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Polar Mouse

by Donna Gagnon

The aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile tucked me into his vest pocket one morning in March of 1926. Don’t know why he wanted an old mouse in his pocket when he was about to climb into an airship bound for the North Pole, but I wasn’t going to complain. I always dreamt of traveling. And nobody had heard my desire to go somewhere new until Signore Nobile found me nibbling on leftover bread crumbs under his kitchen table.

He’s got a lot of interesting friends, my Umberto. Of the sixteen men on board the Norge as we hiss in a hydrogen cloud towards the frozen pole at the top of the world, I like Mr. Amundsen the best. This trip was his brainchild. He knows how to survive cold places and he’s already crossed the Northwest Passage. Some men are born with a perpetual itch that makes them dance far and wide on the backs of horses, the decks of boats and in things that can fly. I am only a mouse but I have also had powerful dreams of being somewhere new. And I am eternally grateful that I was discovered in a dusky kitchen on an important morning.

At night, I pretend to sleep in the bottom of a pocket. I listen as cold wind plays with the muffled voices of these adventurous men. We have come from Rome, touched down in Oslo and in Vadso. We’ve crossed the Barents Sea, stopped in Ny-Alesund and are now finally stretching across the polar ice. Someone says they’re going to drop things when we get to the North Pole. Norwegian, American and Italian flags, from what I can tell. They need to leave markers, proof that brave men actually flew to the top of the world. Just like my family and I do as we travel through walls, under furniture and into cupboards.

Umberto whispers to me as I sit in his hand one morning. He says ‘we are nearly there’ and ‘thank you, Pepino’ as I slip away from him and colourful fabric whips in crazy circles around me. I try to answer my Signore but the air I am falling through has pushed the breath out of my lungs and it’s cold inside these flags, so cold. And I think for a moment about this burning need animals have that drives them to leave parts of themselves wherever they travel.

Copyright © 2006 by Donna Gagnon

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