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Illustration by Jessica Garza

The mouse was such a tiny thing. Although her ears were a bit large for her body, they suited her fine. She scooted across the floor one night in a rush, stopping only for a minute or two, right in front of me. We froze, our brown eyes locking.

“Are you cold?” I asked it. “You poor thing. Well, at least you’re wearing a fine fur coat, so somebody must have cared for you. Have you come to chat with me? Would you like a bite to eat?”

She didn’t answer, not even a squeak. I wondered if she needed a home, and if I should arrange a spot for her. I certainly didn’t want her to think she’d be sharing a bed with me.

She began to make the late night visits a regular occurrence, and I looked forward to them. Many nights we’d stay up late together. I’d read a book, draw or write, while she’d busy herself scampering around my cell.

Her ears perked up when she listened to my poetry, and she didn’t think it was corny at all. I’d lay out late night snacks for her, which she gladly accepted. She’d nibble on it and sometimes lay a bit of a snack by my feet.

Illustration by Jessica Garza

She would crawl up the TV cable or power cord to the top shelves of my lockers. Then she’d come to the edge and look down at me, beaming with pride.

When I thought it was time to give her a name, I said to myself, “What is this little mouse to me? Yes, I’ll call her Precious.” I wanted to tear apart my prison blues to tailor her some matching clothes.

I wondered if she’d like coffee. Then she could stay up late with me, and we’d drink our coffee together.

One night Precious failed to show up, and the next night I watched the door anxiously. But again and again she didn’t show up. Where could she have run off to?

But then the artist in me came up with an idea: I can try to fix this! So I made a reward poster, offering a cash reward for the safe return of my girl pet mouse. I had copies made and posted them all over the prison. I even wanted to post them on our milk cartons.

I’ll always remember her, my precious late night visitor. Late nights just aren’t the same without her.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Jessica Garza is a writer and artist incarcerated in California.