“Dave Is Dead,” the sequel to “The Sad and Improbable Story of Mousey Connexion,” was published in Geist 71. 1 MOUSEY IS DEAD
Mousey is dead—but perhaps you saw that coming. I was told after the fact, by a friend who’d heard something. I don’t know and I don’t want to know exactly how it happened. I guess it wasn’t a huge shock to those who knew her, but it is still sad (the absence of shock makes it sadder).
2 THE MOUSEY CONNECTION
Her real name was Emily. I’m not sure what her last name was—maybe something plain and English, like Banks or Barrett, I don’t know. She had red hair and often looked like she’d been caught in the rain; she was not tall, and she had sharp features in the way suggested by her alias. I never asked why or wherefore the assumed name, and was never told.
3 MEETING MOUSEY
It was a loft party—a semi-professional rent party. I was tending bar for the first half of the evening (after which I could drink and make an ass of myself), and served many drinks to her and her boyfriend Dave, who introduced us. After my shift I enjoyed a few cocktails; toward the end of the evening I was approached by Jonah.
4 MOUSEY WANTS TO DANCE
Jonah asked if I would dance with Mousey. His exact words were: Spin her around the ol’ floor. Dave was incapacitated by malt liquor and apparently Mousey felt lonely—I see now that Jonah was a bit of a devil. What the hell, I grab Mousey and start swinging her around. Fine. She is drunk, and has a hard time keeping her balance, but she’s laughing. (Fine.)
5 DAVE HITS MOUSEY
So. Flushed and drunk and a little bit spinning from the dance, I don’t notice mean-faced Dave approaching red-eyed, nor does Mousey, which is too bad because the sonofabitch hits her and yes, there is a commotion, and he’s off and down the stairs before I can hit him back (which I feel like doing).
6 MOUSEY IS DISTRAUGHT
Mousey is very upset, and has a spot of blood beneath her retroussé nose. If there had been a band playing they would have stopped and shifted their feet a bit, but instead we hear Louis Prima’s foggy meditations on the state of romance by the Jersey Shore. Mousey yells Fucker! I find the whole scene colourful and cinematic. I feel important.
7 DAVE AND MOUSEY: ROCK STARS
Yes, Dave and Mousey are rock stars. Well, not stars in the press release/autograph sense, but definitely rock stars in the self-destructive, booze/drugs, wailing siren sense. It’s Dave’s band, the two share lead vocals. Fuelled by pills and gin, they swagger/love/limp/hate through every song. It is high-quality rock’n’roll drama.
8 MOUSEY WALKS ME HOME
So, Mousey is understandably upset. We (the party-goers) are gathered outside on the sidewalk, releasing steam into the winter night. I am walking north, so too are a few of my friends. So too, it would appear, is Mousey. She continues to be upset, drunk blotchy-faced upset, and she won’t stop talking. One by one my friends drift down side streets.
9 A BED FOR MOUSEY
There are three of us now: me, Mousey and Sam. Sam knows Mousey pretty well and she is a woman, so I hope she will take control of the situation. Mousey doesn’t think she can go home, Sam already has company and I have an extra room—Mousey enthusiastically agrees with Sam’s suggestion. And that is how I end up with Mousey Connexion as a house guest.
10 A BED FOR MOUSEY II
It is not easy putting Mousey to bed. She wants a glass of water and then another pillow. Then she wants a bedtime story. I don’t have much that qualifies as bedtime reading so I read a couple of Kafka’s parables. Then she wants another glass of water. It is as though a niece has come to stay with me in the city. I don’t know what to do.
11 A BED FOR MOUSEY III
Then she wants a hug, and she wants me to lie down beside her during the hug. This I know to be un-niecely behaviour; this is how damaged rock stars behave. I say no many times and she keeps turning on the light after I turn it off. Eventually I go to bed. Like in the movies, she is not there in the morning when I take coffee to her.
12 MOUSEY LEAVES HER JACKET
Mousey leaves her jacket in my apartment, prolonging our little drama for at least another afternoon (Dave and Mousey are the stars of the show; I’m no more than a walk-on). She calls and we agree that it is not a good idea to tell Dave (not tell him what?), and she says she will come by for the jacket later. She does, and leaves me a note.
13 MOUSEY’S NOTE The note charmed me. It was beautiful. I read it again and again. I was glad when she called. 14 (A WORD ON DAVE)
I’d known Dave for a year. Self-destructive, embittered, womanizer, perpetual drunk, half-redeemed by flashes of oblique charm and arresting talent. I got along with Dave because we occasionally found ourselves in the same bitter/drunk/absurd frame of mind and didn’t mind getting beaten up for it. He mumbled an apology between sets, but I couldn’t forgive him for hitting little Mousey.
15 MOUSEY NEEDS HELP
Mousey was having more trouble. This time she really needed a place to live. I think she might have had a notion of moving in with me, as a real roommate, but I quickly made sure that that was not an option. Subdued panic seemed to be one of Mousey’s standard running speeds, so after I calmed her down I agreed to help her find an apartment.
16 MOUSEY AT THE CAFÉ
Hello Miss Connexion. She likes it when I call her this. Hey mister. The place is nearly empty, a Tuesday afternoon. There is a book on the table, different shades of blue, Cyrillic lettering. Mousey tells me she spent some time in Russia and that she can read Russian. I am surprised and ask her why and when. You might say she ignores the question; instead she begins talking about the book, as if that’s what I asked her about. No mention of apartments.
17 MOUSEY’S FAVOURITE BOOK
Mousey says: It’s called Kwaktiuk the Hero and it’s my favourite story. Oh, I love this book. It’s about this young fellow in the north of Russia, and he loves a girl, and some classmates are mean to him, and he just wants to eat dumplings with the girl, whose name is Irena, and then they all go on a camping trip and he saves the girl from thin ice, and the girl’s mother insists he come over for dinner and so he’s eating dumplings and loves it so much he doesn’t notice the girl is really just embarrassed. Look at the drawings. They’re wonderful.
18 MOUSEY USES THE PHONE
From there, in that empty Tuesday afternoon café, Mousey made six appointments to see apartments. Not exactly a regular in the practical world, she was absolutely thrilled by this practical progress. So thrilled that she insisted I take Kwaktiuk the Hero as a gift. I tried to tell her that:
a) I hadn’t really done anything
b) I didn’t read Russian
c) It was her favourite book.
But she wouldn’t listen.
19 MOUSEY AND A JAPANESE MAN
So I would see Mousey at events, after shows, occasionally, randomly. She didn’t seem to enjoy it any more when I called her Miss Connexion—maybe she was angry that she’d given me her favourite book. She moved in with a Japanese guy who didn’t speak much English—he might’ve been an architecture student, or a private businessman. I had trouble hearing her tiny voice over the music.
20 DAVE AT THE BAR
Not infrequently I ended up on a bar stool next to Dave. This was okay because then we could order the special and split the price. He never ever mentioned Mousey (before she moved east, he’d always always mentioned Mousey), and I wasn’t about to. Frankly, I was a little hurt that she no longer called, no longer needed my help. She’d made me feel masculine and competent, like a real gent. Imagine that.
21 MOUSEY DIES
I left the city, the country, the continent. I’d been gone for almost two years when I found out that Mousey had died. It made me sad, pretty damn sad. I know that unlike certain inspirational stories heard on afternoon TV a person doesn’t always climb out of the life they fall into. Whatever the facts, and perhaps unfairly (though not without tenderness and ache), I imagine Mousey’s death as a suicide—at least a form of suicide.
22 MOUSEY’S FAVOURITE BOOK
I look again at the pictures.
Page 3, Kwaktiuk looking through the icy distance at his schoolmates, how Irena seems separate from the mean crowd.
Page 6, Kwaktiuk walking home from school in the darkness, surrounded by stars.
Page 11, Kwaktiuk stretching a calm hand across the ice to the shivering Irena.
Page 12, Kwaktiuk glowing with his own minor heroism, thinking he’s changed the world, his own world, for a moment.
Page 15, Kwaktiuk expecting thanks from the world, hoping, waiting for a little gratitude.
I think of poor Kwaktiuk, waiting somewhere, still waiting in some spare and drafty room held together by cables, as clouds of methylated breath gather in the corners. Poor Kwaktiuk.