The Highest and the Sweetest
by S.P. Miskowski
I started out as one of the babysitters on the day shift. I'm still a babysitter, but I have another career now, too. I'll tell you about my new job in a minute.
I guess I applied about ten times before I got an interview. There's a long line of women that want to do what I'm doing. Women come from all over the country to apply. A few men apply, too, but Quartz only hires women. We've got the natural instinct.
"I feel like this is the work I was born to do."
That's what I told Quartz during the interview. And in a way it's true. I was born to do what I'm doing. You could say it's more of a calling than a job. You could say it's my destiny.
My daddy was sick for a long time before he died. I took care of him night and day. Then when he passed it seemed like all I did was wait for a sign. I kept looking, on every channel. Almost a year passed.
One day when I was packing up some old clothes for the Salvation Army I found a box full of shoes in the back of a closet. One corner of the box had been eaten away. Inside I found a mouse, little brown thing, with six babies. Well, here was a tiny miracle where you would never have expected it.
I cleaned out my sewing basket and then I filled it with some of the clothes I had gathered up for charity. I spent hours finding the warmest spot for the basket, right in the middle of the living room. When everything was just right, I lifted the mouse babies and their mama and put them in their new home.
It must have been a couple of hours later while I was watching "Kate Plus 8" that I heard a sound I'll never forget. Like a squeal, but crazy, with all these scratching noises. That's what I can't get out of my head: the scratching — and chewing.
I jumped up from the couch and pulled back the towel I had draped over my sewing basket. It was the most terrible thing I'd ever seen. That mama mouse had gone insane, somehow, and she was eating those babies! She had killed four already, and the clothes I had used to build her nest were soaked in blood.
I felt like I was choking, like something had hold of my heart and was crushing it. The sight of those tiny naked bodies twitching while their mama, the one who gave them passage into this world, tore their flesh away with her sharp, little teeth! I slammed the remote control down, one time, two times, one last time. Then she stopped moving.
The last two lived another day and a half. I tried every food and every kind of soup. I tried milk and bread. They just lay there, with their hearts beating away and their breathing was fast and shallow. Finally, they died. Their mama didn't give them the love they needed, and they died. It was an awful thing to see, but I learned what I needed to learn.
So the first time I saw Quartz on TV was a revelation and a confirmation, to me. I've prayed all of my life. Every day I've spoken to God and asked what I should do to make my life serve a purpose.
The day I saw Quartz on the TV screen, God reached down and touched me, and I knew why. For the first time, I knew what I was meant to do. I was born to take care of these babies…
You can read the rest of "The Highest and the Sweetest" in DETRITUS an anthology.