Steven Millhauser, "Cat ‘n’ Mouse"

The cat wants to catch the mouse. The mouse outwits the cat every time. How could this ever end?

(from Dangerous Laughter)

The mouse crashes through, leaving a mouse-shaped hole. The cat crashes through, replacing the mouse-shaped hole with a larger, cat-shaped hole. In the living room, they race over the back of the couch, across the piano keys (delicate mouse tune, crash of cat chords), along the blue rug. The fleeing mouse snatches a glance over his shoulder, and when he looks forward again he sees the floor lamp coming closer and closer. Impossible to stop—at the last moment, he splits in half and rejoins himself on the other side. Behind him the rushing cat fails to split in half and crashes into the lamp: his head and body push the brass pole into the shape of a trombone.

Kick ass. This is basically a blow-by-blow retelling of the epic battles between Tom and Jerry (not so much Itchy and Scratchy). There’s some occasional meta stuff, wherein the two immortal enemies ponder to pointlessness of their situation, but mostly this is just matter of fact storytelling. Cat builds a thing. Mouse turns thing against cat, with humorously brutal results. Awesome. Awesome. Read it here.

2 thoughts on “Steven Millhauser, "Cat ‘n’ Mouse"

  1. vegandood

    I just read Cat ‘n’ Mouse it today, from the same collection. Virtuoso writing in a very funny way.

    It does remind me of the T and J cartoons I watched as a kid. Do you have other favorite stories from the same volume?

    I also recently read “Brief encounters with Che Guevara” by Ben Fountain. These are also some of the best short stories I have read in years! Topical, exotic, full of interesting characters.

  2. Fergus Lalor

    The meticulous descriptions brought back so vividly all the Tom ‘n Jerry cartoons I enjoyed ca. 30+ years ago that it was almost as good as seeing them again. All the while, though, I was asking myself “Exactly what is he doing with this?” and I was no wiser when the story ended 8-(


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