Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Short Happy Life of Brownie Macomber

Brownie, Carl and Alfred crouch outside an oval of light cast by the hole in the baseboard. A bare strand of copper wire snakes above their heads. A wad of fiberglass insulation rests at their feet.

“I smell peanut butter,” whispers Carl.

“Oh god, I'd love to eat some peanut butter,” says Alfred.

“I'm going out,” announces Brownie, rising on his haunches and stretching his back.

“But Brownie, what about Billy?”

“Yeah, Brownie. Billy never came back...”

“I'm not Billy,” the little brown mouse answers. “I'm made of tougher stuff. Besides, how long you guys think we can just stay here, living off fiberglass? Fiberglass, for crying out loud.” No one speaks for several seconds. At length, the little fellow repeats, “I'm going out.”

Silence greets him as he sticks his head through the tiny opening and looks around. A washing machine towers to his left and disappears into the heavens. A rubber boot the size of an elephant, fresh mud on the heel, lies to his right. Between the two, a rectangle of wood circumscribed by a metal bar emits the siren smell of peanut butter.

Brownie takes a step forward, and another. He stops and sniffs, then advances yet a further inch. Tentatively, he reaches and licks one brown side of a lump. His lips are instantly greasy, but the chunk remains. The crunchy type.

In the shadows behind the hole, Carl and Alfred watch, wide eyed, as Brownie gnaws with reckless abandon.

“The greedy sonuvabitch!” hisses Alfred. “He could leave us a bite.”

“I dunno,” Carl begins to answer with a sidelong glance at his compatriot. “You gotta give Brownie some credit. “He's the one who...”


Carl's sentiment hangs truncated in the silence. Brownie was, indeed, the member of their band with courage to go out, and now he lies still, blood oozing from his ears onto the wooden platform. Alfred puts his nose between his knees and whimpers.

A gigantic hand appears from the sky to carry Brownie away atop the trap like a soldier born from the battlefield upon his shield. Carl and Alfred scamper away into the darkness of the wall. Neither has returned when the shield, sans warrior, is returned to its place.

Darkness falls in the room outside. Carl reappears at the opening with Alfred close behind. The pair stand chewing insulation. Alfred glances over his shoulder at the spots of crimson on the floor, shudders, and digs into his meal of fiberglass with affected vigor. Carl's mastication, however, slows. He looks across the tangled wad at his companion. “I can't do this anymore,” he says.

“What? Can't do what anymore?” Alfred does a nervous 180 of his surroundings and resumes chewing.

“I can't stand here and smell peanut butter while I chew fiberglass. I'm going out.”

“But Carl, remember what happened to Brownie? Brownie never came back.”

“That's what I mean,” Carl mutters out of the side of his mouth as he gnaws a spot two or three millimeters from the tip of his tail. “I'm going where Brownie went. Where the peanut butter is.”

“No, Carl, no!” Alfred pleads, closing his eyes and dropping his chin to his chest. “Remember Billy. Remember Brownie. For god's sakes, Carl, please don't leave me here alone...” But when he turns to gauge his companion's reaction, no one is there.


“I will not think about peanut butter. I will NOT think about peanut butter,” Alfred chants like a mantra as he retreats into the shadowy recesses of the insulated wall.


  1. Please note I have enabled anonymous comments here. Instead of a laborious registration, under Select Profile, you can now choose "Anonymous". (You can still sign your name to your comment if you choose.)

    Apologies to those who previously tried to leave comments and couldn't. Have an awesome Year of the Tiger.

  2. I like it. You should do one abou there wifes.

  3. You're right. The community I've portrayed might find procreation a challenge.