Usually I can count on one mouse invasion, and a bravura display of verminating skills, by the end of February. I had been starting to feel like the people (you read about them) who wake up at 4 a.m. the first night a train doesn’t pass at that hour, wondering what is wrong.
Last night I was here at the keyboard, surfing here and there, when I glimpsed Miss Nickel Catmium crouched on the office rug, staring fixedly at nothing under the kneehole of the smaller desk. Tiptoeing around her didn’t cause her to twitch a whisker. I couldn’t see anything but she was clearly on a case. Bingo, about five minutes later a charcoal-gray specimen of mus musculus darted in front of the filing cabinet, then under it a heartbeat too fast for her to seize. Mr. Ferguson ambled in and posted himself between the desk and the doorway.
I always just leave them to it. I have never understood people who yelp and jump up on chairs and so on at the sight of a mouse. They want nothing more to do with us than we with them, and with a staff like mine I never expect to deal with them for long.
All night the little bell on Miss Nickel’s collar jingled. I began to wonder, gazing up at the ceiling, if I ought to take that thing off, but it is good to know where she is most days. It certainly hadn’t interfered with her performance before.
In the morning she was on my bed, tuckered, uninterested in breakfast, to the point I wondered if the mouse was inside her. House cats are more likely to display prey than eat it — I did not pad barefoot to the bathroom — but nary a sign was evident anywhere. Only when I started work on clients did I hear the hunting call — a jungly moan that would scare the crap out of Godzilla.
But no mouse. I decided she had dined on mouseburger after all and was just working off her leftover vim on a cat toy, but received my last client of the afternoon, a cat lover, with an account of the situation.
As she emerged, hair inimitably styled as only a thorough massage can do, my client — a news announcer with a strong sideline in musical belter roles — stopped short of the living room rug, saying in a fruity chest tone richer than fig syrup: “That’s not a live mouse, is it?”
Most dead mice aren’t positioned upright on their hunkers, but other than that he wasn’t moving. I inverted a wastebasket over him and escorted the lady out the door, declining offers of assistance. I don’t think two people can do more with a mouse than one person can.
I slid a dustpan under Mr. Mouse and lifted him gingerly. He trembled. Somehow, he had frozen, as prey creatures will, and evaded capture. One of his minuscule paws lifted and froze again.
I took the wee, sleekit, cow’r’in, tim’rous beastie out to the side yard, under the mildly interested gaze of a construction worker waiting for his ride at the corner, and deposited him on the mulch. He quivered again and swam a bit with all four limbs. I read books on trauma response as a professional thing so I knew if he kept on shaking without anyone interfering he would probably be OK, and if he was damaged the local crow would make it quick; either way, I felt no need to sever his thread personally when he’d managed to escape two stone killers for a night and a day.
If things work out right he will tell all the other mice. They will start thinking of this place as Bluebeard’s Castle. I suppose the staff will get bored, but I’ll think of something.