Mice in the Walls
I originally wrote and published this in March of 2003. While I was home, I ended up hanging out with the Linda described below, and she mentioned that she had read this and found it funny. I looked it up and realized it was one of my better pieces of writing, and decided to re-publish it.
in the here time we are mice in the walls, silent and subtle. we avoid the streets and stalk quietly through yards and between trees. the eye of the night is a moon near-full, gibbous and grey; she watches us, stone-faced and mute, without judgment.
the air is sharp, the snap-chill of autumn. our breath has shape but the months have not yet drawn into the deep of the west virginia winter. someone coughs, once, twice – and the column stops as a silent and unseen rebuke passes back through the ranks: shut the fuck up, numbskull.
no one is awake to hear us but we are young and stupid and full of juvenile criminality. it is five blocks to the park and the darkness that its pine trees will afford; plenty of time for us to cause some trouble – or get marked by a cruiser.
we play at being ninjas. somehow, aaron got a case of beer and we take turns carrying it. my turns are shorter than those of the others; i am the smallest, the weakest.
i am also the most clever.
part of me thinks that this entire ordeal is stupid. our crew is composed of outcasts – some are from poor families, some are from broken homes, and some are proto-nerdlings (like myself). we have a vain hope that if we act cool that we will be cool – and thus buy our way into higher social strata.
part of me knows that this will never happen but the part of me that wants to be accepted has the louder voice.
in the here time, we have managed to develop a somewhat stable pecking order. jason is the strongest, jake is nimble. aaron leads – but not because he is the best qualified; no – he wants it more than anyone else. i simply want to be accepted and in this group we are all equal in loserhood.
eventually we arrive at ritter park and cross into it’s darkness. aaron has decided that we’ll settle at the children’s playground. it is a place that is set deeper into the ground and surrounded by trees. i think it’s a bit too close to the street for my comfort but the others do not seem concerned so i take my lead from them.
we each crack open a can of beer. the snap-hiss they make is very loud in the darkness and i feel paranoid, unprotected. i find myself looking over my shoulder constantly, watching for strolling policemen. it’s cheap beer and the cans have been chilled by the november air. they freeze my fingers. i don’t like the taste but i drink anyway: i want to be cool.
jake doesn’t drink. he has indicated several times that he thinks it is stupid. i am unable to determine if he has a moral objection to alcohol or not. i doubt it has anything to do with breaking the law: the boy is the best shoplifter i’ve ever met, capable of walking out of a hobby shop with not one, not two, but sometimes four dungeons and dragons rulebooks – the hardcover ones.
in the here time, he steals tobacco products for us since none of us can purchase them legally.
we talk, whispered voices commenting on the most important subjects imaginable: the ever-increasing size of linda’s breasts, the upcoming motley crue concert, how much we hate our teachers and the bullies at cammack junior high. aaron and jason smoke crumpled marlboros fished from a jean jacket pocket. i dip snuff tobacco and spit into the dirt. i have a small bladder and the beer makes me pee every ten minutes or so.
aaron tells us lies about how he felt up alisha the other day and how his father is, in reality, a cocaine dealer. his parents are freshly divorced and he is compensating, though in the here time i don’t fully understand this. i believe his story about his father but not about alisha – none of us do. she would never give him the time of day.
i have a crush on a girl named sarah but i don’t tell them this. i keep this secret because i am afraid. if i tell them, they will tell her and she will tell her friends and then there will be laughter because she is as far away from me as alisha is from aaron.
in the here time, i have many secrets.
we finish just over half the case. aaron and jason have three beers each; i have two but only drink half the second (though, i secretly pour out parts of it during my innumerable trips behind the tree – it must appear that i drink all of it). no one wants to carry the case back but neither can we part with the beer: alcohol is like gold when you’re fourteen. the remaining cans are secreted inside jackets, cold against our ribs.
we walk back to jason’s house. we take the sidewalks this time. i am queasy but i am also walking straight; jason and aaron are both crocked. they could be (and probably are) acting drunker than they really are: it is “cooler” to be drunk than not. jake is annoyed at all of us.
jason’s house smells like cat litter. he and his mother are host to ten of the animals. his room is unkempt and grimy. the walls are decorated with posters of black sabbath, motley crue, and david lee roth. we listen to the hardest metal we have on his cassette deck. the carriage is broken so we have to lay the unit on it’s back so that the tape doesn’t fall out.
we play dungeons and dragons for a few hours before aaron passes out. they are exploring the tomb of a death knight, hoping to plunder it and recover an artifact that will allow them to travel through time. i am the dungeon master but i also have a character. all of us are subtle cheats and fudge die rolls.
in the here time, the fantasy world is preferable.
by four thirty, both aaron and jason have fallen asleep. jake and i play nintendo and talk about comic books. his papers are dropped off at five so the two of us bundle up and head out to deliver them.
in the here time we are mice in the walls, silent and subtle. we avoid the streets and stalk quietly through yards and between trees. we talk softly as we enter apartment complexes; the snap of a rubber band as it closes over a folded newspaper is a gunshot.
down the block, light leaks onto the street from the storefront of a donut shop.