Above the basement in which the mice resided stood a two-story brick house with a heavily slanted roof. It was located on Elm Street in Hadley, Massachusetts, between two other similar houses. It was July now, so the roof's slant wasn't in use, however, during the heavy snows of a New England winter, the slant of the roof kept the house from caving in under the weight of hundreds of pounds of ice. Above the second floor, a dusty attic held all the old things that the house's owner, Susannah, couldn't bring herself to throw away. There was a gramophone, a couch, shelves of books she no longer had the vision to read. Susannah, at 73 years old, had macular degeneration, which was making her progressively blind.

Through a door, Susannah had the equivalent of a massive walk-in closet, full of her dresses from the 60s when she was model thin and beautiful. Even though she now weighed 192 pounds, she never had the heard to get rid of her old clothes. There were rows and rows of skirts and flowing shirts, two piece pink business suits, and bikini swimsuits. That room also held the military uniform of her late husband, Henry Trenton Sr. After his death, Susannah had worn his purple heart and bronze star every day, however, with time, he too was mostly forgotten, and the medals and Army dress blues had been stuffed away among other dusty, nostalgic memories stuffed away out of sight.

Susannah's 40 year old son, Henry Jr., lived with her, at first, because he couldn't afford his own house after he divorced his wife, but then, because his frail old mother had become dependent on his care. This arrangement wasn't ideal for poor Henry. He secretly planned to sell the medals on eBay when Susannah died, and move into a house on the beach somewhere. New Jersey perhaps, or maybe the Outer Banks.

Back behind this room of relics, Henry had built a secret space for himself. It held a monitor, a chair, and shelves full of "adult films". Henry hadn't been on a date in five years, so, for obvious reasons, he went up to the attic quite a bit.

Presently, Henry and his mother were sitting in the living room watching Wheel of Fortune on television. Henry lay stretched out on a rust colored couch, while Susannah bobbed back and fourth in her oak rocking chair. The television was in front of them, next to that, the front door, followed by a dark fireplace that hadn't been used since April. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!" Susannah was shouting. "How stupid can you be not to get that?!"

"Mom, calm down," Henry coaxed impatiently, placing a gentle hand on her arm. He shifted his feet on the olive-green carpeting, and squeezed her shoulder. "It's only a game."

He muted the TV, simultaneously wishing he could mute her. "Besides. I have an announcement to make. I was promoted to the head of the department."

She looked up at him blankly. After a few seconds, it finally registered. "Congratulations." she said to him.

She opened her mouth to go on, but instead, a shriek came out. A big black mouse sprinted across the carpet, over her feet, and down the stairs to the basement, carrying a load of food in his cheeks. She screamed violently, as if the mouse was a man pointing a machine gun at her face. "Get away from me vermin!" she shrieked. Henry simply covered his ears.

"The first thing you do," she told him, "With your next paycheck, is get rid of those mice! I want them gone!"

Henry sighed. "Yes, mother."

Henry turned back on the volume, and they sat in conversational silence for a few more moments, eyes, minds, and lives glued to every movement on screen. When the show ended, Henry suggested that his mother go to bed.

"It's 8:00, Mom, and you've had a rough day. Let's just try to get you upstairs."

"Where's Justinian? I want him to come to bed with me," she responded stubbornly.

On cue, the regal cat stepped into the room from the kitchen. "Justin!" Susannah cooed. "Come here baby!"

He pranced over towards her. Henry grabbed her walker, helped her stand up, and directed her over to the stairs, where he sat her down on her automatic chair lift to take her up. Justinian jumped into her lap, just as she pressed the button to start. Henry lifted the walker and carried it up the stairs. When she reached the top, he har her walker waiting. Justinian leapt off her lap, and headed towards her room, intent on curling up in her bed.

She pushed herself forward one step at a time towards her room. When she finally reached it, Henry helped her undress and put on her nightgown. Then, she slowly curled up in bed, Justinian at her side. "I know you miss Zeno," she soothed him, scratching his back. "I do too, she was a great cat, and a good mother for your kittens." Justinian purred. "But it's been years since she died, and it's time you moved on. Justinian licked her cheek. Susannah winced a bit– the rough cat tongue hurt her soft wrinkled flesh, but she smiled at Justinian anyway. "I know you're just trying to show your love, Justin."

"Let me tell you a story," she said to the cat curled up beside her. "You're named after Justinian, the greatest Emperor to rule the Eastern Roman Empire. He built the Haija Sofia, the most beautiful church in all the world, which was later turned into a mosque. He was a wonderful leader, and helped to build a great nation, but that's not why you're named after him. Do you know why?" she asked him, almost expecting an answer. "That's right, because he was able to build his Empire by controlling the undesirables within his region, to use them for his benefit."

Justinian Meowed. "That's what I want you to do with those mice, Okay?" She asked.

She began to stroke his back again. "I love you."

'Stupid human," Justinian thought as he purred.

The End

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