Let me just lead with this: my mouse is not a complicated guy. We live in harmony in our spacious, sunny one bedroom in central Williamsburg. Just the two of us and an in-unit washer/dryer. When I shut off my computer after a long day, I always go, “Another day, another dollar.” I like to imagine that he responds with something like, “You really need to take a vacation day. You work too hard.” And then I say, “That’s freelance, baby!” and I imagine he says something like, “Let’s go to Montauk.” I laugh softly. Then we kiss. That’s our routine, and it works. Just me and my mouse.
I should never have strayed from the routine. The second I opened that dessert cupboard I knew it was a mistake, but I had made a carbonara that would make the angels cry and all that dairy had me feeling unpredictable! I’d had a glass of red wine with dinner, maybe two. (Relax—it was a Thursday.) I gave a small bowl of pasta to my mouse. This is normal. I’m not one of those mouse-moms who buys hulking bags of dried pellets for her “pet.” Please. He’s my companion. He eats with me.
It was chilly that night, so I put my beanie on. And I put his on him. He looked so sexy in his little hat. We listened to Ella Fitzgerald. I danced. He stayed put. Just then, I got a phone call. It was my agent, telling me my manuscript had been picked up by Penguin Random House. I couldn’t believe it! I looked around for a bottle of champagne, but I had none. I turned to my mouse.
“How about a cookie to celebrate?” My mouse nodded. I opened up the dessert cupboard and withdrew two perfect chocolate chip cookies from a mason jar. I set one cookie down on my plate and gave the other to my mouse. His little nose twitched.
Then, in one swift motion, my mouse opened his mouth, unhinged his jaw, and swallowed the cookie whole. He swiped the beanie off his head and it fell to the floor as he began to speak.
“You vapid, idiotic bitch.” I was aghast. “Did you seriously think this cookie was going to be a harmless celebration of your manuscript? Haven’t you done your homework? Don’t you know the first thing about having a pet mouse?”
“B-but,” I stammered, “you’re not my pet! We’re companions! We love each other!” He laughed a cruel laugh.
“You think you know me? You sit there with your little crochet hook and your little mulled wine and you put my beanie on me and tell me I’m pretty. You don’t know me. You don’t know the first thing about me!” I was speechless. The floor started spinning.
“I’m nothing but a piece of meat to you. Just your sexy little mouse. Your hunky little mouse.”
My eyes welled up with tears. I thought of all the times I’d called him handsome. What a fool I’d been. All those nights I’d fantasized about how it might feel to hold his little paw in the dunes of Montauk, a warm summer breeze blowing through his whiskers.
“Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting for you to give me a cookie? To give me the gift of speech so I could tell you how perverted this marriage fantasy of yours is?” I wept. My vision blurred, and it was as if there were endless cotton balls stuffed in my ears. Everything felt fuzzy.
“You’re sick,” he said.
The words played over and over again in my head. You’re sick. My mouse. Sick. My gorgeous little mouse. How could he feel this way. How could he foster so much vitriol towards me, someone who had only ever loved him. Sick. I looked at his beanie, cast carelessly to the ground. Sick. I could hardly feel my feet against the wooden floor as I watched him throw his tiny cloth napkin to the ground and leap from his chair. Sick. He turned to give me one last look before he walked away.
He scurried across the fire escape and out of sight, into the world, into the night, with nobody to protect him.