I went looking for a CD in the cabinet where I keep them. In the middle of the first drawer, I found the wooly insides of an oven mitt. Now this may sound strange to you, but it was not, to me, since I had spent the best part of six months chasing an oven-mitt-eating mouse, from kitchen drawer to kitchen drawer…and now, five oven mitts later, he had obviously found his way into my CD cabinet drawer.
After the obligatory scream, I carefully closed the drawer and pulled out the one under it, and there, under an avalanche of peanuts – I had blamed M for finishing off the nut bowl the other night – was the mouse himself, dead. Second scream, enter M.
The morning faded and lunchtime passed, while M disposed of the body, emptied the drawers, washed and dried them, and I, wearing gloves and a mask (Hanta virus precaution), sprayed disinfectant on every CD, and put them back into the drawers.
By late afternoon, though we were (relatively speaking) back to normal, I could not stop thinking about the way it worked out. It began to haunt me. Poor little guy. I imagined he thought he had found peanut heaven, when he saw that bowl sitting out there. And then…what happened then? Had someone come in from the garage, sending him to find the first good hiding place he could find, into some hole in the back of the cabinet, meant for CD player wires and connectors? And having discovered it, had he decided it was the perfect place to store his treasure?
How many peanuts can one mouse carry at a time? Was it five peanuts per trip? Had he made trip after trip, like a kid at the beach trying to dig to China with a teaspoon? And then, when he finally made it, when he seemed to be doing so well, what happened then? Had he somehow packed himself in too tightly and could not work his way out? Did he eat himself into a little mouse stupor and die of excess? Did he choke on a nut? They were salted – did he not have any water to wash them down?
And, because I am only human, I could not help looking, Aesop-like, for a moral in the story. I remembered the great winter weight pack-on, when it was too cold to do anything but go to bed early, with a nice cup of cocoa (marshmallow on top) and some honey-grahams. (Well, not “some.” Let’s say “many, though not all.”) So, could this be a cautionary tale about excess? Had he filled his belly until he was too fat to survive? Or was this one of those “beware of windfall” stories, where getting what you want is your ruination? Like those idiots who turn lottery wins inside out and manage to find disaster? Or maybe, as M suggested, the mouse had dental issues, and had literally bitten off more than he could chew? Or, since I believe in the writing gods, did he appear as a manifestation of a good story, to remind me how crazily far a storyteller can take even the simplest of incidents?
On the whole, it is a disturbing tale, including suspense (had I eaten out of that bowl after he had his grubby little claws in it?), an existential question (what was mousie’s last thoughts?) and sadness, because it includes an untimely death. But it is happy, too, because wow, what a story it turned out to be!
Final thoughts: I did not find the CD I was looking for. I will never leave peanuts out on the table again. I have installed a hook to hang oven mitts far beyond the reach of mice. Not profound, perhaps, but an ending, nonetheless. The writing gods suggest this: “the final sentence just lays there, like a dead mouse.”