The Mouse that Roared
After our evening ritual (chaos) of getting the three kids to bed, Melissa and I finally had a chance to settle down tonight at our respective computers for a few minutes to catch up on what the rest of the world had been up to. As I was just getting immersed in the digital world, Melissa intercom'd me (we're a very digital family you see) and her words sent a shiver down my spine: 'The trap was sprung!'.
Apparently the evil rodent had pegged our schedules down to the minute and decided that this was a good time to pop under our sink to see if it could break into a bag of chips. Luckily we had anticipated this and charted its projected course from the cavity beside our reserve dish washer and thus strategically placed the trap along its path! I rushed up to the scene of the crime only to be greeted with the dismal news that the trap had once again failed in the line of duty. Rats!
It probably serves us right for buying a new-fandangled mouse trap, after all, who has ever been able to build a better mouse trap? While ruminating on the seductive yet deceptive power of marketing there came from the depths of the void beneath our sink a faint but definitive crinkle, an unmistakable sign of life where no life should have been found, an incontrovertible omen that the contest between man and beast had only just begun.
Now, I can't say that I'm the pinnacle of most manly of men... I don't know how to fix cars, I don't chew tobacco, don't swear, don't have any tattoos, and not much hair on my back to speak of... yet, to speak some words in my defense, I am enthralled by all things explosive, I enjoy putting things together, I can swagger around my house with the best of them, and I am ever drawn to the thought of that fierce and historic struggle of man versus nature... However I always presumed that my particular conflict with nature would (and should) begin with a relatively benign creature at a respectable distance, and myself in turn heavily armed and legally empowered to discharge all the weapons at my disposal. This was not the case tonight. I shudder to think of what kind of impromptu reaction might have been elicited from me if some half-crazed rabid and potentially mutilated bloody rat had burst out of those cupboard doors...
And as we stood there in confusion wondering what our next line of defense was, I saw the cupboard door begin to move! Quick as a flash I lunged forward and held the doors tight while scanning the floor in case the creature was small enough the squeeze out the crack along the bottom (in hindsight I needn't have worried). This may have been seen by my wife as an act of bravery but in truth it was the potentiality of the afore mentioned scenario which drove me toward my quarry and against every human instinct.
Once in the position of gatekeeper to the scurrilous rascal I was able to do the next best manly thing which was to 'take charge', by which I mean to say I pretended that my job was of utmost priority and thus washed my hands of any other duty. Under my careful instructions, Melissa bravely constructed a 'path to freedom' from the sink to the back door. This involved things like reaching her hands down and stuffing things into the cracks of where we presume the creature has its lair. Our plan was simple: open the cupboard and the frightened animal would make a run for its lair, upon finding the entrance blocked, it would continue down the same path and out the back door where hopefully nature's way would hasten it to a sticky end.
So I armed myself with a wooden spoon (which in hindsight would not have done much of anything) as the closest available weapon and let the doors swing open a few inches. We waited.... and waited.... and nothing happened. Was it really in there? Already Plan B did not look quite so elegant anymore. Time for Plan C...
For Plan C I grabbed my mega maglite (and for those who've seen it, you know that mega is not an overstatement). This would outdo any wooden spoon, but would also destroy any furniture and would be rather unwieldy so would only work as a weapon of last resort, nevertheless there was something comforting about the feel of cold and heavy steel in my hands. Melissa in turns dug out a broom handlish thing and we proceeded to shine the light under the sink and tried to get a glimpse of the nasty thing... nothing. No beady eyes glimmering in the darkness, no scurry to a safer spot, nothing... So I stuck the broom handlish thing in there and whacked things around a bit... nothing.
Now we were stymied. Was the thing in there? Was it a little wood mouse and had it snuck its way back into the lair in that initial door moving moment that had propelled me into action? Was it some kind of alien gremlin thing which was morphing into a pair of slimy jaws that were going to burst out and grab me around the throat? These and many like thoughts skittered through my brain.
Fifteen years of computer programming have taught me that one of the most valuable tools of problem solving is to simplify the question. If I couldn't see the creature because of all the stuff under there, I would slow remove more and more stuff, until the creature's sense of safety was eroded enough and it would dash down the 'path to freedom'. And so began the execution of Plan D...
Melissa propped up the barriers so that she could hold the flashlight while with surgical precision, one by one, I poked each bag of chips out the door and at great risk to life and limb I gingerly reached down and plucked them up and tossed them into the sink (more than once half expecting something to burst from one of the bags). I suspect most of you have not seen the space under our sink, but it would not be an exaggeration to say there were dozens of items to be removed. As the night dragged one, the void became more and more stark. At various points we would pause and watch and listing. Nothing moved. No sound was heard. Finally we were down to an old apron and a couple of tea towels... This was a most puzzling conundrum. If the mouse was hidden in those rags it couldn't be much more than an inch long, but just in case I whacked on them a bit, yet nothing came of it.
So I had to resort to another debugging lesson learned in the trenches: even if it makes no sense, trust reality. We couldn't see the mouse. We couldn't hear the mouse. But the mouse could not have disappeared! I glanced around the enclosure... there was a little shelf with a row of piles of tea towels, and in theory it might be there, but it seemed unlikely as the mouse would have had to be able to jump or climb about six inches or more. Nevertheless, when all else fails, stay the course! I reached in and gingerly removed a couple of tea towels... nothing. I laid them on the counter, and then whacked them a bit for good measure. Nothing. I then reached in again and FLASH!!! I saw a lurching scrambling blackened body with a long spindly tail burst from the back corner of the shelf and scamper up the back of the cupboard... but this thing was no quaint cute mouse, it was BIG! We toppled back as the thing scrabbled around and the faucet began tremble as the rodent swung and jumped throughout the plumbing and the Melissa saw it make a run for it. I covered the angles which could lead to re-entry and she then followed its progress out the back door and across the deck into the blackness of the night... (from whence may it never return!)
Now, I don't want to oversell the size of this rodent either. It was not big as in 'cat big' but it wasn't small as in 'church mouse small'. It was certainly waaaay bigger than I had imagined. No amount of whacking with a wooden spoon would have done this one in, it would have taken a broom handle or some other heftier implement. The fact that it had sat there on that shelf for untold minutes watching us progressively clear out that cupboard without a sound or a motion was more than a little creepy.
We can only hope that the terror it experienced was a searing one that will compel it to forever seek greened pastures in our neighbor's yard (preferably the one that complained to the town about our weeds). We are left, however with many burning and unanswered questions. Where did it come from? How long has it frequented our property? How did it get in the house in the first place? Does it have any friends? I would have rather asked those questions of a corpse neatly discovered in the morning than of the memory of a scurrying shadow which we are now haunted with...