---- — For crying out loud. Can’t we go one winter without a visitation? Just one? Living in an old farmhouse, this is as likely as a Kennedy turning Republican or Mr. Schrock taking up coffee, but a girl can hope, can’t she?
Being a writer, I process life that way. So when the latest episode occurred, I turned to words to express my feelings. “Dear Schrock Mouse, I know you’re in here,” I began. “I’ve heard your grody little feet skittering overhead in the dark of the night. That, and I’ve been finding ‘black rice’ in my pans in the cupboard. Your little colon’s been busy, and it’s making me cranky.”
When I’m on a roll, there’s no holding back. “That’s why I’m putting out a nice peanut butter snack for you. Your cousin who showed up last year sure liked it. So go ahead, little buddy. Chow down. That’s all. Signed, The Grumpy Writer.”
Boy. If I want to get my female friends going, that’s all it takes. Mention a mouse sighting, and there’s a collective shudder followed by expressions of disgust and ideas for the eradication of the little boogers. They process with words, too.
Now, here’s the thing with mice. I don’t invade their homes, eat their food, or scamper around in a ridiculous fur suit. And I sure don’t, uh, leave stuff in their pots and pans, an “October surprise,” if you will. I don’t. That’s why such temerity offends me.
Anyway. That was chapter one. A few nights later, Mr. Schrock dropped a bomb. “I know where the mice are now,” he said, brows beetling slightly. He’d just come up from the basement where he’d been working out.
“Wait. I heard a plural. Did you say mice?” I asked, un-beetled brows traveling north.
“Yup,” he said. “I saw two of them run across the floor.”
“Two?” I quavered from my new resting place atop the counter.
He nodded. “I scared the one so bad, he actually fell over onto his back when he was trying to run away.”
“No heart attack, then?” This in a hopeful tone.
“Nope. But I’m going to set some traps.” And off he went, looking grim, to forage in the pantry for the peanut butter.
Once again, I shared my angst. “Aack! And ick! Mr. Schrock reports seeing Christopher Churchmouse and his wife in the basement. I don’t care how good they think our school system is. They can’t just move into the district and take up residence here. Preparing instruments of death.”
Predictably, the friends hollered, then began offering to loan out various cats they knew. There was general commiseration, which helped, and then this from one harbinger of cheer, “You know what? Mice can have up to 18 babies in each litter. It only takes 20 days’ gestation, too.”
“Not helping!” I cried, then spent a good 20 minutes with my fingers in my ears, shouting, “La-la-la-la-la,” and looking for my happy place.
Our first big break came two days later. A triumphant Mister emerged from the basement, smile beaming like a klieg light. “We got ‘im,” he announced, doing a victory dance that would’ve gotten him penalized in an Irish end zone. (Oh, wait. That might have been me. But whatever.)
Once more, the Excessive Celebrator turned to words to mark the happy occasion. “Christopher D. Churchmouse, Northern Indiana, has gone to his furry demise. He was known, though not loved, for his scampering abilities and his productive little colon. He leaves behind a wife, Christina Churchmouse, who doesn’t know it, but she’ll be next. It is to be hoped that they never produced any offspring. RIP, little buddy.”
This caused no end of hilarity among the friends who raised their voices as one in praise and thanksgiving, asking questions like, “When will the viewing and burial be?” followed by insincere condolences. “So sorry for your loss. Ha ha.”
To my surprise, one friend who’d followed the action admitted in a wistful tone that she was half sorry we’d caught him. As my eyebrows levitated, tickling my follicles, she added, “‘Cause now the story’s over.”
“Oh, no,” I said quickly. “There’s one more. We haven’t caught the widow yet.” She sighed, looking relieved, and said she’d stay tuned.
I realize that there are worse things than having a mouse larking through your cupboards and eating your cheese. Actually, with a husband who’s been on a terrific cheese kick lately, that’s nothing new, though to his credit, the only things he leaves behind are crumbs. There is that.
Running out of coffee could be worse. The day I found the last two beans rattling around in the bottom of the bag was a downer. I haven’t been that disappointed since learning that the tooth fairy was actually my dad in a pair of rumpled pajamas. For now, though, we have reached a fragile sort of peace. Mr. Schrock will keep hunting mice, and I’ll make sure the coffee holds steady. We can’t have Mama decaffeinated, after all. No, we can’t.