by Joe Vercillo
Date of Publication: March 25th 2017
Publisher: Wild Thorn Publishing
Genre: Adventure/Coming of Age
Now, I'm not sure if it's like this for every guy out there, but it seems like the main underlying reason for everything I do is because of a girl. It was 'the girl' who made me run away from my hometown. And it was 'the girl' who almost got me killed. But it was also because of 'the girl' that I ended up in New York City with my three best friends on a mad adventure.
My name is Princeton, and I'm a white-footed mouse.
Buy Link: Amazon
AGE SIX RACER
I had a little scare this morning. There I was, lying facedown on the garage floor of 18 Westwinds Boulevard in Princeton, New Jersey. I was only a few feet away from my home, actually—a little woodpile in the front corner.
I felt the bristle of the broom gently pushing then rolling me into the plastic dustpan. Next thing I knew, I was in a shallow grave in the cedar mulch under the damn maple tree out front.
After a heartbreak, I always like to fantasize about having an untimely death and going out in a blaze of glory with the girl who broke my heart bawling her eyes out and wondering how she’s ever gonna live without me. But as great as this death fantasy is, I’ve never really wanted to die.
Now, don't think that this is some sort of Romeo and Juliet story or anything like that because it's not. Even if it were, you should never feel bad when a mouse dies. Our life spans are only about a year in the wild, but to give you some perspective, one day for a mouse feels pretty much like a human year. So most of us live good long lives even if they seem short to people.
So yeah, my name is Princeton, and I'm a mouse—a white-footed mouse, to tell you the truth. We're often confused with our rival cousin, the deer mouse. Our coloring is similar to that of a deer—reddish brown on top with white bellies. The only difference between deer mice and us is our white feet.
By the way, Princeton is just my nickname. I don't wanna tell you my real name because it's kind of embarrassing. The nickname Princeton actually started as a razz. My friends acted as if I had suddenly turned into a douche when I moved to the town that was home to the prestigious Princeton University. Sure, it's full of professors and some of the world’s brightest young minds, but the attitudes here are exactly the same as in any other town I've ever been to. An outsider with an inferiority complex about Princeton should see how most of the humans dress here. It's all sweatpants and hoodies, I swear to God.
Anyway, the nickname Princeton just stuck, and to tell you the truth, it’s grown on me. Nicknames can make or break you. I once knew a guy who was nicknamed The Dove. Some friends and I had shown up at a grain-silo party, and there was this field mouse named Miles sitting way up in the rafters, eating all by himself. My friend Tyler said, “Hey, check it out—the lonesome dove.” Everyone laughed, and from that day on, Miles was known as The Dove. Imagine getting stuck with that nickname for life. Doves are the worst. Trust me.
And Princeton isn't the first nickname I’ve ever had. I've been called other things too. This one time, I had to hide out in a hamster cage for a night to evade a barn cat, and my friend Charlotte started calling me Hamster Boy. Another time, she started calling me Junior after I had a close call with a vacuum cleaner. Why Junior? Well, when she was a kid, she had this pet potato bug named Junior that got sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. She has a sick sense of humor like that.
Anyway, I moved to Princeton a couple weeks ago from Port Elgin, Ontario. To be completely honest, the move was a result of two things, which I'll tell you about in a minute.
Back in Port Elgin, I lived in this little woodpile in the backyard of a big old two-story century home. It was a great setup. The humans who lived there were the Sanagans. I actually got to know them pretty well—not personally, obviously, but you know what I mean. I found a hole in the foundation underneath their deck that led into the wall right behind the kitchen stove. I could sneakster my way in and out of there pretty easily.
There was never a shortage of food in that house, with old half-eaten boxes of cereal lined up along the back wall of the pantry. And it was all of the good stuff too—Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Corn Pops, you name it. The Sanagans were cereal fiends.
The family was also addicted to watching movies, which was how I became such a movie buff. I used to do marathons with them, watching from under the couch.
My taste in music was also shaped in that house. The one son, J.P., would blast his tunage while taking showers. I'd always make a point of being in the bathroom wall near the return air vent in the mornings so I could rock out and jump around to songs like “Blue Orchid” by the White Stripes, “Sober” by Blink-182, or “Breed” by Nirvana. J.P. would be dancing and singing along too, so those days were a lot of fun.
I swear, that place would have been like the damn Elysian Fields if it weren't for a few of its nonhuman inhabitants: Indy—a silver tabby cat, Rascal—a big fat calico cat, and Frankie—a little wiener dog. The fat cat wasn't much to worry about. She would just lie around all day stretched out on the floor like Jabba the Hutt. And she had this permanent sore on her back that kind of looked like a slice of pepperoni. It was strange. I was never sure if I wanted to puke or lick it. Frankie wasn't usually a threat, either. That guy was anything but stealth. I could hear him coming from a hundred miles away with his heavy footsteps and jangly metal collar, not to mention his incessant yelping, whimpering, and whining. Nope, it was only Indy who put the fear of God into me.
Indy was an infamous mouser—a mass murderer—who haunted the dreams of small rodents all across the land. There were rumors in the neighborhood that she had over three thousand kills dating back to the early 2000s. Mice, chipmunks, and rabbits were her favorite targets. During the warmer months, a killing a day was the norm. It wasn't uncommon to come across chipmunks or mice who had been chopped clean in half and left on the front porch or back step like some sort of sick taunt or medieval warning—a message to us all to watch our asses. Other times, you'd just see the entrails or dry blood spots of some other poor departed soul.
The point is, Indy was a professional assassin, and our crossing of paths was the push I needed to get out of town.
So there I was, out on a movie date with this girl named Jules. She was this beautiful field mouse I had gone out with a couple times. She was more of a rebound, to tell you the truth. I was really only seeing her to try to get my mind off of a recent heartbreak. I was very attracted to her, but we didn't have much in common. Deep down, we both probably knew it would never work out.
Anyway, we’d just finished watching the movie—the Sanagans had put on the fourth Harry Potter—and were on our way back through the pantry and into the kitchen. I told her to wait the usual ten seconds to make sure the coast was clear before heading to the exit behind the stove. But Jules—being the naive little field mouse she was—decided to just stroll on out there like a moron. Well, guess who came flying around the corner, barking his head off just as she was walking out? Yup, you guessed it—Frankie, the wiener dog.
I took off like a shot, running straight under the kitchen table and around the corner of the island. My diversion worked as Frankie was right on my ass. That meant that Jules was in the clear and had a safe path to the stove.
There were small cubbies where I could wait out danger in most parts of the Sanagans’ house. But unfortunately, I was chased into the only area that didn't have a hiding place—the dreaded dining room.
“THERE’S A MOUSE!” a human voice yelled out from somewhere behind me. Frankie was still hot on my heels at that point.
Damn. It was one thing for the pets to know you were in their house, but when a human found out that they had a mouse problem, it was pretty much game over. All of your routes and hiding places became compromised—holes got filled by foam insulation; poison-bait stations popped up on every corner of the foundation; snap traps, electric zapper traps, and glue boards got set up at your favorite hangouts. It was a real pain in the ass. If you were lucky enough to make it out alive after being spotted, you'd cut your losses and move on to the next house.
All I could do at that point was beeline it for the junk-cluttered section in the back corner of the room. When I made it there, I squirmed my way in deep and hunkered down to catch my breath.
With all of the barking and yelling, it was hard to concentrate, but this would be the best time to escape—during the pandemonium. I shimmied past a bookshelf and then crawled under the liquor cabinet and stopped for a minute at the back corner. I had to try to figure out where exactly my pursuers were positioned.
Frankie was still barking like a bastard back near the junk pile where I was hiding. I didn't have eyes on him, but he was over there for sure. Mrs. Sanagan was in the same area. I could see her feet and hear her trying to calm Frankie down. She must have been the one who spotted me on my run over here. I could hear Mr. Sanagan yelling from either the kitchen or the family room. He wasn't a very mobile fellow, so I assumed he would be supervising the mouse hunt from afar.
From what I could tell, I only needed to elude the three of them.
If I stayed under the liquor cabinet it’d be game over, Frankie would be moving in to sniff me out at any second. So I did what I had to—I made a run for it.
Did you ever have that feeling as a kid, when the shortcut to get home required you to go through a really dark section of a scary forest or alley, and you'd run through it as fast as you possibly could hoping to God that nothing would snatch you up? Well, that’s pretty much what it feels like to be a mouse making a mad dash.
After scurrying through the dining room doorway into the kitchen, I rounded the corner of the island and saw the stove. My heart leapt for joy—home stretch! But just as I cleared the island, I looked over to my left, and what I saw made my stomach drop. It was Indy, the mass-murdering killer cat. She was sitting there on her haunches, no more than a foot away, staring at me with her squinted green eyes. I instinctively jumped sideways and skidded away from her.
“THERE IT IS! GET IT, INDY!” shouted Mr. Sanagan.
But as God is my witness—and I'll never know the real reason why—Indy let me run right by her. She didn't move an inch. She just sat there with a carefree smirk on her face, like she was only there to watch the show. I'll never forget that act of mercy she displayed for me that day. Ever.
Just a few weeks ago, though, I heard some sobs coming from outside of my woodpile in the garage in New Jersey. It was J.P. He had just gotten word that Indy had passed away in her sleep back home in Port Elgin. I know I should have been rejoicing with the rest of the woodland creatures that she’d haunted and terrorized all of those years, but I ended up saying a little prayer for her that night. Just out of respect for letting me go that day, ya know?
Buy Link: Amazon
Professional ice-hockey goaltender and Canadian singer-songwriter, J. Addams, stumbled upon the love of his life, journeyed down to Princeton, New Jersey, and found a dead mouse in a garage.
MY INTERVIEW WITH JOE VERCILLO
How would you describe your style of writing to someone that has never read your work?
It’s an almost conversational narrative, like your listening to someone tell you a story. Very easy to read.
What are some of your writing/publishing goals for this year?
Hoping to at least get the second installment of Age Six Racer finished. I’m planning for it to be a trilogy.
Do you feel that writing is an ingrained process or just something that flows naturally for you?
It definitely just flows naturally for me. It’s fun. If it wasn’t fun I wouldn’t write.
Do you have a character that you have been working on for a long time that still isn't quite ready, but fills you with excitement to work on the story?
Yes! I have a few that I’m looking forward to bringing in to this ASR series. I’ve been compiling their stories in my notes app.
If you could spend one-week with 5 fictional character, who would they be?
1) Holly Golightly
2) Rubeus Hagrid
3) Tyrion Lannister
4) Holden Caulfield
5) Olivia Darley – I’m pretty sure I’m the real-life Rupert :D
Where would you spend one full year, if you could go ANYWhere? What would you do with this time?
New York City! I’d just live the city life, walking the streets, going to concerts, Ranger games, jazz clubs, good restaurants/eateries, hanging in Central Park. And do day trips in the fall to surf the Jersey Shore.
Can you share you next creative project(s)? If yes, can you give a few details?
The next Age Six Racer book, the heroes will be heading to England! Lots of rats in London.
1 Signed paperback copy
1 Book charm
1 Amazon gift card