About the writer: Soren Petrek is a practicing criminal trial attorney, admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1991. Soren’s novel, Cold Lonely Courage won Fade In Magazine’s 2009 Award for Fiction. Fade In was voted the nation’s favourite movie magazine by the Washington Post and the L.A. Times in 2011 and 2012. Soren is represented by Tiziana Marzano international literary agent.
A friend of mine is the only person I know who has hunted mice in a fireplace. Not a giant skill if you’re an adult, but monumental at ten. As you know, BB guns shoot low, and mice are crafty.
Billy’s family’s basement was full of garbage. It was the father’s fault. He was a drunken dentist and had been one since his wife lavished her charms upon every man she fancied and then jumped ship leaving old painless with the kids. For Billy, the circus was always in town, making it a heyday for the mice. They were everywhere. Luckily, their crap and dead bodies kept the house standing.
As a young boy, Billy lived in a constant state of disbelief as new surprises came from everywhere. Especially the day the police threw his family’s belongings out in the snow. The house came free as a wedding gift, but the taxes were never paid. For Christ’s sake man, you got to be a better drunk than that.
It wasn’t all bad. When Billy was older, he lived with his grandmother. She was some kind of a savant that came from an old family of dowager ladies. She was a million times smarter than God, which was helpful. She had no time for Billy’s illegitimate siblings and kept a proper home. After the eviction, Grandma thought it was a good idea if Billy came to live with her. I’m not sure what the neighbors thought as Billy was certainly not tame and was a prodigious eater. Watermelons are not scarce unless you live with a person who can eat a whole one in one sitting. Once, Billy was left to protect a watermelon while a friend’s family went to church on a hot sunny day. Billy failed. He claims he didn’t eat the seeds, but I don’t know. When the family returned, and the watermelon was gone, his explanation wasn’t well received.
It was around his tenth birthday when he got sick of the mice. He was still living at home and was done with lots of things. For one, he’d made plans to kill the family maid. She was insane and so came cheap. She became enchanted with Billy’s mumps engorged testicles. She was not kind to them. She did a lot of screaming but could cook okay. When she took her clothes off, it was time to run. It’s impossible to get good help.
When the day came to dispatch the maid, the neighbor had to talk Billy down off the roof and encouraged him to get rid of the kill stick intended for use on the family’s ball beating domestic help. Billy complied. He had to. The neighbor was the Deputy Chief of Police and one of his dads’ drinking buddies. As adults, they used real guns to shoot rats at the city dump. Like old hands, the men often shared a jug on the way in a squad car, tearing down the road with the siren blaring. Billy and his brothers got to ride in the back seat.
The first time, Billy thought he’d be sporting and try to shoot the mice in the dark. Listen for the rustle and catch them in the moonlight coming through the dirty window. He got smarter and strapped a flashlight to the underside of his BB gun. Mindful of the ricochet, Billy got pretty good at it. He even introduced his friends and toddler brother to the sport.
Billy was never really worried about putting a hole in a window by accident. His dad had smashed most of them at one time or another while yelling at God. A couple of fifths can do that to a guy.
Billy grew up and has children and grandchildren of his own and his basement is free of garbage. The mice leave him alone.