Friday, February 17, 2017

A Short Story: Lady of the House

Let us pretend the house is silent. Ignore the little squeaks beneath the floorboards. Please excuse the little mouse in the basement, for it loves to scream and cry. Please ignore the pounding sounds rising up from the tatami matting in the foyer. I promise you, it is nothing. And even if it is something and you’re forced to stop and stare, please remember—if you decide to return to my home—that these noises will not last forever. The little mouse in the basement, squeaking and squalling and calling for help that will not come; she will be gone when my husband disappears. So, in a year or so. Please, return next year.
Your hostess is Haruka Tomomi, but please feel free to call me “Tomo”. Please note that this is in exchange for my rudeness, you see. For, you will have to excuse me for a few moments while I leave the table and scurry down into the basement. No, you cannot follow. Please enjoy your stay here, my friend. I must disappear downstairs and do as my husband has ordered me. For, if the mouse dies or somehow injures herself then I will be injured as well. Why, no—not physically, you understand. So, please rid yourself of that shocked look. Maybe I’ll have a kimono taken away and burned. Maybe I’ll be sent away to the countryside, but he never harms me physically. Now, if you’ll excuse me please…
The little mouse downstairs loves to chew and bite—why, sometimes I wish my husband would simply stop bringing them around! There’s no telling where he gets them. Not from a shop or a respectable merchant, you understand, for you cannot simply buy a mouse as a pet. In fact—who would want one? Certainly not I! But if you’ll avert your eyes, my friend, my husband’s little mouse has injured herself and must be bathed. No, I cannot do it down there—I refuse to do it down there in that stink and musk. Why, mice simply shit all over the floor, did you know this? Many animals simply find a corner or some hole—but not this one! This one smears feces everywhere! My husband is not home—am I not the lady of the house while he is away? I will do it upstairs, but you will avert your eyes! Understand?
Thank you. Thank you, my dear friend. Cover your nose as well, we will have to pass through the kitchen—
Please—please let me see!”
Why, this mouse is talkative, is she not? “Shush, little mouse. You’ll be going back to your home soon.”
Let me see where I am—if you have a heart, woman, let me go!”
How easily mice believe we are manipulated. Please, excuse my little mouse. My husband has only recently brought her and she has a long year ahead of her before she is turned back to the wild again. “This way, little mouse. I am taking you to the bath.”
Why are you doing this to me?”
Why, I want to take care of you. We both know my husband won’t!”
Let me see!”
I am afraid that that would be impossible.” Can you believe it! The creature believes that I am daft! “The more you see…well, the easier it would be for you to escape.”
I’d go nowhere—please—”
Ignore her cries, they are only customary. I do what I must to make sure my dear husband is happy, now if you’ll excuse us my dear mouse desperately needs a bath…
How did my husband come across such a creature? Well, I suppose my rudeness must be rubbing off, hm? Truthfully, I haven’t a clue. In the past, he’d simply pick them off the streets near that pleasure quarter. Do you know it? Yoshiwara? There are all types of little mice there who gladly followed him home and happily lived in the basement in exchange for food and clean water. But this one—oh, she is spoiled! I have no idea where my husband found this one—what with the fire and half of Edo being rebuilt thanks to it. Yoshiwara no longer exists, yet he still finds little mice to keep and feed and f—oh, please excuse my tone. Why, my heart is beating so fast. “Come along, little mouse. If only you’d take better care of yourself.” Why, I’ve never met a creature without some sort of will. This one seems to be bent on taking her own life! And, of course, if this happened then my husband would simply turn to me and that would not be satisfactory! We have an agreement, you understand. He brings in mice and I keep my freedom as long as I take good care of them while he is away. It’s better than what most women get, believe me! We aren’t even considered people in many circles—yes! Astonishing!
I must take the little mouse back now, close your eyes, my friend.
I’m just going to escort her past and—oh!
You little bitch!”
Let me go!”
She spat on me! The little bitch spat on me!
If you kick a dog hard enough, it’ll cry and back down. I know, my husband keeps two of them and neither of them respects me. But they respect the heel of my foot. Mice are no different, though I do not have to use my feet. The heel of my hand works just as well, rammed into the place where her jaw meets her cheek. Hear how she squeals and falls to the floor in a fluster?
Will you do that again?”
What have I done to you?”
And if the dog bites back, sometimes you must use two heels. I tell you, some dogs are very strong. They have tough hides which allows them to feel no pain. Or, perhaps they feel it and are able to ignore it if they’re stuck in a blind rage. But no matter the dog, if I pick up a utensil—say a wooden pole or a knife—and slam it against the beast’s ribs, it will always back down. In some instances, it will even whimper and roll over to show me its pink belly. A mouse must be treated softly, yet sternly. But, in my ten years of caring for my husband’s mice, I’ve learned that even mice can take a good beating.
A fire iron works just as well. A hit here, to the forehead. A jab to the ribs there.
Will you do that again?”
Now, if an animal refuses to respond to you—
No, ma’am! Please—”
oftentimes, the threat of pain is a useful method to get a response.
Now, get up.”
Yes, ma’am.”
See how well she responds now? It is often quick and loud, getting an animal to respond and respect you. But, now that it is done you must close your eyes once more and allow the little mouse space as she moves back to the basement. Go on, close them! Why, I would not use the fire iron on you, my friend! Don’t give me that shocked and—well, do I detect a hint of malice? Please understand that I am simply doing my husband’s bidding! If this little mouse weren’t here taking the brunt of things for me, then I would be in her place! And it is not a place I envy, let me tell you! Are your eyes closed? Good!
Little mouse!”
Yes ma’am!”
Go home.” Which means “back to the basement”, you understand.
Please—please—I don’t want to go back down there—please!”
Listen, little mouse.” And I sigh now because I hate it when these things cry. “This will only go on for a year, understand? One year from now, my husband will leave and he will free you. You can go home then, okay?”
But—I cannot see, Miss. I’m blind—”

It won’t last forever.” I say with a blinding white smile, “Only a year.”
Please do not think me bitter and evil, but it brings me satisfaction to lie right to her pretty face. Disgusting creatures, these mice. 
Thank you for reading. As always, check out my other works. Currently, Winterskin is $0.99 on Amazon. Grab it while it's still on sale!
Check back here next week for more short stories. Happy reading!


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