Mousey Lutz Passes Through Orono, Maine on Her
Way, We Think, to a Housekeeping Position at the Radisson in South Portland

by D. E. Fredd

I’m to blame. I introduced Mousey to my housemates. After that, like a viral infection, things took on a life of their own before we could muster a defense. Not that any of us is in the fetal position over it now, but every so often a gentle reminder resurfaces and a blanket of soul-searching envelops us. It’s like putting a cloth over a birdcage during daylight hours. We stop what we’re doing, sit in silence replaying the past and reflect on how things might have turned out differently.

* * *

The “we” I speak of is Julie Pearson, Camille Greville and me, Brady Fitzpatrick. When events came to a head, I was a fifth year senior at the University of Maine ’s central campus in Orono. I was the Black Bears’ punter for three years. I practiced but never got into a game as a freshman and was red-shirted my sophomore year. It could take years to explain the NCAA scholarship regulations involved. Suffice it to say that I got a history degree and am about to finish a master’s program on their dime.

During my freshman year I became great friends with Josh Bowman, a long snapper and third string tight end. He concentrated in English, unlike the bulk of our teammates who furrowed their brows to better plumb the depths of a Recreation Education major. We hit it off to the degree that, after our first year in the dorm, we planned to share an off-campus apartment. That idea was shipwrecked when Josh fell in love with Julie Pearson. At thirty-two she was thirteen years older than Josh, and an airline hostess based in Bangor for New England Air Service which made short hops around the Northeast.

Julie quit the airline which was being bought out anyway and took a job at the Clinique makeup counter with a major department store at the Bangor mall. Josh and I lived in what was referred to as Jock Towers at the time, but I never saw him. As our sophomore year wound down, their relationship became exclusive. Julie bought a house out on Route 9 in Eddington; Josh moved in with her. During the summer I biked across the Penobscot River to visit the blissful couple. It was obvious that Josh was smitten and their age difference meant nothing to him. He was so in love he was planning to give up football, go part time as a student and get a job. All this so he and Julie could be together more.

I tried to talk him out of it and was only successful when I came up with the idea of renting a room from them to help ease the money crunch. Julie was against it. The house was their private love nest, and she had bad vibes about our athlete friends dropping by to display their immature behavior. But they had three floors, a total of five bedrooms plus three baths so it was a no brainer. I was their first paying boarder. Josh stayed on the team, and we had a decent season in the Atlantic Ten Conference, going 7 and 4. At the end of my junior year a new face, Camille Greville, was added to the mix.

To say that Camille was quiet would be an understatement. She was a, middle school music teacher in Bangor , in her late twenties and rather plain looking. When we interviewed her, Julie’s went nuts when Camille mentioned music. The possible noise issue was put to rest when she said the Baroque Era was her passion. After moving in she and Julie became good friends, but mostly she kept to her bedroom wearing headphones while planning lessons for her prepubescent charges. I was similarly cloistered as I plumbed the depths of any number of European wars and the role of the English navy therein.

If Camille and I had any bond in the early years it was Josh and Julie’s near constant boffing, to use the quaint term. The house was old with original plaster and no insulation between the interior walls. Julie, as she neared a climax, became a soprano running up the scales trying to hit the high notes while Josh was the rhythmic grunting type, as if he were struggling to set a world record for chin ups. Being very athletic, Josh created moments of physical ecstasy wherein the knickknack shelf in the living room vibrated to their highly mattress antics in the room above. It was only Camille’s quick eye and reflexes that saved many of Julie’s Hummel collection from certain annihilation.

We were a close family for over two years. Camille dragged us to her middle school Christmas concerts. The girls cheered for Josh and me at home games, and went on the road with us to Boston when we played Northeastern and down to explore Williamsburg for the William and Mary game. We went out to eat a lot especially for the good quality, cheap eats at Dysart’s truck stop in Hermon. The four of us even went on a spring break together down to Savannah . Josh and Julie couldn’t get enough of one another on that trip. Camille and I, in the adjoining room, were like brother and sister in our chaste twin beds mocking the thump and screech of their passion. I enjoyed her company but that was the extent of it. From my view there wasn’t any physical chemistry, which actually made for a better friendship.

* * *

The wheels came off when Josh and I graduated. Julie and Camille decorated the house and cooked for days to prepare for the Friday afternoon and early evening party. Camille invited some colleagues from her school, and Julie had a few business cohorts come after the morning commencement ceremony. The conflict was that the football team was throwing a bash that same afternoon, and Josh really wanted to go. There was compromise talk of spending some time with the guys and then zipping back to the house, but Julie had visions of drunks puking in the punch bowl, Josh first and foremost.

So Josh caved and stayed at Julie’s party for him. As a non pussy whipped male, I, since I had another year of eligibility, went to the team soiree and was a bit the worse for wear when I got back at six. There were a few pockets of people I didn’t know hanging around, and Julie was trying her best to be a gracious hostess but, according to Camille, Josh’s behavior, considering he was the center of the festivities, had been terrible to the point of embarrassment.

For the rest of that weekend the house was ice cold. Josh slept on the living room couch, much to the consternation of Camille and me because we loved staying up watching old movies. On Monday I left early to get my summer workout schedule from my special teams coach and to sign up for a graduate seminar in Napoleon. Around five I pulled into the drive and was waylaid by Camille, who was sitting on the porch steps. She whispered that I shouldn’t go in because Julie and Josh were still having their argument. Even from the driveway I could hear them yelling. I told Camille to get in and we took off, hoping that in a few hours they would run out of steam, kiss and have terrific make-up sex.

Even at one of our favorite eating places, Captain Nick’s out by the Bangor airport, neither of us had much of an appetite. Camille choked back tears going over some of the accusations that had been made by each side before she decided to clear out for the sake of her own sanity. The main sticking points of the argument, according to Camille, who had listened to Julie’s venting way too many times, were marriage and children. Julie was thirty-five and her biological clock was ticking rather loudly. Josh just turned twenty-one and wasn’t ready to settle down. In his view there was nothing wrong with things the way they were. Julie thought that Eddington was in danger of becoming a frat house rather than a home. Perhaps a subtle dig at a few of the guys I invited who, once or twice, used the living room to crash while they recovered enough to drive.

We got back before nine to a darkened house. Josh’s car was gone. When we walked into the living room, it was obvious there had been some combat beyond harsh words. After straightening up, the only real damage was a broken lamp, some of its shards embedded in the wall head high, the rest scattered on the floor below.

We found Julie in the kitchen. The lights were out. She was lying on her back in front of the stove. Evidently she had raided the downstairs medicine chest for pills but found only nasal decongestant tablets plus some buffered aspirin. How many she took of either we never knew. The gas oven was on, but she hadn’t blown out the pilot light so all that happened was that the room was heated to the low nineties. We thought about an ambulance, but she was alert, her pulse and respiration were normal so we helped her up to the master bedroom and took shifts throughout the night watching over her.

A few days went by and all we could get out of her was that Josh was gone for good. I volunteered to act as a go-between if I could track him down but was turned down emphatically. It would be hard for her to get over him, but get over him she would.

* * *

Needless to say that summer in Eddington was funereal at best. Julie, a propos of nothing, would begin crying with an “Oh, it’s nothing; don’t mind me” attitude. I was busy with my graduate seminar and getting in shape for a final year of football. If I was home by eight, it was a miracle, and I was usually exhausted.

In late August we had our first home game against the vaunted University of Richmond Spiders , and it was an easy win. School wasn’t in full session yet so the crowd was sparse, but even more depressing was the absence of Julie and Camille. Every time I trotted off the field after a punt I’d make my longstanding, secret gesture to their section only to look up and see strange faces staring back at me. After the game I showered and drove over to the library for some quick research, almost dreading going back to the moribund house.

* * *

The season progressed slowly. My usual ritual before each home game was to get to the stadium by ten in the morning. The stands would be close to empty, but the field was always crawling with kids who were only too happy to shag balls. I’d kick for twenty minutes or so, practice driving the ball as far as I could and then work on what I called my nine iron shot, downing the ball inside the five yard line with plenty of backspin. It might have been during one of these practice sessions where I first saw Mousey running after loose balls, but I can’t be totally certain.

In mid-October we played a great James Madison team and got our butts handed to us. No one said much in the locker room after the game except that we were dreading the films and subsequent berating by the coaches come Monday’s practice. I got dressed, turned down a few beer bust invites and made my way out to the parking lot for the drive home. I stopped by a stone bench to tie my shoe and barely heard the small voice behind me. I could never quite grasp the concept of autographs. When I was first asked to sign something way back as a freshman, I figured it was a prank. Sorry to say it was not. There are many people out there who have a passion to get every player’s signature no matter what level of competition or status on the team. Get a life, people.

At first it was difficult to decipher whether the shapeless form was male or female. Mousey was wearing a Maine Black Bears hockey jersey badly in need of washing. Grass stained, it came below the knees of her tiny, just over five foot frame. She wanted me to sign the shirt and turned around to expedite the matter, handing me a blue Sharpie. When I was done, she took off her U of Maine baseball cap and indicated that this also needed a signature. I honored the request despite the illogicality of using a blue marker to write on a dark blue cap. I figured I was done, but she grabbed my arm and began to tussle out of the hockey shirt. Underneath she wore a “ Battle of the Bears” tee shirt which commemorated a home and away series we had with the University of Montana Grizzlies , losing both games. As she tugged the jersey over her head, it became very apparent, when the tee shirt rode up over her rib cage that indeed this was a woman, a very braless one at that, not that she needed one.

“Could you write, ‘To Mousey, my favorite fan’ on the back, nice and neat and in big letters?”

I did, feeling her tiny, bird-like structure beneath the pen. When I finished, I started to walk away but was waylaid with yet another request.

“I’m doing an interview for a magazine, and I was wondering if I could ask you some questions.” To prove her point she pulled out a cheap, chain store composition book that had been bent in half and stored inside the waistband of her jeans.

I shrugged and sat down on the bench, accepting defeat. She turned the cap backwards revealing a grimy forehead and hair that badly needed washing, opened to a fresh page and began firing away. Did I have a girlfriend? Was I going to turn pro? Was the coach mean to the players? Where did I live? What was my favorite music?

I had the patience of Job making up off-beat answers for my waif-like groupie’s questions, but when she, now scrunched beside me to write more efficiently, asked what animal I wanted to be, I called a halt to things. She was upset and for a moment I felt she was pouting the way a five year old does when you say, after twenty games, you’re not going to play Candy Land anymore. Then she perked up and asked if we could continue this later. I agreed, mentally defining “later” as never and sauntered off into the sunset, my ego having been massaged quite enough for one day.

* * *

I went to one of the beer bashes after all. I was hungry and felt more like being around jocks than going home or researching Nelson’s strategy during the Battle of the Nile in the library. I made it back to Eddington about ten and was surprised to see the place lit up. Someone had put out cornstalks and pumpkins as Halloween decorations. Camille must have heard me pull in and clump up the porch steps because she came out to greet me.

“The TV says you guys got your asses whomped big time.”

“Channel 8 used that exact term, did they?”

“You’ve got company. A Mousey Lutz who says you promised to finish an interview.”

“Christ, I never thought she’d take me seriously.”

“Well, she and Julie have been getting along famously. In fact, we made sugar cookies and decorated for Halloween while she told us all about you. I’m comforted to hear the Mahler’s Sixth symphony is your favorite musical work of all time.”

“There’s no way you can get rid of her for me, is there?” I no sooner got those words out when the screen door creaked open and Julie, followed by Mousey, trotted out. A complete make-over had been done. She wore a white blouse and a wrap-around denim skirt, a definite improvement although both looked like they had been kept in a damp gym bag for several weeks. She overdid the lipstick, had washed and fixed her hair so it was pulled up and away from her newly scrubbed face. By the porch light I could see that she was not the teeny bopper I first thought. She might even have been close to thirty, but I’m not good at judging those things.

We went inside. Julie and Camille left Mousey and me alone with my whispered proviso that in half an hour they invade the living room yawning with talk of the big day we all had tomorrow.

In an oblique way I didn’t mind her insipid questions. My parents were dead. I had no close family. I studied history because it interested me. I had no plans to teach or write about it or do much else for the next few years except go to school. Being a student and making coffin corner kicks were the only two things I ever excelled at in life. Fairly deep into the interview, I realized that she wasn’t writing anything down, but I said to hell with it and played along. At eleven-thirty Camille came in on cue, acting out her part very well, but Mousey wasn’t taking the bait. A cold fall rain was starting, and it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen any car. Mousey was vague on her transportation details, but it was finally deduced by Julie, who now entered the discussion, that walking or hitchhiking had gotten her here.

No problem, I volunteered Camille to take her home, mindless of a death ray stare. But it soon became apparent that Mousey really didn’t have a permanent address. Thus Julie, who missed her calling as a social worker, guided Mousey Lutz up to a small third floor bedroom to spend the night. Camille and I stayed downstairs and watched one of the greatest Saturday Night Live shows in recent memory. Little did we know it would be one of our last Edenic moments.

When we stumbled down to the kitchen the next morning, there was a huge stack of blueberry pancakes, crisp bacon and fresh coffee. None of us were big eaters, especially on Sunday morning, but we were afraid to hurt Mousey’s feelings so we indulged. By ten I was on the couch waist deep in my ritual Sunday papers and weekly news magazines when the soothing tones of a Bach cantata coming from Camille’s room was drowned out by the vacuum cleaner. Mousey had scrubbed the downstairs kitchen and bathroom floors and was now waging a dirt war on the rest of the first floor. I put up with the noise for ten minutes before I sought sanctuary up in my room.

* * *

Camille’s opinion was that Julie needed someone to manage. Not that she was a control freak mind you, or that Josh had escaped to a far better place. But Julie was the prime advocate for Mousey’s moving in with us, performing various duties in exchange for room and board. She was never pushy; in fact, it was just the opposite. If the meek will inherit the earth then Mousey Lutz is potential heiress to three continents. It was maddening how she stood in the doorway of a room waiting to be asked before she’d enter. During meals she’d take the smallest portion, barely eating a bite before she’d spot something missing from the table and jump up to get it. It was like sitting down to eat with a waiter who’s got three other tables to take care of.

She hovered. I developed a sixth sense of knowing when she’d be outside my room. I’d get up, go over and stand in front of her. After a respectful silence she’d tell me the mail had come or some other vital piece of information.

Somewhere she got a replica Maine football jersey with my name and number emblazoned on the back. In our second to last home game against the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens, she, Camille and Julie showed up in their old section cheering their heads off. After the game, as players and fans mingled on the field, she came running up full tilt leaping on me, hands clasped around my neck hugging me in celebration. We went out for Chinese food at the Oriental Jade on Stillwater Avenue afterwards, and she praised my every kick over and over again. My eyes begged Julie for a merciful way out of the situation other than hara-kiri by swallowing all the hot mustard at the table.

* * *

Mousey’s past depended on who she talked to and what day of the week it was. Her father was either a journalist for the Nashua Telegraph, murdered when he got close to the truth in a governor’s race, or was serving a life sentence for molesting her. She graduated number one in her high school class, dropped out because the principal kept exposing himself to her or was so hooked on drugs she never went to school at all.

She had been to beauty school to learn about manicures, delivered for a florist and was a veterinarian’s helper. She worked for Stephen King as a house cleaner and named a few novels she was a minor character in. She mentioned birth dates that would make her nineteen, twenty-three or not really knowing her age because she was adopted. Her most recent employment had been at a physical therapy center where she learned the art of seated back massage. She would go to busy offices and release the tension of the cubicled workers while they hunched over their desks. She had studied shiatsu and proclaimed the restorative powers of foot massage as well.

I took everything she said with a grain of salt, but there were times when I was mildly surprised. One weekend in early December she did Julie and Camille’s nails, and they both agreed it was a professional job. Many times I heard groans of relief coming from the kitchen while she performed her seated massage on a very tired and weary Julie or Camille.

For Christmas that year I gave Julie fifty bucks towards a sweater which appeared under the tree with my name on it as the giver. I got a World War II Military Atlas from Mousey which was inscribed “To the Best Maine Football Player Ever, All My Love This Christmas, Mousseau Lutz.” Red and green inked happy faces were drawn into the o’s in football. I thanked her and then commented on her first name. Mousseau was her mother’s maiden name. They were French from up near Fort Kent . She died bringing Mousey into the world. There was no one else at the hospital at the time to name her because her father was on one of his drinking and gambling binges down at the Connecticut casinos. So the nuns used Mousseau as a first name and her father’s name, Lutz, as the last. When she learned to speak, her child-like pronunciation of Mousseau easily became Mousey to adult ears, and it had been that way ever since. After she told this story, Julie was compelled to hug her while I was busy cracking the UPC bar code to see how much the Atlas might have set her back.

* * *

Camille had a musical engagement that New Year’s Eve. The madrigal singing group she belonged to was performing at a First Night celebration in beautiful downtown Bangor . At the last minute Julie decided to go to a party her manager at work was having. I lied to a highly disappointed Mousey, pretending I had a party to attend and hopped in my car. I would drive around until three in the morning if I had to. I’d do anything to keep from being alone with her at the stroke of midnight.

After an hour I was bored and using up gas so I went into Bangor and pretended to have a good time. I strolled around in light snow flurries looking at the ice sculptures and watching kids get their faces painted. At eleven I went to the Bangor Auditorium and listened to Camille’s group and actually enjoyed it. When they finished I went back stage and helped her get over the shock of seeing me by over-complimenting the performance. At midnight we pecked each other platonically on the cheek before discovering that the Sea Dog Brewing Company was open for cheeseburgers and dark beer. On the drive home it was our fervent resolution that Mousey find a new host family to have a parasitic relationship with.

* * *

College football is a year round activity. Spring practice is only one of the many tips of the iceberg. I had used up my football eligibility but could still take graduate classes on scholarship for the spring semester. It was strongly suggested, however, that I be at practice to help the new kickers, an unofficial coach if you will. I kind of enjoyed the status. After a week of showing off for the new recruits, I developed a bad quad and severely pulled a hamstring.

I tried ice and it worked to the degree that I could dull the pain when I worked out with the kids. After practice I wrapped it using heat balm and limped back and forth to class. One afternoon I came home clumping up the porch stairs, stiff-legged. I couldn’t hide my condition from Mousey who was involved in her usual whirling dervish cleaning routine. That’s all she needed--someone to nurse. You would think she’d graduated from medical school instead of a course in physical therapy (if it wasn’t a lie). I was sand bagged by pillows to keep it elevated, one thousand milligrams of ibuprofen every four hours, and ordered to rest it completely until bed time when the tissue would have to be deeply massaged. Herbal tea was also part of her process.

At four o’clock Camille came home from school and saved me from the incessant ministrations. Much to Mousey’s dismay Camille helped me from the couch to my room where I could sit at my desk and get some work done. Camille sat on my bed and went through her rotten day hour by hour and how much she hated teaching music to those pre-teen brats, which took my mind off things. Mousey came in an hour later with more ibuprofen and announced that she’d make a tray and bring it to me. It was also dictated that I take a warm bath to loosen up the muscles before she went to work on them. When she left Camille spoke up.

“Be careful of her massages.”

“I’ve had therapist work on me before; sometimes they went so deep it brought tears to my eyes.”

“Mousey’s massages sometimes lead to other things.”

My thought process, which was driving leisurely down the turnpike, suddenly had the brakes lock and went into a series of out of control spins. “What do you mean by other things?”

“I’m just saying that she might begin by working the kinks out of the leg but can gravitate to other, more sensual areas. I speak from experience.”

“Have you—I mean aren’t there medical ethics; can’t you say something.”

She came over to my desk and stared down at me. “I’m not a lesbian if that’s what you’re thinking. It started out as an innocent shoulder rub, went to the lower back and hips and then gravitated to more pleasurable places. It started around Thanksgiving. You’re not here all the time, and when you are, you’ve got your head in a book. It’s nothing personal for me; there’s no kissing or anything. She usually does all the work. It’s more anatomical than sexual. It hasn’t been until the last few times where I even slightly reciprocated and only because I felt guilty for the service, kind of like tipping a delivery person. You are her main, obsessive-compulsive objective; she thinks keeping Julie and me happy is a means to that end.”

I stood now and put both my hands on her shoulders. “I’ll tell Julie and she’ll be out of here tomorrow morning.”

“Julie already knows.”

“She knows and she hasn’t done anything; that’s not like her.”

“I went to Julie after it happened the second time. But it seemed that Julie, the alpha female, was getting massages before I was. She claims the experience is ten times more intense that it ever was with Josh. And she doesn’t need Valium any more. You know how Julie is about organic foods and being natural. Mousey told her this masturbatory technique is nature’s anti-depressant and releases a lot of tension. She had Julie look up some hippie nonsense about a Wilhelm Reich guy in the 1950s who had a theory about sexual energy. He invented the orgone box. So now you know what might happen tonight.”

I sat down again. My leg was throbbing. My head was spinning. All the information I’d just received was overwhelming the synapses of my brain, like a crowd of moviegoers trying to escape a fire using one lone exit. I wanted to speak but nothing close to articulate came out.

Camille headed out of the room but stopped in the doorway. “Try not to judge me and Julie too much until you’ve walked in our shoes. Do you want me to run the tub now or wait until after you’ve had supper?”

* * *

Waiting for Mousey that night was like being on death row. Would Camille or Julie save me? Could I escape by myself? When I was in the bathtub I scrubbed every part of my body as if this was my first date. Her gentle knock on my bedroom door gave me the shivers.

I must admit she was very professional. I was in a tee shirt and jockey shorts. She tossed a mat and some blankets on the floor and made me lay face down. Her fingers probed up and down the back of my leg looking for adhesions. Then she began her massage.

“You’ve got small tears in a few places and several knots which are going to be hell to work out. I’ll try my best but you may need ultrasound long term.” As she spoke there were moments of electric pain. When she came to a knot, she put her finger on it and pressed down, “Feel that?”

I did and she went back to work using her elbow as a tool, gliding it up and down the muscle before boring deeply into it at selected spots. Gradually it loosened and the pain decreased. She worked the back of my leg for fifteen minutes then slapped me on the rump as a signal to turn over. She repeated the process on my quad. She kept up a steady stream of comforting chatter. I was the first football player she’d worked on. She’d done a lot with soccer players and runners. They were easier because they were loose-muscled and had slow twitch fiber (whatever that meant). My problem was that I didn’t have the proper ratio of strength to flexibility. If I would spend as much time stretching as I did in the weight room, I’d be better off. Then she was done. She wiped down the leg with oil of wintergreen lotion which cooled and warmed at the same time.

“I’ve done what I can for the leg, but you still have a lot of tension in your upper body, roll over on your stomach for a minute.”

I did and she started kneading the shoulders working her way down the spine. When she got to my lower back, she slipped the shorts half way off and massaged the gluts. Another playful slap and I automatically turned over, only half realizing too late what I was exposing. Within five minutes her magic fingers finished arousing me and the residue was mopped with a moist towel. It was if she were a machine.

“Your whole body is much more relaxed than when I came in here, isn’t it? Your jaw muscles were like a steel trap when we began. You’ll sleep like a log. I’d suggest keeping on your back for tonight with a pillow under the bad leg. I went into the muscle pretty deep so we need to let it recover before we do any more massage, forty-eight hours from now at the earliest.” And with that she was gone.

I admit I was relaxed. My worst fears hadn’t materialized. It was not some filthy tryst; it was a medical procedure, I rationalized. I fell into a deep sleep quickly, and it was close to three in the morning when my bladder made its presence known. Should I tough it out for a few more hours or limp down the hall now and hope I could fall back to sleep? I decided to get up, swung my legs onto the floor and hit something soft yet boney. It was Mousey curled up like a Greek slave along side the bed.

She was awake in an instant. “Are you okay; do you want some pain killers or a glass of water?”

“I have to pee.” I said stretching over and past her on my way out the door.

When I came back the nightlight revealed that she wasn’t on the floor any more. My heart leapt but was brought back to reality when I saw she had taken up motionless residence on the far side of the mattress, her face towards the wall. I slid in as quietly as I could and pulled the covers up. I could hear her breathing softly and a lavender smell floated through the air. I was about to fall back to sleep when she spoke.

“If you’re tense again I could help; I know lots of ways, but I’ll do it whichever way you like.”

I didn’t answer and felt her roll over towards me to see if I was asleep. “Did you hear me?”

“I heard you, but I want you to leave.”

“I don’t have any disease if that’s what’s bothering you.”

“Maybe you should go and see if Julie or Camille needs relaxing,” I said perhaps a little too sarcastically.

She was silent. I knew she was sitting up although I was afraid to open my eyes. After a while she crawled off the end of the bed. She was naked when came over to my side to pick up a few things, one of which was the “Battle of the Bears” tee shirt I had autographed when we first met. She slipped it on and folded a blanket under her arm.

“Of everybody living here I thought you would appreciate me the most. I don’t ever want very much from anybody. Not even a thank you. I hope your leg feels better.” With those final words she slipped out the room, closing the door quietly behind her.

* * *

I didn’t leave my bedroom until after eleven the next morning. I heard Camille and Julie bantering as usual before leaving for school and work. Hunger finally drove me down to the kitchen. Mousey was not in evidence so I hurriedly fixed a peanut butter sandwich and grabbed a Coke. I was about to go back up to my room when her radar picked me up and she swooped into the room.

“I can get you something. I made tuna salad for Camille’s lunch so there’s some left.”

“This is fine for now. I’ll be going out later; don’t worry about supper.”

“You’re going to tell them about me, aren’t you?”

“They were the ones who told me about you in the first place.’

“Last night was a trap and I fell right into it. They probably think I’m not good enough for you. Did you hurt your leg just to set me up?”

“My leg feels better. You are very good. Yesterday wasn’t a set up at all, and I feel very uncomfortable talking about it if you must know the truth.”

“When you tell them, say that I can stop. No, say I will stop. I want to stay here and, whatever it takes, that’s what I’m going to do.”

“I believe you when you say you will stop, but the real question is whether they can. And, even if they can, I’m worried about what level I might sink to. You’re like one of those fabulous offers I get in the mail from credit card companies; you make things way too easy.” There was a queer look on her face when I left. She didn’t seem to get my point. I wasn’t sure I did either.

* * *

Despite living in close confines with Camille I’d rarely been in her room other than to ask a quick question or give her a phone message. One half of it was child-like, a collection of dolls and stuffed animals that probably had sentimental meaning. The other side was her adult work space: computer, bookshelves, walls lined with symphonic orchestra posters and racks of CDs for personal or classroom use. I waited a full hour after she came home before I went down the hall and tapped lightly on the half open door. She was sitting on her bed still in her school clothes but wearing her Disney character bedroom slippers.

“I went through the initiation last night.”

She left the bed and went to her desk, turning her computer on to check any messages. “And?”

“I think she’s a poison. She needs to go.”

“She didn’t make the earth move for you?”

“It took five minutes, a hand job if you must know, and, like you said, as impersonal as it can get. Later in the night she came on to me in bed, but I tossed her out. If she stays and tries again I don’t know if I’ll have what it takes. She makes things way too morally inconsequential for a guy like me. That’s what I fear most.”

Camille moved back to her bed and sat on the edge, knees together tightly. “I want to tell you about a time quite recently when I was most happy and another when I was as depressed as I’ve ever been. The happy time was New Year’s Eve. We finished our performance at the auditorium and were down in the dressing rooms exchanging our robes for street clothes. Everyone was hurrying to get dressed so they could go to parties or families before twelve. Louise Shapiro, who’s a choir friend, was probing me to see if I had anywhere to go and hinting that I’d be welcome to go home and be with her family to watch Times Square at midnight on TV. I said no at first but was seriously reconsidering when someone yelled out my name and said a guy was looking for me. Then you showed up, came over, hugged me and proclaimed it an awesome performance. You probably don’t remember it, but Louise tapped me on the shoulder, wished me a happy new year and hoped my beau and I had a nice evening. My ‘beau’—I love that word. Anyway, we linked arms and trotted off for something to eat and at midnight we even kissed although not very romantically. That was one of the nicest nights of my thirty-something life.”

She stopped and looked at me for a response, but I couldn’t think of anything so I went over to her computer table, spun the chair around and sat.

“The worst night of my life was last night. I saw her go into your room. I knew what she was up to. I pretty much guessed what you were going to do. I kept thinking that if you only wanted meaningless sex then why not ask me. What does she have that I don’t have—a conscience and self-respect notwithstanding. I didn’t sleep a wink. I checked several times and knew she wasn’t up in her room. I kept imagining sounds like the ones Julie and Josh made, but it was just this old house creaking, the oil burner or radiators clanking. So now you know I have a thing for you, and how I felt both humiliated and jealous last night.” She sat back, afraid to look at me.

“I’m still not sure who used who, Camille. “All I know is, since she’s been here, on the surface, things seem to run smoothly, but my gut tells me it’s all wrong. She’s seduced the three of us in such a routine, matter-of-fact way. She never wants anything. Nothing is ever missing. The meals are great. The house is immaculate. Aside from gaining a few pounds which she needed, she doesn’t take pleasure from anything. Last night was like having sex with a vending machine. Insert exact change, push a button, wait a few seconds then towel off. And, by the way, I had a nice time New Year’s Eve also.”

We were quiet for a long time. The TV downstairs clicked on, and we heard the audience cheering Oprah’s entrance and knew that Mousey was settled in for an hour. Finally I broke the ice. “What do you want to do?”

“About what?’

“Our resident rodent problem.”

“We have to tell Julie everything. You explain the dirty details of what happened last night and how strongly we feel that she must go. If she stays we’re going to sink lower and lower.”

“We’re already pretty low if you ask me.’

“Not quite. The last time she and I were together she brought up the idea of a threesome. I never asked whether she was thinking of you or Julie as the missing link in her little ménage a trios.”

* * *

We had our Yalta Conference that night. The big three convened in Julie’s bedroom. There was moderate resistance on Julie’s part to having her leave. Everyone deserves a second chance was her mantra. But Camille and I spoke of our sensual weaknesses, and Julie admitted to a failing in that area also. We decided that we should go down and tell her right then and there.

Mousey must have known something was up. Wednesday was a big reality show, TV night which she and Julie always loved watching together, a bowl of popcorn between them. When we entered the living room, she was already crying and hugging the couch’s seat cushion which dwarfed her. Julie led off, I followed and Camille summed the case up. We wanted her out tonight. We’d drive her anywhere. If she didn’t name a place, then we’d already called the Radisson South Portland which was holding a room for her. We’d taken up a collection and come up with some money, call it wages if you will, that she could use as a deposit on an apartment or whatever. It was eleven hundred dollars but the amount wasn’t mentioned. The overstuffed envelope was just placed next to her sobbing form.

We were prepared for violence or an out of control rant, but she just slumped there. Camille turned off the set and we all sat around and watched her, wondering what her next move would be. When the crying calmed down to the point where she could talk, she looked at us and in a barely audible voice asked if she had ever hurt any one of us.

“Did I ever steal anything?”

No one answered her and seeing her best appeal fall on deaf ears she got up, half-heartedly threw to pillow in Julie’s direction, and went upstairs to pack her meager belongings.

* * *

We used Julie’s Ford Explorer. Julie drove, I rode shotgun and Camille held onto one rear window ledge while Mousey had the other. Portland is a decent two hour drive, and we had little traffic. I fiddled with the radio and it seemed every station I picked played a song that had an ironic comment on what we were doing. I finally found a baseball game from Baltimore and that covered the silence well enough.

By eleven we were in South Portland , jets screaming overhead as they made final approach to the airport from parts unknown. I took care of checking Mousey in then came back to the car, gave her the room key, told her the place was hers for three days, and the continental breakfast was free. Camille got her bag out of the back and put it on the asphalt. Our last picture of Mousey Lutz was of her standing a good ten feet from her belongings, looking at them as if they were a bundle of puff adders ready to strike.

* * *

It’s been over six months now. We thought she might come back to haunt us, but it hasn’t happened. Julie had the house locks changed. Camille’s car was keyed, but it was probably someone at her school. A few days after the drop-off Julie called the motel and learned that Mousey was had been hired by their housekeeping services. A few weeks after that Camille called and was told no one by the name of Mousseau or Mousey Lutz ever worked there. Typical.

Julie is now in charge of the entire department store’s cosmetics section and dating, not very seriously, a divorced father with three teenagers. Camille and I have experimented with recreational sex off and on. I have a problem with anything meaningless, and she does too. Our age difference punctuated by Josh and Julie’s experience haunts her as well. I’ve been to some of the plays and dances at her school and know the pleasure it gives when students see her with a date. “Hiya, Miss Greville, don’t do anything we wouldn’t do.” I’m glad to do it for such a nice person, but I’ve got to move on. A doctorate might come next but at some place other than Maine ; Boston University has a good program for someone like me.

© 2006 by D. E. Fredd



About the Author

D. E. Fredd lives in Townsend, Massachusetts. He has had fiction and poetry appear in several literary journals and reviews. He teaches Writing and Literature at New Hampshire Community Technical College.


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