birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Did I ever see it?

I can’t remember what kind of rodent it was, but it was something you wouldn’t want in your house.

It was probably a rat. I think it was a rat. And so I don’t know if I ever saw it or if I was always seeing it. A quick whip of a tail in the periphery, fleshy, bare, pinkish. The idea of ridges or bands, did I see that? Should I turn to see it or try to not see it? A scurrying dark thing or a spot on my glasses?

It made itself known when it destroyed a couple of ripe pears I had laid out to eat eat, which I had discovered one cold morning. Beautiful pears that were more than nibbled. One was nearly consumed. A tiny mouse couldn’t eat that much. Were there more?

There was a mess to clean up as if the pears did not agree with it. There were tooth and claw marks on a hard winter squash. I had hoped it was a mouse, which was still a disgusting invasion. Did I hear a noise in the closet? I didn’t want to clean the closet. I secured all foodstuffs and disinfected all surfaces. Did I think I was going to starve it? And then who wants a dead skinny rodent hidden in their dismal apartment? I wore boots around the house and made sure to close my bedroom door at night. Or, should I have left it open?

But where did it come from? That dark apartment was mostly subterranean. Why was I living there? It was a cold expanse, a holding tank with low ceilings and compromised windows. It had been getting colder and colder.

I lived in misery for a little too long, first being too busy, horrified, and then embarrassed that perhaps an untidy closet had beamed up a large hungry rodent. But I eventually called my landlord and then was terrified that it was all worse than I thought.

The Net

Wild Animals I Have Known