|Illustration by Denise Gallagher for exboyfriendmaterial.com.|
Find more of Denise's work at denisegallagher.com.
The chipmunk and the field mouse already had a history, but they were both in places where they were ready to try dating each other again.
"I know it's only been a year," the chipmunk said to his best friend, the hedgehog. "But he's grown up a lot since then, and I'd like to see where this goes." The hedgehog chewed on a pine needle and pressed the rewind button on the remote. "You made me miss what Walt said to Skyler about the car wash," he muttered. "So you don't care at all if I date the field mouse again?" asked the chipmunk. The hedgehog huffed so that his quills stood up, and he pressed pause. “Why would I get invested in a story when I already know the ending?" he said. And then he pressed play and they watched the rest of the episode in silence.
The field mouse was tiny with a square smile and dreams of one day becoming a foot surgeon. The chipmunk was older than the field mouse and had a reputation among the other woodland creatures for being impulsive and sometimes reckless. But he cared about the field mouse, and he wanted to make a good first impression the second time around. "Would you like to go to a football game with me?” he asked the field mouse one day. “The bears are playing the falcons this weekend, and we could go together. If you want." The field mouse grinned and bit his little fingers. “That sounds like fun,” he said. “Would you, um. Would you like to sleep over the night before and maybe we can order pizza and watch a movie?” The chipmunk breathed a hopeful sigh of relief and said, “That sounds wonderful. I’ll be over around seven.”
Since they’d dated before, they were already quite familiar with one another. They called each other “baby,” and avoided pushing sensitive buttons. Deep down, the field mouse was afraid the chipmunk would break up with him again, and the chipmunk had his reservations about the field mouse’s maturity. Still, they weighed the advantages of being in a relationship and vowed to be cautiously optimistic about the future. And for both of them, Friday night could not come soon enough.
They sat together on the moss-stuffed sofa where they ate pizza and watched the Evil Dead remake starring that girl from Suburgatory. When the movie got especially gruesome, the field mouse would scurry up the back of the sofa and burry his nose into the chipmunk’s neck. The chipmunk kept his arm around the field mouse and tried, with difficulty, not to laugh at him. When the movie was over, the field mouse picked up the empty boxes and cups, and wordlessly led the chipmunk by the hand to the bedroom.
In the morning, they had breakfast and discussed breezy topics like family and mutual friends. The atmosphere only became mildly heated when the conversation turned to dogs. “I just love dogs,” said the field mouse. “If I were big enough, I’d like to care for one of my own.” The chipmunk grimaced and slurped his orange juice. “I’m allergic to dogs,” he said. “But even if I wasn’t allergic, I’d still hate them.” The field mouse looked indignant. “And why is that?” he asked. “Because they’re fucking terrifying,” said the chipmunk. “They’re like giant, stupid murder machines. The fact that they make me sniffle is nature’s way of keeping me far away from them.” The field mouse pushed his omelet fragments around the plate with his fork. “Pomeranians are beautiful,” he said under his breath. The chipmunk reached under the table and grabbed the field mouse’s hand. “You’re all the beauty I need,” said the chipmunk, and then he kissed the field mouse, even though his cheeks were puffed up with hash browns.
At the football game, the chipmunk got very drunk. The field mouse watched him stumble around and pose for pictures with his friends. The chipmunk flirted with a handsome badger, and the field mouse stood by and whispered to his friend, the raccoon, about what an asshole the chipmunk was being. Then, it began to rain and they all got wet. It rained so much that the field mouse had to take the chipmunk back to his burrow where they dried off in front of a fire. “I knew this was a bad idea,” the field mouse finally said. “You’re always going to be an obnoxious drunk, and you’re never going to take anything seriously. Especially me!” Still plastered, the chipmunk rolled his eyes at the field mouse and said, “You’ve been looking for a reason to break this off since we started again. I’m just sorry I gave you one. You always act like such a little bitch. And for the record, I don’t buy your whole ‘timid field mouse’ routine. You gave it up on our first date, remember that?” Outside the burrow, the rain was falling harder and harder and thunder gurgled in the meadow. “I want you to leave,” said the field mouse. “But since it’s raining, you can stay here again tonight. I’ll take the sofa.” The field mouse got up and the chipmunk reached for him and missed, sending his arm swatting through the air. “Look, I’m sorry,” said the chipmunk, running both hands through the fur on his head. “I shouldn’t have said that. But you need to relax. You can’t bury me in blame like a pile of acorns and then walk away. Can this really be over before it begins?” The field mouse began to cry. “There were a few moments last night when I felt like this could work,” he said, gripping his long tail and curling it between his hands. The rain outside crashed against the ground in dull thuds. “But this was a mistake.” The chipmunk tried to plead his case, but since he was still drunk, he failed continuously to prove a convincing argument. So the field mouse left him there in front of the fire where he finally fell asleep to the sounds of inclement weather.
In the morning, the chipmunk sat on the edge of the moss-stuffed sofa where the field mouse was sleeping. The field mouse awoke and rubbed his eyes, gazing up at the chipmunk, who looked disheveled and sad. The field mouse stayed quiet, waiting for the chipmunk to say something. Finally, the chipmunk took a deep breath, his furry tummy rising in a big heap, and said, “I messed this up again. And I’m truly sorry.” The field mouse did not say anything because they had reached the point in their dialogue where anything further would be conversational debris.
So, the chipmunk left the burrow and climbed up the nearby tree that would take him home. From a jutting limb, he took one last look at the field mouse’s burrow, which was surrounded by a trench of standing rainwater. He thought about going back to tell the field mouse he wanted to try one more time, but then decided that all the water would make it too difficult.