Molly Stewart was an angelic British child: rosy apple cheeks and cascading auburn curls and at five years of age, was the pride of her parents.
The Stewarts were an average upper middle class family. Mr. Stewart was the owner of a thriving hardware business, who often worked past eight o’clock in the evening and spent little time during the week with Molly. Mrs. Stewart, an attractive woman, taught at a nearby elementary school often bringing home grading that occupied much of her evenings.
Little Molly, being a precocious child, would, more often than not, keep to herself during school recess time. When the other children were playing in groups or running in every which direction, she preferred to stand aside and observe their activities. She felt quite complete staying within her own thoughts.
Her bedroom too was her place of sanctuary and she did well occupying herself after school and in the evenings what with television and a bedroom packed with all manner of enriching opportunities. She played quietly and maintained a neat and tidy room that often gained praise from her adoring parents.
She fed and watered her pet mice, Bubble and Squeak each evening, was read to before bed, never going to sleep without a tender moment from both mummy and daddy. Her joyful and level demeanor gave no obvious clues or forewarning of deeper waters.
Squeak, the older of her two mice, was a grayish, off-white little fellow with bright red eyes and was now about two years old. He lived in the safety of a fish tank filled with clean pine shavings and plenty of food and water. Bubble, stayed busy shredding cardboard toilet tissue tubes was a replacement for another that had died suddenly sometime a little over a year ago. Bubble.
All in all, it was a happy environment for the two little guys.
It was one lovely spring day when Molly was in her room coloring when she became distracted by Squeak’s chittering. She watched him for some time before reaching into a desk drawer retrieving a length of cotton string onto which she deftly tied a slip knot as she’d seen her father do many times before at his store.
Removing Squeak from the tank, she placed the string around his tiny neck, being careful not to make it too tight, then walked him about the desk as if he were a puppy on a walk in the park. She turned him this way and that but tired of Squeak’s halting response to her guidance and, after a brief moment, lifted Squeak up by the cord. Because he was so light and agile, he was able to swing himself on the cord and climb to her hand which brought a smile to her cherubic face.
With Squeak, now in her hand, she removed the cord from about his neck, turning him so she could see his bright red eyes and as she gently stroked his head, she began to squeeze him so that he could not take the slightest breath. Holding him close so as to see him all the better, she smiled her sweet little smile as Squeak’s now bulging eyes, began to show distress.
When Squeak’s eyes grew still and blank, she smoothed his fur and returned him to the fish tank.
“Mummy… mummy come here,” she called out in a tone that was sure to make her mother come quickly. “Mummy, something is wrong with Squeak, he’s not playing anymore,” she said to her mother with tears welling in her little eyes.
Mrs. Stewart looked at Squeak through the glass, removed the mesh from the top of the tank and, using a tissue, lifted the lifeless Squeak out.
“Oh my dear, he must have just passed on… he’s still quite warm,” she said in her most consoling voice as she took her daughter in her free arm to comfort her.
“You must understand that everything that is alive must eventually die.”
“Even people?” asked Molly.
“Yes my dear… even people must eventually pass on.”
“Even you and daddy?” she asked.
And, as her mother held her ever so comfortingly, Molly’s bright little eyes considered the many possibilities.