In a little house on a little hill there are three mice. One dead, one round, one red. The dead mouse echoes through the house, clatters in the water pipes at night, whispers in the morning breeze. His bones are clean and sorted, lily-white in a pile — skull on top, lower and upper jaws still clenched together, and broken above the brow.
The red mouse cries in the bathtub. The water is red too; she scrubs herself, violently, and the red of the water deepens. But her fur loses none of its color, it seems to her, and she wipes off tears with red hands. She submerges her head. It's quiet now, except the drip of the tap. Then she thinks she can hear the voice of the dead mouse in that drowsy rhythm. The words make no real sound and so she knows they must be coming from inside, closer than close, but she can't make them out. Blurry, like through a veil. She thinks of days long gone, when she would doze off in her childhood home and hear the voices of her parents, meaningless, incomprehensible. She remembers someone, many people, saying — it's a terrible thing when a parent outlives their child. She holds her breath under the water.
The round mouse tends the vegetable garden. His work is double now, but it would have been double anyway had the dead mouse gone through with his plan. What kind of son leaves his parents to grow old alone? Yes, he did say, I will come back. But no one ever comes back. He said, I will get rich and come back for you. No one ever gets rich. He said, I will take you away from the cold winters and the vegetable garden, and the smell of beets and carrots. But the round mouse has seen the houses of those abandoned by their children; walls crumbled, windows moth-eaten, only chimneys and frozen vegetable gardens remaining, snow-covered monuments to unfinished business.
The dead mouse rustles the curtains, flings pebbles on the paper window panes. He makes the mold in the corners of the bathroom bloom in beautiful fractals.
The red mouse gasps for breath. How many seconds has she gone this time? She can't remember. Her heart beats in her eyes. It wasn't her fault; she tried to reason with him. She begged. She had never begged for a thing in her life. He made her beg and she hated him for it, but she would have forgiven had he not opened that door. And the candleholder was just there, suddenly in her hand. And then the blood all over her face, and his eyes white like marble one moment, and the next red like beets.
The round mouse wipes the sweat off his brow. What's done is done. He would be working alone either way, but at least now he's full, still full days later, perhaps full until the end of winter. At least now he can give the red mouse his share of the vegetables; maybe they will live through the winter. The last of their line, but maybe they'll die in the spring.
is a writer of sometimes-fantastical literary fiction. His short stories have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, The Fiction Desk, Criminal Element, The Stoneslide Corrective
and other publications. He's inspired by authors such as Truman Capote, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Edgar Allan Poe, and filmmakers such as David Lynch and Andrei Tarkovsky. He grew up in Jerusalem, and now divides his time between New York City and Tel Aviv while working on multiple writing projects, including his first novel — a psychological thriller.
You can also find him on Instagram at @ LouisRakovich