Amazing Kids! Magazine

Scritch, Scritch

By Madison Keim, age 15, Ohio

 

Scritch, Scritch.

During the witching hour, it’s the rats that scatter around the alleys, frightening the young children sleeping among their quilts. It’s the wind that rustles the curtains and the adults who turn out the lights. The gypsies are the ones who play the slow, funeral march-like music, and it’s the thunder that squeezes tiny yelps from children. The trees cast their skeleton-like shadows on walls, and it’s the maids who finish turning out the lights. Every living creature contributes to the witching hour, except for two species: children and house mice.

The difference between children and house mice is that the witching hour uses children. House mice use the witching hour.

When the children have cuddled (or cowered) in their blankets and the adults have retired to their rooms, the mice come out from their holes and skitter straight to the cupboards, where food for the next day is scavenged for. This is an instinct given to the mice by Mother Nature.

In one house in particular, there are three cupboards. One holds containers of chopped veggies and fruits, and another contains canned peaches and pears which, with five mice, they can be lifted and hauled into the walls as a treat for the mice-lings. The third cupboard’s contents are a mysterious thing among the mice, for it is always locked.

There was a time when the mice clans would have competitions for various purposes. Sometimes hands in marriage, leadership permission, proof of manhood, and so on. If a mouse could make it inside, they got rewarded with honors no mouse had ever dreamed of. You may wonder why I spoke in past tense above; it is only appropriate to speak of past events in past tense. It all can to an end on one particularly gloomy night. That night’s contender was a mouse whom I have nicknamed Shadow. He has been nicknamed because mice stopped naming each other for various reasons which I do not wish to explain. His slick black fur was exceptionally greasy, nearly such as the night sky outside.

His purpose for confronting the cupboard was only for the glory. Shadow held a reputation for the lengths he’d go to for personal glory. On this particular night, he’d greased his midsection. Perhaps he had hopes of slipping through cracks or perhaps to impress the ladies with his slick and handsome appearance.

The locked cupboard was made of red-stained mahogany and the foggy glass was dusty–impossible to see through. Mice had tried many different times and ways to break into the mysterious structure. None had ever succeeded. Of course, this meant that everyone who attempted never received their original incentive. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the fact that Shadow made it in that brought the tradition to an end. It was what happened in the cupboard that did.

There was a pact that every mouse made before going in. They swore that if they found a way in, that they would say nothing about how to get in or what they found inside. They could bring back for themselves whatever they wanted but couldn’t tell what it was or where it came from.

Every mouse tried picking the lock of the handles. Shadow, however, knew something no one else knew, for he’d gone scouting the previous day. Shadow knew for a fact that there was a moth hole big enough for a small mouse to slip through. A slender–and greasy–mouse. It rested in the corner of the bottom, where Shadow could jump to and heave himself into the cupboard.

Shadow arrived at the site of the challenge directly at midnight. The elders were already there, and the pact went quickly and smoothly. Almost immediately, Shadow took off, darting across the floor to slip underneath the cupboard, leaving a distinct trail of slimy grease behind his. His paws were able to reach the splintering edge of the hole and pull his slim frame through and into the cupboard.

At first sight, Shadow thought he was alone except for the treasure so sought out by mice-more canned fruit. Shadows sighed to himself and scaled the shelves until he was high enough to knock of the glass door as proof he’d broken in. He tapped to the beat of his heart, quick and pounding. Why pounding? Perhaps because he’d heard another tap accompanying his or perhaps because he’d sensed the presence of the five red-eyed, slimy rats perched atop five jars of pears. Or perhaps because of both.

Despite how similar rats and mice may seem, let me remind you that it’s the rats that help create the hour every night that children fear. The mice simply take advantage of such fear to survive.

Shadow spared no time. He leapt at on of the rats’ perches and slammed himself into it. The hat fell into another and soon all the jars were either fallen or falling. The rats fled to the back of the cupboard and gradually became the darkness.

Waves of relief came crashing down on Shadow as he pulled himself up. They were coolly relaxing, but they abruptly turned into a searing heat and he realized where every jar was toppling towards.

The glass door.

He leapt up to hold them back. He righted the tipping ones on the edge, darting in a blur across the shelf. He knew what would Halle if that glass would break. He clambered back onto a hat and allowed himself a deep breath of the cupboard’s pear-like aroma. Again, the all-too-good silence was shattered and the sound of glass on wood sliced through the air.

One lone jar was tipping over the shelf. Time wanted so hard to race it’s fastest, but Shadow held it back, hoping that somehow he could win the race and catch the toppling object in that slow, agonizing moment. But he couldn’t quite hold on, and time came crashing down.

I cannot day what happen to poor, mad Shadow after the incident, but I can tell you that around one a.m. that morning, a noise like a cymbal crash awoke the house’s residents, and that their yelps and screeches filled the morning as crowds of mice dispersed into their hidey-holes it they would step on the broke. Glass of the cupboard or slip in pear juice as they set up their mouse traps and rigged them with cheese.

And now when the clock strikes twelve, the mice just shiver in their books and crannies and chew through the cardboard of cereal boxes or the plastic milk carton you find in the refrigerator after work. Now when the rats skitter, the wind howls, the parents say “good night,” the gypsies play, and the thunder cracks, the mice cower like children until the house is empty, and then they strike.

Scritch, scritch.