The background on this story is that my daughter was living with her grandmother and aunt in Greensburg PA while attending the university of Pittsburgh for a semester. Half way through the semester, while on break, she found a mouse and decided to keep it as a pet. She bought a cage for it and supplied the mouse’s new home with everything that one would think a mouse would like and then she headed back to grandma’s with mouse in tow..
All went well for the first few days.. till the mouse escaped.. this is the story.. from the perspective of of the resident house mouse at grandma’s house…
A Mouse Memoir
This house used to be full of activity. A mother, a father, and five children all packed into a tiny space, people running here and there, arguing, laughing, all gathered around a little table for dinner. It was just what a mouse needed to feel right at home. Life was exciting back then, and so was my dinner. One can imagine the amount of treats that were left behind at night time!
But most of that has faded into a dim memory. One by one the children moved out of the house, and the father left as well. A house that used to be filled with noise from sun up till sun down and beyond was now filled with silence punctuated by the clatter of a spoon in the sink or the hushed sound of the mother turning yet another page in her magazine as she sat on the couch sipping her coffee. Life took on a quiet routine. A less sophisticated mouse might consider it to be boring, but I took comfort in the warmth and safety of which every mouse dreams.
I often wondered if she knew I was there. They called her Edith, and while we never spoke.. how could we..,I felt a certain kinship. I had observed her life over the years and came to know her as a kind and gentle woman, and I fantasized that she must enjoy my companionship just as much as I had come to appreciate knowing that she was there.
It appeared that the course of my life had been set, that the two of us would grow old together, but then, one day, one of the children returned, and she brought a dog with her. Immediately, my guard was up. The carefree days were over! That dog saw me the instant that he entered the kitchen, and, for the next few years, it was back to minding my own business, the business of survival!
One night, I watched from my hiding place as the dog fell asleep. It was the last time that he would close his eyes. The daughter was distraught when she could not awaken the dog. I, too, felt a little sad. After all, there was a certain thrill associated with living with a dog. Catching his eye and then racing under the closed closet door, and waiting to see his paw grope underneath the door.. I couldn’t help but tease the old guy once in a while.
The quiet routine once again settled upon the house. The daughter went to work. Edith fixed her coffee and made her way into the living room, picking up a magazine from the basket as she passed by. After she made herself comfortable on the couch, I would sneak up next to her feet, not close enough to touch her, mind you, but just behind the dust ruffle of the couch, close enough to feel the warmth and to settle into a short mouse nap as she paged through the magazine.
Then, one day a grand daughter showed up with her things. “What is this” I wondered. A new roommate, a new adjustment in my life, but a very pleasant one. Out of nowhere, the house was filled with a different kind of energy. It reminded me of the old days, laughter in the kitchen, hurried activity as she raced around the house gathering her things for classes, the light on late at night as she wrote and listened to music. There was something different about this one. It took a while before could put my claw on it, but then it dawned on me. Her hair! I had never seen hair like this on a human. What a beautiful nest it would make if it would only stay still! What does the word “dreadlocks” mean, anyway?
I was getting fairly used to the new routine when I watched her pack her backpack and say good bye to Edith. She was off. Little did I know that she would return in a week with a surprise of all surprises..
It was late in the evening when I heard her voice. “Hi gram” she said. “Look what I brought home.” I scurried to a vantage point that I had used so many years and looked in amazement as she produced a small box. Inside the box was … a mouse! It was a beautiful young creature. I was beside myself with joy, a companion just for me! How could she have known that I longed all these years for a friend. Now, the years separating us were many, and although I could not help but admire her curves, it was immediately obvious to me that ours would not be a romantic relationship. No, those days were long gone. Instead, it just might take the form of a father / daughter relationship that I had never had. “His name is Phillipe”, she said. “Phillepe?” I cried. Of course, no one could hear me. “Can’t you see that it is a girl?” I continued. Oh well, there were definitely instances when I came to expect too much of these humans, and , perhaps, this was one of those times!
After much discussion, the occupants of the house settled in for the night. I waited till the coast was clear and then headed over to introduce myself to our new guest. As I approached her home, I heard her crying. “What is wrong”? I asked. She startled, and then turned to me and said “hello”. “Can you come out” I asked? She then went on to explain that she had yet to find a way out of her house. It really was not a house at all. It was a prison. I explained that she just needed to find a rough spot on the wall. There she could begin to nibble away at the wall, and, in no time, she would be free. I cautioned her to work only at night time when the humans were asleep.
She made a lot of progress that night, as I stood by to offer any encouragement that might help. Over the next few nights, the persistent nibbling paid off. We exchanged some pleasantries. I learned that her name was Elizabeth. She couldn’t understand why the human insisted on calling her Phillipe, but I thought it best to save that explanation till after her escape. One night, the girl moved Elizabeth’s cage to the living room. It was the perfect scenario. This would be the night for the final breakout! I watched with growing excitement as Elizabeth broke through. After that, it was just a matter of enlarging the hole so that she could fit through. “Follow me” I cried as her tail emerged from the cage.
The rest of the night was spent on a tour of her new home. I showed her my next and all of the pathways leading in and out of rooms. She was very complimentary of the work that I had done. She told me that she was from New Hampshire. When I asked her where that was, she did not know. I told her that she was now in Pennsylvania, but when she asked where that was, I had to think. “ I guess I can’t say”, I replied. “It is just here, where I have always lived.” Elizabeth described her journey… hours and hours of sitting in her jail, looking out the window but being able to see only the tops of the trees whizzing by and listening to load music often accompanied by the girl singing. And then she described the night of horror. Along their way, they stopped to stay with some folks overnight. As soon as the girl set the cage down on the table, Elizabeth described a feeling of being watched. She turned to see the face of a cat, up close, sniffing her cage! The evil glint in the cat’s eye’s are a sight that she will never forget. She raced to the other end of her cage to be confronted by yet another cat, and when she turned to the right.. a third cat, all watching her intently. She could see their tails flicking back and forth and saliva dripping from there sharp teeth, as one after the other licked his chops.. It was a blessing that she did not die of fright right then there! Needless to say, she did not sleep a wink that night, even when the girl put her in a small room and shut the door. How could she be sure that the cat couldn’t open the door? She could hear them pawing at it hour after hour. Elizabeth was not unhappy to leave that place!
In a matter of no time, I had grown quite fond of Elizabeth. I offered advice, as any good father would and explained the routine of my life. I imagined that she would love to stay here with me, in the warmth and safety of this house. But that was not to be. Elizabeth had been born and raised outdoors. She longed to be back outside where she could enjoy her freedom. We talked about the possibility of escape, but my discussion was only half-hearted. How could I help her leave when I had hoped for a companion all these years?
A few nights after her escape, Elizabeth went to check to see that all the humans had bedded down for the night. I went to the kitchen to scope out the dinner possibilities. It was when I reached the end of the counter that I saw it. A trap! It didn’t look like any trap that I had seen before, but that didn’t matter. It was clear that it was a trap. That guy who showed up earlier in the evening must have brought it. Cheese and peanut butter.. couldn’t these humans be a little more imaginative? How about chocolate cake with cream cheese icing for once? At least then the challenge would be worth it!
It occurred to me that I had better warn Elizabeth, but she could be anywhere in the house. Racing back to the nest, I called her name as loudly as I dared, but she was not to be found. As I pondered my next move, I heard the unmistakable sound of steel clashing against steel. I was sure that the racket must have awakened the entire household, but a quick check indicated that the humans were sleeping peacefully. I scampered to the kitchen to have my worst fear confirmed. There, inside the trap, sat Elizabeth, imprisoned once again. I frantically circled the trap, looking for a way out, but, alas, there was no escape to be found. The best that I could do was to sit just outside and try to console Elizabeth as best I could. I listened as she told me stories about life outside and how she still longed to escape to the wilds beyond the walls of the house. My spirits were lifted when she paused to thank me for all that I had done and to explain that, under other circumstances, she might be content to make this place her home. I assured her that she was fortunate that the humans had not set an old style trap, but chose not to disclose the gory details of what she would have experienced had she been snared by one of them.
Daylight began to filter into the kitchen, and I thought it best to say goodbye. With a sad heart, I wished Elizabeth well. I reached inside the cage and took her paw in mine for a second. I could not tell her how I had wished that she would be content to remain a companion and friend. I did not wish to burden her with those thoughts. Instead, I assured her that she would end up in a field not too far away and that she would enjoy the life of adventure that she desired. Inwardly, I hoped that this was true. It was not possible to keep a tear from running down my nose as I turned to leave. Before entering the hole to the kitchen cabinet, I turned and waved goodbye, realizing that I would never see Elizabeth again. “Farewell”, I whispered…
At the breakfast table, the girl and her friend discussed where they might set Elizabeth free. My heart lightened when I overheard their plans. They really did intend to set her free. I watched as the girl picked up the cage and the pair headed out the door. In a matter of no time, they were back, the cage was empty. I knew that it would be, but I still felt a sense of loss. I would never forget the sunshine that Elizabeth brought to my life those few short days.
Spring was here. I could tell by the sounds of the birds filtering in from outside. After a number of days filled with a flurry of work and excitement, I watched as the young girl packed her things and loaded them into the little red car across the street. She said a tearful goodbye to the women in the house. As the door closed behind her, I sensed that we were about to return to the old routine. It was sad to see her go.
The next morning, the daughter packed a bag as well and hugged her mother goodbye. She promised that she would be home in a week. As she shut the door behind her, I noticed Edith fixing her coffee. This was my signal to move to my position under the couch. I heard her shuffle in and stop to pick up her magazine. The sound of her setting her coffee cup on the table, followed by the soft “hmm” that accompanied her settling into the couch. I had just crawled up to my usual position when I heard her say “Well, I guess that it is just you and me now, Mr. Mouse.” Was she talking to me? My curiosity got the best of me.. a poked my nose out form under the dust ruffle and looked upward to see her looking down at me. She was smiling, and she reached down with her finger to scratch my head, right between my ears!. I crawled over to her slipper and snuggled next it. As she returned to her magazine, I thought about the girl with the funny hair who had been sharing my room the past few months. I knew that I would miss her. I thought of Elizabeth, and hoped that she was doing well. And then, I thought about how nice the scratch between my ears felt and hoped that there would be many more to come as I drifted off to sleep.