Jean L Kreiling : The Rat-Sized Shadow

The sight of it made her both cold and sweaty,
but she would keep her head—no operatic
bewailing of her horror, no dramatic
scene out of Verdi, or worse, Donizetti.
She wouldn’t grab a dagger or machete—
who owned such things? But still, this was traumatic:
her pulse was rapid and a bit erratic,
her hands shook, and her legs felt like spaghetti.
The rat-sized shadow didn’t move, and she
stood just as still. She took some time to rue
her failure to find God—she’d like to pray—
then she inhaled, and looked more carefully,
and saw that it was nothing but a shoe
that she’d kicked off and never put away.

What she’d kicked off and never put away
would fill a closet and spill out the door.
She chuckled at herself, and grateful for
this outcome, vowed that she would spend the day
housecleaning. As she started to survey
the work ahead—the dust, the sticky floor,
the scattered books, the half-drained cups—the chore
just seemed impossible. She’d rather play.
She ran upstairs to grab her sneakers, took
her jacket, too—she’d heard that it might rain—
in fact, clouds gathered, darkening the hall—
and suddenly she stopped. Again, she shook—
for there, not far from where her shoe had lain,
a skunk-sized shadow crouched against the wall.