Short story: “The Mouse”

by look i have opinions

“The Mouse,” by Shirley Jackson

Collected in Just an Ordinary Day: The Uncollected Stories Of Shirley Jackson

Around 2,000 words?

Apparently never published in Jackson’s lifetime. It stuck with me because I didn’t understand it at all on the first couple of reads—what does the mouse being fat have to do with anything?—and then later, when I had set the book down and was doing something completely different, holy shit. The build-up is so subtle that I almost missed it too: the husband setting aside money for someone who doesn’t exist, and his wife seemingly figuring it out without saying so directly. The last lines give me a horribly real image of her face, although her expression is not described or even specified except in terms of the husband’s reaction to it. Remarkable how much hints and atmosphere can do when they’re used well.