‘Mouses’ by Thom Jones

Mouses by Thom Jones, 1997

The magic trick:

Taking the narrator from normal to deranged through a very logical decline

Things start very normal here. Our narrator is having a tough time at work and, what’s worse, he suspects mice have invaded his home. Easy to picture. Easy to relate to.

It’s his responses to these problems that are a little odd. He’s paranoid, obsessive. He starts training an army of mice. It’s never crazy, though, in the story. His descent into the crazy follows a disturbingly logical pattern. The greater result when you look at it is pretty insane. But it kind of makes sense along the way. It’s a cool, steady way to create a magical realism effect. And that’s quite a trick on Jones’s part.

The selection:

I stopped at the supermarket for some Advil and asked a stocker where the mousetraps were. Evidently, there’d been a run on rodent traps. “Cold weather,” he said.

I said, “You haven’t been selling rat traps?”

“Rat traps, yeah, sold a few,” he said, pointing them out. They were huge rectangular slabs of pinewood with monstrous springs and rectangular clap bars made of heavy-gauge metal. Big enough to snag a Shetland pony.

“Whoa, man!” I said. “I hope I don’t need one of those.”

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