Lunch in Keene, NY
Nice Day for a Drive

The Fate of Mice

Left to his own devices, my husband David Hartwell tends to create workspaces resembling those of the Wizard Merlin: towering, teetering piles of interesting things with narrow paths to walk through. His piles are legendary, though the really epic ones precede me: in the olden days when helping David clean up, at the bottom of one of his piles one might find a Medieval codex, or a first edition of Henry James's The Golden Bowl, or an uncashed $7,000 check. (I mostly run a tighter ship than that.)

I long since gave up on the idea of sharing an office space with him. My own Mission-Control/multiplex home office is in the dining room.

A few years back, David's mother was considering moving into an assisted living facility and we tried to convince her to come stay with us for an extended period of time. We put a bed in David's office, which is across the hall from the bathroom, and cleaned it almost all the way up. She died of a stroke that fall, but the bed remained in David's office, mostly unused, though I think someone slept there for one night thereafter.

Predictably, over time David gave that bed the Merlin treatment and so eventually it became hard to see that there was a bed there at all. I let him have his own space and he kept the cats out, and in the mean time we have edited another six or seven anthologies, and the materials involved in their production are still in his office.

So this afternoon, I was prowling through his office in search of something-or-other when I noticed little piles of cat food peeking out from beneath the books and papers. Mice. I investigated further and discovered the bed in the cat-free space of his office had become the scene of a Mouse Festival.

I peeled away the layers of books, papers, magazines, and discovered in the midst of the major mouse nest -- as though laid out for mousy bedtime reading -- a copy of our friend Susan Palwick's book The Fate of Mice; it has a cat on the cover. Apparently, the fate of certain mice in our household was to have their own utopia, well-stocked with catfood and breadcrusts, in their own bed in their own room, in David's offices where the cats are not allowed.

The mouse utopia is currently a pile of bedding out on the screened porch which I shall shake out in the morning. But mouse lives are short, and it appears that a few generations lead a very good life.