Fiction by Mary C. Leonard
I miss writing to you even though you do not write back. I don’t need you to write back, not even a note, only to know you have been here. For three days you came to my college apt., trying to fix what I thought could never be fixed. I had tried stopping the swish by jiggling the toilet handle. Even you didn’t fix what was broken, but you left behind a box labeled Valve, indicating that you tried. I thanked you in an email. You didn’t write back. You didn’t even text me! But you did answer by doing. You emptied the trash.
I was thinking that I could live with the intermittent swishing noises, but I sent you another polite email telling you what the English Department Director told me. He said he knows a thing or two about practical matters as well as Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. What he said for this problem, what he said, what his diagnosis was . . . but you know this. You never wrote back, but on the third day you came again to my apt. When I returned from my classes, it was silent, as silent as living inside the Ramon Crater where all noise disappears. Maybe you have not been to the Ramon Crater, but trust me, it is as silent as death. I waited a minute or two for the swish, swish. It was gone.
I know our relationship is over. I will never see you or know that you have been here. My apt. is as silent as you. I’ve accepted that. This will be my last email. I do promise. I do promise I will be silent.
Dear B and G,
It’s me again–another summer at the college and in the same faculty apt. Although we haven’t met, you will recognize my email address. After last summer’s running toilet incident, I know I said I would be silent, but you probably knew better.
I realize you have placed the electrical ultrasound devices in all the outlets in every room to send mice in a different direction. However, dorm mice must have embraced ultrasound.
I knew one was present when I saw droppings in the bathtub. Was he bathing for the hard day ahead? I believe my mouse is an overworked male because I’ve observed his pattern. He arrives from the direction of the kitchen which borders the outside hallway. (There are no droppings in the kitchen, which indicates that this is his primary route.) He arrives between 8:25 and 8:45 every night. I think this is his path after exiting Metro North from the city. He scurries quickly along the baseboard in the living room, and the first time I saw him, he disappeared into the hall closet. I emailed you and you came the next day and set up a trap in the closet. But he is very smart and never went in that direction again.
I suspect he’s an IT worker coming home late every night to his family, hungry and harried from his life in a small cubicle, crouched over his computer all day, and now scurrying to a small space under the stairs. I understand that mice can fit in holes as slim as a pencil! I read too that it might be good to fill up all holes with steel wool. I might suggest steel wool, or those peppermint packets? I know you’ve already set another trap near the stairway. It was a perfectly engineered box so I wouldn’t have to witness the dead mouse. That was very considerate of you, but my roommate kicked it by mistake and set off the trap.
I know you were here today while I was teaching. You are always so efficient and you were very sweet to deliver the wonderful mint packets. What a great smelling household deodorizer! Even if they don’t deter the mouse, the apt. seems refreshed.
I spoke to the English Department Director and he said there is no money for extermination. So, I will have to accept Mr. Mouse, the overworked IT worker. Maybe someone on Wall Street will recognize his worth and give him a raise? Then he can move into the President’s house across the road next summer. Anyway, I will be leaving soon, and yes, I will discard all the garbage I have refrigerated but I won’t throw out the trap.
Once again, I am sorry we have not met and apologize for giving you these extra tasks. I appreciate our consistent email exchange and all the work you have done to make my stay more comfortable. I feel as if you care.
I am sure I will be in touch next summer.
It’s me again. Another summer. I wish we could be in touch during the year, but I love our summer letters.
Today I swam in Lake Mansfield. It was cold, but after a day of teaching, just right. Everything is wonderful here in the apt., too. You even covered the old ratty sofas in white blankets. If I squint, it looks like The Pottery Barn.
My roommate and I lounge on the separate sofas across the room from each other and plan. Tonight, the question is: Should we start our workshops with a poem about names? We love one by Patricia Smith. Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah. Should I leave a copy for you?
I realize I still don’t know your name, and it must sound impolite to call you BG. I feel as if I am reducing you to your occupation and wish I knew even your first name. Mine is Beatrice.
I thought you might warm to my next request if I said, “Hello, I’m Beatrice.” We are freezing in here! The air conditioning seems to be stuck at 68. The temperature cannot go any higher. I hemmed and hawed about contacting you, because what if you want to turn the air conditioning off? Would I return after teaching to a sauna, a sweatbox, an airless cave? I don’t want that. Right now I am under a down comforter I brought along to put on top of the mattress so I could soften the blow of sleeping on what feels like the wood floor, or maybe even worse, the ground. Indoor camping? Is that what we should do next year? Camping? What about the ticks, the poison ivy, the dark?
I’m a city girl and the one time I went camping, it was so dark, I felt buried alive. The wolves were howling. I swear. I jumped out of the pup tent and ran to the car–it was the days of plastic seats and cigarette lighters. The plastic was comforting, really, and I kept the lighter going all night. Of course I did not chain smoke!
So, what was I saying? Yes, could you fix the air conditioner, and if you would or could leave a note with your name? Maybe I could leave you some nice cold beer. At home, I live around the block from a brewery. Old Capitol is my favorite. I know I am getting carried away!
Just zip through reading this email to this: I would appreciate your checking to see if you can get this place a wee bit warmer? Thanks. I know you care and will try.
My roommate is telling me we have to get back to planning. A naming poem would be best for the first week, right?