6.17 / Science and Fiction Issue


TOKYO, 12/21/2010 – Japanese scientists said Tuesday they had produced a mouse that tweets like a bird in a genetically engineered “evolution” which they hope will shed light on the origins of human language.

We were only trying for a cure, or even a disease. Our funding guaranteed us six more months, but then what? Times were touchy. Six months, luckily, could bear thousands of mice. So we bred them. We waited. For what, we weren’t sure-we’d take anything. A mouse that could handle stress without shedding its skin, or one that could see a new color, or communicate in tiny sign language. Maybe we were looking for a mouse that wouldn’t shit in people’s kitchens, a mouse that wouldn’t make grown adult women scream and climb onto chairs. Instead of building a better mousetrap we’d just build a better mouse. Maybe we wanted a mouse that could refuse food, a mouse that would give us all hope, a mouse with a wink and a top hat, a mouse with a dream. A mouse that could tell us its dreams, what its little mouse mind wanted more than anything. A mouse that could be trapped or wouldn’t need to be. A mouse without tiny adorable ears. We kept breeding. They kept coming. More and more mice, more droppings, and then-cutting through the silken silence of the laboratory morning, clear as the glass window through which I saw my lover for the last time before he left me, as he left me, old as the oldest ova in my grandmother’s ovary, timid as a naked face, timid as a slipping-away tail, a hole, one tiny left turd-one sang.

Beth Brezenoff is a children's book editor. She lives in a tiny bungalow in St. Paul, Minnesota with her husband, their son, and an annoyed terrier. A reformed night owl, caffeine addict, and Brooklynite, she is a firm believer in the restorative power of long naps and front porches. She has work in Literary Mama and from Picture Window Books.