Kat and Mouse by Thomas Mixon for Intrepidus Ink, May 15, 2024

Literary Fiction

        Kat sleeps with the data. Old school, USB, under the Mouse pillow.

        Caught the methane release in real time, live, last night, by chance. Was messing around in her former company’s servers, suspecting they had an imperceptible delay on a few key sensors. Less than a second, but enough time for them to alter the numbers. She’s tired of the courts, the endless appeals, the satellites she and her new coworkers have put so much time and money into, only to have the validity of the measurements questioned into irrelevancy.

        The Mouse pillow is plain, cotton, given to her by her ex, who also got tired of the courts, the endless appeals, the satellites, etc. But also tired of her, Kat.

        She hates the pillow, but it’s the only one she has on the island. No matter; by the end of today, she will have handed off the USB to the Times and can get some actual sleep, actual windows, and not flimsy scrap aluminum that invites, if not encourages, the relentless wind.

        Mouse’s doing, the hodgepodge cabin. Kat’s grateful to have had it, to keep working here, weeks after the breakup, but how amazing a real bed will feel, tonight.

        She wraps the flash drive in an embarrassing amount of plastic. The kayak is her only realistic method of leaving the island, and Kat’s not great with the paddle.

        It was Mouse who always navigated, Mouse’s name on the side of the vessel, a vanity Kat had laughed at until it wasn’t funny anymore. After the final fight, Kat had a moment of panic, watching Mouse storm out of the Frankenstein door, barely hanging onto its hinges. There was only one kayak. She would be stranded.

        But Mouse swam. She watched her ex round the bend and cursed the moonlight for being in the right place so that she could see how effortlessly Mouse moved through the water. She didn’t need to check that Mouse had made it to the coast and cursed herself for checking the next day, online.

        Now it’s her turn. Data safe under a wad of the fossil fuels she’s fought against for so long (but not, as Mouse had quipped, long enough to make up for being on the wrong side, initially), she pushes out from shore and at once falls under waves.

        She tries again and again but cannot steady herself. Her old bosses are going down–but only if she doesn’t drown.

        Kat takes a break, dries herself off. She sits on the rock she tried to get Mouse to sit on too, to watch the sunrise. But Mouse would say, “It hurts my butt. And the sunrise doesn’t need us.”

        True, it doesn’t need her, Kat thinks. But she needs it this morning. She checks the USB–still dry, as her hair will be when she eventually gets the boat to balance right and leaves.

Thomas Mixon, Kat and Mouse, Intrepidus Ink, May 3, 2024

Interview With Thomas Mixon

Intrepidus Ink: Kat is a character with unusual strength, courage, and determination. How did you achieve this result?

Thomas Mixon: Kat has to get off the island, and with the data intact – she has no real other choice but to make it work. Having limited options may not mean the same thing as being brave, but the end result can often be similar. In stories, when a character has a clear physical objective and/or challenge, I find that’s when other details about their life can come out on the page more naturally. I love that push and pull between the urgency of a task and the brain’s meandering, thinking about the past, about love, etc.

II: Discuss your writing process and the decisions you make to build and tighten conflict and tension in a compressed, brief, and urgent story.

TM: This piece of fiction comes directly from a news article I read back in December. The EPA had just announced new future methane restrictions. Part of the rules included something dubbed the Super Emitter Program – which enables environment groups to detect and report gas leaks. I often start with pun setups and names and discard them halfway through the writing process, but this story felt so tied to that original impulse that it felt more real to let it ride, and lean into the metaphors, and challenge myself to make something that was originally just a jokey title into something serious.

II: What are you working on now?

TM: I have the first page of twenty different novels written. I’m not really sure where it’s going, but I’m trying to be kind to myself and enjoy non-writing life with my family and watch the NBA playoffs!


Author Bio

Thomas Mixon, Kat and Mouse, Intrepidus Ink, May 15, 2024

Thomas Mixon has poems and stories in Lost Balloon, San Pedro River Review, Variant Literature, and elsewhere. He’s trying to write a few books.

Share This Story


Latest Submissions

Submit your story

Fill in the form below to submit your story.

*We accept all categories of fiction, including genre and literary fiction, with the exception of horror, children's literature, erotica, nonfiction, and poetry.
Flash Fiction: 300 — 1000 Words.
Short Stories: 1,500 — 2,500 Words.
(*Submissions outside these guidelines will be rejected)
(Microsoft Word .doc or .docx document formats)