‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the new house
I heard the patter of paws of many more than one mouse.
Moving into a house involves an endless round of initial projects. I was grinding through a list that grew despite my chipping away. This was to be expected. What I didn’t expect was hand-to-hand combat.
My home inspector was exceedingly thorough. Therefore, I wasn’t particularly concerned when his report included the reference to “some evidence of mice infestation.” On moving in, I decided he was a master of understatement. I wondered if “some evidence” referred to the ubiquitous mouse droppings throughout the house, or the scurrying footsteps in the walls and cabinets.
Relocation of these disease-carrying vermin from my new mountain home rose to the top of my to-do list. My rational mind knew mice were a small inconvenience. However, the recesses of my imagination sculpted a more grandiose story. This was an epic battle of man against the wild by an individual isolated in the wilderness. I was outnumbered by evil beasts lurking, watching, plotting chaos and destruction. The future of civilization hung in the balance.
Beyond health concerns, my determination was fueled by jealousy at the laziness of these intruders. Within days of moving in, the first major storm of the season arrived. Ten inches of snow fell and temperatures plunged to a frigid -3 degrees Fahrenheit. It would have been a good time to stay inside the warm embrace of the nest and curl up with some crunchy snacks. But that would have been irresponsible. I bundled up to clear the driveway before it became frozen and impassable. Then, I split firewood in the blizzard as insurance in case of a power outage. But not my furry roommates. They stayed cozy inside and didn’t lift a teaspoon to help move the snow. The freeloaders had to go.
Being environmentally inclined, I didn’t want to jump immediately to toxic chemicals. Therefore, I started with a low-key, ‘Have-a-Heart’, diplomatic approach. I gave them a chance to depart peacefully. Standing in the kitchen, I made a loud announcement that there was a new sheriff in town and they’d have to leave. I acknowledged it was cruel to evict them out into the cold world during the holiday season, especially when it was frigid and stormy. However, in my best Ebenezer impression, I told them they should have considered that before they chose to take up residence on human turf instead of an underground burrow in the forest. To ensure the message was received with all due process, I went room-to-room and banged on the walls while yelling like a deranged town crier, “It’s time for you to go!” and “Pack your bags!”
Tired from the cleaning, chopping and snow removal, I decided on a brief respite.
Having made my point, I put on my cap
And settled in my La-Z-Boy for a short winter’s nap.
But my dreams were disturbed with the thought of some chatter
And the sense in the kitchen there had been a clatter.
I listened more closely, seeking some proof
And believed I detected the clicking of a tiny hoof.
I cracked open one eye and my head turned around
When into the living room came a mouse with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from head to his foot
And his body was tarnished with dustballs and soot.
I sprung from my chair to investigate the matter
Not believing the gall of the brazen little ratter.
For a moment, we stood face to face. On the very night of my eviction pronouncement, this was an unbelievable provocation. It bordered on a declaration of war. In movies and television shows, anthropomorphic mice (like Mickey or Jerry) are portrayed as cute and friendly. But this delinquent seemed arrogant and cocky. I may have been groggy, but I know what I saw. He drew himself to his full, regal four-inch height. On his head, he was wearing a holiday party hat.
Aghast, I shook my fist and said, “You’ve done it now. This is the last holiday season you’ll ever see.” Unmoved, he stood his ground.
His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks full of my food, his nose like a cherry.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the whiskers on his chin were as white as the snow.
He was chubby and plump, a well-fed little fellow
And not alarmed at all, but rather quite mellow.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Conveyed that he thought he had nothing to dread.
I roared my displeasure. He flipped me the bird. I charged in attack. He hesitated, as if surprised that I would even make an attempt to catch him. I might not pursue a wolf or bear in the yard, but I had no qualms of taking on an unwelcome rodent inside my castle. With my first step, he was off and the chase was on. Images of Wile E. Coyote pursuing the speedy Roadrunner coursed in my head. My mind generated a slapstick cartoon soundtrack.
The mouse cut behind the couch. I circled in the other direction. When he spotted me, he swerved right toward the dining room. Not slowing, I grabbed a broom and swung it forward like a bayonet. The dining room was a jumble of moving crates and plastic bins. A perfect maze to conceal a nimble vermin. He darted between boxes and disappeared.
Despite my rage, I knew catching him would be unlikely. But my goal was to inspire him to move to a more peaceful den. I swept the broom like a scythe and scattered the boxes. I threatened to eradicate him and all of his flea-infested relatives. The broom handle became a cudgel that loudly whacked the boxes to dislodge him from his hiding spot. With a laser focus on my quarry, it didn’t register that the boxes I was assaulting were marked with bright red letters shouting “FRAGILE”. It would be unfortunate if these treasures were damaged after surviving 2000 miles, but there is always collateral damage in war.
Like Godzilla ripping through Tokyo, I continued my rampage. When I toppled a green bin, I spotted the mouse. He darted away with his pink ears pinned back. I swung the broom and barely missed. He skidded on the red tile floor and scampered toward the kitchen as fast as his tiny paws could carry him. Skirting the wicker trash basket, he made for the cabinets. Lumbering after him, I realized that if he reached them, he’d be safe among the many holes and crevices. I launched the broom like a spear. It crashed into the baseboard with a BOOM. It didn’t hit him, but I hoped the near miss would be imbedded in his tiny brain stem and haunt his dreams.
At the entrance to a hole, he stopped, seeming to realize I was disarmed. If it’s possible for mice, he had a confident expression.
And laying his paw aside of his nose
And giving a nod, into the wallboards he dove.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he dove out of sight
“You’ll never catch me, in day or in night!”
I put my face to his escape hole and shouted, “You better run! And don’t even think about coming back or I’ll have your head mounted above the fireplace!”
Satisfied I’d given him a lesson he wouldn’t soon forget, I picked up the broom and gave a triumphant bang on the floor. Returning to the La-Z-Boy, I added an item to my list of chores: block holes under the kitchen cabinets. If he returned, he’d be surprised to run into a dead end. I fantasized that the last thing he saw was the now-infamous Broom of Death.
He hasn’t shown his whiskers for three days. I don’t know if I should celebrate victory or if it’s premature. These wily creatures could be regrouping for a midnight counter-attack. I’m preparing with every anti-rodent chemical and trap available from the hardware store, despite my previous aversion to poison. Remember, Tom Jefferson said, “Constant vigilance is the price of freedom from mice.” The last two words are often left out of the history books to make him sound more erudite.
Bill Diamond lives in Evergreen, Colorado. His career has been in environmental protection. His initial stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The MacGuffin, Eastern Iowa Review, Corvus Review, and Chicago Literati.