Fantastic Variations on an Old Rhyme - ~A Pastiche~

Submitted into Contest #170 in response to: Fly by the seat of your pants and write a story without a plan.... view prompt

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Bedtime Funny

Fantastic Variations on an Old Rhyme

~A Pastiche~




Scritch-scritch-scritch.


There it was again: a faint scrabbling sound. Gert exhaled loudly, flipped her pillow to the cool side, and pulled the quilt over her head.


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


She could still hear it. A mouse in the wall, no doubt — and there lay Siminy, tidily curled at the foot of the bed, unjustly sleeping the sleep of the just.


What time was it? 


Bonnnggg… The Clock struck One.


Gert was too hot. She flung the covers back to feel the breeze from the fan. 


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


The cat’s white face was tucked under her black tail, just the selvage visible in the half-light. Gert thought about rooting her off the spot and reminding her that dereliction of duty was a serious infraction, but she didn’t want to risk waking Gus.


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


She pulled the covers up again.


Bonnnggg… Bonnnggg… The Clock struck Two.


Hickory Dickory Dock, thought Gert, her fuddled brain visualizing mice running up and down the workings of the grandfather Clock.


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


Gus rolled onto his back and flopped an arm across Gert. She let out a “Whoo…” of discomfort and scooted a few inches away, shoving the quilt aside.


Gus snorted and emitted a loose-lipped “Phhlllll…”  


Gert felt a droplet of spittle land on her temple, and tugged the covers back over her head.


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


Giving up, she slid slowly out of bed — trying not to disturb Husband or Cat. Husband mumbled something indistinct, and Cat wrapped her tail more firmly across her nose.


Gert needed a Plan.


Scuffing down the dark hallway, she pondered her options. She only came up with one.


Mousetraps? Did they have any? Where would they be?


She flicked the kitchen light switch on, squinting in the harsh brightness.


Junk drawer, said Left Hemisphere. That would be logical.


Left Hemisphere was right. Three mousetraps sat neatly stacked in a corner.


Enough for three mice, noted Left Hemisphere sagely. Right Hemisphere giggled and started humming a tune.


Gert shook her head, but the tune wouldn’t go away.


Three blind mice,


Three blind mice,


See how they run,


See how they run…


Ridiculous rhyme! Not helpful.


She unwrapped a mousetrap and tried to throw away the filmy plastic, but it stuck to her fingers. She flapped her hand.


Krink. Krink. Krink. Finally, the wrapper floated down into the trash can.


Bait. Cheese? 


Gert opened the refrigerator door. 


Mrrrp?” 


That got Siminy’s attention! How had she moved so fast? 


She wound around Gert’s legs, purring at the prospect of a late-night snack.


Bonnnggg… Bonnnggg… Bonnnnggg…

The Clock struck Three.


Hickory Dickory Dock!


Three blind mice,


Three blind mice…


“Aaaughhh! No!” Gert grumbled. Siminy stared at her.


Where was the cheese? She was pretty sure they had a block of good cheddar; shame to waste any on a mouse though. It was an expensive artisan brand called The Farmer’s Wife.


Gus better not have finished it off!


Ah – there, pushed to the back of the otherwise bare shelf. 


Gert mentally apologized to her sleeping spouse and reached in to grab the cheese.


The cheese stands alone,


The cheese stands alone…


“Stop it!” she commanded Right Hemisphere. 


Siminy pawed at her leg. 


“Just a minute!” Gert whispered hoarsely.


A knife. She’d need a knife.


There was one next to the sink, bigger than she needed. It was a carving knife — but it would do.


She only needed a tiny piece of cheese for each trap. She could trim the ragged edge from the block.


She cut off their tails with a carving knife…


They did look like little tails, those scraps of cheese. 


Where was she getting these morbid, gruesome thoughts? 


Lack of sleep, Left Hemisphere shrugged.


Meee —


“Oh, all right. Here you go, Siminy!”


Gert dropped a small handful of Cat Treats — Plink! Plinkety-plink! — into Siminy’s dish. She hadn’t noticed before… they were shaped like tiny mouse heads. 


“Taunting me,” she muttered.


Now, where to put the baited traps? 


She didn’t want Siminy messing with them. They’d have to be tucked away.


She shoved one between the refrigerator and the wall. That left two.


The Clock stood sentinel in the living room. Too dark to read its face. Gert trudged past, toward the bedroom.


Leave one behind the Clock! suggested Right Hemisphere, ever whimsical. Just in case!


“Oh, all right,” Gert agreed. “Can’t hurt, I suppose.”


And of course, one in the bedroom, Left Hemisphere reminded.


“Of course.”


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


As soon as Gert entered the bedroom, she heard it. She moved, quiet as…


A mouse? suggested Right Hemisphere.


Not funny, Left Hemisphere snarled. This is not the time for jokes.


What time was it now, anyway? Gert wondered.


Bonnnggg… Bonnnggg… Bonnnnggg… Bonnnggg…

The Clock struck Four.


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


Gert set the mousetrap near where the sound was coming from, and crawled back into bed.


Yawning, she pulled up the quilt once more and scooted herself over, this time close to her innocently snoring husband. Partly to atone for her earlier thoughts, and partly because it was comfortable. 


Gus draped his arm over Gert and snugged her up to him. Ah, nice… She felt herself drifting…


Foomp!


Siminy landed lightly at the end of the bed, soft-footed forward, and settled herself against Gert’s belly. 


“Tuna breath!” Gert whispered to her, and pulled her closer.


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


Siminy purred.


Gert smiled drowsily and went to sleep, sandwiched between Husband and Cat.


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


Gert didn’t hear it.


Morning came. Gus woke at dawn’s early light, carefully moving away from his soundly slumbering soulmate. 


Phooo, phooo…” she breathed.


And then he heard it.


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


He waited.


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


Siminy slept on, unconcerned.


Tiptoeing around the bed, Gus stopped to listen again.


Scritch-scritch-scritch.


Ah. There it was. 


He stooped to pick up a piece of paper that had fallen to the side of Gert’s nightstand, and was rustling in the draft from their slowly oscillating fan.


Rrrr… said his gut. Hungry!


Gus headed for the kitchen. Gert was sleeping so soundly, he didn’t want to disturb her. Breakfast could wait.


He was pretty sure they had a block of good cheddar. It was an expensive artisan brand called The Farmer’s Wife


He opened the refrigerator and reached for the cheese just as —


Bonnnggg… Bonnnggg… Bonnnnggg… Bonnnggg… Bonnngg…

The Clock struck Five.

October 29, 2022 22:35

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12 comments

Suma Jayachandar
06:56 Nov 23, 2022

Cindy, This was lighthearted and enjoyable till I reached the...end. Maybe a hint of things going south there? Your love of language shines through, again...with the use of zesty onomatopoeia:-)

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Cindy Strube
16:36 Nov 26, 2022

I’m glad you enjoyed… most of it! ; ) This was very loosely based on a night, several years back, that kept both of us awake thinking there had to be a mouse in the wall. We didn’t have a cat at that time, so it was all up to us - and it turned out to be a little slip of paper scritching in the breeze.

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MB Campbell
22:53 Nov 13, 2022

Love the ending.

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Cindy Strube
17:40 Nov 15, 2022

Thanks! It had to end that way… ; )

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Susan Catucci
21:16 Nov 09, 2022

Well, that was a fun read - I felt like it was the middle of the night as I read, Your writing I thought mirrored well the mind as it works - or doesn't - during the late night hours. I found it cozy and an apt representation of marriage - two ships sailing the same seas, never venturing too far from each other. Lovely, really - cheese or no cheese. That cat was the icing!

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Cindy Strube
18:03 Nov 11, 2022

Thanks for the read and comment - glad it was enjoyable! (More so than Gert’s night…) I always try to visualize where my character is when I’m writing, so I’m pleased that you felt like it was the middle of the night. I like your comment about marriage. We’re coming up on 27 years sailing the same seas. (But I’m usually the sound sleeper!) The cat — I know her from experience! : D

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Tommy Goround
00:38 Nov 03, 2022

:-) I think the mice were real. last cheese= lonely Farmer Wife (3 Blind Mice) Master of Masters/Seminy... My first time read. Also liked Pastiche. Interp: The husband was not going to find cheese.

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Cindy Strube
21:49 Nov 04, 2022

Mice may have been there, but they were using the fan for a blind 😎. I’m glad Master of all Masters is getting some new notice. It’s apparently not widely known… Thought about patchwork or hodgepodge, but Pastiche just felt right. The cheese - left that open-ended. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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Michał Przywara
21:08 Nov 01, 2022

An amusing tale :) And as someone who's had the odd sleepless night, the babbling of the brains is all too relatable. All along I was reminded of an old Donald Duck cartoon, where his faucet was dripping at night and there was nothing he could do to get it to stop. Of course here the twist is that there is no mouse at all, just a sleepless imagination running wild. I think that was the right call :) I hadn't heard of Master of All Masters until you mentioned it. Siminy did seem like an unusual name, though now it's fitting for a white-fa...

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Cindy Strube
21:29 Nov 04, 2022

Babbling of brains indeed - they never shut up! I think I’ve seen that cartoon… :p The not-a-mouse was inspired by something that happened several years ago. My husband and I were both disturbed intermittently, all night, by a skittering sound. We were convinced it was a mouse. In the morning, we saw that it was - yes - a piece of paper flapping in the fan’s breeze. Never know what might contribute to a future story! Glad to introduce Master of all Masters. I know it from a childhood storybook. Thanks for the read!

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Amanda Lieser
14:24 Mar 22, 2023

Hey Cindy! This was incredibly creative. I thought you did a great job of weaving the rhyme into the piece. I was a tiny bit confused with the names in the beginning, but I felt like you did a good job of clearing it up towards the end. I thought you captured the frustration of unwelcome guests in our homes, but there’s an argument to be made that just as we made a home, others have as well. You did a wonderful job!

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Cindy Strube
22:40 Oct 29, 2022

Extras: If you’re not familiar with Siminy, look up the folk tale “Master of all Masters”. For musical accompaniment, https://youtu.be/uLv6mDpXDro

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