SCHRODINGER'S MOUSE WILL APPEAR IN THE 2020 RMFW ANTHOLOGY, "WILD."
I opened the cupboard and bent down to grab the bottle of dishwasher soap. On one of the sticky pads the exterminator had left under the sink, was a live mouse.
I’d had misgivings, ideas about this particular development when he’d left the traps. But we were tired of finding tiny rodent craps all over the kitchen.
“Nothing, hun.” I didn’t want to tell my wife. She’s tender hearted. Not in a saccharine way, just one of those people you don’t like to tell sickly things to, in the same way you wouldn’t want to tell your grandmother in detail how women smuggle heroin across borders. There’s no point to it.
The whiskers on its slender nose twitched as it poked its gray toward the light. It wasn’t alarmed by the sight of me. Seemed to ask with mild black eyes, “Hey there, could you help me out? I can’t seem to get free.” Its long tail was stuck completely to the pale-yellow pad, and all four tiny paws. It wasn’t panicked. Yet. Just confused. Sort of, “how the hell did I get myself into this fix?”
Do mice even have imagination? Or do they skip the existential terror of imaging death? And is that better than wringing its pink paws over leaving its nest and children behind, worrying about whether Aunt Joan and its mother will get along at the service?
I closed the cupboard. I still needed to run the dishwasher. There was a moldy smell to it. We’d been gone, it had been sitting closed. Every time you opened the damn thing, rot assailed you bodily.
I walked into the dining room. “There’s a live mouse on one of the traps.”
HONORABLE MEN APPEARS IN THE 2019 TL;DR BENEFIT ANTHOLOGY, "SHADES OF PRIDE."
Since 2016, the Chechen government, under Sharia law, has been abducting, torturing, and murdering gay men.
I have stepped outside to the balcony to smoke, and to cry. Inside the apartment, the American journalist makes hurried notes. The small woman he has brought with him to translate sits perched on the edge of a metal folding chair, leaning forward, staring at nothing. Her legs are neatly crossed. Her hands are grasping her knees and her fingers flutter now and again against them.
In the alley three stories below me is a girl of maybe ten. There is a brown, long-haired dog as well but it is just passing through. The girl is not wearing enough clothing. It is March and she has no coat, only a ratty red woolen sweater, which is no good, because it has been snowing and the sweater looks heavy with damp. She is squatted on her haunches, skirt covering just to her dirty knees. With a stick, or maybe a chalk, she is scratching something on the street that looks like a heart, while singing to herself a song, which is simple and repetitive and must be a nursery rhyme. It is unfamiliar to me. It would be tempting to say, that with her dark hair and disregard for the cold, she reminds me of my dead sister, but she doesn’t. She is unfamiliar to me. Everyone and everything in Moscow is unfamiliar to me. It is not that I want to return to Chechnya. It is only that everything now is unfamiliar, and the strangeness is like always hearing one side of a conversation.
The cylinder of ash on my cigarette is precarious and long. I flick it and the gray powder falls and collides with a snowflake before disappearing. The cigarette was supposed to outlast my desire to cry, but it hasn’t. It was supposed to calm me, but it hasn’t. I have not smoked long enough for that to be the effect. The nicotine is still the arrival of a rattling train through my nerves coming to a shuddering, jerking stop at the center of my chest with every pull.
The old saying "life isn't fair" is hardly a complete sentence.
I don’t know how the bus missed me. I know a man, a stranger, shouted at the last minute. Not the last minute. The last second, the very last second, split second, when I had time to look up, then stop. Even then it was damn close. I hadn’t planned to stop and my body wasn’t ready to hear the message. My mind said stop but the rest of me nearly carried the whole package forward off the curb and smack into the eastbound 187.
That’s my body for you. Betraying me at every turn. Gangly and lean in the wrong places. Bulging and limp in the wrong places too. Where it ought to be fat it’s skinny. Where there ought to be nothing, there’s always something, and the other way around.
The bus, the near sight and acrid smell of it, roared by inches from my nose. Road grit bit my eyes. The orange and silver on the side became a smeared streak broken by a colorful collage that was probably an ad for the California Lottery. Or Planned Parenthood, or the local news. It was so close to my face I couldn’t make it out as it sped past at thirty miles an hour. Another flash of metro colors, a hot gust of dry diesel fumes that tipped me back in my red Chuck Taylor hi-tops, then nothing. It hadn’t even had time to slow down.
I lived for couple reasons. First, the warning shout. The fact that the guy hadn’t been totally absorbed in his phone like I was and had actually been looking at the world go by. Add to that his ability to choke out a noise during a moment of extreme horror. I mean I’m sure he saw it all go down in his mind the split second before he alarmed. Pictured me not stopping and pictured me – what? Plastered to the front of the thing? Folded over the commuter bikes mounted on the nose like wet laundry over a drying rack?
I’ve worked twenty-five years at the Del Taco on the corner of Sunrise and Alejo in sunny Palm Springs. All but five of them in the drive through line. One time a buddy and I got high and tried to count how many tacos have passed through my hands. Yes – we were eating tacos at the time – we were high. Keep up.
We approached it logically. It took us a while, and the number kinda blew me away. We started calculating – started a bunch of times, because don’t forget, we were high – we started from an eight-hour shift, five days a week. It’s my steady. I’m a DT lifer, man. I plan to die with my headset on.
Anyway, you hit at least one of the rushes in an eight. Lunch, dinner, or late night. We’re a twenty-four-hour deal. Late night is prime time. Two-fifteen am is the big dance. Makes lunch look like a shitty lop-sided trike drag-assing down the street. Kid all leaned over to one side trying to balance. Fucking hilarious.
I got a car. Hold up.
“Welcome to Del Taco, home of the under a buck po-tay-to taco that’ll blow your mind not your wad. I’m Lucky. What can we get for you today?”