Two dead mice have drowned in the toilet is how Pamela Painter begins her flash story “Snap Judgment” published in Quick Fiction 11. That this scene is quickly mentioned again in the second sentence allows the narrator to accomplish sustaining this image throughout the story, no matter the outcome.
Dead mice are the topic of conversation of a couple who have just finished lovemaking. Something is going on here and the narrator lets us know. Ordinarily after sex he would be thinking of French toast, bacon or smoked salmon and her soft-scrambled eggs and chives. Here is the conflict. Things aren’t as they normally are.
They’re talking mice and mousetraps when they should be talking food. “So I bought traps. Two traps. Three days later, I caught two more.”
Then the narrator introduces a little bit of onomatopoeia with a Snap! The sound you hear when the mousetrap gets the kill. The reader hears this sound loud and clear and so does the girlfriend. There is much wrong in this relationship shrouded in the subtext of the best mousetrap. He explains the virtue of snap versus poison or glue boards. Glue boards were cruel, poison also.
We now see and hear the conflict conclusively when the girlfriend comes into focus. She pulled the covers up to her shoulders. “What do you have against mice?” she asked. It’s fascinating that the first words of the protagonist are defensive and mousy, even as she tries to defend mice.
But she is engaged in the fight and takes him down as she rolls off statistics. He’s on the floor. He knew almost everything but he didn’t know this. She knows she’s winning and doesn’t let up: hammers him until he retreats. “For every mouse you kill—snap—you can be sure there are seven more flitting about your kitchen, nesting in the walls, doing what we’re doing. Did.” She continues, “A buck mouse can impregnate four doe mice in one day.”
He says, “You’re telling me that at minimum I still have sixty-three mice still in my house?” And she lets up, a little, but not really, when she lets him know the sixty-three mice will not all be the same age.
By story’s end the conflict is resolved. No mousetrap can beat the formidable reproductive skills of the house mouse or for that matter a determined woman. He pulled her in close to him, fitted her hips to his. “Snap,” they heard from the kitchen.
This final scene nicely loops the story back to the opening scene and reminds us that although things appear resolved they really aren’t.
FF.Net Author’s Note