A pest or a pal? My mouse problem.
I’ve got a mouse, just a wee thing who lives in the dark of a vent at the back of my stove. I don’t know how it got there or what it’s like down where it lives. Dark, yes. Dust motes? Skads. Old crumbs? Oh, yeah. Drops of spent grease? I’m sure.
It’s a nice place for a mouse, a mouse from the woods, in for not just the food but the warmth. Why spend five months in the frost when a stove gives you heat, food, nest, and, in a sense, a real home?
All a mouse needs to make a house a home is, yes, kids. Lots of kids. One times ten times five times ten times five.
They add right up. Little mice, first in the nest of motes, then up through the vent to the light and the food left in a pot or pan, that taste of salt, that lick of spice, that grain of rice, that chew of corn to gnaw, that bay leaf that still has a taste of bay.
Yes, I have a mouse like that and, if not now, soon, mice. Times ten.
Then ten times tons.
So I heard her, that mom of tons — rattly-bang, scrape, scuff, clunk — on the steel top of the stove, a mouse in a tiff with a chunk of stale cookie. I went to see, and there I saw, in the slot of the vent, just the snout of a mouse, or half a snout, just the glint of one Mars Black eye, one black bead nose, so small, fixed dead still in fear. And me, too — not in fear as much as doubt.
What to do?
Pound that snout with a…what?…big soup spoon? A slab of steak? A big, fat cook book? My bare fist?
I just stood there, eye to eye, an arm’s length from the beast that’s been with us since the cave. How could I see fear in a flat-black eye? I don’t know, but I saw it. Sensed it. I’m no mouse, but I’ve been a bit too bold and then too scared to move.
Such a brave mouse, so brave and scared, an inch from her prize and, she knew, what might be her death.
Yes, she. Brave and scared that way, it had to be a she, one with mice to feed, just tots in need of a crumb or two.
Who would move first?
I stood my ground. If she came out, I’d slam the stove or scream hell-to-pay, at least try to scare her back to the woods from whence she came.
I stood for a long time. And then, in a blink, she was gone. There, and then — as if at the same time — not there.
I can’t have a mouse in the house. Poop near the food − thoughts of Black Plague − plus it just looks bad.
I went and got a trap — the kind kind, which snaps the neck flat, whack, just like that. No pain, life there and then not there, as if both at the same time, death kissed with the sweet taste of Jif on the tongue. Who doesn’t want to go that way?
You know how this ends. Of course I couldn’t do it. We’d looked at one another too long. We’d grown too close. I felt too much. Or thought too much. I don’t know, I guess I’m just a sap. So shoot me.
I stuffed the cookie chunk into the vent and went to bed. There’s more than one way to get rid of a mouse. I don’t live in a cave. There’s no more Black Plague. No rush. I could come up with a plan. I just had to sleep on it. A good dream might do the trick, a nice, deep dream of need and the sweet taste of Jif.
Glenn Alan Cheney is a writer, translator, and managing editor of New London Librarium. He and his mouse live in Hanover. They can be reached at glenn@NLLibrarium.com.