The mouse was a smooth-furred, jittery-nosed, small-as-grass field mouse. I remember sitting on the roughly carpeted floor early in the mornings, when it was too cold to go outside, and watching him swipe food before the chipmunks and birds, who were at least two times the size of him, got at them beforehand. I remember sitting there for hours at a time, every morning, my face so close to that cold glass door that every two seconds I had to wipe off the foggy blotches my breath made against it. And after the first glance of that mouse I ever had, I knew I had made a connection with him—one which I never wanted to be broken.
I never told anyone when I saw him. Because I knew that if I did, they would have killed him.
In the time when the sun rose above the peak of the mountain across the road from the two-floored cabin that my grandparents owned in Colorado Springs, after the time of my daily watching of the mouse, me and my grandma sat out on the porch. Me, my sister, my mom, and my dad call her Granny. We sat there, silently, watching the chipmunks and the birds feast on the sunflower seeds we placed out that morning. What a pretty day, I thought. We haven’t had one in a while. Unfortunately, the August rain had been pouring down on us for the past fifteen days, and since we only had two more out here, I was hoping for it to be the best ones.
“There’s a lot of chipmunks out here,” Granny noted.
I nodded. “There is—much more than yesterday.”
Granny rocked slowly in her thickly white-cushioned rocking chair. The paint on the metal bars that supported her, at least thirty-five years old, was chipping off at a steady pace, revealing its rusted corpse. She sipped her mug of coffee, careful as to not let any drip on her once light purple, now light gray, stringy old jumpsuit. A gentle tap of her thumb against the mug handle soon sufficed for the awkward silence she left by gazing off into the distance. What’s she thinking about now? I wondered. It was typical for her to do this, as was it for me to think about what exactly she was playing around in her mind. It was around seven o’clock in the morning, and though her eyes were still a little groggy, they were keen on the lookout. For that mouse. I had always kept my daily sightings a secret for a reason, that being I was quite alone with my relationship. To everyone else, that mouse was a pest that deserved to be gotten rid of. I often wondered about that mouse as much as I watched him. About what was going on in its small brain. Especially if some seventy-eight-year-old man was rapid-firing a BB gun at you as you nibbled on a piece of celery that was thrown out for the little bunny after dinner. About how that would feel. About how it would feel if everyone hated you.
It was as I thought about this that that mouse bolted from under the porch and into the play area of the chipmunks.
Instantly, Granny lurched to the edge of her chair. “There… there!!! That pesky little rat!” She pointed toward a small stubby tail that was poking out behind one of the cinder blocks. She whirled quickly to me. “Get your bow!!! Kill it!!!” she growled at me. I jumped up, scaring a few birds away. My mind was blank—no thoughts came through to me. And I wouldn’t know this at that moment, but now I know that it wasn’t me who was thinking this. This wasn’t going on in my head. It was Granny’s thoughts. The want to make her proud of me invaded my mind.
It controlled me, my behaviors, my thoughts. My feelings. My actions. Like a parasite, eating away at the moral meaning that I once was. I dived through an array of chairs on the other part of the porch, grabbing my bow and three arrows. I gripped them hard as I bolted back to the edge of the porch. I nocked an arrow with swift movement, locating the mouse sitting in a tube, eating some seed. I pulled back. I didn’t stop. I aimed. I bet I would have stopped. I let go.
The arrow whizzed through the air slower than ever. I could see each of its carefully placed rubber tails. They spun with such precision, such determination. The air seemed to not even move as the arrow point sliced through it like a pair of scissors against a sheet of wrapping paper. One singular sliding motion. So delicate. So nasty.
Ssshhhheeiinnggg! The arrow wedged itself in the gravel right next to the tube. I could see the mouse start to shiver in fear, even ten feet away. I stopped for a second. That was that little mouse who I watched so affectionately every morning. What am I…
My grandma stopped my train of thought. “What are you doing??!! Shoot again!!!” I reluctantly nocked another arrow. I have to make her happy, I thought. I pulled back on the arrow. Ting!!! This time the arrow slammed into the pipe and ricocheted a few feet away on the gravel. The mouse jumped and moved a little bit forward. It was vulnerable.
I drew back slowly with my last arrow.
And then I stopped.
“Do it!!!” My grandma looked like she was at a wrestling match—her fists were clenched in a defensive position. She held them tight, close to her chest, looking like she was ready to throw a punch at something. At that mouse. But instead, she was making me do it. Why? I looked at the mouse down the arrow. It was shivering uncontrollably. I have made this happen. I have scared a little mouse of no threat. A little field mouse passing by, lonely, alone, only to let us wicked people hate him more than anything. A slight breeze blew by. I still stared at that mouse—and I saw a little twinkle in his small black eyes. I often wondered about that mouse as much as I watched him. About what was going on in its small brain. About how it would feel if everyone despised you.
I let my string slowly slide back into place. The mouse scurried under the porch, seeing its opportunity. I felt a wave of relief, but I held in my sigh. I set the bow gently down on the ground.
I didn’t really look at my grandma. After that, I never really did for the next two days. Not even at the airport, when we had to leave my grandparents. But, out of the corner of my eye, I saw that her lips were pursed. Her face was red, and her hands now gripped tightly to her coffee mug. It was lopsided, almost spilling onto her old signature jumpsuit. I knew that she would most likely never talk to me again for this whole trip. Not until who knows when. I didn’t care. She had made me centimeters away from breaking a connection that I had never wanted to be broken.