REJECTED: Julian the Mouse

Every now and then, I slam out something unsolicited with a particular publication in mind. More often than not, they don’t want it, so it goes here. In this case, it was NPR’s Three-Minute Fiction competition, Round 11: “A character finds something he or she has no intention of returning.

Julian the MouseIf he hadn’t been dawdling over lunch, Eric might never have heard the soft scratching noise from the next room. As it was, he still clutched his beverage as he stood to investigate.

He entered the living room just in time to see a mouse pop out of the opposite wall, seemingly by magic, and scurry in his direction. They both halted in their tracks at the exact same moment, eyes glued to each other. Eric brought the milk to his lips, downing the last of it in one gulp and turning the glass upside down in his hand. He inched forward, his socks sliding nearly silently across the laminate flooring.

He was able to slowly crouch down without scaring the tiny animal off, until their faces were just a foot or two apart. He hadn’t been certain at first, but at this distance the two black dots above the mouse’s nose were unmistakable.


“I need my critters,” Tammy had said when she moved in. Besides Julian, there were twin guinea pigs Leonard and Christine, hamster Beverly, and rat Alyssa. Lenny and Chris shared an aquarium, but everyone else lived in separate plastic cages with tubes extending above and around them for exercise and exploration.

“Why do you need both a rat and a mouse?” Eric asked her. “Isn’t a rat just a big mouse?” They didn’t have sex for a week.

The smallest of the plastic cages, stripped of all excess tubing so Bev and Alyssa could have more, had remained behind when Tammy left. That was the only reason she would ever see him again, she said – only for a reunion if Julian ever reemerged.

For the first few weeks, Eric left bits of cheddar in humane traps scattered around the house. None was ever eaten. When the decaying cheese began smelling up the place, he chucked the traps entirely and hung sachets of potpourri in every room. The odor was gone within 24 hours.

And so, Eric noticed only then, was the scent of befouled woodchips. Tammy had been decent enough about cleaning her pets’ habitats, but always did it on the day after garbage collection. The stink never failed to waft its way back inside, as if there were a miniature jet stream straight past the trash barrels and into the stove hood vent.

Eric glanced away from Julian’s spotted face to the corner where the rodent’s erstwhile residence was installed, its only accessory a hanging water bottle. It sat upon a small table with a single drawer, picked up for seven dollars at the last tag sale he and Tammy had attended together. Two more romance novels and yet another rabbit figurine rounded the total out to ten bucks.

He really could use a table on the other side of his bed, he thought.

“Boo!” he shouted, whipping his head back to face Julian. The little mouse unfroze, scampering away from the noise and into an impossibly tiny hole just above the moulding in the living room’s south wall. Eric grabbed a book and slapped it in front of the breach, pressing it as flush as it would go.

Julian’s cage fit easily in the largest outside trash barrel. Eric was pretty sure he had a tub of spackle in the garage.


Every now and then, I slam out something unsolicited with a particular publication in mind. More often than not, they don’t want it, so it goes here. In this case, it was NPR’s Three-Minute Fiction competition, Round 9: “Pick a President.”


Image courtesy of nixxphotography /

“My fellow Americans: good evening.

“I thank you for tuning in tonight as I address you, as it must be, for the final time. I cherish the three years I have spent as your president. But that time has sadly, though necessarily and without regret, come to an end.

“The sun has always been a symbol of constancy. Day after day, it has risen to provide heat, light, life to our blessed planet. And day after day, it has set, to remind us that there can be no life without its eventual opposite; no heat without cold, no light without darkness.

“Now, the shining beacon at the center of our solar system has succumbed to change. By what mechanism, we cannot explain. For what reason, we shudder to even ask.

“For the past several decades, temperatures on Earth have been inexorably rising. Glaciers and icebergs have melted. The seas have risen. Mild winters have seemed a blessing to those in higher latitudes, just as unbearable and deadly summers have cursed most of us. Tropical storms have grown so intense that one cannot run its course before another barrels hastily ashore.

“The situation first came to our attention in the 1970s, and was quickly labeled, simply, Global Warming. Later, as its effect became more unpredictable, we termed the phenomenon Climate Change. We knew not, at first, its cause, but evidence pointed to a buildup of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere – carbon dioxide that we human beings, and especially we Americans, had ourselves released.

“This evidence was misleading. But it gave us a sense of purpose, because if humanity had begun this terrible process, then surely it could end it. We could choose to survive.

“As political debates raged over lowering our carbon emissions, the real culprit was identified: the sun, growing hotter and without reversal. The fault was not in ourselves, but indeed in our star.

“This information was, I must now confess to you, kept from the general public to maintain order and, crucially, hope. In mere months, the planet will be too damaged for humanity to survive. Our civilization does not possess the technology to understand, much less reverse, the rising temperature of our sun.

“What we do possess are nuclear warheads atop intercontinental ballistic missiles. Despite decades of disarmament, the United States, Russia, and other countries still control enough weaponry to incinerate the surface of our planet many times over.

“And that is what we shall do.

“Prior to my term of office, discussions were already under way with all the nuclear powers of the world regarding the planned destruction of the human race. I continued these discussions, which were brought to a close just a few hours ago. Implementation will not be delayed. We can go on suffering, or we can enable an orderly, dignified, swift end.

“All missile strikes have been coordinated to ensure that no corner of the Earth survives. Together we have endured for thousands of years; and together, now, we bring the human story to a close.

“We can say, now for another seven minutes, that our lives were not ended without our consent – that we merely waited while cruel fate had its way with us. We can declare, proudly, that we were masters of our own destiny.

“Good night, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”

REJECTED: Press Conference: iPhone 5 Responds to Rumors

Every now and then, I slam out something unsolicited with a particular publication in mind. More often than not, they don’t want it, so it goes here. In this case, it was McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

podiumThank you all for coming.

I’d like to address some of the rumors and innuendo about me that have been circulating in the press. I tried for a very long time to keep out of the media spotlight, but recent stories have become truly invasive and distracting. I’m here to set the record straight.

First, my screen size: yes, it will be larger than in the past. The lurid fascination with exact specifications has, frankly, bewildered me and my family – as if a diagonal measurement of 4.1 inches rather than 4.3 inches, for example, would seriously affect your purchase decision, or a 1080 x 720 pixel resolution would be acceptable while 1136 x 640 would not.

Of course any change in my screen will alter my overall dimensions. Every previous iteration of my design has been slightly different from the one before, and this upcoming refresh will be no different. Let me assure you, a plethora, nay, a panoply of compatible accessories will be released concurrently with and shortly after my unveiling. There is no need for anxiety on that count.

Therefore, precise numbers will not be provided to the press at this time. I will only confirm the rumor that my screen will indeed be larger. Measurements by the media are more than welcome once I have been officially released.

As for that release date: an announcement is forthcoming in mid-September. As a culture, we have become far too reliant on instant gratification. Instead, I choose to focus on an orderly product update cycle and premium features that benefit the greatest number of consumers. My schedule may not match your ideal one, but it is designed with the common good in mind.

Finally, I must address the curiosity regarding my 30-pin dock connector. The speculation on this matter has been rampant to the point of irresponsible. Whether my dock connector will continue to be one inch wide or be reduced in size to accommodate narrower cables should be of no concern to anyone who claims to hold my well-being as their highest priority.

I hope any further rumors will lay quiet, and my privacy will be respected, until my release. Thank you again.