Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Mouse Trap

Title: The Mouse Trap
Author: Ranger

Reasonable people ought to be able to sit in their gardens after twilight without it being a major issue or a nightmare.
I was actually not IN the garden as such.
I was lying full length on the hall floor, reading The Goblet of Fire which I'd acquired on my way home and was now about a third of the way through. It was a hot evening and the hall tiles were cool, as well the fact I had the back door open and all the windows in the house standing wide. Anastasia, finding the heat as oppressive as I did, was sprawled full length on the tiles underneath the phone table. Into the middle of this little idyll, at eight pm just as dusk was beginning, walked Jove with his lightnings flashing in all directions. I was deeply involved with the quest with the dragon and was just about formulating a 'hello, did you have a nice day and how was your meeting' kind of response when I was hoisted briskly to my feet and swatted into the kitchen. Not just one swat either. Meanly, Damien held onto my arm and dusted off my jeans a lot more firmly than was at all necessary, all the way across to the kitchen table.
"I've TOLD you about wandering off into the house and leaving the door open. Anyone could walk in. Especially after dark."
I rubbed myself, scowling at him while he put his briefcase away. He wasn't noticeably subdued.
"I was in the hall."
"With your nose in a book. I put a car on the drive and had the front door shut behind me before you even realised I was there. And just how many lights do you have on? I could see the house lit up like a Christmas tree from the end of the road."
Nag nag nag nag…..
I tipped my chin up for his kiss. We were in the process of making up when we both caught a glimmer of movement from the doorstep and jerked apart.
The mouse marched up over the step, had a quick look around the kitchen and then ambled towards us. We were both too surprised to react. Then Damien very slowly leaned past me to pick up the teatowel.
"Stand st-"
The mouse made a dart at me. I levitated about three feet off the ground and grabbed Damien with admittedly a somewhat loud sound of protest. The mouse, equally spooked, vanished under the cooker. Damien swore mildly.
"THAT is one of the many reasons I wish you wouldn't leave the door open."
I headed for a chair and sat with my feet well off the ground, watching as he shut the kitchen door and then gently manoevered the cooker forwards.
"I can't see it."
"You can't leave it!"
Damien had one last look and then put the cooker back.
"If I pull the cooker out any further I'll probably squash it. I suppose the best thing to do is to shut Anastasia in here and let nature take its course."
That was as abhorrent to think about as it sounded.
"You can't do that, she'll kill it."
Damien looked at me. I glared back at him.
"Its cruel. You can't leave her to torture the poor little thing all night, wanting her to get it- it's horrible."
"Nick-" Damien glanced at his watch and put his hands on his hips. "We can't just leave it here. It'll get into the cupboards, it'll chew through the wires or it'll die somewhere inaccessible and we'll need the whole house fumigated."
"Its horrible."
He sighed.
"And you seriously want me, at eight thirty in the evening, to catch one rogue field mouse - which YOU let in, incidentally- to save it from the cat?"
"Yes." I said softly. Damien shook his head and pulled his jacket off.
Of course, being Damien, he knew how to get mice out from behind cookers.
I'm sure normal people don't know these things, but then that is Damien for you. All I can assume was that at the school he attended, they held courses in confronting and effectively organising the unlikelier of events which may discommode the English Gentleman At Home.
Anastasia, realising that something was going on that she shouldn't miss, was trying to dig her way under the kitchen door and complaining bitterly. Damien, flat on his stomach in front of the cooker, slid the yard stick to the back of the cooker and swept it slowly and gently forwards while I climbed onto the draining board.
"It's only a mouse." Damien commented, still drawing the yardstick forwards. The mouse erupted from under the cooker and Damien dropped the tea towel straight over it. The mouse, apparently not impressed by tea towels, visibly bounced up and down underneath it. Damien got up and gently picked up tea towel and mouse.
"Want to have a look? Probably a field mouse-"
"I don't care what it is, what its name is or what it wants, it can just go." I slid off the draining board and made a run for it as Damien began to unwind the towel. Anastasia darted through the kitchen door as soon as I opened it, and shot straight up Damien's leg. Damien, confronted with a spitting, swearing cat and a now panicking mouse, did the only thing he could do and let the mouse and the tea towel go. Both fell onto the floor and the mouse zoomed out from under the tea towel and under the fridge this time. Anastasia leapt after it. Damien, wringing a badly scratched hand, pulled me back before I could pick her up.
"She'll bite you."
"She'll kill it!"
"Nick. No. She'll go for you."
Anastasia, nose under the fridge, was swearing loudly, her tail lashing from side to side. I made a grab for her, quick, before Damien could stop me. Anastasia not so much bit as hit me. With all her claws out. She caught me across the palm and fingers which was extremely painful, then shot up onto the fridge and from there, the top of the kitchen cupboards.
I was thoroughly tired of the corner on the landing by the time Damien finished his shower.
Supposed to be contemplating the precise meaning of "No", I was actually giving a lot more thought to what Anastasia was currently doing to a terrified little brown mouse in the kitchen. My hand still stung. Cleaned, antisepticked and with a plaster over the worst of the scratches, Damien had dismissed me to the corner before he dealt with the scratches up his leg. She never usually attacked us- I didn't want to think what she'd do to the mouse.
Damien emerged from the bathroom, pulling a t shirt over his head.
"Has it come back to you yet what 'no' means?"
Several answers - none of which would prove at all helpful to my cause- vied for place. I swallowed them all down.
"Yes. I'm sorry. I just wanted to stop her."
"And I said no, she'd go for you." Damien folded his arms, looking at me. I fidgeted, looking past him down the stairs.
"Please can't we try getting it out-"
"It went down behind the fridge, it's a got a free run there all along the back of the cupboards. I can't get at it there." Damien put a hand behind my neck and gave me a gentle push towards the bedroom. "We can't just leave it to run riot."
"Can't we leave the back door open? Maybe it'll go out again?"
"And maybe three or four more will come in. Anastasia would have it anyway, we're not going to get her down without one or both of us having more blood drawn. Nick there's nothing more I can do. I'm sorry. The only thing to do is let Anastasia deal with it."
"We could-"
Damien stopped where he was, half way through pulling back the duvet, and Looked at me. I took the hint.
Of course I couldn't sleep.
I was accused several times of Fidgeting With Intent. I denied the charge twice before the jury lost patience and swatted with all the strength of twelve good men and true. I sulked somewhat tearfully on the far side of the bed for a few minutes before I got pulled over and told to go to sleep.
Some people think it's that simple.
I tried not to think about the mouse.
Whose little face and brown eyes I'd caught a glimpse of in the tea towel in Damien's hand.
Facing up to a large, angry and determined cat.
It was no good.
Damien was making that quietly snuffly sound he makes when he's more or less asleep. I cautiously slid out of bed and headed downstairs, freezing on all the creaky steps. I made it down to the kitchen without any stentorian barks interrupting me. The kitchen door was shut. Someone barbaric had dragged me out, turned the light off and left the gladiators to get on with it. Cat and mouse.
I opened the door cautiously. It was deathly silent in the kitchen. My stomach tightened painfully. Prepared for a little, chewed corpse, I flicked the light on.
Anastasia was peacefully asleep on the table. There was no forensic evidence of homicide anywhere in sight. No blood, no pieces, nothing to suggest a fight. I supposed it was possible she'd eaten it entirely- or that it was still under the fridge. I turned once more to scan the kitchen and saw it scuttle rapidly through the open kitchen door and into the hallway. And from there into the lounge.
From the lounge of course it had open access- to the dining room, or straight up the stairs. I stood where I was for a moment, not at all keen on pursuing a mouse barefoot. Anastasia blinked at me from the kitchen table, rolled over and stretched. I picked her up and carried her with me, cautiously, into the hallway. No mouse. Into the lounge. I couldn't put the light on. The stairs led straight up from the lounge, the light would wake Damien instantly. I could HEAR the wretched thing scuffling. I put Anastasia down. She sat down and yawned. Apparently mouse control was not in her contract after eleven pm.
"Nick?" Damien's voice said in no uncertain terms from our room.
Oh heck.
I considered my options at lightening speed and zoomed upstairs as quietly as possible.
"I'm in the bathroom." I said with perfect truth, hovering in the bathroom doorway.
"Then come back to bed." Damien said sleepily. I flushed the toilet as an alibi and unwillingly crossed the landing to our room. And shut our door behind me.
"You're cold." Damien murmured, wincing as I curled up to him.
I would be anything but cold when he realised I'd released the mouse into the house. I shut my eyes and tried not to think of the mouse running havoc loose downstairs. Hopefully Anastasia would grab it before it did any damage. Which was - not what I wanted for the mouse but was better than it getting into bed with us. I did NOT intend to wake up with a mouse running over me.
I fell asleep for a while. I was woken by the sound of the tap running, and then the creak as Damien got back into bed. I started awake and looked at the clock radio. Two am.
"Are you okay?" I rolled over, waiting for the voice of doom. "What's the matter?"
"I wanted an aspirin." Damien settled down and pulled the pillow under his head. "Headache."
Thank God.
Well, not, but you know what I mean. I shifted to get an arm around him and rubbed his neck in a sleepily soothing kind of way, which is usually a good method of making him purr.
I got a nasty jolt when I saw the bedroom door standing open.
Well I was just going to have to wait for him to fall asleep again and then close it. It was STAYING closed until morning. No mice in bed.
All was fine for about five minutes. Damien started to relax by inches, his breathing getting slowly deeper and more even. His neck started to feel less tight and I began to feel sleepily contented that he was going to fall asleep and be comfortable again, and that I had the mouse situation under control.
The mouse and Anastasia arrived together. Loudly. I suppose the mouse must have broken cover by our door. All of a sudden there was the thunder of a cat galloping at high speed, and something zoomed under the bed. I grabbed Damien and the duvet and leapt to my feet, snapping the light on. Of course mice can climb. The damned thing would probably be climbing US in a minute. I hauled all sheet and duvet into the middle of the bed and clutched Damien for protection, searching the floor. Damien, unfazed, rolled over with me still attached and peered under the bed. Then rolled back to survey me.
"Did you let it out?"
"No!" I said indignantly. Anastasia made another leap for the mouse which zoomed out from under the bed and ran up the leg of the bedside table. I fled for the landing.
"So you didn't go down to the kitchen?" Damien inquired, still from the bedroom. I hovered on the landing, very edgy, eyes glued to the doorway.
"I only went to see if it was dead! It got past me!"
"So you did, in fact, let it out."
That was a technicality. People got OFF on technicalities.
Damien emerged from the bedroom with the duvet and the pillows and opened the door to the spare room.
"Come on. We ARE going to get some sleep tonight."
I refused to go in until he'd shaken the duvet and both pillows and proved the mouse was still in our room.
I then stood with my back to the shut door and watched him make the bed, rapidly, with clipped movements that suggested he wasn't too happy.
My suspicions were confirmed when he took a seat on the side of the bed and patted his knees.
"Come here Nicholas."
"I didn't mean to." I said convincingly. "It wasn't my fault, I didn't want Anastasia to eat it."
"You thought it would be better running loose around the house?" Damien inquired. I hate that tone of polite incredulity.
"No. I didn't mean to let it out, I just wanted to see what was happening!"
"And left the door open?"
I muttered something along the phonetic lines of yes.
"Possibly not a good idea." Damien suggested. "We did have a brief conversation on leaving the kitchen door shut for the night when we came to bed. I DID explain to you the many reasons I can think of for NOT wanting a mouse loose in the rest of the house. Electrical shorts, chewed furniture, mouse droppings likely to do horrible things to your asthma, things like that. I also think we also had a discussion about the contextual meaning of 'no'. Didn't we?"
At this moment in time I was giving him no answer likely to move this conversation along at any kind of speed. I looked blank instead. It didn't work. It never does. Damien held out a hand.
"Come here."
"Its not fair!" I objected, trailing across to him. "It was an accident, accidents HAPPEN-"
"NOT if you don't fiddle with situations you've been told to leave alone." Damien said sternly, taking my wrist.
And we all know it goes downhill from here.
I gave in to the inevitable and lay over his lap, already blinking back tears. Damien tugged my pyjama bottoms down and I felt the warm pressure of his palm push the tail of my jacket up my back, increasing the feeling of being hideously vulnerable. No matter how many times we do this, this is inevitably the moment that panic strikes.
"I DIDN'T mean to let it out!"
"I know." Damien said calmly, above and behind me. "But if you'd done as you were told, it wouldn't have got out. Would it?"
"No." I admitted miserably. Damien's hand whacked down hard across both cheeks, making me jump and embark on the face pulling and silent mouthing that is the brief and unpleasant no man's land before tears. He doesn't mess about anyway, but he has particularly matter of fact approaches late at night. From one cheek to the other, moving steadily up and down, his hand fell in a business like way, rapidly building up a blaze that made my eyes sting and blur in seconds. It never takes long either before dignity becomes a luxury I can't buy into and I start the wriggling and whining that leads quickly to outright sobbing. Damien addressed a final series of biting swats to the lower curves of my backside with quite unnecessary thoroughness and steadily increasing vigour, making my voice involuntarily rise half an octave.
"No MEANS no my lad. Just like 'leave things alone' means don't fiddle."
Absolutely. I was convinced. I was all for that point of view. Damien convinced me still further of his argument with three last swats and finally the onslaught ceased. I stayed where I was for a few minutes, still occupied with the full blown, noisy sobbing that has an unavoidable association with this kind of interaction. When I finally managed to tone it down to something quieter and a lot more pathetic, Damien rearranged my clothing and helped me stand up long enough to get the duvet out of the way and turn the light out. Then he lay down and pulled me down after him, both arms wrapping around me.
"If that door gets opened again before morning, you're sleeping next door with the mouse."
Damien had one try at sending me to make the tea when we woke. He didn't get anywhere: there was no way I was encountering the mouse undefended. I informed him of that, which made him laugh, quite without sympathy or understanding. He did however go and make the tea, shutting the door behind him.
"No mouse in sight." He informed me when he came back. "I've searched the place. I haven't found the damage yet either, although I'll bet its chewed through half the electric cables in the house. It's not in our room, not in the lounge, the only other place it could be is the kitchen. I'd guess actually Anastasia's had it. She looks very pleased with herself."
Hmm. Until I saw it leave or found the body, I still didn't intend on taking any chances. I got dressed as fast as possible, put shoes on and headed downstairs with caution.
Anastasia met us in the kitchen and sat in the sunlight on the windowsill, apparently with nothing on her mind except whether she could persuade one of us to give her some tea. She'd never yet accepted Damien's edict that cats did not drink tea. Since I was already dressed I washed up from breakfast while Damien showered, still with a wary eye on the doorway. No mouse. Not a squeak, not a sign. Anastasia, when I put her down in the lounge, had a brief glance around and then went to sleep on the sofa, which was a still more encouraging sign. Reassured, I got the hoover out and ran it quickly over the landing, stairs and downstairs hallway, half an eye on the time. Five minutes past seven. Despite the disruptions of the night we were so far doing quite well.
I was hoovering around the fireplace when the mouse broke cover, almost at my feet.
I swear, I did NOT mean to do it.
It was running straight at me, it was inches away from my feet and the hoover was in my hand. Before I knew what I was doing, I hoovered the mouse.
I hit the switch to kill the motor about a second later, totally horrified at myself.
Damien exploded down the stairs in response to my request for assistance, half dressed and dripping.
"What ever is the matter?"
I pointed at the hoover, considering having hysterics.
"The mouse!"
"Where?" Damien walked past me, peering. I waved at the hoover, nearly socking him in the process.
"I hoovered it! It got in the way and I hoovered it! It's in the hoover!"
"Okay, stop jumping up and down." Damien said soothingly, picking the hoover up. I trailed him out into the garden, panic stricken.
"I DIDN'T mean to! The poor little thing, my God I did NOT mean to-"
"Nicky, the RSPCA are not going to prosecute you for accidentally-"
Suctioning a rodent.
Damien removed the dust chamber from the hoover and shook it gently out on the patio. I braced myself for the mangled remains.
The mouse scooted under the nearest flowerpot and out of sight.
"There." Damien said matter of factly, straightening up. "Now if you'll get the dustpan and brush and clean this up, I'll go and finish my shower. Leave the worms and the beetles alone."
Very funny.
Damien stopped in the doorway as though an idea had just occurred to him, then turned to look at me, waiting until I caught his eye.
"Do NOT hoover the patio."
Who DID he think he was kidding? The man is a natural comedian.
I waited until he was upstairs before I sneaked back into the hall to collect the hoover.
~The End~
Copyright Ranger 2010

1 comment:

dragonquest said...

Oh my, I was almost hysterical with laughter when Nick freaked and Hoovered the mouse. I very much enjoy these stories.

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