I once met a guy – or, should I say, he once met me.
He knocked on my door; isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?

He asked to come in and I told him to sit anywhere;
So he looked around and he noticed there wasn’t a chair…

We sat on the rug, biding our time, drinking some wine.
He talked until two, and then he said: “it’s time for bed.”

I told him I worked in the morning and started to laugh;
He told me he didn’t and crawled off to sleep in the bath.

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown.
So, I lit a fire; isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?

 

Melbourne 2020

I once met a guy… or he once met me? Arguably…

We took the same lift, but I always looked down the second he noticed me looking at him and I always got out first.

It was my first weekend in my own little apartment and I’d been unpacking all day. I was all set for an early night when there was a knock on my door.

Who on earth?

Him.  Lift guy. He said: ‘I live upstairs; welcome!’  He held out a bottle of wine:

‘How about a housewarming?’

‘You mean room warming!’

He asked to come in. His eyes, his grin, the wine, everything asked to come in.

Get to know your neighbours, I thought, stepping back. ‘Grab a chair,’ I said before remembering I didn’t have any yet.  No matter: he handed me the bottle and settled cross-legged on the floor. Athletically, aesthetically.  I grabbed wine glasses and crisps and lowered myself cautiously next to him.

Cheers: we clinked.

‘I’m guessing you’re a reader.’ He waved at the paperbacks stacked in the corner.

‘Don’t you have a Kindle?’

‘No.  I’d rather have the real thing.’

‘But isn’t the real thing the ideas?’  He reached over and picked up a book.

Norwegian Wood… Haruki Murakami. Think of all the trees you’d save! What’s this one about?’

Sex, I thought.  ‘Relationships,’ I said.

He cocked an eyebrow; he’d already skimmed the blurb.  ‘Like the song.’

He started to hum. I joined in.

 

We sat on that rug for hours, drinking wine and talking about life as a barista (him) and waitress (me). He had a degree in computer science and I’d just finished a course as an editor, but neither of us had found a ‘real job’ yet.

‘I know what I want to be when I grow up,’ I said. ’It’s just that nobody else does.’

‘ED… IT,’ he said. ‘You and me both.’ He shuffled closer and laid his hand over mine. I sat up straighter, warmer… he lifted his hand to my chin and turned my face towards his.

I looked over his shoulder and my jaw dropped.

 

‘Hey! What’s the matter?’

‘The mouse! The mouse!’

It was crouched in the middle of the kitchen floor, nibbling a crisp.

I’d seen it the first night and blocked the hole in the skirting. It must have another hole. I drained my glass, put my finger to my lips and got onto my hands and knees. I took the stem of the wine glass between my teeth and crept forward.

The mouse paid no attention. This was the best crisp.

I transferred the glass to my hand … one two three… gotcha!  The mouse leapt straight into the glass, fell down stunned.

A spatter of applause: I looked over my shoulder. He was on his feet.

‘I can’t believe you just did that.’

I stared at the wine glassed mouse.  ‘Neither can I. Here, hold it.’

He put his finger on the glass. I pulled out my phone and took a photograph.

The mouse blinked.

‘There. Proof.’

‘Are you going to kill it?’

I shuddered. ‘No way.’

‘You can’t just let it go. They’re vermin. And if you’ve got it, I probably have too. And everybody else in the block. We should complain to the landlord.’

‘Pass me that mouse pad on the bench.’

‘Mouse pad? You’re kidding …’

‘I hold the glass, you slide … ok?’

‘OK.’ He lined up the pad.

‘Ready, steady … go!’

We stared at one mouse pad locked mouse.

‘Poor thing: totally traumatised!’

‘Let it go. I know, I know, we’ll take it to the park…’

‘But it’s two o’clock in the morning!’

‘So? Think it’ll turn into a carriage? No, that was the pumpkin… horses, the mice were horses.’

‘OK, OK …

‘It’s only a couple of hundred metres.’

The moon was full.  We walked to the park and set the mouse down on a pile of leaves.  It scurried away. He put his arm round me as we sauntered back and I leaned in close. He asked could he borrow that book.

‘Which one?’

‘The one with casual sex, passion, loss and desire. Haruki Whatsisname.’

‘Loss?’

‘The mouse.’

 

I told him I worked in the morning and started to laugh. He told me he didn’t and took Whatsisname up the stairs.

 

So when I awoke, I was alone.  Except for his phone.  I opened the door, to him standing there, fist in the air.  I held out his phone: ‘This what you’re after?’  He nodded and grinned:

‘Yes, but that’s just chapter one.’

‘You’ve started the book? Isn’t it good?’

‘Norwegian Wood? So far so … yeah. I could tell you tonight.’

I say all right.

 

Outside the block, the mouse rears up and sniffs.  Nuts and seeds? Shit! Crisps he needs, crisps!

 

Stereo Story #539

Dotti Simmons is an Irish Australian writer/teacher. She has written a play, published YA and historical fiction and assorted short stories. She lives in Albury and is on the committee of Write Around the Murray.