Harrison Kim

The March Selected Writer is Harrison Kim

Please feel free to email Harrison at: kdharrison@live.ca


by Harrison Kim

A tiny voice squeaked behind my ear. “Your lost keys are behind the woodpile.”  

I stared up at the cracked cabin ceiling as the room swirled. 

“Behind the woodpile,” the voice chittered.

I reached for my rum bottle.

“Hey, take a shot for me,” said the voice.

“Who are you?” I could barely speak. I quaffed down a big gulp of the alcohol.

“I’m one of the mice,” said the voice. “The cousin of the one you freed, O merciful Jackson.”

“A mouse,” I slurred. “How do you know my name?”

“We read your mail, my friend,” said the tiny voice. “Before we eat it.”

Then I noticed the little head poking out from behind my coffee stained pillow. As soon as I looked, it disappeared. I sat up. My head pounded. I held my cranium in both hands. 


A couple of dozen little rodents lived in the walls of my current home, a deteriorating orchard picker’s cabin in the Okanagan Hills. They scrabbled under the floorboards, in the walls, and they skittered over my butter dish and ate my porridge oats. 

I put out live traps, and yesterday, after I’d pulled back a couple of rum, a sallow grey animal lay quivering in one trap. I had a glow on and couldn’t bring myself to throw the tiny creature outside in the freezing winter. So I set it free. Then I lost my keys as I staggered around arranging my equipment for tomorrow’s tree pruning. 

I answered the tiny vice. “The keys are behind the woodpile, eh?” 

I pushed myself out of bed and crawled across the freezing room to light the stove. Sure enough, my keys lay behind several blocks of wood.

“Wow, thanks!” I said out loud.

I recalled tiny feet moving along the back of my neck during the night. That was real. But mice don’t talk. I thought about that as I worked all day, pruned bare branched apple trees under January skies.

“Could be just the rum,” I mused. “Between dream and reality. Maybe I subconsciously knew where my keys were.”

I walked wearily back to the cabin after my day’s labor, and set up my painting easel. I hadn’t taken it out for months. I felt tired, but also inspired. I’d draw that little creature I’d imagined.

I opened a bottle of wine, and looked at the empty canvas. Then I started to sketch a mouse head.  I drank a lot, and drew a little. I heard a movement over by the kitchen area, walked over and saw another mouse in the live trap. This one was a mottled grey color.

“Do you talk?” I asked. 

The mouse cowered in the box. 

“I could use some genuine friends,” I said, lifting up the trap. “Ones that won’t betray me.”

The mouse skittered out, and darted across the floor. 

“This time,” I asked, “Could you ask your English speaking doppelganger to find my odd socks?”

I laughed and took another swig of rum. I’d have to go to town tomorrow and buy some more. I didn’t like being around people, but sometimes it became unavoidable. I finished some more drawing and went to bed.


That night, I awakened to feel familiar tiny feet skitter across my sleeping bag. I stayed still, half asleep. The feet stopped right on top of my head. I opened my eyes. Like the previous night, the room-rum swirled again.

“Thanks for setting another of our sisters free,” announced the squeaky voice. “We appreciate your mercy.”

“You’re welcome,” I mumbled, then giggled. “What’s your name, is it Mickey?”

“My name is Souris,” said the voice. He sounded louder than before, and clearer. “You asked about odd socks. But we can help more than that. We know there’s some money in a package under the floorboards. My compatriots have been reading your correspondence and we know you owe people.”

“Yeah,” I mumbled some more. “I have bad debts.”

The mouse pawed my cheek. “It’s under the third plank from the door.” 

I felt something pitterpat over my ear. Then Souris was gone.

I opened my eyes wide. “That’s crazy!” I said out loud as the room swirled again. I got up and took a few aspirin and made myself ready once again to go pruning for the day.

“Is this all there is to life?” I asked myself. “I really have no purpose.”

I took a good look at my mouse sketch from yesterday. I’d concentrated mainly on the pupils of his eyes.

“That’s funny,” I said, looking at my face in the mirror. “I haven’t even seen Souris’s eyes.”

I forced myself out into the snow and pruned six rows of trees, thinking all the time about the tiny voice. At noon I returned, took my crowbar and hammer and kneeled down by the third plank from the door. It didn’t take long to pry the board loose. 

At first, I didn’t perceive anything different underneath. I lay down with the floor at eye level; saw mouse droppings in the hole along with hard, brown dirt. Then I noticed something square wedged further back. I reached for it. 

It was some kind of package wrapped in faded cloth material, a few holes in it here and there. I reached and grabbed it, unzipped the top. A sheaf of twenty dollar bills lay inside. I pulled out at least a few hundred dollars, limp and dusty. 

I got up, feeling light headed, and laid the money on the table and did some more work on the mouse painting, examining the bills from time to time to see if they were counterfeit. All the time I drew, the voice of Souris squeaked through my head. I reached for some peanuts in the cupboard, and noticed far more mouse droppings than usual. They’d eaten a hole in my porridge bag.

I guess the little creatures are hungry, I thought.

That night I took a chunk of cheese out of the fridge and set it carefully on the table with a note: “Thanks, Souris. Eat all you like.”


Before bed, I drained the remainder of my rum. I rubbed the money between my fingers and grinned. “Inspiration,” I said out loud.

I hadn’t been able to work at my art hobby for years, so much on my mind with my divorce, not being able to see my kids, and all the alimony bills. I’d borrowed a lot of money from Murphy Reid, a full-patch biker and loan shark, to pay my child support, and to obtain my alcohol and marijuana. My rusty van broke down and I borrowed a few thousand more off him for another used vehicle. Reid couldn’t reach me by phone. I didn’t have one. I liked it that way.

I sketched out the mouse’s face, paying special attention to the whiskers. Before going to bed, I wrote some more on my note. “Hey, Souris, maybe we could talk tonight?”

It felt funny, but somewhat comforting to think of his friendly voice. People could not be trusted. This mouse, on the other hand, might be a true friend. He looked out for me, because I looked out for him. I’d drive into town and test out the money in the morning.

I didn’t hear anything that night. “Perhaps I wasn’t drunk enough,” I thought as I woke up. I’d only imbibed a couple of rum swallows. I felt let down, but I pocketed the mouse money and wheeled my van down the road to buy more supplies and liquor. I passed Ron Patel, my dreadlocked orchard owner boss, as he picked up his mail.

“Hey, Jackson, some rough looking guy was asking for you,” he said.

“Did you tell him I was at work?”

“You know I wouldn’t do that.” Ron rubbed his long black beard, which was tied with little knots.

“Thanks,” I said.

I hadn’t made any payments to Murphy Reid for awhile.

“I have some mouse traps for you if the little critters are getting too bothersome,” Ron offered. “Stan, the worker last winter, told me they became quite aggressive. He told me they bit him at night.”

“Hasn’t happened to me,” I said. “The little animals are actually good company.”

“Company? Well, be careful,” said Ron. “Stan came down with some kind of Hanta virus.”

“What the hell is that?”

“He kinda turned into a giant mouse. Last time I saw him at the beach, he had grey hair all over his back. When he saw me he ran for his hole.” Then Ron laughed, he guffawed and slapped his knee. “Gotcha,” he said.


I drove into town, musing about the mice. I treated them well, so being bitten wouldn’t be a problem. I pushed some of the found money through Murphy Reid’s trailer letterbox.

“I’ll pay the rest soon,” I wrote on the envelope. “Please be patient.”

Then I bought several bottles of rum and packages of porridge oats, eggs, powdered milk, and slabs of bacon. I looked at the cheese section of the deli. “I’ll get some of this,” I said, “and some of that.” I handed my dusty bills as payment. The store clerk didn’t look twice.

Back at the dilapidated cabin, I quickly made a good fire in the stove. I cooked up some bacon and eggs, and devoured a big meal washed down with plenty of rum. I left my unspent money on the table to count later. I worked at my art, filled in the mouse’s eyes with charcoal, then dropped into bed, awaiting the voice of Souris.

“We are happy you are feeding us,” came the sound, right in my ear and not a whisper now, a soft spoken voice, like a mellow radio announcer. “We very much enjoy your art process.” 

“Oh, yeah,” I replied, my pounding head and nausea somewhat relieved by Souris’ vocal tone.

“We’ve told many of our friends about your hospitality and they are moving here,” the mouse continued. “This is much appreciated.”

“Well,” I said. “That’s sorta good to hear.” 

I’d noticed more droppings everywhere, even in my porridge oats. “Could you tell your friends to be more careful in their bathroom habits?”

“I could tell them,” said Souris. “But mice will be mice.” I could feel his little snout in my earhole. He sounded a bit peevish. “I hope you spent that money wisely.”

“Uh huh,” I said. I felt comforted, with his furry whiskers there. “Can you give me any advice?  I need some life advice.”

“You’ve got to keep drinking,” Souris said. His voice sounded louder now. “Keep with the rum, chum. That is the way to become a true mouse communicator.”

He pulled his snout back. I heard him chitter once or twice. Then he skittered over me and disappeared. I stumbled from my sleeping bag and heaved towards the bathroom. 

“Yeah,” I said to myself. “Keep drinking.”

I went back to bed. Winter light woke me up, and a pounding on the old cabin door.

“Jackson, open up!”

Murphy Reid’s thin, fidgety face showed through the icy windowpane. He was grimacing and holding up my delivered envelope.

“Okay,” I said. The pounding on the door matched the hammer sound in my head. I unlatched the tiny hook.

“Hey, Jackson!” Reid’s skinny frame slipped through the doorway. “Thanks for the money!”

“You’re welcome,” I said.

“But you’re still two payments behind. And you know there’s a vig.”

He handed me a steaming hot cup of coffee. “That’s the carrot,” Reid grinned. “Here’s the stick.”

A large man with puffy hair and a handlebar moustache strutted in. With his dominance walk, he resembled a big tom cat.

“This is Vern,” said Reid.

Vern swung his arms over and grabbed the money I’d left on the table last night. “Partial recompense,” Vern said.

“Hey,” I told him. “I was going to buy more cheese with that.”

I don’t know how that came out. I couldn’t stop myself. 

“Are you a freaking rodent?” said Vern. He poked me in the belly, very hard, then smiled just like his boss, very wide and white-toothed. 

I gagged and sat back in my chair, the breath knocked out of me  .

“You’re lucky” said Reid. “Now you only owe me two thousand bucks.” He smiled sardonically.  “There’s a two hundred dollar vig. For now. Interest is compounded daily.” 

He peered at my mouse sketch on the easel. “Hey man, I hate mice, but you’re talented. I’m an artist myself.” Then he chuckled. “Remember what happened to Van Gogh’s ear? You better bring in the cheese, man.”

Vern chuckled back and the two shakedown guys slipped out the door as fast and slippery as they’d come in.

I took several aspirin after they left, then forced myself out to do more pruning. Ron paid me by the row, and I had to earn more money. I worked efficiently, but couldn’t get the talking mouse out of my head. I could forego my child support payments, and save a bit of cash to pay Reid, or I could ask Souris for advice. One thing I didn’t want was more pokes in the stomach, or a severed organ.

I came back into the cabin to a strong rodent odor. Mouse droppings lay all over the kitchen, and even on my bed. A few mice scampered away from the kitchen area, and I felt tiny eyes watching from the cracks in the walls. I opened my porridge cupboard to see mouse excrement dotted within the burst porridge bag. They’d also got into the bread.

I brushed off a bun and shoved it in the toaster, then jumped to the fridge. At least they hadn’t got in there. I cooked up a bacon and egg sandwich, and drank my rum, while studying my artwork. I needed to shade a little more aggression in Souris’ eyes.

I took out a few of my paints. I pictured a clear image of Souris in my head. As I drank, I heard chittering from under the floorboards. It seemed that the mice were cheering me on as I brushed and shaped the painting. I painted til my hands felt too ill coordinated. I fell into bed without brushing off the mouse droppings.

“You forgot to put the cheese out,” said the loud voice in my ear.

“I’m sorry, Souris,” I mumbled. It was good to feel his muzzle grazing my sideburns, but he sounded demanding. “I’ll do it tonight,” I said.

“Do it before you go to work,” Souris commanded.

“Listen,” I told him. “I need some more money. Are there any more packages under the floorboards?”

I felt Souris moving around. “You’ve been remiss in your tributes this evening, but we can arrange that,” he said. “How much do you need?”

“At least two thousand dollars.”

“That’s going to be a lot of cheese,” Souris said. “I don’t want any more complaints about the droppings.”

“Okay,” I agreed. Then I asked. “Where are all your friends coming from? There certainly are a lot.”

Souris sat on my sideburns and blew into my ear. His breath smelled like plum ice wine. “We come from all the fields and orchards,” Souris said. “From far beyond this cabin. You might call us the winter diaspora.”

“Thanks, Souris,” I said, feeling a bit apprehensive but not wanting to anger him. “I’ll put the cheese out as soon as possible.”


That day, all I could keep in my mind were mice, and the scent of that ice wine. I didn’t go pruning; I stayed and worked at my painting. The whiskers and the nose were coming along fine. 

There’s a lot of detail in a mouse’s sensitive nose.

About mid-morning, I saw a couple of rodents watching me from the kitchen counter.

“Are either of you Souris?” I asked.

They kept staring. I kept painting. When I glanced towards the counter again, the mice were gone, and only a couple of droppings remained.

I turned towards my bed. What were those black lumps on my pillow? Yes, more mice were watching me work. They skittered away as I held out a piece of banana. I went to the fridge and cut off some cheese and a bit of bacon, put it discreetly under the bed, so they could dine in peace.

I swallowed some rum as I worked, but not too much. My ex-wife told me I had an alcohol problem. 

“I’m only going to drink half a bottle today,” I told myself.  “That’s not a problem.”

The room swirled a bit by mid afternoon. I lay down for a nap, happy with my work. I dreamed of holes in the walls, crumbs in a dish, and a comely lady mouse squeaking to me. 

I awakened to hear Souris. “There is a package under the fourth plank to the right of the bathroom,” he said, his voice sounding quite urgent. “We worked very hard to obtain this.”

I felt many feet running over my sleeping bag.

“We’ve come from far across the fields and woods, and we now expect your food and hospitality.” 

It sounded like dozens of mice speaking at once. Souris must have bought his whole army.

I felt a nibbling at my ear, first rather pleasant, then irritating. “Please get up and feed us now.”

I rolled over. “Watch out!” yelled some voices.

I sat up to see tails disappearing off the bed and dark forms running across the floor. It was night already, the moon shining in through the winter ice on the windows. 

I got up, took my crowbar and hammer, crawled over to the fourth plank to the right of the bathroom and with some effort, heaved it up. The moonlight spilled across the floor. I could see everything. My head pounded as I opened the faded package, and yes: there were crumpled, crinkly hundred dollar bills in there.

I counted twenty-one. “They gave me an extra!” I said. “Thank you, Souris.” 

I stood up and heard a rustling as feet pattering away to the corners. My mouse portrait lay bathed in the silvery winter light. It looked so real, so alive. I felt very proud at my painting prowess, and at the dedication it took. 

I walked to the cupboard to celebrate with a drink. I opened the porridge cabinet drawer.

A not unpleasant old cheese odor wafted out. I saw nests and heard the squeaks of little baby mice. 

“Wow, those creatures work fast,” was my first reaction. Then I closed the door. “They need privacy.”

I put a whole block of cheddar on the counter, then walked by the bathroom, glanced at myself in the mirror, surprised to see flecks of grey in my hair and a white whiskered moustache.

My eyes, though, were the biggest shock. They were no longer brown, but black, and huge, like the eyes of the mouse in the portrait. I’m not sure how much time went by as I stared at myself, but again there was a pounding at the door.

I looked out to see Murphy Reid, with Vern right behind him.

“I’m coming, guys,” I said, tucking the money into my back pocket. “I’ve got your cash.”

“Jeez, this place stinks,” Reid said as I opened the door.

“Smells like mouse piss,” Vern agreed, padding around looking at everything. “You’re missing some floorboards.”

“Here’s the money,” I said, putting it down on the table. “It’s all there.”

Reid counted it. “You’re looking a little rough,” he said. “Bad debts keeping you awake? You still owe another hundred for the vig. Two hundred, actually, since interest is compounded daily.”

I noticed a couple of mice watching us from the bed.

I looked away quickly, but Vern turned and grabbed my crowbar.

“Gotcha, you little bastards!” he yelled, and smashed the crowbar down on the bed.

I saw his triumphant face. “You shouldn’t have done that,” I said in a high-pitched voice.

“You sound like a girl,” Vern chuckled. “I can’t stand mice.” 

The outside door slammed shut. I heard a skittering and a chittering.

“What the hell?” Reid shouted.

We watched as mice came running out of the walls and the floor, dozens, no, scores of them, the complete diaspora. They ran up Vern’s pant legs; they jumped off the table and landed on his face. They crash-landed from the ceiling, onto his head. 

He screamed, knocked my chair over, and he bounced against the refrigerator. I saw a particularly large mouse tearing at his eyes. He pushed open the door and staggered out, fell over in the snow. The mice swarmed all over his body, biting and scratching, then scattered back towards the cabin.

Reid looked at my face. “Shit,” he said. “You’re the mouse master.” He yelled at his enforcer.  “Are you okay, Vern?”

“I’m not going back in there!” Vern yelled. He sounded like a stuck pig. Flecks of blood dripped off his face. “Pestilence! That place is crawling with it! I’m gonna have to get a shot, man!” He zig- zagged down the driveway, blood streaming from his face and onto the snow. I heard him jump in his truck and slam the door.

Reid shook his head. “I saw a thing like that before,” he said. “But it was with bears. Not pretty at all.” 

He took a bottle from his pocket and shook out several pills of odd shapes and sizes. “I’m gonna have to take Vern to the hospital. I’ll send you the bill.” 

He tipped back his head and swallowed the pills dry. “We’re square on the cash for now.” He held out his hand. I shook it. He took another look at my mouse portrait. 

“Hey,” he said. “If you finish that, I’ll erase the two hundred bucks. That creature looks alive.  Like I said, you’ve got talent.” He sniffed the air. “You need to fumigate this place, though,” he yelled as he threw the door shut behind him. 

I dashed over to the bed and used a fresh hand wipe to pick up the remains of the two little mice. 
I rolled them up in tissues and buried them in the dirt beneath the floorboards. As I did so, I sensed dozens of small rodents around me, watching from the cupboards and the shelves, some on the dresser and the old TV that never worked. 

I said a few words. “They were small, but they gave their lives as warriors.”

I covered up the bodies in the turned over ground, and replaced the floor plank. Then I went to the fridge and took out all the cheese, cut it up and placed it all round the cabin.

“We shall have a wake,” I announced. “All who wish to participate may come to eat now.”

I picked up my rum bottle, gazed at the writing. “Captain Morgan’s,” it read.

“A swig for our friends,” I declared, and raised the bottle to my lips. 

I drank and painted and drank and painted some more. Then I fell on the bed and slept.


In the middle of the night, I awakened with the room swaying about me once again. I held my head and sat up. All stayed quiet.

“Where’s Souris?” I moaned out loud. Silence remained for a moment, and then I heard rustling. Suddenly there was a clear chorus of voices squeaking from out of the darkness. Dozens and dozens of tiny voices, raised in unison. 

“Souris is dead, killed by the Vern creature. But you will take his place, for you have been good to us, and this is our highest honor.” They repeated, “This is our highest honor.”

The moonlight fell through the window and onto the big mouse portrait, and I stared at the big black eyes I’d painted. “Souris will live on through my art,” I told the chanting chorus.

I’d never trusted people, they’d always betrayed me. My wife, my divorce lawyer, the loan sharks and the car mechanics, the whole shit-show. The mice came into my cabin domain to escape the cold. They sheltered under the floorboards and in the walls and ate the crumbs I could share with them. I had enough.

I lived alone; I would always live alone because people always do something disappointing, or irritating, or stupid. But these mice, they did not let me down. They found my keys and came through with the packages of money. I paid my debts. 

Now I have a lot of responsibility: to provide for my friends, and yes, family. I’m sure my compatriots, my rodent posse, will come up with the money, whether under the floorboards or elsewhere. I will buy them whatever they wish.

The cabin smelled sweet to me, as I filled in a few more details of the mouse portrait. I breathed in deep the friendly air.

“I’m not an alcoholic,” I said to myself, reaching for my bottle. “This is my way of communicating with the rodent world.”

As I said this, I heard the chorus of mice chant in answer, “Indeed, O mighty provider. As long as you care for us, we shall care for you.”

“I expect to find some drinks under the floorboards tonight!” I laughed, and rushed into the bathroom to check the length of my front teeth, which I sensed were growing out right over my lower lip. 

I had found my purpose in the world at last.

The idea for this story came about when Harrison stayed at an orchard picker’s cabin overrun by mice. His friend, at first, treated them as pets because he wasn't big on people. Their numbers grew and he got rid of them, but then giant furry marmots showed up and ate under the cabin's foundation. Out of the frying pan…Mice, though, have more charm and can whisper, or at least squeak, in your ear, so Harrison chose them for the story theme.  

Harrison Kim lives and writes in Victoria, Canada. His stories have been published in Spadina Literary Review, Fiction on the Web U. K., Storgy, Siren’s Call, The Blue Lake Review, Horla, Bewildering Stories and others.  

His blogspot is here: https://harrisonkim1.blogspot.com