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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Microstory 1024: Rufus

Most kids in my class think that I was held back in school, but that’s not what happened. I was just born at a weird time of the year, and missed the cutoff date by this much. So I’m really only a few months older than everyone else. Despite what they believe, I’m not dumb at all. It is they who are dumb. I can’t tell you how many of them ask me to buy beer, and not ironically either. Anyway, I live alone. My parents took a vacation in Seattle a few years ago, and fell in love with the place. They wanted to move there pretty much right away, but two things were holding them back: my grandparents, and me. One of those problems was solved when my uncle retired, and agreed to take over the caregiving duties. The other was solved when I became an adult. We had a lot of long conversations, but I adamantly encouraged them to follow their dreams, which they had done for me faithfully my whole life. They finally agreed to it, and left. Meanwhile, I’m still here, finishing my schooling. I’ve applied to a couple colleges in the Northwest, but haven’t heard back from any yet. I don’t need to move back in with them, but I would like to be close. There’s nothing keeping me in Blast City, that’s for sure. But you don’t want to know about me, you asked after my relationship with Viola. Well, I do have one pretty good story. As soon as my parents left, the house turned to crap. I had always been the one to do most of the basic chores around the house, and never had much problem with it, but I didn’t realize until then that I was really doing for their benefit. I suddenly had little motivation to keep the place nice and tidy. But now there were dishes piled up in the sink so high that I couldn’t reach the faucet. It was really bad, and the worst of it was the little mouse that kept leaving presents for me at night. I got this crazy idea to catch it, and keep it as a pet. I bought a little plastic cage for him, and everything, which he seemed to like. Our life together was going great until I had clean said cage, and he scurried out. No problem, I thought, I’ll just catch him again. Except that mice are like the people of the tiny world. They’re incredibly smart, and incredibly good at learning. He somehow figured out how to keep his hind legs planted outside of the trap, and lick the peanut butter off the back plate, so the lid wouldn’t be able to close on him. Either that, or he made friends with the cricket that’s been misguidedly trying to serenade me to sleep every night, and convinced it to haul the peanut butter out for Peanut Butter. Oh, I named the mouse Peanut Butter, by the way. For whatever reason, I felt put on the spot when it came time to come up with a proper thing to call him, and a jar of peanut butter was logically sitting in front of me.

Back to the story, my former pet continued to torment me over the course of the next few weeks. I found more presents on the counters, and could hear him rustling the newspapers in the middle of the night. I cleaned my house like no one has ever cleaned before, I tell ya, but nothing would get Peanut Butter to leave. Well, Viola came over one time to borrow a yarmulke—ya know she never told me why she needed it, and she never had the chance to give it back. Hm. That’s fine, because she managed to find a bag of mouse feed I had forgotten I was storing in the very back of an old cupboard I don’t use for anything else. I was feeding Peanut Butter the entire time! That’s why he wasn’t leaving! What a relief, right? Well, that’s not the end of it. A few days pass, and everything seems fine, but I walk downstairs to get some water one night, and there’s Peanut Butter. He’s just sitting on the tile of my kitchen, chillin’ like a villain. I know the trap won’t work. Even if I set it back up, I have little guarantee he’ll decide to climb into it after all this. So I grab a little plastic bowl I used to eat cereal from as a child, and hover over him for, like, five minutes. I just keep thinking that, no matter how fast I go, he’ll be faster. He just needs three centimeters before he’s under the oven, and gone forever. But eventually, I swing my arm down, and plant it on the floor. He’s in, good. I start to slide a piece of cardboard under it to keep him from escaping again, but I see red. There’s red stuff on the floor. Oh no, I’ve injured him; badly by the looks of it. Afraid of what I’ll find, I carry him out the door to the blistering cold—in nothing but my underwear—and open the bowl. He’s seemingly alive, but he’s not running away. In fact, when I try to walk back to the house, he follows me. I think he grew quite fond of me, and probably didn’t realize what he was doing when he escaped. It didn’t matter, though. The blood loss, and the cold cold; it was too much for him. I watched him fall to his little chin, and stop moving. Still half naked, I find a shovel in the toolshed, and dig him a little grave right there. Viola, like a psychic, randomly shows up, and says a few words in Peanut Butter’s honor. Then she leaves, and I go back to bed. The next morning, I wake up to the news that Viola’s body was found facedown in Masters Creek. She was killed before sunset the day before. I still don’t understand how that’s possible.

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