The enemy, at life size.
So the Year of the Mouse continues. (The Chinese would have you believe this is the Year of the Red Monkey, but I haven’t seen even one monkey in the house this season, whereas our abode is apparently TEEMING with various specimens of rodentia.)
Rodents represent that largest group of mammals, accounting for nearly 1,500 of the estimated 4,000 living mammal species. Of those, approximately 1,495 are currently residing in my basement. Fun!
Our latest close encounter of the furred kind came on Saturday morning. I was still abed, but my mom was in her favorite swivel rocker in front of the picture window, either praying or watching the neighbors. Both activities occupy much of her leisure time. By her account, she was sitting quietly when suddenly one of the cats – Remington, for a change – came flying into the living room as if the devil were after him. Actually, he was after the devil … in the form of yet another mouse, which sought refuge under the very chair in which my elderly mother sat.
This was not okay.
I was awakened by the sound of mom berating the resident mousers. “No! No, stupid! It’s under the couch! You cats are USELESS!”
Stumbling blearily out to the battleground, I discovered my disgusted mom trying to point out the invader’s escape route to the clueless cats, who persisted in circling the rocker, although the critter had long since vacated to the narrow space under the sofa.
“It ran under the couch … or behind the fireplace … or … under the treadmill,” mom explained, ticking off just a few of the many convenient hidey-holes we thoughtfully provide for our unwelcome guests. At that moment, the creature itself solved the mystery, emerging from behind the couch to scamper into the middle of the room. I gaped.
It was the size of a Shih Tzu.
Well, maybe not quite that big. But I’m pretty sure it’s the same mouse last seen riding a tiny motorcycle in the movies. When Remington finally noticed it and took up a suspiciously half-hearted pursuit, the mouse scampered around, hopping, skipping and positively cavorting with clear indifference to its feline adversaries. The spectre of my mom wielding a mop head caused it more concern, eventually driving it out of sight again. Behind the piano? Into the La-Z-Boy? Into the depths of the electric fireplace?
Mom thought she heard a faint snap, so we concentrated our search behind the piano, where she had placed a snap trap. The trap had indeed been sprung … but was empty. “That’s no ordinary mouse,” mom commented in awe. “I think it’s a super mouse.”
My life, in movie form.
There was only one thing to be done: all the furniture would need to be removed from the living room, piece by piece, until the wily foe was flushed out. Out came the blue and pink rockers, the glider rocker, the corner table, the side table, the davenport, the recliner and the ancient, two-ton upright piano. (It can be argued that we have too much furniture in that room.) Since the treadmill was too big to move, I lifted up the tread and secured it in its upright storage position.
While I divested the room of its furnishings, mom retreated the kitchen to bake cinnamon rolls with which to fortify ourselves for the next siege. As I pushed the piano away from the wall, the rodent made a break for it … directly toward the kitchen.
“It’s coming your way!” I hollered to mom.
“Awk!” she hollered back.
The two cats loped after it, at something less than their top speed. I began to realize something was amiss here. In the meantime, Mighty Mouse disappeared under the refrigerator. Mom disappeared into the basement.
I finished ridding the living room of its contents, deciding I might as well shampoo the carpet while I had it cleared out. The cats loitered around the refrigerator a few minutes, then lost interest and ambled away in opposite directions. Mom returned from the basement, warily, and we began easing the refrigerator out of its cubby hole. Monster Mouse took the opportunity to dash into the adjacent backdoor entryway, where Peep was having a leisurely graze in a dish of cat kibble. I slammed shut the door between the hall and the kitchen, trapping cat and mouse in the small space.
This is more or less how things went down between Peep and Mighty Mouse.
Next I exited the house via the front door and came around to the back door. I peered in through the window and observed a curious scene: Peep, the mighty hunter, cowered in a corner of the entry, with an expression on his face that clearly communicated, “Hey, I don’t want any trouble, man. Just take the kibble and go.” The mouse was dashing back and forth in an apparent rage.
I opened the door a crack, enough to let out mouse, but not cat. Mouse wasn’t interested in outdoor living.
“Dude,” I remonstrated. “Don’t make this difficult.”
Finally, after stomping around mad a few more seconds, the mouse deigned to accept my offer of clemency. It dashed out the door, over the edge of the deck and into the flower bed beyond.
“I have given you your freedom, mouse!” I called after it. “Don’t squander this gift.”
Back inside, Peep was licking her paws with that exaggerated nonchalance that cats effect when they are mortified by their failings. “It’s okay, Peep,” I comforted her. “That really was a helluva big mouse.”
My mom breathed a sigh of relief at the end of this ordeal, optimistically convinced we’ve seen the last of vermin for the season.
I know better.
You see, when I lifted up the treadmill while clearing the living room, I discovered a small, gray creature cowering behind it. It was, to paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, not the mouse I was looking for. Before I had a chance to deal with this new invader, my attention was drawn to the Mutant Mouse, and when I looked back, the little guy had disappeared. It’s still somewhere in the house … waiting.
Don’t tell mom.