Worthy’s mother has agreed to listen to her book report and give her feedback. They sit down to begin — the phone rings.

 Her mother picks it up. No one answers. She smiles at Worthy and shrugs her shoulders. Worthy laughs.

“Hello,” her mother answers. Her voice activates a computer-generated robocall. This is your local school district with an important message concerning the upcoming election and tax levy. Please don’t hang up…

Her mother hangs up, and they begin their work. Worthy reads what she has written thus far for her mother’s opinion. She begins:

“A pest is defined as anything that negatively affects human activity and triggers a human response that is dependent on the scale of the damage done. It may range from tolerance, through deference and management, to attempts to completely eradicate the pest.”

“I like that,” her mother affirms. Her phone buzzes, and she picks it up. It’s a text from her husband. She smiles at Worthy and quickly texts him back. When her mother finishes, Worthy resumes reading her report.

“Mice have been a constant pest to humans stealing their food, damaging their structures, and spreading disease. Humankind has a long history of building devices to either capture or exterminate them. Rat cage traps made of porcelain were discovered in the ruins of the ancient Egyptians. As early as 1550 BCE, Egyptians used clap-net traps similar to the modern snap mousetrap to trap birds and, most likely, rodents as well.”

Her mother’s phone chimes. It’s a reminder to put supper in the oven. When she returns, she encourages Worthy to continue.

“In 1284, the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamlin in Lower Saxony, Germany, recounts the tale of a piper dressed in bright multicolored clothing (pied) who was hired by the town council to eradicate a rat infestation. The pied piper led the rats to the nearby Weser River, where they drowned. He accomplished this by playing a magical instrument that hypnotized the mice, and they followed him willingly to their death. When the villagers refused to pay….”

Alexa chimes in. It’s time to walk Morty. When her mother returns, Worthy picks up where she had left off. “When the villagers refused to pay, the Pied Piper used his magic pipes to lead their children into the mountains. They disappeared and never returned. A profound example of the human cost of pests is the plague referred to as the Black Death. Between 1347-1351, an estimated 25 million people died from this plague in Europe. It is believed that fleas carried by rats caused its transmission.”

The phone rings again. The caller ID identifies Aunt Susan as the caller. Her mother hasn’t talked to her sister in weeks. She excuses herself and goes into the bedroom. Worthy continues working on the report. When her mother returns, Worthy continues reading.

“Farmers have been ingenious in their development of devices to catch and kill rodents. Poisons have always been a reliable solution used throughout the ages. They are effective in eliminating rodents but too indiscriminate in their choice of victims, sometimes leading to the death of unsuspecting pets, small children, and unfaithful spouses.”

Worthy pauses and waits for her mother to laugh. Her mother is busy posting a selfie she has just taken of them working with the caption, ‘Worthy and Me Building a Better Mousetrap.’ Worthy continues. “Early American homemade traps utilized simple mason jars with a ring lid, which contained long needles that permitted the rodent to enter the jar containing the bait but prevented it from leaving. The disadvantage of this system is that the rodent needs to be exterminated after capture” — the phone rings. Worthy’s mom doesn’t recognize the number. She studies it intently. She ponders whether she should answer it. She lets it go to voicemail. Worthy continues.

“William Chauncey Hooker patented the first modern flat snap trap in the U.S. in 1894. It was marketed as “Out O’ Sight” and was a simple, inexpensive, and efficient trap capable of being set close to a rat hole. It had a one-piece spring/striker wire which, when set, recoiled when the rodent took the bait, snapping its neck.”

Worthy’s mother can no longer resist listening to her voicemail. A woman with a strong foreign accent has left this message.

“Hello, this is Agent Smith calling from the IRS. It appears that there is a problem with your 1040 Federal income tax form that you filed this past year. If you would gladly supply us with your date of birth and social security number, we will gladly work with you to resolve this issue….”

Worthy’s mother laughs and hangs up. These scammers can’t fool her. They are just pests. She returns her attention to her daughter. Worthy has left the room and locked herself in her bedroom. Her mother wonders what has made her leave right in the middle of their work. Maybe she should have a talk with her. The phone rings. The caller ID reads, MADONNA. She answers it.

Ruby Zehnder is a sham. She’s the disincarnate human version of Schrödinger’s cat. Her existence depends on the actions of a reader. When her words are read — she exists. When her words are ignored — she’s disappointed. Existing in multiple states of superposition gives Ruby the freedom to choose who she is. She may be a Lemurian Starseed with a telepathic cat. Or, she may be young, stunningly beautiful, carefree, debt-free, and socially woke. While technically not alive, she’s been writing stories for most of your life. Some of them are even good.

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Every Day Fiction