A Mouse Gives to an Old Locksmith

Submitted into Contest #41 in response to: Write about an animal who changes a person's life (for better or worse).... view prompt



Singor Careri’s hands were swollen and it was only 9 O’clock. His palms like a pair of string-tied hams, were already squirming to move their fingers. They bundled their breakfast knife leaving a splatter of jam on the table. The soft little clink was eaten up by the noise of the street through the open window.

Queuing cars late for work. Huddles hiding from the morning sunshine under the awnings of cafes. They filled the pavement and road with the kind of confused purpose that an unemployed locksmith can only dream of.

Careri nudged the jar of jam away with the end of his bloated little finger and sighed. Breakfast, once again, reduced to dipping dry bread two-handed into his coffee.

He brushed at the crumbs fallen between the gape in his pyjamas and stared out the window at the pigeons gorging themselves in a mad scrabble on the seeds he'd left out on the ledge.

All of sudden he was back in the room, a fine brown tail shot its way across his sight. It stopped for a moment, spun itself around a couple of times just be sure, then descended the window sill.

Hopping on deft little paws to the edge of the split jam a mouse looked up at the locksmith. Its little black eyes checking for permission. Careri remained still.

Gazing upwards all the while the mouse curled a tiny claw of jam. Careri made to slam a swollen hand down, but just as he raised his fist, he caught sight of the flinch. Pure fear and the poor little thing had lost a strawberry seed too. He made to rescue the drop, but the mouse fled leaving an all but empty table.

Singor Careri remained staring at the split jam and the tiny little sticky prints the mouse had left as he ran from the horror of his hands.

He thought of his wedding ring that he couldn’t wear, then he thought of his wife whose hand he couldn't hold and he wept.

As the tears rolled down his face, basting his bloated hands, he began to sneeze. He had a bad habit for sneezing. Once he started it could be hours before the seizures stopped.

By 10.30 Singor Careri was in full stride abandoning paper tissues for a tea towel and was beginning to feel very sick.

Through the snot and tears appeared a concerned little face whose black eyes were glossed with sadness for the stuttering mess of a man that sat reverberating at the breakfast table. The mouse walked out into the centre, something held tight between his claws. Careri struggled for breath and calm so as to give the mouse its moment.

It rolled out a small black seed onto the table and then ran back to the cover of the breakfast clutter. Singor Careri looked down, eyes blurred and his focus circling the small black seed. He had no choice but the to try to pick it up.

Singor Careri knew his best chance for grip was dry hands. He gave the tips of his fingers a tentative blow and pressed the seed hard onto the end. It worked! The little blacken corn, cemented, stuck and came up rising. What gentle magic would the mouse have offered? Careri was running hearsay and scuttlebutt over in his head of how the small primitive elements of nature offer up their insight to the larger who are too big and heavy to understand the delicate veil that softly lays over all of life, when he sneezed and the seed dropped back to the table.

Through the turned concave base of Signor Careri’s jam jar, the mouse sat licking strawberry seeds from his paws and keeping an enlarged eye on the table. His token, it appeared, was causing all manner of problems to the owner of the jam. He had pressed and dropped the thing almost a dozen times and now with his chin to the table was trying to fan the bead into his open mouth. Seeds are a simple but essential part of life thought the mouse as it finished drying the last of the strawberry germs and placed it just inside the nook of his ear. But here this giant ham-fisted human has no idea. No idea how to use what is put directly in front of him.

Singor Careri was proudly chewing on his prize when the mouse, eyes ablaze, came out again to the centre of the table and threw down a second identical seed. Seeds are to be grown! Seeds are to be cultivated and nurtured not devoured! These sentiments were conveyed to Careri with a lucidity of communication unseen on this breakfast table in years. The mouse whipped its tail about in cascading ribbons clarity, its claws clawed and dug at the table and its eyes looked up with a knowledge that struck the locksmith straight to the core. He knew what he must do. Straight for the dying ficus turning the dried statue out, pouring old thirsty soil onto the table. Hands throbbing, Careri began his work.

A perfect little brown cone sat between Singor Careri and the mouse. The pair eyed it with satisfaction, with a glow of contentment. The mouse serene from the near completion of the spectacle tried at a grin and rolled the second seed towards his student. Careri knew his role. He flattened his cheek to the table, fanned his hand and sucked. Daring the germ between his teeth he bowed before their cone and with not much more than a bump from his tongue the seed rested calmly on top of the pile.

After a pause for thought the seed took root. With a little pop it broke its shell. A delicate shoot poking its tail out into the air, coming forward with a nudge then split in two. And two again. And again so four and six then ten, to the edge of the table the roots curled round and down to the floor and back up around through the cracks in the wood. Its trunk now born and worming its way towards the ceiling like the shaft of a parasol. Giant palm leaves uncurling, bud upon bud, winding upwards and filling the corners of the room until nothing was left but green. Careri, arms outstretched, smoothed his hands in the vegetation.

May 14, 2020 13:02

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Anoushka Jain
07:57 Jul 03, 2020

Your story painted a very real and beautiful image in my head. And the ending came much too soon!


Dustin Softman
17:41 Jul 03, 2020

Thank you. :D


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