Monday, March 22, 2010
THE GENTLEMANLY MOUSE
A few years ago I lived in a high-rise condominium in Washington, DC. I arrived home one evening in November, walked into my bedroom, opened the closet door and out ran a mouse. As I watched, he ran under my bed. I did not jump and scream because I am not afraid of mice, but I knew he could not live there with me. I called the desk and raved that I had a mouse in my sixth floor apartment. A maintenance man was sent up, but Mouse was nowhere to be found. The maintenance guy put some glue traps in my closet, bedroom and the kitchen.
After he left, I fumed. I was NOT going to live with mice in my apartment. I wondered how many more were around. I peeped under beds and sofas, and moved baskets and sculptures looking for the mouse. I had no idea what I would do if I found him, but I was determined that he would have no peace in my home.
A few nights later I was awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of paper rattling. When I sat up in bed the sound ceased. I laid back down and it began again. When I moved the noise ceased; when I lay still the crunching continued. I got up, got the flashlight and searched under the bed. Nothing. I knew it had to be Mouse but where was he? The rattle of paper sounded so near. A few days later when I went into the linen closet next to my bedroom to get out some gift wrap, I saw that Mouse had been busy munching on tissue paper and gift wrap. I wanted to strangle him.
I could just imagine him and his family living behind the range. Someone suggested that perhaps Mouse got in through a hole behind the gas range. When the range was pulled out we found that the hole in the wall was stuffed with steel wool, and there were no signs of mice. Everyday I checked the glue traps. I hoped against hope that nothing would be attached, certainly not a mouse. Yet I wanted Mouse gone. I was more afraid of dead mice than live ones.
On a cold, dreary Thanksgiving morning I got up feeling blessed. I planned to serve dinner at a home for battered women. And then I walked into the living room. Mouse had left me presents. He had used the back of my white sofa as his own private indoor outhouse. I vibrated with anger. Mouse had also left droppings along the top of the white drapes as if to decorate them. I spent the rest of the morning cleaning the sofa and drapes, and, oh yes, cursing. I was distraught. Mouse wisely stayed out of sight. That did it! Mouse had to go. I had even begun to sort of mellow and thought maybe we could co-exist, but now, never!
One of my adopted brothers came over later that day. As we sat chatting in the living room, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move. There standing in the kitchen doorway was Mouse looking directly at us. I said softly, “Michael, look. It’s Mouse.” Michael got up from his chair to look. Mouse didn’t move. He apparently wanted an introduction to Michael. The three of us gazed at each other. Mouse stood there fearlessly as if he had every right to be there and to know who the visitor was. After several moments he ran back under the range. Yes, this was indeed a different kind of mouse.
I alternated between despair and euphoria, and rage and passivity. One minute I was telling our property manager that there would be no peace in the kingdom until an exterminator got rid of Mouse. Other moments found me daydreaming about making Mouse a pet. Friends thought my situation was hilarious. One friend said Mouse knew how much I loved animals and felt very welcomed in my apartment. I said he was not welcomed, especially since he was not housebroken and was wont to use my sofa and drapes as his private privy!
Finally the building manager sent an exterminator from an environmentally correct company. He said mice can get through or under anything because they have no bones in their bodies. He checked every inch of the apartment and finally found a tiny area underneath my hall door which allowed Mouse to get in. I wanted him to get out. I asked if Mouse would be able to find his way out. The exterminator assured me that Mouse would get out the same way he got in. He then made little balls of something poisonous to mice, but environmentally correct. He placed the little balls in strategic places and said he would return in a few days. I did not see or hear Mouse during those days.
When the exterminator returned he checked the bait and said, “Well, some of it has been eaten. A mouse is dying somewhere.” Oh no! I felt bad for Mouse. The exterminator added, "Let's hope he got out and didn't die inside the walls, or that will be another problem." My heart sank. I hoped that he had gotten out before finding the bait. I never saw or heard Mouse again.
I have wondered over the years why he was not afraid of me. Was it because I did not run and scream whenever I saw him? That must have been a nice change for him to meet a human who was not terrified of him. Mouse seemed to be a gentle creature who wanted only to nestle in gift paper in the linen closet, or nap in my clothes closet, and keep warm underneath the kitchen range. Of course Mouse had to eat too, and since they don’t sell mouse food, Mouse and I would have fallen out when he began nibbling on my food items.
Still, there was something about the little rascal. He seemed to be social because he obviously wanted to meet Michael and gazed at us from the kitchen doorway before retiring back under the range. I had visions of a nest of mice under there. And in my mind’s eye I could see them taking over my apartment and throwing me out when I became too worrisome!
I often think of the evening that I turned on the oven and Mouse came out and stood glaring at me. When I looked down and saw him, I almost burst out laughing. The range had gotten hot and Mouse clearly was unhappy with me. His silence was eloquent. He took up an indignant stance almost with his hands on his hips, and all but shouted about the indignity that had befallen him. My amusement quickly turned to anger and I yelled at Mouse. He did the unmanly, but no doubt, mousely thing, and ran out of the kitchen, down the hallway and into my bedroom! I wanted to hurl curses in mouse language at him, but I’m sure that he got my message.
I’m disappointed that Mouse and I never became better acquainted. I often wonder if Mouse could have become domesticated or would he have remained or reverted to being the disgusting, nibbling-on-everything vermin that people think mice are. Mouse never had a chance to show me. How disappointed he must have been when he realized, as he writhed in agony, that this human being was like all the other humans who only wanted him dead.
I’m sorry, Mouse.