Mouse visits now by invitation only

Nine years ago, I wrote about our first encounter with a mouse in our house. Our old, indoor cat was happy to take on a new roommate so long as it meant no interruption to his busy sleep schedule.

That cat, beloved, despite his universal indifference, has long since departed this world; may he rest in peace. Since then, we have been adopted by a youthful, indoor/outdoor cat, who is anything but indifferent toward mice, birds, and, to his periodic detriment, skunks.

Smokey, the new cat, is a top-notch mouser. It almost seems a shame, to him, that we have not been plagued by mice since he joined our family. It would make his sport perfect if he could have some indoor hunting available on rainy days so he wouldn’t have to get his toes wet in the pursuit of happiness.

Most cat owners can take comfort in the idea that their sweet little killers will help keep mice away from their homes. We were quickly disabused of this false security when Smokey began bringing mice home with him. Fortunately, these visitors were no longer in any condition to cause havoc by the time he brought them.

Not until last week.

Saturday night, Smokey showed up on schedule at the back door. It seemed a routine end to his evening until, after letting him in, we realized he’d brought a friend with him. This was a very healthy and able friend, the only impediment to his extraordinary vigor being that he happened to be held in a cat’s teeth. This condition was soon remedied when Smokey set him down and invited him to play another round of Chase.

Treats in the fridge for Dad, and under the fridge for Cat.

The mouse was game, and also significantly heartier than most mice who drop from cats’ mouths. Smokey might have grazed him in batting the right paw, but by the time the cat realized the left paw bat was a swing and a miss, the mouse was under the couch.

Thus began the humans’ night of playing Cat and Mouse with a cat and a mouse. We closed off the back room and commenced lifting every piece of furniture as the mouse juked the cat from one hiding place to the next. It turns out these games are not well suited to people, and the fun rapidly diminishes, though you might not be able to tell it by the steady increase in volume of their voices.

Eventually, the mouse took sanctuary in the underworkings of the minifridge wherein Daddy’s precious beer is chilled. Neither man nor beast could get him out. I picked up the fridge and set it outside. Mice don’t have fingers strong enough to pop the tab on a beer can, or the cat might have been in a lot more trouble.

Next day, the fridge came back inside—to our knowledge, without a mouse. The beer was saved, and so was the cat.


You kids can’t have nice things

I grew up in a big family. As one of the youngest, I lived under whatever reputation my older siblings had created for us, no matter how poorly I fit that reputation.

The reputation that became firmly attached to us was that of being destroyers of all things pleasant, carefully crafted, or well-intentioned. It didn’t matter that I cared for my toys and did not try to break things merely because broken was the natural state in our world. I was a cemented piece in the group, you kids, as in “You kids can’t have nice things.”

My only relief was the hope that when I grew up I could surround myself with things that were not broken and people who did not shake their heads at me with the sad knowledge that it was only a matter of time.

Fortunately, I was never able to afford the expensive sorts of nice things. The nice things I collected as a young adult were modest. My possessions were not impressive, but they were not broken either. Against all odds, I proved that I could have nice things.

For a while.

Then came children – two boys who love to use all the strength possessed by their little fingers to affect change. Everything they touch is altered by their hands. I’m learning to think of these objects not as broken, just different than they used to be.

Playing with cat and bus

Younger children sometimes labor under the misapprehension that upside-down is adequately broken. It is not. His big brother will teach him how to thoroughly break things.

At first, I tried to move things out of the reach of active, little hands. But there is only so much space up high. Some things must be left to take their chances. Consequently, I now have a fine collection of CD cases that don’t stay shut, filled with ripped paperwork and the wrong CDs, which are all scratched to hell. It’s a good thing only old people use such ancient media anymore.

The boys’ aunt gave us a German cuckoo clock. The clock is too beautiful for us. If we had any gratitude, we’d buy a better house to move the clock into. The boys, unused to seeing such fine things in our house, were overcome with the desire to handle it with their inquisitive, spasmodic hands. I quickly hung it high on the wall, much to their mutual disappointment.

Reaching for the cuckoo

A scene from the baby’s fantasy, in which he can reach the clock and straighten out that crazy bird once and for all.

Every hour, a bird shoots out of the clock to renew their disappointment. If only they could get their paws on that clock for two minutes, what happy boys they’d be.

Yesterday, I brought sleeping Little Brother in from the car as the clock struck one. The cuckoo popped out and did his thing. The boy woke and pointed at the clock. “Ooooh,” he said, before dropping back to sleep. For those not fluent in Babyish, “Ooooh” has many meanings, depending upon the context. Here, it means: “That bird is adequate. One day I’ll get up there to yank on him, and then he’ll be perfect.”

Don’t get the idea that I resent my children’s object-altering hands. I adore those four hands. I wasted years running away. Those hands have returned me to my roots.

I can’t have nice things.

I’m home.