Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The mice in our walls

We have mice living in the walls of our house. We found one dead under our sink and I could swear I've heard them scratching the wooden walls of our basement. I decided to write a story from their point of view. Pardon the abrupt ending.

I found my friend Jim's dead body in the dark, under the sink. It's been 7 months since I last saw him. It's horrible that it's still here but we've had no way of burying him. Our only option is to hold our breath as we pass and move on with our day.

I can't help but remember how it happened every time I pass him.

Every winter we move into this townhouse to stay warm. The field is much safer but when it gets cold we have no option. We had been spending the day looking for food, as usual. It was February and we only had another month before we could move back to the field.

Our nest is between the walls of two town houses, far away from any opening where we might find poison or a mouse trap. Every morning Jim and I would wake up early while our families were stil sleeping and we would go out into the house.

There was a trash can in the kitchen with a hole in the bottom. This was our saving grace last winter. The can always had so much food in it, we always were able to carry back armloads of food. Our wives would great us with kisses and they would jump to the task of preparing the food for breakfast.

This went on for the whole winter. Jim and I would make one trip a week to get the food and we could live in quiet and safe for the rest of the week.

It wasn't until the beginning of February that life started to get difficult. The trek to the trash can was always a dangerous one. We always did it early in the morning while it was still dark, before the humans woke up. Our passage ways are usually between walls and beneath floorboards, and we spend as little time exposed as possible. The trash can was in the kitchen upstairs and our nest was almost on the opposite side of the house. The trek started with a vertical climb up a 2 by 4. Last winter Jim and I built handholds in the wood to make the climb safer. We even found a strong piece of string that we looped at the top and used to belay each other up the 8 foot pole. We are good climbers but take no unnecessary risks, knowing how dependent our families are on us.

After climbing up the pole, we traversed along a cross beam that took us to the small bathroom on the second level. We dug a hole in the wall under the bathroom sink a while back. There are several holes around the house that we can use in case of an emergency. We do our best to disguise them so that the humans don't notice.

We had no reason to go into the bathroom that day because we had a bit further to go to get to the kitchen trash can. Walking between the walls, we would soon get to the broom closet. This is where Jim and I get nervous every time, because this is the only part of the trip that we are exposed to the open rooms. We quietly look around the corner for any sign of light. If a light is on or if there is the faintest noise, the entire mission is called off for the day and we have to come back the next day.

This time we saw and heard nothing. The humans were still sound asleep and we were excited to get our food. Yesterday we smelled fresh bread from our nest which meant the old stale bread would soon be in the trash can. We quietly walked across the kitchen floor to where the trash can sat. The hole we entered through is on the outward facing corner, so we quickly climbed into the can to start our search for the bread. We found half a loaf of bread in there! This could last us two weeks if we could get all this bread back to the nest. Jim and I started taking the bread back to the broom closet where we knew if would be safe. He would grab a piece and meet me at the hole, where I could take it and bring it over to the broom closet.

I was on my last trip back to the can to get the last piece of bread. All of a sudden the kitchen light came on and directly above me stood a young girl. Her face went white and she screamed loud enough to shake the entire house. As she screamed she pulled her arms in and jumped from one foot to the other on her tip-toes. "Daddy! There's a mouse in the kitchen! Help, Daddy!"

I froze in place and had no idea what to do. In my confusion, I ran towards the trash can and hid inside. Jim and I were huddled together in there as we heard a rumbling. The father must be coming downstairs. Jim and I shivered with fear and held our breath. I peaked through a crack in the can and saw the father walking towards us with a baseball bat in hand. "They went into the trash can through that little hole!" We could hear the father step up towards us and grab the trash can. If we stayed in there any longer, he would surely trap us and kill us, so our only option was to run. I told Jim, "On the count of three we're going to run across the kitchen and into the broom closet hole. Ready? 3...2...1... Go!"

We darted out of the can and headed straight for the closet. "There they are!" the little girl screamed. Just a few steps from safety we heard a whoosh of air and right when we got into the hole the bat slammed into the ground, cracking the wooden floor. Our hearts were pounding, but we were safe. Our wives must have been scared to death with all the noise, so we quickly made our way back to the nest.

Jim and I embraced our wives and children and we were all crying because of the incredibly close call. I looked at Jim and the look on his face told me that we were thinking the same thing. This house may never be safe for us to live in again.

We went back to the broom closet later that day to get the bread we left there. Every hole we passed along the way had a mouse trap at the entrance. Sure enough, each trap had a beautiful block of cheddar cheese, just waiting to tempt us towards our death. We looked out the hole in the broom closet and saw no trash can anymore. The family had left the house, so we peaked out some more and could not see any hope for more food. I didn't know if we would survive without that trash can. This was a very clean family and there was never a speck of food anywhere on the floor.

Through the next week Jim and I talked it over. Should we leave the house to the unknown neighbor houses? Or should we stick it out for the last month of winter and find food where we can? We decided that we wouldn't give up hope on this house. This had become our home. We knew everything there was to know about the house and we were comfortable there.

The scarcity of food was a huge problem. Jim and I found a way to get onto the counter in the kitchen, but we found every cabinet locked shut. There was very little. The only food we ever found was in the kitchen sink strainer. It was always wet and smelly, but it was food.

So after three weeks of this we grew tired and hungry. The food was never enough and it was just disgusting. With just a couple more weeks of winter left, Jim and I went back upstairs to look for food. The mouse traps had been restocked with fresh cheese and the smell was intoxicating. I caught Jim staring at the piece in the broom closet. "What if we could outsmart the trap?" he asked. "I'm hungry, my kids are hungry and I could really use a good piece of cheese. Look, I could just stick one paw out, grab it really quickly, and we'd be alright." I really wanted the cheese too, so I shrugged my shoulders and gave him a nod of approval.

He inched closer to the trap as quietly as he could for fear of the sound setting it off. His paw reached out slowly. In an instant he grabbed for the cheese and WHAP!

And that's what I think about whenever I pass his dead body that the humans never removed.