I enjoy writing short, short (as in: less than 500 words, usually) stories. This is one of them. There will be more. Thank you. That is all.
As he sat in his cage, Fritz couldn’t help but wonder: was this all there was to life? Run through a maze, get rewarded, go back to the cage, wait for another student to pick him by his tail, run through the maze again...was there anything more to it than this?
The student--an art major named Lois who was just taking the class to fulfill a general education requirement--placed him in the small compartment that was separated from the start of the maze by a small sliding panel. Yes, Fritz knew it by heart at this point: the student would lift the small panel, click on a stopwatch, and Fritz would race through.
No doubt this was an elementary course in psychology, Fritz thought. It was a pretty simple concept, after all, this idea that positive reinforcement and repetition would lead to a better performance. So that was it, he thought...his whole purpose for living was just so that some college freshman could better understand animal behavior.
Lois was filling out a data form. Her pencil snapped, and the point arced in the air and landed in the small compartment. Fritz picked it up while Lois walked over to the pencil sharpener, and examined it.
He noticed that the graphite had made a mark on the bottom of the compartment when he picked it up, and now he moved the small nub across one of the
compartment walls. Lois came back, and Fritz, his gaze focused intently on the student, drew another line on the compartment wall.
Lois lifted the panel, clicked on the stopwatch, and then furrowed her brow as Fritz remained motionless. She could only see his head from her vantage point, and heard little scratching noises from the compartment. She craned her neck so that she could see all of Fritz’s body, and gasped when she saw, on the compartment wall, a miniature portrait of her, in striking detail.
Lois turned, and her eyes went wide as she saw that all of the laboratory mice were pressed against the walls of their cages. There was a look in their eyes not of hunger, but of a longing that went beyond basic biological needs. Without really thinking about it, she dropped pencils into each of the cages, which the mice chewed on, pulling the graphite from the center as if it were a pearl that they had freed from an oyster.
Then, laughing, she scooped up the mice and dumped them into the maze. She reached for her sketch pad as the mice claimed a piece of the maze wall as a canvas. And then, for several hours, she drew them as they filled the walls with works that turned the maze into a miniature gallery.