The Intruder, pt.2 : A Tale Of Idiocy and Heroism, concluded.
Now what? There was a live mouse trapped under a large soup bowl. I didn’t have an answer for what came next, and my wife (The Hero) had other things to do, after all.
So, we left the mouse under the bowl. For the time being.
My wife, feeling her work here was done, had showered and headed off to a meeting at church prior to the service we were all supposed to be attending together.
I found it difficult to just go about my day with a live mouse trapped under a bowl in a battle ravaged corner of our family room. But, failing to devise any kind of agreeable disposal plan, that is exactly what I proceeded to do. So I took my turn in the shower, and made a commitment to deal with it, well … eventually. My kids had decided that since the mouse (or one of the mice) was no longer scurrying, then he was no longer interesting (daughter) or horrifying (son), and they proceeded to do a puzzle on the floor about 3 feet from the incarcerated rodent. I was too focused on preparing for my shower to object to the proximity.
There is something about a shower. It clears the head. The white noise, the steam, the hot water, the process of removing a day’s dirt from one’s carriage … all this clears a path in the cluttered brain and helps to put things in perspective. My shower fortified me and allowed me to formulate a reasonable, workable plan that would not involve leaving the mouse imprisoned beneath a heavy Korean noodle bowl for two plus hours while we went about our Sunday. The plan was simple, would take only moments, and would save the mouse from an eventual unpleasant death (by this time we had alerted the landlord who was preparing for the rodents demise). I felt confident. Determined. Calmly resolved.
Trailing the courage and clarity that the shower provided me, I dressed and began to gather the materials needed to execute my plan. My son, upon learning of the plan to dispose of the mouse, began to get chatty again and bounce around the family room, his enthusiasm peppered with the occasional admission of pure terror and growing dislike of scurrying in general. Me, I just needed a flat, stiff piece of something-or-other that I could slip under the bowl and use to leverage the heavy bowl (and the cleverly still-contained mouse) off the floor and carry it down three flights of stairs only to release him by the tree about a half a block down the street.
And, I freely admit that my enthusiasm for this plan and the new-found confidence in my ability to carry it out was, in no small part, fueled by a desire to do my part in the situation and impress the Hero: to greet my fearless, mouse-battling wife at the church and tell her, with beaming pride: “It’s all taken care of.”
But soon, my confidence began to falter. See, every individual possesses unique talents and natural gifts. Me? I happen to possess the uncanny ability to vividly envision, in nearly any situation, every possible way that a thing could go horribly wrong. This delightful ability accounts for my lifelong discomfort around ladders or heights of any kind, my distrust of giant steel machines that fly, my rejection of daredevil sports of any kind, my phobia about anesthesia or surgery … you get the picture. And as I searched around the house, I was super jazzed to find that I got to add “mouse disposal” to that list. Each piece of cardboard or plastic or paper was either too thick or too thin or too narrow, the wrong color or texture and would surely provide the mouse with an ability to wiggle between the bowl and cardboard and scurry out across my hand and up my arm and across my sensitive, exposed neck before leaping to freedom and scurrying away trailing a maniacal, squeaky laugh. Even if he didn’t manage an outright jailbreak, there was a chance that he could squeeze his little nose out and nibble my hand as I transported him down three flights of stairs. And I would certainly scream and drop the mouse on the stairs, breaking our Korean bowl and probably a rib as I tripped and tumbled down the steps in an attempt to avoid stepping on the emancipated rodent who would be scurrying away trailing a maniacal, squeaky laugh. And even if he couldn’t mange a bite, he would most surely feel his entire world shift beneath him as I lifted him from the floor and began to carry him towards the stairwell. If so, he would surely panic, and I would undoubtedly be provided with the disquieting sensation of needly rodent feet skittering in the bowl in a panicky way, with only a thin sheet of something-or-other between my palm and the tiny clawed, scurrying feet. And in that decidedly horrible situation, I would most certainly drop the bowl in eeky disgust before I even made it to the stairs, releasing the mouse into our living room and bedroom areas where he would disappear trailing a maniacal, squeaky laugh. At the very least, he would most certainly emit that horrible squeal again, and that was not a sound that was all too pumped about experiencing again.
So I was hozed before I even started. My simple plan had become filibustered by the anxiety of “what-if.” The mouse would remain beneath the bowl. We left him there and joined my wife at Church. Determined to demonstrate my dedication to the situation that awaited us at home, I sat in the pew next to her and whispered to her of my plan and that stated that “I almost took care of the mouse.”
Such lies I tell. I didn’t even get close.
We came home a few hours later. The bowl was (of course) where it was before. One could only assume the mouse was still there. There were no signs of actual life; it was still and quiet beneath that bowl. In fact, the captive had been utterly silent since the bowl was first slammed down on top of him. I started to wonder if he might be dead. OR. If he was actually under there at all. What if he had somehow outwitted the Hero and managed to somehow escape his ceramic prison altogether? What if he was currently nestled inside our pantry, chewing through our cereal boxes and making nests in our bread bags and tittering in our general direction?
While I was busy ruminating on these theoretical dilemmas, my wife (still in church clothes and shoes) had left the room and come back with a translucent file folder made of the thinnest, flimsiest plastic I had ever seen. My heartbeat quickened. Oh God. Not only would this material surely allow the Intruder (if he was in fact, in there) to escape easily, but as soon as the bowl was lifted and flipped over, the mouse would be easily visible as he scurried and bashed around in desperate panic beneath the thin material of the folder. What a horrid sight that would be.
I started to protest “Honey, he can –“
But The Hero was already in action. She slid the plastic beneath the bowl. She hesitated for a millisecond.
“Oh, hello mouse poop.”
“Ehh!” My son, who has an aversion to animal scat of any kind, darted around the corner into the hallway.
The Hero started to slowly lift the bowl off the floor. The plastic bowed, as I knew it would. I caught a momentary glimpse of something grey/pink. A nose.
“Keep the plastic tight he can get out!” I began to bounce up and down on the family room floor. It was like drums. Boom, boom, boom.
“Oh, he’s pissed,” says the Hero.
“PEWP!” says my daughter, gleefully pointing at the tiny pile of droppings. She currently thinks poop is 90% hilarious and only 10% gross, so this was clearly the highlight of her day.
Somehow, though, the Hero manages to thwart the horrible scenarios presented by my prophetic anxieties and has successfully lifted the bowl from the floor. The mouse has miraculously remained inside. She upends the mouse’s world and flips the bowl right side up, with the plastic folder held firmly on top. There is, finally, no chance of escape. Relief surges through my son and I. We both stop our various hopping. He gives his heroic mother a “Good job, Mom!”and we follow behind her as we head toward the back steps.
Finally, I get a chance to contribute to the operation. I slip in front of my wife, and I lead the heroic procession to the stairwell. I unlock the door. I open the door for her. I do the same at the bottom of the stairwell. I am filled with self-satisfaction.
My daughter thinks we should put the mouse in the garbage. But I, being filled with newfound resolve to continue my recent contributions, confidently instruct the mouse carrying Hero to walk down the block and deposit the mouse beneath an old tree. She agrees. It is cold. I hardly notice. I am too busy being helpful.
Kids on our heels, we arrive at the tree. “Watch out guys,” my wife says to our kids. My son is slightly behind me, holding on to my shirt. Not sure what he thinks will emerge from that bowl, but my hunch is that his imagination is not exactly co-operating with him. Can’t imagine where he gets that.
The Hero unceremoniously dumps her prisoner under the old oak tree. The mouse drops to the ground. He doesn’t move. He looks at us.
“Awwwwwww!!” says my son. His grip loosens from my shirt.
“He’s sooooo CUUUUUTE.” says my daughter.
The mouse regards us. He then moves to the side of the tree and bustles down. He visibly shivers. Turns out he is indeed tailless, and turns out he is indeed an extraordinarily cute little mouse.
Also turns out that he isn’t even a mouse at all.
“Honey?” I say to the Hero as I notice the white and brown fur and the sweetness of its face, which is looking at us with a puzzled WTF expression. It is clearly freezing his little ass off.
“Honey. That is not a mouse. That is a hamster.”
“Nooo.” she says silently.
We all stare some more. In the light of day, it is immediately clear that this is indeed a domestic rodent of some kind, and a damned cute one at that. In the light of day, it looked very different from the scurrying terrorist that haunted our kitchen for 36 hours in such a bold manner. I felt a deep blush arise in my shameful soul. A hamster?
Silence. Everything is different now.
The little _______ shivers and huddles closer to the tree. Snow starts to fall.
“CAN WE KEEP HIM????” In moments like these, it would be so much easier not to have children.
We all suddenly agree that it is imperative that the ___________ get back inside the bowl. The Hero manages to get him back in with little effort. I honestly think he might have outright leapt back in the bowl with real relief. It was now snowing like it might actually mean it.
I pull out my phone. The neighbors below us have two young girls. Standing in the coming snow, I call them. The mother answers. I hesitate.
“Hey, so weird question: I don’t suppose you guys happen to be missing a hamster or . . . something?”
“Oh my God.” says the mother, galled. “Did you find her?”
I told her that I thought that we did.
Ten minutes later, the she-hamster was returned to the warmth of her apartment and the comfort of her cage. Turns out she was an habitual escapee and this time, she had been missing for days. How in the world she managed to escape her cage, ascend into an apartment a full floor above her and not only survive but terrorize a hapless 40 year old man and his unsuspecting family for 36 straight hours is beyond me, but it was a commendable achievement for a hamster. Some animals, no matter how tiny and domesticated, are simply too wild at heart to be contained. She has an adventurer’s heart and a survivor’s will. She is to be admired and lauded. And I’m so glad we did not kill her.
But mostly, I’m just glad she’s not in my kitchen anymore.