by jade crystal harmon
A streak of orange across the lawn.
Fast paws in tall grass. A very small mouse somersaults through the air. We run through the yard, but the movement catches the boy’s eye.
Leave the cat alone, I say, jogging away.
Curiosity’s magnets slow the boy’s limbs and pull him toward the little scene of hunter and prey. He does not turn away.
Come on! Let’s go! Bet I’ll get to the lilacs first!
Now he’s stopped, feet bare in damp grass, watching hard, race forgotten.
Okay, just don’t go near him. Okay? Let him finish. The mouse may be hurt.
He does not listen as my words lob around him. About the mouse nests in my folded up quilts, the grains of poop across the counter, the territory line between species.
He doesn’t hear as I explain about hunters only choosing the weak, the old. I see that this mouse is very small, a baby.
They have hundreds of babies a summer, I say, as he inches closer. The words pile up in drifts around him
I turn to pull sticky, climbing weeds off of the daylilies. When I look up, he is grinning into his cupped hands. The cat is circling him, sniffing the grass, confused.
The boy is holding the tenderized mouse in his hands, close to his face.
He’s picked it up, right from the cat’s paws.
I run to him. It does not move, but it’s still alive.
It’s sooooooo cute, he says.
It’s in shock, I say, maybe dying. No blood, but we can’t see inside.
He is staring at the mouse. We can’t let it die, he says. Let’s set it free.
Mama, that’s the plan.
And so the cat is lured away with treats.
The mouse is placed near the sandbox, covered with ripped up grass for camouflage. Left to be free, to die under the canopy of torn grass or burrow into the quilts this winter.