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Value - A Short Story

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Saw a mouse today. It reared its little head from the hole in the wall and sprang into life. He scampered across the cold linoleum tiles of the kitchen floor, embarking on a perilous journey to all four corners of the room, apparently. I don’t know what it was looking for, maybe food, maybe not, but it looked like a mouse on a mission. I tried to shoo it out through the back-door but it seemed determined to defy me, eventually fleeing back into the darkness of the hole. I admired his bravery given I was 50 times the size of him, but annoyance often overrides admiration, I tend to find. I laid a mouse-trap out before bed, and it wasn’t long before I heard that delicious ‘click’. I let out the grin of a madman, drunk with the sense of power achieved by murdering a small, insignificant rodent.

I got the call shortly after. I don’t remember much about it, if I’m honest. Just that I needed to be there with him. I grabbed my jacket and stepped out into the rain that had only just started. It left a dull, matt sheen on my jacket, as a drop landed on my shoulder before trickling all the way down to my arm, my wrist, my fingertips, and finally dropping onto the ground. As I turned around to lock the door, I couldn’t help but look at that hole in the wall. I’d never really paid it any close inspection before now, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was pitch black – I mean really, really black, like some kind of enigmatic void. I turned the key and put on my jacket as I ran to my car.

I had to stop for petrol on the way. Sod’s law. Per usual there was a queue - everybody needed petrol at the same time, evidently. I waited unusually patiently given the situation, attempting to turn on the temperamental car radio which wheezed before playing some non-descript modern tune. I gazed out the window blankly and found myself fixating on a tree, of all things, and not a particularly interesting one at that. It had turned the customary autumnal brown for the time of year, with its leaves dying and the branches wilting all the way down to the ground. The queue then started to move, and with it my attention, as I got out to fill up the car.

Dad always used to give his two pennies on life, whether you asked him to or not.

“It’s the little things” was always a favourite of his. I liked this one. The other? Not so much. “One day we’d get our comeuppance” he always said sternly when I was little. Every time he said ‘we’ I hoped to God that that didn’t include me, not that it wouldn’t be justified if it did. I’m no saint. But I never really understood what he meant; I always just got the impression that it was something bad. I think I understand him more now. Maybe he accepted that humanity is what it is, and that there’s only so far we can grow until we’re crushed under our own weight. Maybe it’s something less dramatic like just being humble, or maybe being kind. I’m not so little anymore, but that’s still only a guess – he was always smarter than me.

I had just made it in time to see him before... before I wouldn’t get the chance to. It’s not like the movies, he didn’t grab my hand, pull me close and tell me some earth-shattering secret. He just went. Quiet as the night. We had a good relationship, I always thought, and I know they always say you should feel lucky that you were able to spend that time together, but I’ll tell you now, I don’t feel particularly lucky at this moment in time.

Just as easily as he can give, he can also take.

Traffic was as bad as always on the way home. The cars traipsed along like a funeral procession, trudging to a gradual halt. I turned off the engine and, not wanting to subject my ears to the drivel that was on the radio previously, decided to aimlessly look out of my window once again instead. For some inexplicable reason, I couldn’t help but look at another tree, dying as unremarkably as the rest. Through all the deceased debris, through all the brown and dark orange, there was something green. A small bright green sprout on a small branch. Something new was growing beneath the dying, new life at the very start of its existence, somehow living where it really shouldn’t. It was oddly mesmerising, given that it was so small and so insignificant, but I was transfixed nonetheless. By the time the cars started to move again, I couldn’t stop thinking about that green sprout, but felt the need to focus more on driving to avoid causing a mass collision.

I arrived home soon after that. It had stopped raining, and the sun started to push through the slabs of grey in the sky. I walked slowly into the house and locked the door – the rest of my evening was virtually non-existent; I was just waiting until I could go to bed and sleep. God I needed to sleep, it had been a long day.

Saw a mouse today. It poked its head through the hole in the wall, the abyss a little bigger now. He crawled out with an alert hesitation, without a squeak or a sniff or even the tiniest sound. Creeping into the middle of the kitchen, it scanned the room, for food I assume. I didn’t move. I just stood there, watching as it went from cupboard to cupboard. Much to my surprise, it seemed to have stumbled upon something, albeit a small something – breadcrumbs. Dragging a small pile back out into the room’s centre, it stopped abruptly, startled. I looked at him. And he looked at me. We stayed like that for at least 5 minutes, just looking at each other. My attention flickered between the rodent and the hole in the wall, which looked darker than ever. Its presence was more pronounced than it had been earlier, I could feel it now. The more I stared, the more it consumed me. Clearly noticing my distraction, the mouse started to move, slowly edging back towards the void. I didn’t stop him though, despite the heinous thievery of my breadcrumbs taking place before me, and it wasn’t long before he’d disappeared completely out of view.

I didn’t know why I let him go – I still don’t – but I have my suspicions. Maybe I let him go because he was just doing what he needed to do to survive: life isn’t always as easy as we’d like. Maybe the green sprout and the hole in the wall were both sitting in the back of my mind, and I had to choose between life and the darkness. Or maybe I let him go because... I wanted to be kind.

It’s the little things.

Untitled (that’s its actual name)

There leaves a chair

Almost as plump and fulfilled as the day it came.

Faded stains of hardened glances and slanted smiles

Colour the muted greys which sink into imprint.

A union once proud in comfort

Sits uniquely separate

Stuck in echoes of sun-kissed whispers

Which flitter into reticence.

There leaves a chair

Never to be sat in again


Jack Clements is a Politics and American Studies student at the University of Nottingham, specialising in the US Supreme Court and Disney World. He is a diehard Arsenal fan (for better or worse) and an indie music fanboy. Most of his time is spent avoiding social events and figuring out the best takeaway pizza.

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