Previous “Mouse” postings can be found here.
Mouse Goes to Town
It’s a hot morning and the bugs are already thick and buzzing as I walk toward town to buy clothes for Tom so that he’ll blend in better. I told him not to shave because with his buzz cut and shaven face he screams military. His response was: “I have done this before, you know. Without you. And survived.” I grinned at his accent and staccato words. He just cocked an eyebrow. Cute as hell, but I knew he would be offended if I told him that.
The strange men in town don’t blend in, but I suspect they don’t care. They watch everyone. Me they barely give a glance to, except to look at my legs in my cut-off jean shorts. I pop into the café, buy an iced vanilla latte to go, and continue along. I see Sandra near the Mountain View motel. She has her hair in a ponytail and has purchased cheap gas station sunglasses, but in her shiny boots and crisp designer jeans, she doesn’t look like the other women in town.
I dart into the bus depot to where the lockers stand in the far corner. I dial in the combination, grab one of the envelopes, the blue and yellow purse, and my Mountaineers baseball cap, which I plop on my head. Making sure that no one is watching me, I remove the thick wad of cash from the envelope, put the money and the other id card into my wallet and then leave for the feed store where I noticed on a previous visit they carried a small assortment of men’s clothing, just the type that most of the men in town wear.
Once back on the street with my purchases tucked into my knapsack, I’m startled by one of the military men who steps right in front of me, blocking my path. I squint up at him.
“What’s going on, Cowboy?” I ask, putting on the West Virginia drawl that I’ve practiced.
“You live here?”
“In the feed store?” I smirk.
“In this town.”
“Yeah. Not right in town, but outside. Why?”
He leans an arm against the brick outside of the feed store. “You seen any one who doesn’t belong in town?”
“Besides you? And that guy over there? And him?” I point toward the other soldiers.
He glances in the directions I’ve pointed. “Yes, besides them.”
“I saw some dudes parked outside Mount Zion. They don’t live here. Are you invading us?” I end on a high note hoping he might think I’m about to cause a scene. “Is this like a military operation? Are there zombies or something?”
“Calm down,” he says.
“Are we going to be under quarantine? Like in that movie where all of those people died because of the monkey? Is that what’s going on ?”
I have attracted an audience of passing townspeople now, some of whom gasp. They look around, as if finally acknowledging the military men in our midst.
“What’s going on?” An older man asks.
“We’re going to be under quarantine. There’s some disease,” A plump woman with red-cheeks says. “I’ve got to get home.”
During this minor panic, I continue on my way, unnoticed, smiling inside.