James & Malcolm

James & Malcom Short Story
  • 823 words
  • 3 min 17 sec reading time

James sat down on the stone walkway just beneath the city centre bridge. He had been unceremoniously removed from the nearby shopping centre a few minutes earlier and had nowhere else to go that was safe at least. It was a Saturday, and Saturdays were always busy with crowds shopping and teenagers hanging out, leaving him few places to hide away.

James hated being homeless and how people looked at him, but mostly he hated how they shifted their eyes away from him, never wanting to make eye contact. He knew what people thought of him; he was long enough on the street to read it on people’s faces, nasty, useless, get a job! He wanted to be different, but sometimes the incoming tide of events eats away at everything until one day, it is just you and the small bag of items that make up your life. Everything else is gone, the job, the family, the house, and the life you once had.

Malcolm, a small mouse with a huge heart, lived below the very same bridge that James chose to sit at. Malcolm liked people mostly; at the very least, he bore them no harm. As a mouse, he knew to give them a wide berth; never understanding why they needed to scream so loudly at him or stamp their feet in his direction. He learned early in life to watch from a distance, but he was oh-so curious.

When James sat down, Malcolm just happened to be on his way out for a stroll by the riverside.

James sitting pensively, looked at the reflection of the trees dancing on the water, speckles of green combined with blue creating kaleidoscope patterns. He is so drained, not emotional, just numb and exhausted. He wanted to smile, but he swallowed deeply, shoulders slumping.

Malcolm paused for a moment, staring at James. He had seen many humans but never seen one, so sad, he wondered if he should approach him and say hi. What nonsense. Of course, he wouldn’t want to talk to me. Suddenly, Malcolm loses his balance and falls into the river, landing with a splash.

James hears the splash. Malcolm plunges underneath the water, rising back to the surface to catch a breath. James sees the tiny grey ball of fur struggling, about to drown. Bending over, he scoops Malcolm out of the water and places him on the grass beside him. Expecting the mouse to run away, he is surprised when the mouse stands still and looks up at him.

‘Thank you.’

‘You’re welcome.’

‘I’m Malcolm.’

‘You have a name?’

‘Of course, I have a name. You must have one too.’

‘My name is James.’

‘Do you mind if I sit?’

‘No, not at all, please.’

James dusted a small section of the stone he was sitting on, and Malcolm sat down. At first, they sat in silence, thoughts racing through each other’s minds. They both had so many questions. Malcolm broke the silence first. As he spoke, James’ demeanour changed. He relaxed. A kind voice, no matter where it comes from, has the most miraculous effect, even from a little mouse.

When James eventually started talking, he couldn’t stop. It had been so long since he had had a conversation with anyone everything came spilling out. The heartbreak he experienced when his wife was diagnosed compared little to the overwhelming grief he felt when she left this world. Even though Malcolm was a tiny mouse, his heart was the size of a mountain. If all it took to help James was listening, he could do this forever and a day. Malcolm’s heart was big and strong, and he could smile for both.

The afternoon soon turned to evening and then night. Neither noticed the dark settling in because they were both engrossed in talking and listening to each other. But night-time can be dangerous on the streets, and more so down by the river near the bridge. People seek out shadows in the dark. Then, out of nowhere, a giant boot comes crashing down on Malcolm, killing him outright. His last squeal is pushed from his body as he is kicked into the river.

The boot owner then turns to James, ‘That will be you next, ya fucking bum.’

‘Leave him alone,’ a voice shouts from a distance, and the boot owner runs away.

James sits in silence. His smile disappears, and numbness spreads through his body. Malcolm, his only friend in the entire world, is gone.

Leaning forward, James slumps into the rushing water and unresisting his body twists and turns in the river as it flows out to the bay.

James feels the numbness slipping away, no fear, no pain. At that moment, Malcolm appears beside him. Crawling onto his shoulder and near his ear, he whispers, ‘Friends,’ and James smiles as his eyes close for the last time.

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