This bit of narrative non-fiction was originally published on my old blog five years ago. Recently I've been pondering my strange propensity to adore mice in fictional works and yet be utterly terrified of them in real life. This true story pretty much explains my fear of them… The adoration of their fictional counterparts may have to remain a mystery!
I opened my eyes, blearily taking in the “12:37” on the alarm clock. “What was that?” I whispered, squeezing Mark’s limp shoulder.
“That sound! Was that...a mouse in the wall?”
“Probably.” Mark rolled over, draping his arm over me and instantly returning to sleep. Our house is three centuries old. Mice have lived in our walls so long, the current generation probably has a chest in there full of their ancestors’ powdered wigs and tricorn hats.
Skitter, skitter, skitter.
I squirmed out from under the arm. “That was not in the walls. That’s right out there in the room!”
Mark sat up. Straining his eyes, he stared out into the room. “I can’t see it,” he said, “but you’re probably right. I can set a trap tomorrow.”
What is it about mice? Tiny creatures, so far below us on the food chain, they don’t even fit on the same chart. Have you ever looked at one closely? Their little pink noses twitch adorably beneath their sparkling eyes; their fur is silky-soft and smooth. And yet at the thought of one in my room, I sat up in bed, taut as a tug-of-war rope. I swiveled my head at every sound, real or imagined. The heater turning on made my heart pound. Finally, after the clock had scanned through the next two hours and my neck had developed a crick that would last for weeks, I slipped down, rolled my face into my pillow, and fell asleep.
Something moved on the backs of my calves: the most gentle, delicate massage you could imagine, as a minuscule creature crept toward my knees.
Thump. Skitter-like-crazy-scratch. Silence.
I screamed again as realization hit me. Mark bolted upright.
My words came out slowly, perhaps in an effort to calm my Tour de France level heart rate. “There. Was. A. Mouse. On. My. Legs.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t just my foot or something?”
“It was a mouse.”
Mark reached for his flashlight and shone it out over the room. “Oh! There it is. Wow.”
“It’s really big.”
“Oh, great, thanks.”
I wouldn’t give my enemy the pleasure of knowing I’d bothered to look at it. Instead I shoved my head into my pillow and tried not to listen as Mark wandered the room looking for entrance holes, setting traps against the walls (safely where neither of our toddlers would accidentally grab them), and scanning side to side with his flashlight.
“It’s just so weird,” he said. “I mean, why would they come into the one area of the room where they’re most likely to be sighted by a predator? It’s not like people are eating in here and leaving crumbs.”
I cleared my throat, hopefully not too suspiciously. First trimester nausea had resulted in a few or five or a dozen “toast and tea in bed” breakfasts served by my doting nine-year-old. I flicked a crumb onto the floor as Mark came back to bed with a sigh. “I just don’t see what I can do about it, other than wait,” he said.
I reached for my tablet and clicked into the audiobook app.
“It won’t climb the bed if it hears voices, right?”
“Good. I’m putting on the Bible.”
As a side note, I’m pretty sure God’s voice sounds exactly like David Suchet’s. Suchet’s audio version of the Bible, while not my favorite translation (it’s NIV), is so perfectly narrated that you can easily imagine God is standing in the room next to you, covered in glory. Which was exactly the reality I needed a reminder of.
I listened to the entire Pentateuch over the next four nights. I mean, it wasn’t like I was actually going to sleep or anything. I’m not that crazy. Instead I listened to Exodus two or three times, and once through parts of Numbers and Deuteronomy that I confess I’d never managed to thoroughly read before.
There is a lot of smiting going on in those books. This was oddly satisfying, as I did my best to tune out the skittering around the walls (of course the traps didn’t fool anyone) and the biting odor of the peppermint oil with which I’d doused the edges of bed and blankets, remembering an old tip that mice hate peppermint. I muttered prayers like, “Please, God, smite that stupid mouse.” I hesitated, worried that Saint Francis would be ashamed of me. “Okay, I know it isn’t stupid. It’s your creation and everything, but it doesn’t have a very long lifespan anyway, and if you could please let it just die tonight that would be great.” Then I’d hear a skitter again, and my prayers would return to Old Testament fury: “Harden your heart against it, Lord! Smite that darn, darn abomination of a rodent!”
On Friday, after four nights of wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part while the mouse apparently played hopscotch under my dresser, I did what any sane, mature adult would do: I called my mom and cried. “Can I please come sleep at your house tonight so Mark can set out a million traps and wreak destruction upon the wicked?” (Not an exact quote, but close.)
Everyone should live within a half hour of their mothers, for just such a situation as this. My five children were tucked into grandparents’ beds and cuddled down after bedtime stories and tart cherry juice (it’s even better than warm milk, for the record). The sheets on my little sister’s loaned bed were clean and soft and smelled nothing like peppermint. Between hours of blessed, blessed sleep (though I kind of missed David Suchet’s soothing rendition of the smitings), I would call Mark and ask for updates.
Mark is the rare, wonderful kind of husband who does not judge one’s irrational and obsessive fears, but instead calmly goes to work eliminating the need for them. After he dropped me off at my parents’, he drove to the store and armed himself with a bag of coffee, an arsenal of foam insulation tubes, and thirty-two sticky traps (I do not exaggerate). By my first phone call, he had laid out an intricate web of sticky trays around our room, pulled every piece of furniture we own away from the walls, fired insulation into any random crack and cranny in the entire house, and started watching Great Expectations on Netflix to help him stay awake. Like I said, rare and wonderful.
Somewhere around three in the morning, the mouse died. That’s one of many ways to say it... He met his maker. He came to a sticky end. If you want the poetic version, imagine David Suchet’s rich timbre announcing, “And the Lord did set his sticky traps before him, and the mouse avoided them not.”
I can’t tell you whether the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob showed any mercy to the little beast that had plagued my life for the past week. To be honest, I wasn’t really concerned about that. I was too busy murmuring, “Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power; your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy... You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.”
There’s a second ending to this story.
We got a cat.
In fact, we got two cats. Their names are Merry and Pippin, but secretly I call them “Biter” and “Smiter.” If I ever again need to call upon God to harden His heart against my foes, He’ll be able to act through two fluffy, purring felines who can stare down the sleek, pink-nosed adorableness that is mus musculus with the cold impartiality that I entirely lack... “and terror and dread will fall upon them.”
Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!