“Mouse” by Jeffrey Round from Men of the Mean Streets (Bold Strokes Books). Edited by Greg Herren and J.M. Redmann.

My first impression of this story was that it wasn’t particularly noir. Upon reading it a second time, however, I was able to see that I was being thrown off by the contemporary setting and straightforward storytelling. Being introduced to all the characters and taking the big picture into consideration kept me from seeing it clearly that first time. In retrospect I believe it fits into the noir genre nicely.

Although the title of the piece is taken from the nickname of the character Jon, it’s actually written from the point of view of his older brother Colin, a cynical, brooding man who pretends to be otherwise. Colin’s wife has just said she wants a divorce, and more than anything he feels a sense of relief at the prospect of no longer needing to keep up pretenses. Colin has a demon he’s kept at bay for years. As he interacts with Jon, now a hopeless I. V. drug addict, we come to find out how Colin’s long ago actions turned a once happy child into a man bent on numbing his emotional pain, at any cost.