The key to believable sacrifice.

I won’t blame you at all if on Wednesday you saw my ultimate sacrifice as trivial. You might have thought, just another female afraid of rodents.

 But that’s because you don’t know the whole story.

 Key music and strange colors as we travel back in time.

 I’m single. Twenty three year old. Working at my first job teaching second grade. And I live alone for my first time ever. In the apartment from hell. (Literally)

 The freezer still needs to be defrosted. Tiny kitchen. I’m lucky to even have a bathtub.

 A mouse decides to move in with me. He’s a daring mouse. He walks across the floor in the middle of the day while I’m correcting papers at my table. Often. I wear snow boots around my apartment. All. The. Time.

 And at night, I pile up whatever I can find at the doorway of my kitchen, so he can’t sneak into my bedroom.

 One afternoon, I spot him. I call my neighbor. “Jim, I see him!”

 Jim comes over with a broom and pokes around; but of course, the mouse is gone. I call Jim many times. Poor guy. But he has a good story to share at work. I’m sure.

 I set mousetraps. Jim sets mousetraps. The peanut butter is licked off. I set glue traps to find it halfway across the floor with fur still on it. Jim sets more traps. I find part of a foot in the trap. The mouse chewed his foot off to escape. And don’t you dare feel bad.

 Neighbors give me a barn cat. The cat can’t contract its claws. I have to wear thick clothing all the time. He meows all night. He knows I don’t like him. I think he has red eyes.

 I am terrified of a mouse with no fear. He stalks me. On purpose. I am only safe in my classroom. I creep around my apartment, my heart thumping.

 But through out all the insanity, I indulge in a hot bath. A lot. I’m safe in the tub.

 One evening, I start my bath water. I take a nice long soak. I get out, hum a little tune, and slip into my bathrobe. My hair in a towel.

 And the mouse slips into the tub. I scream. But in my extreme panic, I know I’ve got it cornered. I don’t want to lose it, so I point the spray nozzle at him, so he can’t crawl out. I get too close and he tries to jump onto the nozzle to escape. I scream again.

 I call Jim. Jim takes of the mouse. Except, it’s not a mouse.

 It’s a mole.

 And he entered my apartment through a tiny hole next to my bathtub. He could have braided my hair while I bathed.

 I lived in the apartment from hell three years. And every fall, mice invaded. Now that you understand the backstory, maybe you can appreciate my sacrifice in letting my son have a pet gerbil.

 The key to believable sacrifice is in the back story and/or events leading up to the sacrifice.

 (And by the way, Jim is now my father in law.)

14 Responses to The key to believable sacrifice.

  1. Leah September 3, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    awesome post! Funny and enlightening. I love what you said about braiding your hair. Don’t worry – Gerbils don’t live too long….

  2. Matthew September 3, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    That is totally gross! But you make a good point. I didn’t see the other post but I know understand exactly what you mean anyway. Well said!

    Today’s guest blogger is Emilia Plater!

  3. Andrea September 3, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    Love your story, Laura! And a good illustration of how as writers, we do need to make sure the pieces are there to help make sacrifice believable.

    • Laura September 3, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

      Andrea – I’m not saying I know what all those pieces are but…I”m sure it has something to do with all the element of great storytelling – characters, sub plots, rising action, emotion….etc.

      Matthew – It is gross. And this was the story in shortened form. It really was terrifying.

      Leah – I’m glad – but my son will be very sad when his gerbil dies.

  4. Kelly Polark September 3, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    That is one great story! (and I love how Jim eventually became your father in law!)
    Holy Mol-ey! 🙂

  5. Laura Marcella September 3, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Love that last line about your father-in-law Jim! Please share how you and your hubby met!!!

    I can see why you’re afraid of rodents. Holy moly, what a story. Yeesh! Do you kids know that story? I sure hope your son appreciates your sacrifice!!! You’re a brave woman!

    • Laura September 3, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

      Kelly – Yeah, that incident comes up every once in a while!

      Laura – My husband checked lots of traps too! His dad wasn’t the only one!

  6. Stina Lindenblatt September 3, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    That’s a great example as to why our characters’ backstories are so important.

    I’m afraid of rats and mice, too. 😉

    • Laura September 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

      But why are mice so scary? They can’t hurt us. I think it’s because they are so fact and unpredictable. Of course, I’m sure I’d be way more terrified if there was a black bear in my house, so I guess that puts it into perspective!

  7. patti September 3, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    Oh, what a great setup for a great story.
    LOVE your writing!!!

    You go, girl.

  8. Kris September 3, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    That makes so much more sense now. Hey-I’ve got an award for you at my blog! Cause you’re awesome! 🙂

  9. Marcia September 4, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    Chalk up a point for backstory! 🙂

  10. Jemi Fraser September 5, 2010 at 12:01 am #

    What a great story!! You must have been soooooo paranoid the next time in the tub!! 🙂

  11. Sarah Mullen Gilbert September 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    Way to creep me out! Glad I don’t have a bathtub, just a shower stall. And the last part about Jim becoming your father-in-law is a spectacular ending 🙂

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