As in many summers past, in late June, I found myself on the coast of North Carolina in a beach town called Pine Knoll Shores. This is tradition. Every year, all the schedules converge on one or two weeks when the whole family piles into the grandparent’s’ house for sun and satisfaction.
Some semblance of tradition also lived in the fact that as the house filled to capacity, I was found dwelling farther downstairs and eventually on a foldaway bed in a converted room filled with photos of people I don’t know and relatives who are now much older.
As I went downstairs and pulled at the metal frame of the foldaway bed, I discovered a nice little mouse-made hole filled with little mouse-made, uh, doodie. I dragged the mattress off a sofa bed and made do, simple as that – though others at the scene might mention an accompaniment of whining and complaining.
A few mornings later, I awoke to a tussle outside and the out-of-focus silhouette of Toby, the family feline, popping through the cat door and running under the sheet I had hung in the doorless entryway to block the light in the mornings. In his mouth could be seen the shadow of a thin tail.
“No harm,” said my inner logician. “They’re in the foyer, it’s out of your jurisdiction. Go back to sleep.” And though this is the same voice that recommends sleeping through fire alarms and numbness in the extremities, I blindly followed it as always.
Until the mouse broke free.
Yes, the mouse ran back into the room, and Toby, in what must be an instinctive Tom and Jerry response, came in, as well. Even as they ran through the pile of dirty clothes, under chairs and even on top of my still latent form, I tried going back to sleep. But soon the mouse realized that his – I can’t verify that gender statement – reflexes could outmatch Toby’s, and by running at a wall and turning sharply right before impact, he could effectively give Toby a series of minor concussions.
Call me a lightweight, but I couldn’t sleep through a head-butting cat ignominy. So I got up to bring the smack down on Flo Jo the mouse.
Now I was the one running around the room on the trail of a creature far too small to deserve this much trouble. He scurried into the bathroom, and I shut the door. No cat, no nothing; just him and me. So he began jumping up the walls. Really. Like a good 12 to 14 inches up the wall.
I scanned my limited knowledge of Animal Planet for any reference of the vicious, jugular-nibbling, flying mouse and then grabbed away. Let me tell you, trying to hold onto a jumping mouse in fight or flight mode is like trying to get bars of Ivory to mate. Not that I’ve tried.
So I trapped the mouse in a corner, got a jar and tricked him in. Mark one for human inventiveness. I left the bathroom and Toby looked up as if to say, “You got him, great! Let’s go outside and bat him around a bit.”
No, cat. I must show my spoils to the household.
I took the mouse-filled jar upstairs with a gleaming smile. Those who were awake sat with my grandmother around the breakfast table with an open box of Frosted Mini-Wheats and a half-done crossword puzzle. There was jumping, some light yelps and a command of, “Put that outside.”
My cousin and I took the mouse into the “woods” and set it hopping off to freedom. I filled the rest of the day with boasting and exaggeration. The mouse got bigger and, during one telling, even had metal retractable claws. Toby can back me up on that.