Mouse, p.1Brian Reynolds
Copyright 2012 Brian Reynolds
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Cover: Brian Reynolds
Table of Contents
About Brian Reynolds
I'm sorry. Ever Canadian, but I'm serious, eh.
Paper would have been more fun. (The upside is more trees, more oxygen, less carbon.) I couldn’t do it.
I don’t speak Cree. There's a glossary of Cree words at the end. I hope Cree speakers (if any see this) will forgive my efforts.
I’m truly sorry if my awkward use of dialect seems offensive to anyone at all. It was my experience long ago that broken-English made learning harder for first-language Cree students. My point was about competence not intelligence or any racial or cultural slander.
I apologize for any confusion stemming from the fact I’ve done some art and some teaching. This is a novel not a memoir, and I’m sorry if you wanted a memoir. Any resemblance to persons living or dead can be presumed to be coincidental.
Finally I apologize to the people of Fort Albany and Kasheshawan, Ontario. I shamelessly moved your buildings and your flood and your geography to fit my story. I had no intent of telling your story or taking words out of your mouth. I recognize you can speak for yourselves eloquently. This is the tale of a white outsider. It needed to come out of me. If it came out in any way offensive, I’m deeply sorry. No offense was intended.
There. I feel much better already.
What if... What if I don’t stop typing this time? What will happen if I just talk to you, if this time I resist the temptation to yank the paper through the roller, wad it up, squeeze it into a ball, and arc it toward the wastebasket? What if I ignore my errors and pretend the embarrassing parts are things that you’d forgive me? I'll keep writing this, no matter what. I’ll stop hoping each new sheet might magically become the story that you’ll want to hear instead of the one I need to tell you. I won’t start over. I’m finished littering our floor. I’ll close my ears to the maddening, mocking ping the second-hand Underwood Five makes at the end of every line.
Then let’s just see what happens. First off, you should know I’m not much use with words, Mouse. This is probably not my brightest idea but I’m going to try; I’ll take an honest swing at it. At least I owe you that. I’m not that good at history either, but in a way that’s what I’m aiming for—to make some kind of record for you. But just for you. This will only be the way I saw it, just my version, so it may turn out to be more fiction that fact, more story than history, more lie than truth. I can't help you there. Sometime in the future, the day you’re reading this, I imagine it won't be easy sorting out what’s real from what I'll maybe coat with sugar. Right now it’s me against the Underwood Five—its hopeful ping against my wholly un-railway-like clickety-click, pause, clack, longer pause, awkward shove of the carriage. We’ll fight it out and see who wins. (We’ll see if I can stumble past this page at least, okay?) I just want you to know this isn’t easy, but I’m determined, for you, to try. In my mind there isn’t any imaginary audience waiting in some bookstore for David Taylor’s autograph. There is only one small Mouse, as yet too young to read or understand. Just you.
Three days ago I went to Grand and Toy and bought a ream of paper, a couple ribbons, and a bottle of whiteout. I thought I’d write this down before the colours start to fade. I had no idea, still have no idea, if it’s going to be a thesis or a letter or a dreary memoir. It’s supposed to be a simple explanation. You deserve that. Or maybe, I just wish I could take you there. I wish you could have seen it all somehow. I want to do what I’ve never done well: turn the pictures in my brain into words for you. I want to do what Dr. Kaminski always told us anyone, a child, he said, is capable of doing. “Tell your own story,” he’d say after pulling up his pant legs and draping his fat butt onto the edge of his desk and straightening his tie. Then he’d light his pipe again. He’d laugh at this. I’d deserve it I suppose. He’d probably say the pile of litter I’ve been constructing one spoiled sheet of bond, one imaginary free throw at a time, he’d say that was a lot more interesting than what I’m typing now. He’d say this justified what he did to me back then: failing me. Of course, he said I’d failed him and failed myself—no matter what the consequence. Consequences were not his thing. His thing was English Composition 201, which in turn was my worst nightmare and, ultimately, the hinge that opened everything for both of us, I guess. That’s right, Mouse, without Kaminski’s red fountain pen, you wouldn’t be.
So I’ll just keep typing—Kaminski and Underwood Five notwithstanding.
I should start with today. It's May 13, 1981 a date that won't mean much to you, one you'll have no reason to remember in your future. I’m the ripe old age of 34 but not for long. I'm just about to turn the clocks back to a time before you were born. Four years ago. Four springs. If I close my eyes I can smell the crisp, damp air of Orkney Post, hundreds and hundreds of miles from here. I hear the thunder of the ice. I’m there. Come with me, Mouse. I can feel the chill of the north wind. Feel it. Taste it. It’s 1977, Friday, May 13, four springs ago, four years exactly. Ping!
Mouse by Brian Reynolds / History & Fiction have rating 3.9 out of 5 / Based on39 votes