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Lindsey Anderson


The MouseLindsey Anderson

Adie’s bare feet kicked up the dead grass in her backyard. The remains of yesterday’s clippings flew up from under her and she thought about the mouse.  She had found it underneath her favorite tree.  Scared and shivering, its great big eyes pleaded to her, “Help me!”  Adie couldn’t resist. She picked up the small body and, at once, realized its leg was injured.  She placed the mouse carefully in the satchel she always carried with her and slung it onto her shoulder.  For a second, Adie contemplated the effects of bringing a mouse home, but she needed to help it and saw no other options.  "I wonder if mom will care?” she briefly contemplated. After careful inspection; however, she convinced herself that her mother would not be able to resist the wide-set eyes and small grey body.  After all, it was just a mouse. Adie began the jaunt from the woods to her house.

“Mom is going to kill me when she sees my feet,” she thought, glancing down at them as she kicked up the grass clippings.  She had spent an extra long time today playing in the mud by the pond in her backyard.  Her toe nails peeked through the now-dry-dirt which covered her feet like socks.  She giggled to herself as she looked at them because they reminded her of the stuff her mother slathered on her face late at night.  Maybe she could stick some of it in her mom’s fancy “Mud Masque” bottle and see if she noticed.

Adie was late too which definitely wouldn’t help matters.  Dirty feet, messy hair, grass stains on her shorts…late.  Shit.  She was in trouble.

Adie liked to say curse words in her head.  It was her secret.  She never thought them about somebody; instead, she just thought them when she did something displeasing.  “Shit,” when she fell into the pond trying to catch a frog. “That sucks,” when her mom and dad made her bring the butterfly back outside.  An occasional “damnit!” when she stubbed her toe or scraped her knee.  She hadn’t thought the “f word” yet because she was sure her mother would hear her think it and keep her inside forever.  Instead, she was partial to using the word “frick” - same beginning, same ending, just a different middle- kind of like one of those donuts you think has jelly inside and instead is filled with custard.

As Adie walked up to the house she played out the scenario in her head about to enfold.  She knew her mother, named Fiona, with her manicured toes, smooth skin, and well-thought-out outfit would see her walking up the hill in the backyard looking anything like a lady.  Being a lady was very important to Fiona and it always displeased her to see Adie this way.  Fiona would run her eyes up and down Adie’s disheveled outfit, sigh deeply, and then go straight into “Fifi mode.”  She would run Adie upstairs, throw her in the shower, make her scrub off the dirt which encased her feet, brush out the snarles in her hair from when she rolled down the hill 6 times this morning (she loved pretending she was in a barrel going down the Niagara Falls), and then pick out some outfit Adie would absolutely hate wearing.  Probably a dress.  Fiona would smile then and say, “Be down for dinner in 10 minutes and don’t get dirty.”

But today Adie was late, which meant her mother would be in more of a tiff when Adie walked in the door. 

“Absolutely not,” she would say if Adie asked to play for awhile with Boots her cat, “you find your way straight to that shower and don’t come down until you look like a lady.”  After hosing off her feet outside, Adie would trudge up the stairs and begrudgingly begin the process of getting ready for dinner.

Adie wanted to be more like her mother.  She really did. She wanted to love shopping and smelling pretty.  She wanted to carry on with the conversations about shopping and smelling pretty.  She wanted to enjoy taking trips to boutiques with the sole intention of shopping for things to make her smell pretty.  But as hard as Adie wished to be more like her mother, she found that she just couldn’t.

Instead of perfume and smelly lotions, Adie loved the smell of mud- all alive and fresh and full of life.  Adie loved the way the trees whispered to one another, friendly and full of secrets, unlike the hurtful whispers of the girls at school.  Adie loved how the bark scratched the smooth skin of her bare feet when she climbed up the prickly bark.  She loved the way she could get lost in a birch bark forest, the trees entangling themselves in one another.  Adie loved being human, not being a lady.

And that loving being human was what always got her in trouble, especially with Fiona.  And especially today.  Just as expected, Fiona was flabbergasted by Adie's appearance as she walked into the back door.  Standing akimbo, Fiona inspected Adie's appearance.  "Well, I never, " she tisked.  "Upstairs! Now! And don't come down until you look like a lady!" Sensing her mother's exasperation, Adie hurried up the stairs to get ready.  The less she interacted with Fiona at this point, the better.

“When I grow up, I’ll be like her,” Adie promised herself as she ran up the stairs.   “I’ll take showers in the morning and go outside with a glass of lemonade to tan and I’ll never climb trees.” Thinking it though, Adie felt a little robbed and a little hopeless, even though she wanted so badly to make Fiona happy.


 “I guess she doesn’t want to know about the mouse,” she thought, looking in her mirror at the freckles which peeked out from all the sun she had gotten.  They were the same freckles Fiona had, except hers didn’t show because she wore makeup to cover them up.  Adie didn't get it.  She thought the freckles were fabulous.  She had even given names to the ones she liked best.  "Maybe it's part of being a 'lady,'" she thought, laughing to herself at the absurdity of it all, "you have to cover up all your freckles so that your face is boring." It was disappointing to Adie too, because her mom had the most fabulous freckle on the tip of her nose.  Adie, of course, has already taken it upon herself to name it Gus.  Sometimes, she would look at Gus the freckle when her mom was yelling at her and pretend he was talking to her about Fiona’s rant. 

“Can you believe this?” he’d question with his jolly voice.  “She’s off her rocker!”

Adie had to be careful not to laugh with Gus the freckle though because then Fiona would look at her in her way and ask, “What are you laughing at?”  Adie figured she confused her mother enough as it was.  

As Adie began the painful process of getting ready, she anticipated dinner with a sense of dread.  Fiona would simply "tisk tisk" Adie's talk of her time spent outside and would try and persuade Adie to join her in an all-day shopping trip the following day.  "It will be good for you," she would tell Adie.  "Maybe a little culture and social interaction will make you realize what you're missing out on when you play outside all day."  

Adie longed for a time where she could tell her mother about the wonders of the woods.  About the oak tree that held the family of squirrels.  About how in the spring she would see the tadpoles begin to push their tiny frog legs and frog feet out from the sides of their fish bodies.  Or about how she was learning how to smell a storm.  Adie longed for the time where she could tell Fiona all these things and Fiona would nod her head in excitement, not shake it with disappointment.

And as Adie wished silently in her head for a conversation with her mother instead of a lecture, an idea began to form.  The mouse.  It's soft grey fur.  Her mom loved soft things.  The mouse.  It's wide-set, curious eyes.  Her mother always commented on others’ beautiful eyes.  The mouse.  Its thin, delicate limbs.  Fiona loved things that were "dainty" or "precious."  The mouse.   The mouse. The mouse! Fiona would understand her if she saw the mouse!  

“She won’t be able to resist!” Adie thought excitedly scrubbing off the dirt on her feet and removing a shy wood tick from her ankle.  “He’s…he’s…so cute!  She loves cute things!  She’ll get it! She’ll get why I like being outside so much!” Adie’s thoughts tumbled around each other in excitement.   As she dried off, she looked again in the mirror at her freckles.  “Maybe, just maybe,” she dared to think, “if she sees the mouse and loves him as much as I do she’ll go outside with me tomorrow!”

Adie took her time getting ready, even though she was excited.  She carefully smoothed out the pleats in the white dress her mother had chosen for her.  She tied a bow in her hair (a pink one at that).  She checked her feet again to make sure her toe-nails were sans dirt.  She even snuck into Fiona’s bathroom and put some powder on her face.  It made her cough, but she figured that’s what was supposed to happen.  And finally, Adie took out the purse Fiona had bought her last week.  She had refused, on principle, to use the purse even though Fiona had begged her time and time again.  Adie was partial to her satchel.  It used to be a newspaper bag and it held all her secrets.  It was brown, dirty, and it smelled of mud.  She loved it.  The purse, on the contrary, was pink of all colors and had a silk lining.  Fiona called it “extravagant.” Adie called it “ghastly.”

As much as she hated it, Adie knew the purse would only add to Fiona’s happiness that night.  She set the mouse gently into the purse, placed some crackers inside in case it got hungry, and looked at herself one more time in the mirror. “This is going to be the best night ever!” she thought, looking one more time at her freckles and smiling at them.  The purse firmly held in her hands Adie daintily stepped down the stairs into the dining room.


“Well Adie, you brought your purse!  How lovely!  Isn’t it nice?  It makes you look like such a lady.” Fiona stated, smiling and winking at Adie. 

“Oh yeah,” Adie thought “this is going exactly as planned.”  Adie decided to play up the role of “lady” as best she could.  She waited for her seat to be pulled out by her father (she usually insisted on pulling it out herself because she thought it was silly Fiona made her dad do it),  made sure her elbows were off the table, and said “yes, please,” and “no thank you,” whenever she could. The purse sat on Adie’s lap and, every once in awhile, she felt the small mouse move. 

Adie waited for the right time to remove the mouse from the purse.  Fiona was sufficiently pleased with the entire night and Adie didn’t want to spring too much too soon.  “The mouse,” she thought, “will send her over a cliff of happiness.”  After the main course, however, Adie could no longer contain herself.  She had to show Fiona.  She couldn't wait for the chance to talk with her mother and for her mother to think what she said was interesting instead of confusing.

Adie gently removed the mouse from the pink lining of the purse.  Its tiny grey head lifted and it made a meager attempt to escape from Adie’s hands.  Adie gently set the mouse down on the kitchen table.  At the same time, Fiona let out a scream.


Fiona jumped upon her chair, still screaming, and began to hop from foot to foot.  Her silk napkin fell from her lap and her blood-curling screams filled the air.

The mouse, who had previously been enjoying the soft silk lining of the purse and crackers Adie had placed inside, didn’t know what to do.  In response to the screams, it quickly scampered, dragging its bum leg, into the solace of the bread basket.

As the mouse found the bread basket, Adie looked over her shoulder. 

“What is she screaming about?” she thought, convinced an ax murderer was standing behind her ready to cut her head off with a chainsaw.

Surprised to see that the space behind her was devoid of a mass murderer, Adie returned her attention back to the spastic reaction of her mother.  This time though, Fiona was able to yell through her hyperventilating. 

“Adrienne….Kathleen….Catherwood!!  WHAT IS A MOUSE DOING AT THE DINNER TABLE?!” The last part of Fiona’s question was delivered in a shrill scream.

“Shit,” Adie thought, “I really pissed her off this time.” 

“It’s a mouse mom.  It's really cute and it's really hurt,” Adie pleaded.  "I thought you would like him.  It's just a mouse.” Adie searched for the mouse in the bread basket, cupped her hands around its shivering body and held it to her face.  “She just has to look at it,” she thought, “then she'll like it.”

"You thought I would like it?!” Fiona replied fiercely. "A rodent?! Ha, you thought I would actually like a germ-infested rodent?! What has gotten into you?" Fiona's shaking hand formed itself into a pointed finger.  “You, Ms. Adie, have ruined our lovely dinner of coque au vin, brought germs into our house, and now we must throw out the lovely purse I just bought you last week. That is it Adrienne!  I am done with your shenanigans- going out at all hours of the day to ‘play’ and not tan, frolicking with the dogs, refusing playdates with Lola and Gracie, and now you bring a rodent to our dinner table?!  You don’t even enjoy shopping!  What girl doesn’t enjoy shopping?!” Fiona took a deep breath and began again. “This has gone on for far too long.  You must learn to be a lady!  No more playing outside.  No more climbing trees.  Absolutely no more shorts. No more snarly hair.  No…no…no more animals!!!  YOU WILL SPEAK, WALK, AND ACT LIKE A LADY!”

Adie felt the anger rising up inside her.  All the curse words she had ever thought rushed up from her gut and stormed around in her throat, ready to explode, ready to come out with full force.  She felt them sitting there and didn’t even try to stop their entrance into the dining room.  As she thought of her animals and the trees saying hello to one another and the smell of mud and scratchy bark.  And as she thought about the mouse and the hope for her mother to talk with her instead of at her, Adie said the two words to Fiona she had never dared to think. 

The words hung in the air like a heavy cloud.  Fiona dropped her fork and her jaw.