Stuffed animal mouse.

Sometimes I Just Want to Be a Field Mouse

I know I would only get to live a few years, and that life would be a struggle, but when I see a fallow field on a golden afternoon, I can’t help thinking that I’d rather be nibbling on corn kernels than writing a report; or attending class; or doing chores; or sitting in a meeting; or cleaning up after someone; or just generally thinking about all those things and how none of them are going to be done very well. And if I’d rather be hiding in tall grass looking for seeds, listening for snakes, and squeaking with my mouse family, I probably don’t want to be a person at that point. Might as well make me an adorable rodent; might as well send me to the field mice.

I’d gather my food and join my siblings around the old mouse-family spool-table, decked with lost buttons for plates and old thimbles for mugs. We’d sit on packing peanuts and tell high-pitched stories about the cloud that looked like a hawk and the cat sleeping under the tractor. Mama Mouse would admonish us to sit still and stop scratching the packing peanuts. Little Sister Mouse would jump up every now and then to act out ballet moves she learned at her dance class with Ms. Cricket. Papa Mouse, whiskers akimbo, would sigh wearily and warn us mouselings that if we don’t eat, our teeth will grow as long as our heads, and our noses will cease to twitch. (We won’t believe him.) A falcon would fly by and we’d dive under some leaves. It would all be very cozy.

Don’t get me wrong—I know mice don’t have pleasant daydreams like that. They’re too busy gnawing on their favorite strings or freshening their dens with newly fallen pine needles; they don’t bother with useless thoughts like what’s beyond the nearby haystacks or how nice it would be to have a little box to sleep in. They have a short, brutish life full of bluegrass jams and visiting cousins. I don’t really want to be one of them, of course.

But how exciting it must be to wonder what might lie behind the chicken coop today; how comforting it must be to hear the imperceptible paw-falls of unseen furry friends amid the drying stalks. Each day to the field mouse must seem like some astonishing, familiar story about sniffing for food and scrambling out of sight—hunt and hide, find and taste, and alternately be delighted and terrified. It’s not unlike being a real child: everything is new and has a chance to be amazing or scary.

So I’d enjoy gnawing on sassafras roots or scavenging the old barn for a few morsels of forgotten oats. I’d love to tell my friends tales of scurrying between the foolish dog’s legs and finding an old slice of green pepper by the pig sty. I’d play in the drainage pipe and climb through berry bushes. I’d be so small that no one would notice me, or ask me to write memos, or send me meeting invitations with the words “agenda to come.” I could say: Sorry, boss. I have to scrounge in the harvest field and then pick up the latest model of spool-table on the way back to the family burrow. I may be owl poop next week—no time to waste on useless things.

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