Four-Page Exercise #1

Title: Mouse Himself in Action

**Author’s Note: I like trying stories like this, where there is a bit of overlap in timeline and a shift in perspective. I italicized the middle section where we are privy to the junior henchman’s thoughts, but I sometimes feel like that is cheating, like you should be able to tell what’s going on by the writing itself without the visual style cue of italics. But I don’t know. Some pretty great authors have played around with how text looks, so maybe it can work. I tried it here anyway. Also, I’m not entirely sure why so many stories I write have such violence in them. I haven’t been in a fight since 1983 and I abhor real-life violence of any sort, so who knows what’s going on in my brain? But ultimately, who cares? Destruction in art is actually creation. Which is why it is almost always wrong-headed to shame people for making “dark” art. So they carry some darkness — who doesn’t? But they are addressing their destructive thoughts and feelings by creating. It’s a beautiful thing. Thus endeth the sermon. 🙂 **

Mouse pulled off a boot and then sat on the edge of the bed, exhausted. He would take the other boot off in due time. He needed to breathe and do nothing. Like that. Perfect.

“Martin?” his mother sang from the other room. She had her domestic voice on. He knew she was wearing her apron with the flowers. Could he smell the meat yet? He thought maybe he could.

“Yes, mother?”

“Have you taken your boots off yet?”

Mouse looked down at his one remaining engineer’s boot. Dusty. Blood on the sole, dried.

“Yes, sorry. What did you need?”

“Oh, that’s okay. I just wanted you to take the trash out.”

“I can do that, hold on a second.”

“Oh, thank you dear Marvelous Martin McMan!” Giggles.

Mouse slipped the right boot back on and lifted his foot to look at the bottom. Fuck. Dried blood on that sole too. He wondered when he had stopped tracking blood, and where.

He stood, grunting, hand to his ribs to pack them in. He was pretty sure one was at least cracked. Maybe two.

“Bring in some Diet Coke from the garage if you don’t mind, sweetheart!” his mother yodeled as he passed her.

Outside, Mouse pulled off both boots and tossed them in the trash receptacle, then dropped the bag on top. He hurt all over.


Parthenon likes to call it Watching the Weather. I don’t know why. 

I try to picture his skinny legs beneath his slacks. They must be super thin. I seen them once, but they got to be thinner now. 

“Thing is, Dickie Lee, when we Watch the Weather, we’re learning about each other too,” he says, shifting the rifle on his lap. I fear it will dent his thin thighs, snap them. I wince.

I don’t like it when he calls me “Dickie Lee” instead of “Rickie Lee.” It hurts my feelings, but I can never tell him that. He’ll just do something meaner.

“Oh, it ain’t so bad. I’m not a bad guy to get to know. Killing people ain’t the worst thing you can do, you know. I used to be a school administrator! Talk about evil.”

I don’t know if Parthenon’s cancer diagnosis should make me like him, but I don’t. Even dying, he’s hateful.

“If I had any sense, Dickie, I’d turn this gun on the two of us,” he laughs, and lifts the rifle and holds it out in front of him across his hands like a baby being baptized. “Just put one in your head and then drop one in my own goddamned worthless chest. Hee hee!”

I put my finger on my pistol. His laughs scare me when I know he’s so sick. 

“I’d be doing me a favor, obviously — but also you, softhead. You want to wait around to be eat up with fucking cancer or some other fucking primitive plague? Nah. You may THINK you want that, but trust me, if I knew I was going to go this way, I would have wished for it to come years ago. Why put it off? I always did eat my least favorite vegetables first. Turns out there was no reason to make myself eat ’em at all. Haha! Life! Oh, and believe me, if I decided to go all murder/suicide here, that pistol you’re clutching like an old lady’s pocketbook would only make me angry. I might put one in your guts and make you dig your grave while you bleed out.”

I don’t understand all of what he is saying, but I feel the hate and it makes me sad. The front door across the street opens and there’s Mouse, looking tired. 

“Martin Mouse,” says Parthenon. “In the flesh. In action. In his REAL action, taking out the trash. That’s all he’s good for. Because he IS trash.”

“Now?” I ask. I can hear my own breathing like I’m listening to a shell at the beach.

“No, stupid. Garrett told us to watch first, to see what we can learn. Watching the Weather ain’t just about pulling the trigger, you mule. Fuck. And I thought I was the one with the brain rot. Pay attention.”

We watch Mouse stop by the trash bin and look at the bottom of one boot, then the other. He sets the bag down by his right foot and slips off his left boot and tosses it in the can. He steadies himself on the porch railing and does the same with his right. Then he tosses in the bag. He closes the can and walks back to the house.

“Hot damn,” Parthenon husks. “Roll me across there.”

I get behind his chair and wish for a truck to happen by so I can roll him in front of it.

“You wear your stupid thoughts so openly I can feel you hating me from behind, you oaf. You push me into traffic and I’ll turn this rifle on you before I’m pulverized. The last thing I’ll see before the grill of a truck mushes my handsome face is the big dumb gape on yours as I pump four of these copper jackets in your broad dumb chest.”

When we make it safely across the street, Parthenon has me remove the bag and the boots from the receptacle. I don’t know why we need the bag and say so.

“We don’t, you dumb fuck. But you had to remove it to get to the boots. Jesus. Hand them here.”

I hand him the boots. “I’ll be damned,” Parthenon breathes.


“This blood on the bottom. That would do him. Garrett said we don’t have to kill him, long as we can find something to send him away.”

“So this counts!” I am excited and relieved. “We don’t got to kill him then. Awesome!”

“Stupid as usual, DICKie. Of course we don’t HAVE to, but what kind of henchman are you anyway? Garrett doesn’t have to know about these boots. Toss ‘em back in there and put that bag back on top of ‘em. We’ll be doing Garrett a favor, trust me. You’re too water-headed to Watch the Weather properly, but that’s why you have me, at least for now. Gods know what the fuck you’re gonna do when I kick it. But nevermind that. Wheel me over there and carry me and my chariot up on the porch and ring the doorbell. In THAT order, ape.”


“Who could that be?” Mouse was ready to eat, and now someone was at the door.

Fuck. He was always hungry after a job, and he suddenly couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten. He was surprised his blood sugar hadn’t dropped in the middle of the job.

Let me make a call, Fortner had begged from his knees. Just one. My daughter is in–Mouse put pistol against his temple and pulled the trigger. Jeanine had gasped.

“What?” he had said. “Fortner didn’t even have a daughter. He was lying. Who cares what he was going to say?”

“I just wasn’t ready,” she had laughed. “At least the brains missed me this time.” She pointed at the door to her left at the gore dripping and running. Mouse sighed. He was so tired. “Yes, at least,” he said.

Mouse winced at the memory, at the absence of Jeanine.

“At least supper is ready,” laughed his mother as she walked to the front door. “I’ll just send whoever it is away, and we can eat. I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”

“Hold on a second before you open that,” Mouse began, but he was too late. He could hear the smile in his mother’s voice as clearly as he could next hear her confusion at the sight of the guns and a man in a wheelchair.

“May I help you?” she asked, and Parthenon opened fire from his chair. Mouse’s mother fell to the floor, and Mouse sprang from his seat.

“We ain’t got no reason not to do this,” Rickie Lee drawled. Just before he lifted his pistol, Mouse saw that the oaf was crying.

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