The Maiming Of The Shrew

Last night’s prompt at the InkSpliters Writing Group was the opening line of a recent letter to the Irish Times Nature Correspondent: “Whilst hunting mice in the airing cupboard I accidentally killed a pygmy shrew”…
I knew straight away that I was in trouble, because to us cats the Pygmy Shrew is a protected species. If it had been the Common Blue-breasted Shrew I’d have been fine. The Duck-billed Cantilevered Shrew is also allowed. The Lesser-spotted Warbling Shrew is regarded as fair game (they aren’t easy to spot, of course, but luckily their warbling gives them away).

If it had been the Saw-toothed Wombat Shrew then it would probably have been me who got killed.

But the Pygmy Shrew is off limits, since their pygminess has rendered them almost extinct. They get trodden upon by gerbils. They get crushed by falling bird-shit. If they fall asleep they can get steam-rollered by snails.

You probably know them better as Dwarf Shrews, but political correctness means that we can no longer call them that. Shrews of Restricted Growth was briefly acceptable, although the shrews themselves felt that this euphemism was insulting, as it implied that not only were they short, they were too thick to notice. They were quite insistent about changing the name and, just as with the human type, you do not argue with a shrew.

I didn’t mean to kill it. I chased Jerry into the airing cupboard, where I scalded my paw against the boiler, causing it to throb redly like a beating heart. I chased him back out again and pursued him for two minutes during which I ran full-tilt into an ironing-board, got my tail stuck in an electrical socket, left a hole my own shape in a suddenly-slammed door and, even though we were indoors, had a bus land on me.

Then it happened. I ran around a corner, Jerry had left a rake lying on the ground, the handle flew up and hit me in the face, and I fell forward onto the shrew with my mouth open. I sat up and swallowed, a shrew-shape passed down my neck, and he vanished into the bowels of my stomach, although I don’t think that expression came out quite right.

To those of you who find this tale unspeakably sad I can, of course, offer the hope that he might not actually be dead. I have eaten a bowl of figs (and a grenade, sneaked into the bowl by Jerry) and am now patiently waiting.

And thanking my lucky stars that he wasn’t a Thistle-backed Vindaloo Shrew.


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