DoYouWant

By Jesse Turri

There once lived a family of mice in a small, peaceful town called Sheepsgate, which was situated between the endless mountains in a beautiful, picturesque river valley. At first glance one could make the mistake of thinking that this town was very much like most small towns, but this was no ordinary town. In this town mice were recognized as full citizens and were allowed to run free and enjoy life and all its pleasures to the fullest extent. In this town, mice could buy homes, wear clothes, work in factories and offices and buy all the food and goods they could ever want. Best of all there were no traps set with cheese, no sticky paper for tiny mouse feet stick to, no poison beans to be weary of, and no threat of cages or the humiliation of being held captive as a pet. The equality given to mice in Sheepsgate was unprecedented, and it was known and revered throughout the land.
However, although they resided in this happy little haven, Mother and Father Mouse were not so happy, for a great tragedy had befallen this unfortunate mousey brood.

Mother and Father Mouse had met in college, fallen deeply in love and were married not long after graduating. After a short time, Mother Mouse and Father Mouse decided it was time to assess their lives. Father Mouse was doing well, working for the local newspaper as a sports writer, and Mother Mouse had started her own bakery which was very successful; people came from far away to buy her cheesecake. It wasn’t long before they decided to settle down and start a family. After trying for a long time to have a child, and losing one close to birth, Mrs. Mouse gave birth to twin boys. They were named Rufus and Winston. Mother Mouse and Father Mouse were overjoyed and simply adored Rufus and Winston. The baby mice were showered with love from the very beginning of their lives.

After the birth of their sons, Mother Mouse and Father Mouse promised each other that they would do everything in their power to provide a good life for their children, and strive to protect them from straying into a life of unrighteousness. Their lives were completely shattered one day however when, at the age of 20, young Rufus was arrested for the appalling crime of assaulting an old blind mouse and stealing his cheese.

Despite his parents’ relentless love and unconditional affection, Rufus evidently had fallen in with a rough crowd and had become addicted to Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate which he used to dull the pain that he felt deep in his soul. Unbeknownst to Mother and Father Mouse, Rufus suffered from a major depressive disorder, and was also privately dealing with the loss of his childhood friend, Reggie, who worked as a part-time lab mouse and died unexpectedly one day by overdosing medication which he was stealing from the lab.

Unfortunately for Rufus, all infractions of the law, and especially violent crime, were punished swiftly and harshly in Sheepsgate. Rufus was sentenced to two back to back life terms in prison without the possibility of parole. Upon hearing the news that they would never again see their beloved son, Mother and Father Mouse were traumatized. So much so that Father Mouse tore his clothes, dressed in sackcloth and wept for many days in the streets of Sheepsgate, mourning his son as if he were dead.

You see, in this society, those who committed crimes against their fellow citizens were despised and shunned as outcasts. Sheepsgate maintained their peaceful society by swiftly quarantining criminals and effectively isolating them from the rest of the population. The cosmic view that was held in Sheepsgate was that criminal behavior of any kind was a form of illness, a contagion that could be spread to other people if it was not quickly dealt with. If you committed even the smallest of crimes it was thought that your inner moral compass was damaged, and wrongdoing was the result of your sin or the sins committed by your ancestors which were passed down to subsequent generations. In Sheepsgate, criminals were feared because they, above all, were considered to be cursed by God.

Among those who mourned Rufus was his sibling Winston, who loved his twin brother dearly and never accepted the terrible lies that were told about him. Even if Rufus did commit a terrible crime, Winston thought he was not beyond redemption. Winston knew Rufus perhaps better than anyone. Twins, it is said, have an invisible bond that links their hearts together for all time. Winston believed that deep down Rufus was a good mouse that deserved a second chance.

For 38 years Winston faithfully wrote letters to Rufus in prison, even though Winston knew it would be a futile endeavour. Winston understood that once a criminal was committed to Sheepsgate Penitentiary, they were not permitted to have contact with the outside world in any way, shape or form. It was certainly a surprise to Winston then, to discover a letter waiting for him one day in his mailbox with Rufus’ handwriting on it.
In a joyful frenzy Winston tore open the letter and read these words:
My dearest brother,

I miss you, and I long for freedom.

love,
Rufus

Winston immediately pondered the brevity of Rufus’ letter and the odd way in which it just seemed to…appear. His mail is usually delivered in the morning. This letter could not have been delivered with the rest of the mail, he thought. He also thought it strange that Rufus did not make mention of or acknowledge that he had received any of Winston’s notes. How did Rufus get the letter to Winston? Was the briefness of the letter due to restrictions Rufus had to abide in order to smuggle the letter out of prison? These questions Winston could not answer.
Winston immediately wrote a long letter back to Rufus, and to his surprise, the very next week, on the same day at the same time, another letter appeared in his mailbox. It was from from Rufus. Winston opened the letter and read it:

My dearest brother,

I miss you, and I long for freedom.

love,
Rufus

Winston was astounded to discover that the contents of the letter was exactly the same. Winston was sure it was Rufus’ handwriting on the letter, otherwise he would have dismissed this whole thing as a joke; someone attempting to play a cruel, hurtful prank on him and his family.

Winston again excitedly wrote back to Rufus. The following week, like clockwork, another letter arrived in Winston’s mailbox, and just as Winston had guessed, the same words appeared in the letter:

My dearest brother,

I miss you, and I long for freedom.

love,
Rufus

Week after week the letters arrived on the same day. Winston could never be sure who was delivering them. He would leave for work in the morning and when he would return, there it would be, right in his mailbox. Finally, one day, Winston became fed up. He decided to ditch work and wait to see who was delivering these mysterious letters. Maybe this person could answer some of Winston’s questions, he thought.

Winston’s plan was simple. He would turn out his lights and hide behind his sofa, making it appear like no one was home and that it was an ordinary day like any other.

Hours had passed and Winston was getting hungry, it was now past noon and there was no sign of any mysterious messengers. Suddenly, at a quarter past noon, a police car pulled up in front of Winston’s tiny cottage. To Winston’s complete and utter astonishment, he realized at once that his brother Rufus was driving the car. Rufus turned off the car, reached up and removed something that was tucked under the sun visor, it was the letter!
Winston watched Rufus tiptoe up the walk toward the door, scanning his surroundings cautiously. Winston stood up and hurriedly scampered to the front door, throwing it open just as Rufus was depositing the letter into his box.
“Brother!” Winston squeaked. “It’s you!” Winston could not believe his little mousey eyes.

Rufus froze in his tracks. He was startled, frightened and alarmed all at once. He held his breath for two long seconds and said solemnly, “hello brother.”

“It was you this entire time?” Winston squeaked, attempting to make sense of the situation.

“Yes, brother,” Rufus replied, “it was me.”

It turned out that Rufus had cleverly dug a tunnel out of his jail cell and had been stealing the police car to deliver the letters to Winston each week.

Still confused Winston asked, “but brother, if you were able to be free this entire time, why did you continue going back to the prison?”

Rufus looked at his brother whom he loved and squeaked “the bars don’t keep me in brother, they keep the world from getting to me. I can’t handle that much freedom.”

After a tearful goodbye, Rufus turned, walked to the police car and drove back to Sheepsgate Penitentiary.