Students at fieldwork to help farmers had been harvesting potatoes and massacring field-mice. Each time the tractor-towed harvester opened up a new furrow, tiny gray victims dodged between the freshly turned lumps of soil, only to be smashed at cruelly regular intervals by a well-aimed hit of a potato. A short, sharp fillip into the back of the neck crack their fragile skulls.
Since the morning, they had kept warm with this contest about which the gray victims had known nothing except that their part demanded the stubbornness of a runner on a hopelessly long track.
It always took a while before they grasped what was going on and decided to run. It was a fair battle. Only running field-mice were attacked and killed. A little kick jump-started those that hesitated.
They sometimes attacked the shoe, sometimes, in desperate confusion, they clung to the shoe and tried hiding beneath it. Others dashed with unexpected speed, successfully scrambling through the potato bombardment. They ran on and on and futilely, for eventually an
accidentally precise potato pinned them down. Laying on their backs, legs trembling in the air, they protested in high-pitched squeaks. Their appeals were denied by another potato shelling.
Then again, sometimes this was unnecessary. The rodent stiff ended quickly as the legs turned rubbery and unusable from the exhausting dash, collapsing like a sprinter at the end of a race. In an instant they froze in the air as if they had stumbled into a photograph.
The air was frostily clear, betraying each unintentional move, crystallizing each terrified sigh on the ground.
It had been a perfect day for a bombing raid.