December 24th, 2017

And all through the house…

[NOTE: This is a repeat of a previous post. Merry Night-Before-Christmas and Merry Christmas!]

…a creature was stirring.

Last night was Christmas Eve. I was expecting a visit from my son, who was flying in as a rare treat. I had tidied up, and was putting on the finishing touches while waiting for him to arrive from the airport. As I was poised at the top of the staircase on my way down from the second floor, I saw a movement on one of the lower steps.

A dark shape. A small dark shape—very still, and then in motion again. With tiny little ears, and a long tail.

A mouse. Very much stirring.

I let out a shriek, like in the cartoons. Yes, I know that mice do not hurt people. But yes, they give me the willies when they startle me and scurry around—like—mice. The few times when this has happened before, they’ve always sought the little opening from whence they’d come and scurried away, hardly ever to be seen again.

But this mouse seemed to be lost and disoriented. Maybe because it was almost midnight on Christmas Eve, and no creature was supposed to be scurrying. In the midst of my unreasonable fear was a sort of amusement. What was it doing here, this evening of all evenings?

The mouse was still on the staircase landing, and although I assumed that somehow it had managed to climb the three stairs to where it was, it appeared to be perplexed about how to get up or down from there. I watched it from what I considered a safe distance at the top of the stairs, and I could see it moving back and forth, back and forth, first towards the wall and then towards the edge of the step, but it could not seem to get the courage to make a break for it.

What did I do? I called my son and asked how far away he was. Forty-five minutes. And then I settled in, not for a long winter’s nap but for a long viewing from a good vantage point to monitor the mouse’s position till he arrived. For the moment, the mouse seemed quite well-contained on the stairs, but I didn’t trust that—and sure enough, slowly but surely, with many fits and starts, it managed to get back down those three stairs to the ground floor.

Now, it turns out that watching a mouse is actually sort of interesting. This one darted from stair-bottom to hall to bathroom to bedroom and back again (my place is built upside-down, with the bedroom and bathroom downstairs and living room and kitchen upstairs). I had a special horror of the mouse being in the bedroom—so after its one foray into the bedroom for five minutes and then out again, I slammed the bedroom door shut and placed a thick towel to block the crack at the bottom. The towel seemed to act as an effective barrier, like a small mountain range, and the mouse didn’t venture into that room again.

But back and forth it went—along the wall in the hall, into the bathroom, up a few stairs and then back down them again. I noticed that it seemed to get smarter and smarter; each time it climbed the stairs it was better at it, until it seemed as though it had been doing this all its little life.

And then by trial and error it found the molding along the side of the stairs, which then acted as a sort of ramp by which the mouse could easily climb all the way to the top. This filled me with dread. I was conceding the downstairs for now, but the upstairs was my territory! But what to do? That molding-ramp made it so easy; the mouse was coming up in a determined sort of way, till I could look into its beady little eyes and it could look into mine. I let out another involuntary yelp, stamping my feet and clapping my hands, trying to make enough noise to frighten it off.

I looked and sounded completely and utterly ridiculous.

And yet it was effective; the little thing stopped in its tracks, then turned and went back downstairs again, to my great relief. Then a few minutes later it came up the ramp-molding again, and I re-enacted the same stupid pantomime I had before. The mouse kept coming—up up up, light and fleet of foot, relentless and implacable. I actually thought of throwing something at it to head it off—perhaps my shoe, like Clara in “The Nutcracker.” But oh, for a platoon of tin soldiers like hers! (I’ve cued up this video to start at the right spot, although it’s mistitled because these are not meant to be rats, they’re mice):

But alas, we were alone, just the two of us, mousie and me. And I didn’t really want to hurt it, which I thought might happen if I threw my shoe, so I reached for a pillow—and at that moment I heard the key turn in the lock and my son walked in.

I’m always happy to see him, but perhaps never so happy as this time, as I stood at the top of the stairs in a semi-crouch, clutching a small pillow and making silly-yet-hopefully-scary noises at a mouse that was climbing a molding-ramp on the edge of the staircase.

My son managed to keep his disdain under control long enough to catch the mouse in a plastic container and escort it outside to be released, but not before we took a photo though the plastic. Yes, the mouse is cute. But no, I don’t want him in my house, not on Christmas Eve or any other time.

Mouse 2

Mouse 1

18 Responses to “And all through the house…”

  1. kevino Says:

    I remember that story. Great stuff.

    Merry Christmas.

  2. Gary D. G. Says:

    probably some poor field mouse who’d come inside to get warm
    no wonder it was so confused.

  3. babka Says:

    wonderful mixture of terror & appreciative curiosity. mouse wrangler! Happy Holidays & a Brave New Year. He who must not be named has ruined “Merry Christmas” for me, so Season’s Greetings to all & to all a Good Night!

  4. SCOTTtheBADGER Says:

    Merry Christmas to Neo, and all her minions!

  5. Lorenz Gude Says:

    Wonderful description of being caught in a phobia while being simultaneously aware of the absurdity of it.

  6. Ralph Kinney Bennett Says:

    The things she won’t do to get material for blogging! Let us all raise our morning coffee cups (or whatever) and wish Neo a Merry Mouseless Christmas!

  7. OldTexan Says:

    Hickory, dickory, dock.
    The mouse ran up the clock.
    The clock struck one,
    And knocked the crap out of it,
    Hickory, dickory, dock.

    A wonderful Christmas Short Story Neo, woman in a tower besieged by an intruder rodent and rescued by her champion son, the strong knight, returned from afar to save the day, or something.

    Thank you for the laughter and have a wonderful Christmas Day.

  8. F Says:

    This is not meant to compete with your story, rather to share my own.

    I was stuck in a very seedy motel in Inyokern, CA, for a night some 5 years ago. This is one of those cinder block arrangements dating from the Eisenhower era that stretch the length of US 395, and although this one advertised that it was “Newly Renovated!”, the modernization program did not, apparently, include mouse-proofing.

    As I was climbing into bed I saw a movement in the corner of the room, and turned to see a mouse using the TV cable as a ladder from floor to ceiling. “Oh well,” thought I, “there’s no food in this room and he’s apparently leaving the premises, so I’ll just go to sleep.”

    Somehow I imagined he would have no desire to get into bed with me. But mice are eternally searching for food, and he clearly thought I might have something edible in bed.

    I drifted off to sleep after turning off the light, and some time later woke to the mouse scurrying about on the blanket over my shoulders! Without any rational thought, I flung the blanket violently, propelling him across the room.

    Well, it was clear he could scale something to mount the bed, and only half-awake, I reasoned it was probably the blanket that reached the floor on each side of the bed. I pulled that up so it didn’t reach the floor, and drifted off to sleep again. Not too long later (I was not looking at the time) something woke me again. This time he was scurrying about on the blanket near my head!

    Throwing the blanket violently to the side I propelled him through space again, and this time pulled the blanket over my head and tucked it in around me so he couldn’t get to me, all the while wishing for a cat.

    I slept the rest of the night and left the motel after complaining to the manager about my visitor(s). There were a dozen units to the motel and I didn’t imagine the man behind the desk was going to adopt a dozen cats to patrol the premises, but the traveling population on US 395 was large, so repeat business was not important to him.

    As cute as they are, mice are a real impediment to a good night’s sleep.

    Merry Christmas to all!

  9. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Merry Christmas!

  10. NeoConScum Says:

    Christmas Blessings, Santaneocon!!!

    Thank You for another year of your class, intelligence, rock-ribbed neoconservatism and delightful verbal nimblness!!

    You are The BEST.

  11. F Says:

    P.S. Neo: Will you ever be able to use that plastic bowl again?

  12. Lee Says:

    When I was growing up, every winter, field mice would take shelter in our house. One year when were went away on vacation, they set up an elaborate homestead in our kitchen drawers: one drawer was the pantry with a pile of dog food, pile of peanut brittle, a pile of Chex… Another drawer was probably the bedroom with a pile of feathers, foam and dog hair. The top drawer was the apparent “water closet” with piles of mouse dung all through. Thank good for sanitizing dishwashers!

    Another year, when we were on vacation, a mouse chewed a hole in a box of peanut brittle and took the pics of peanut brittle for a picnic in the planter on the dining room side board.

    The worst memory was the night I woke up with a mouse nestled in my hair… He scurried away… I scrubbed my head.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    F:

    The plastic container was immediately thrown out, of course!

  14. Stephen Ippolito Says:

    If this incident had occurred this year I would have sworn he was probably there to check out your fabulous new fridge and its tasty offerings – (and your world-famous mustard collection in particular).

    Merry Christmas to you, Neo, to all your regular commentariat and to your silent majority of readers as well.

  15. William Graves Says:

    I always figured that, like Tribbles, mice must be ‘born pregnant?’

    Happy New Year Neo!

  16. Philip Says:

    I’ll take mice over bedbugs and roaches any day. Mice are really not that bad. They’re even cute sometimes.

    I have a small (heh) mouse story of no consequence. But F, I liked your description of *propelling* your mouse! The murine drive is a real option now.

  17. Bilwick Says:

    I like this version of The Night Before Christmas better than the original: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1927/12/24/a-visit-from-saint-nicholas-in-the-ernest-hemingway-manner

  18. Ymar Sakar Says:

    You have to use a Martial Roar, Neo, to warn animals.

    If an animal sees you and isn’t already freezing or running, you making loud noises just attracts their attention.

    This mouse was either blind or partially domesticated, not to be running away from humans. Maybe it was starving.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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