I’m back in the mountain village in South Cal that I write about in these blog posts and in my mystery Hour of the Hawk. joycehowe.com
When I arrive, I usually stay at the house in the pines for the first few nights, before moving to the other mother’s house. The house in the pines is the abode of our children. We are the mothers or the mother-in-laws. They are happily married and my moving after a few days enables them to stay that way.
In the house in the pines, I sleep on a mattress on the floor for the sake of my back. Last night, I was reading Masaryk Station by David Downing, rereading really, but that’s neither here nor there, when a tiny black shape scuttled under the door and flattened itself against the wall.
I processed this information, fixing it with my gimlet eye.
We knew we had a mouse and, apparently, one that could spring a trap and escape. I had mouse experience, although not recently. Mice don’t seem to climb 14 floors. I knew mice of old as long and narrow, fast moving critters that induced shudders. This mouse was not like that. Sitting, it was more of a triangle with large rounded ears. Cute as all get out.
It was in the right house. MIckey had been the founder of the feast. MIckey Mouse artifacts and High School Musical Awards adorned the place. Walt Disney’s cute little guy and his immense studio had been in at the rise (and fall) of family fortunes.
I don’t shriek when I see a mouse. Well obviously. Yet I knew that health and safety were at issue. Is there Hunta Virus in Kern County? I knew I had to stop staring into its -oh, what the hell – his eyes. It was not clear who was hypnotizing whom.
“Mouse, mouse,” I cried.
Then as quiet fell, the mouse and I went back to gazing at each other.
My daughter eventually appeared, put her head in and looked down. My son-in-law followed in due course. The mouse sat staring at me.
We talked it over. I didn’t move. We decided to try the spider rescue trick: cover it with a bowl, slip cardboard underneath, carry it outside.
The mouse and I were motionless still. Son-in-law returned with pan and swooped down. Mouse made for the closet, slipping underneath the door. The closet floor is stuffed with laundry baskets, shoes, yoga stuff and more. I asked son-in-law to bang on the door and assumed my tiny friend had scarpered.
Half an hour later, as I returned from tooth brushing, he sallied across the room and back to the closet. Fifteen minutes after that, he re-emerged running toward me. He stopped eight inches away and stared into my eyes.
“You cannot be here,” I told him. He sat listening. “You have to go away, back out to your field.” He didn’t move.
My daughter, who had clearly just woken up, opened the door. The mouse retreated to the portable heater, where he sat in plain view, convinced we could no longer see him.
I gathered my quilt and my pillow and carried them to the living room where I cocooned myself on the suede sofa. I slept like a log and woke up stiff as one.
I was changed of course.
And so good morrow to our waking souls
That watch not one another out of fear (John Donne)