Winter Nights


4:35 AM

Rustle. Rustle.

I shift under the weight of 3 very warm blankets.

Rustle.

My chest tightens, and I cannot ignore the sound as it comes again.

Rustle. Rustle. Rustle.

I know the sound is not the Ace Hardware plastic window installation kit catching a wintry draft.

Rustle.

To my waking mind, the quiet shuffling sounds like this:

RUSTLE. RUSTLE, RUSTLE.

I throw 3 very warm blankets to the side, climb out of bed, and slip into the kitchen. I flip the light switch, and the fluorescent lights blink on rudely.

What are you doing?

I demand of a saucer-eyed, white-footed mouse who has a fiery red pepper between his paws.

I watch the mouse's enormous eyes. All pupils. They look like nonpareils without the white sprinkles. The fluorescents can't be too easy on those eyes. Regardless, I show no mercy. I stare into the nonpareils.

I'm eating a perfectly good pepper that you were too wimpy to eat, is what I'm doing, the mouse replies. The General Tso's chicken sauce is quite good, by the way.

I glance at the clock. It's four thirty-five AM, I say, emphasizing each consonant.

Almost time for you to get up, he replies and makes a break for it--behind the toaster, launches off the counter, into the heater. Gone.