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Of crime and punishment

by Michèle Nardelli

By Michèle NardelliPublished about a month ago 2 min read
Of crime and punishment
Photo by Sosey Interiors on Unsplash

There are seconds left to stop this carnage. She knows it would be a simple matter.

She could stand up and stride across the floor.

That would put a stop to it.

She could clap her hands and feel the echo resonate, rippling through the chilly pre-dawn.

But in the dim light of the kitchen, she is mesmerised.

First there is a sound, so subtle you could miss it if you weren’t paying attention.

A soft scratching, an imperceptible sniff.

Then comes movement. That shadow at the corner of her eye.

It stops and she wonders if the heat of her presence, the mist from her breath has been warning enough of danger.

Breathing in slowly, she controls the exhale and tilts her head as though in doing so, she will amplify sound.


It’s a long silence, a distilled anticlimax.

Scratching her head she feels despondent - relieved and annoyed at the same time.

She thinks about putting an end to it all, about getting up to switch on the kettle to make a cup of hot, milky tea.

Her concentration broken; she wonders why she is here at all.

What ghoulish fascination brought her here at 3 am to lie in wait?

Is it simply vendetta – would there be some satisfaction in witnessing punishment for the crimes?

Determined to stay the course, she lists the crimes in her head and evaluates them.

The theft and destruction of food is not to be taken lightly.

She considers the motivation of the thief. Hunger, gnawing at his belly like a twisted tea towel.

That instinct for survival overcomes all barriers. It spawns the construction of tunnels, the practice of extreme contortion, evasion techniques of the highest order.

She is the victim of a ravenous, master escapologist.

That unconscious burden to strive and survive, that bearing down to be the fittest. An inescapable commandment from mother nature herself – thou shalt find food.

Her commitment wavers.

The temperature drops, and she pulls her dressing gown tighter around her shoulders.

Outside the wind picks up and a branch thumps at the kitchen window. It strikes with a strange jazz tempo, accompanying leaves flutter like a mad scat.

Absorbed in its beat she doesn’t differentiate the sound at first, but soon the scratching inside is all she can hear.

A desperate staccato, somewhere near the skirting boards. It starts, it stops, starts, stops, Morse code for something is coming.

And it comes. Hurtling across the floor in zig zag formation with the speed of a tiny torpedo.

Despite knowing what to expect, all instinct has her wanting to leap onto a table, but she stays the course.

As she takes one deep breath in, she strains her ears for maximum sound, waiting for the guillotine to fall.

In those last few seconds, she finds she can’t bring herself to watch, she is no Madame Defarge.

Arms grasped tight around her knees, she shudders as the snap and clatter fire off around the kitchen.

She waits, finally straightening herself and steps onto the icy tiles, a little shock running through her body.

She switches on the lamp, and the kettle, only then turning to see the endgame of her vigil.

No cheese, no mouse, just the tip of its tail.


About the Creator

Michèle Nardelli

I write...I suppose, because I always have. Once a journalist, then a PR writer, for the first time I am dabbling in the creative. Now at semi-retirement I am still deciding what might be next.

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