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  April 2017
volume 14 number 1
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Peter Barlow
April 2017



photo by marie c lecrivain

    Peter Barlow's work has appeared in Rosebud, The MacGuffin, The Louisiana Review, Underground Voices, Per Contra, and Bryant Literary Review. A former Pushcart Prize nominee, he received his MFA Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He is an adjunct professor of English at University of Detroit-Mercy.



At Some Point, You Were New

    Now imagine you are a mouse. You aren't just any mouse, feared and despised by human beings hundreds of times larger than you are. You aren't someone's pet, kept in a hutch with all the water, mulch, and pellets you could want in a safe, dry environment. And much to your chagrin, you are neither Mighty Mouse, Danger Mouse, nor Mickey or Minnie Mouse. You are a baby mouse, two days old at most, alone, sightless, cold and probably going to die soon.
    You came into this world with three other siblings, nested in a wad of insulation that somehow found its way into a duffel bag holding a pop-up tent that its owners used at art fairs and such to set up their wares under. As it happens, this particular tent belongs to a chain-smoking mother of two (ages five and three, if it matters) who makes and sells customized hula hoops, oblivious to not only the small paradox contained in that description but also to the insulation in the tent bag, as well as the four newborn mice within, of which, as noted, you are one.
    The hula lady freaks out upon the discovery of the four of you, by which point only two of you are still alive, congratulations! You're one of them! A man from a neighboring tent has to come over and relocate you before she passes out or, worse, drops cigarette ash on you. The man takes your surviving sibling over to a nearby flowerbed on the leaf that he happened to spill out on, and then moves you to the same place on a napkin. Your deceased siblings end up somewhere else; where you don't know. The two of you cuddle for a moment before heading your separate ways. Your sibling crawls for cover, settling (as the man would discover on subsequent visits to check on your welfare) under some mulch. You, however, do not. You eventually settle under an iris frond, fetal, as fifty feet away a succession of musical acts play while people watch and dance and the hula lady dances with her hula hoop. Were the circumstances different? were the crowds aware, for instance, of the struggle for life going on underneath the flower bed, this would almost be a wake for the two siblings who didn't survive.
    But here's the thing: you don't know any of this. You don't have language, and if you did you wouldn't have words. You are a baby mouse. You are alone. Cold. Shivering. Never going to see your mother again. Mostly abandoned.
    You are small. And lost. And sightless. And afraid. And all you can do is hold on for help that may never come.

copyright 2017 Peter Barlow