Inspired after watching a documentary about Jane Goodall’s research with chimpanzees, Abby Pilchard determined to make her own contribution to science by studying animals in their natural environment. She chose as her subject a small colony of mice inhabiting a field near Norwich.
Abby pitched a tent in the field and spent days at a time watching the mice, recording her findings in a video journal. After five days she felt she had been accepted into the mouse community, and started referring to herself by her “mouse name”, Princess Fireblade.
As far as scientific discoveries went, there were few. Abby observed that the mice would eat soft plastic when it was mixed with carrot cake. The potential environmental benefits were enormous, but, after measuring the minimum ratio of cake to plastic that the mice were willing to consume, she calculated that to get rid of a single plastic bag would require almost one hundred pounds of carrot cake. It just wasn’t feasible (and the mice mostly just ate the icing, so there would be a lot of waste).
Besides the inherent difficulties of trying to learn from and communicate with another species, Abby had critics to deal with. Her boyfriend, Drew, doubted her motives from the start, suggesting she was only spying on her ex-boyfriend, Kenny, and his fiancé, who had just moved in together in an apartment nearby the field. Of the sixteen hours of video Abby recorded in her first week of research, fourteen of those were focused on Kenny’s living room window. The scientific community, also, was less than supportive. After Abby claimed that the mice had weekly “fight club” style meetings, and that she had become chief mouse by defeating the alpha male in combat (with apparent photographic evidence), some biologists became suspicious. Abby refused to address accusations she had simply sat on the mouse by accident.
Abby’s commitment was tested in her third week of research, when the majority of the mouse colony was captured for testing by a makeup company researcher. Abby, unwilling to abandon her rodent family, volunteered for testing as well. She suffered a terrible rash from a new type of lipstick, and unbearable grief when all the mice died during testing. The prototype mascara, however, made her lashes fuller and brighter, and made her feel more confident.
Though her field research with mice added nothing to mankind’s knowledge of the world, it caught the eye of an eccentric—some would say straight up bonkers—philanthropist. He gave Abby eighty thousand euros to live with and study tiger prawns off the east coast of Australia. And it turned out Kenny’s fiancé was totally cheating on him.
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