our hands around here. 

Al Kratz is a writer from Des Moines, Iowa. His “The Tony Bone Stories” was runner up in the 2021 Bath Novella In Flash Award and is available at Ad Hoc Fiction. He is the Managing Editor at New Flash Fiction Review.