Bop and Mouse

Bop carried around three books at all times, usually not the same three books. They were exchanged regularly, unless one particularly stuck, then it was with him for a couple of weeks along with the other two.

When he was twelve, he’d come across the words “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” in a library book. He ran his fingers on the seam of the book because he’d seen it done in a movie. He loved the texture of the leather, and pulled the book entirely off the shelf to caress the front of it too. Bop peeked at the librarian in his peripheral vision in case she saw him; he didn’t want to be doing something bad.

The script on the page was minuscule; he thought of a tiny mouse lifting a huge magnifying glass to the book to read it. The magnifying glass was so heavy that it plopped down again and again. Bop thought that the mouse might damage the page, so he entered and asked him to please stop. Bop explained to the mouse that he should not drop heavy materials on the page, for they were magic. He said that pages should never be dog-eared and that thumbs should not be wetted to help turn a page.

Bop was alone a lot; the other kids didn’t much like him, and he liked it that way. He was mostly okay with it because he read a few books in which the main character is alone a lot too and liked to be alone. When his mother told him scary stories that could not be true, when she told him about heaven and hell, and told him he would go to hell, he would go to his little pile of books. There would be his neat stack, his friends, and he would touch their covers, front and back, and then he would touch their seams. He liked the old seams, the ones that were browning at the corners, and he traced ninety degree triangles with his fingers until his fingertips became overstimulated and felt tingly.

Once, he went into a bookstore, and he heard pop music playing on the speaker system, and he became upset. He squatted in the literature aisle and composed himself, they are disrespecting the books by playing this type of music. He felt his heart sinking, and thought of the words on a piece of parchment “my heart is sinking”, and imagined that one of Jane Austen’s heroines was writing it to a correspondent. The heroine’s desk was tiny save for a pile on the left corner of miscellaneous papers. Bop liked to imagine the messy papers because he would like for there to be something he could not read on the heroine’s desk. That made her real. If she was not real, he would have every detail of everything she wrote and received in writing.

The tiny mouse came in again and began shuffling through the left-hand pile. Good thing the heroine had just stepped out of the room as she’d been called to dinner and after dinner tea. Bop came in again to speak with the mouse. He eagerly pleaded that the mouse remain composed and halt messing up the pile; after all, it was not his pile, and by that fact, it was not his to disturb. Bop asked him to come back to the bookstore and to turn off the music, if he could.

All of the sudden, Bop and the mouse were in the literature aisle of the bookstore, and Bop told the mouse that the music was not respectful of the beautiful books that had yet to go home and be loved. The mouse stood on its hind legs with its hand draping down in front of him and Bop thought of Flowers for Algernon, got sad, and wiped three tears away, exactly three, before he breathed two deep sighs. The mouse was off. In eight minutes, the music was off and one of the customers whispered “lame” and Bop smiled brilliantly.

Music started again and Bop nearly began crying at the onslaught of sound, before he realized that it was classical music. The music of books. He imagined the books and the authors thanking him, but passed the bestsellers table and saw that some of the books did not like the classical music. He thought he understood what was wrong; but he thought it okay because classical music was very neutral and could tone an environment rather than overwhelm it.

“I understand, mouse” said Bop when the mouse got back and found him at the table of new novels about grown up things he didn’t want to read about. “Mouse, I understand.” He reiterated, as he ought to do in a dramatic sequence. “Books are for everyone. There’s a book for everyone, no matter how little, no matter how big. There’s a book for the illiterate made of pictures and voices, the homeless, the wealthy, the poor. Even a mouse like you can see and touch a book.”

A bookstore clerk came about the bestsellers table and saw a little boy talking to a little mouse. She did not scream and did not alert her supervisor. Instead, she thought she would write a children’s book about the encounter. The clerk asked the boy’s name, who startled slightly from being spoken to, and he replied “Bop.”

She walked back up to the counter, saying to herself, I now tend to the burden of writing the children’s book, Bop and Mouse. 

Once the woman was out of sight, Bop turned to the mouse. “I carry three books with me at all times” he said. “I carry them because I want to feel the physicality of them, the weight, the slight pleasurable burden of holding them and carrying them in my backpack.”

Bop would wait many years before having the confidence to write his own book. He would eventually do it, in the dimly lit room with borrowed street light, with noisy neighbors partying in the nights and through the mornings, amidst the sadness of feeling his life had been all too peculiar to be an author, through the daunt of word counts, deep through the crevices of human morality and interpreted reality, and companioned by a cat he called Mouse.