I am working on a piece of fiction about a mouse and a cat who fight it out on a great battlefield, and the mouse wins. (I hope I’m not giving it away here and have ruined it for you.) But you see, the mouse doesn’t fight the cat alone, he brings along his minions, and when you think about it, a mouse might have more minions than anyone in the world.
Or so it seems here at home. For the first time since we got this cat–and we call him Ferdinand Magellan–we have mice. The problem was that we made the terrible mistake of leaving the house during the time of the year we could call, “Oh, S#$%@, it’s getting cold out. I need a winter home!” So a few weeks ago, while we were walking barefoot on the beaches of southern Alabama (something I highly recommend, by the way), the mouses of North East Iowa were recognizing an excellent opportunity, in the form of a vacant house. (Our cat was on vacation that week, at the neighbors.)
So now: mice. Not a lot, but apparently it doesn’t take many mice to leave good quantities of mouse “evidence” in the house. And by mouse evidence, I’ll also add that it was a bad mistake to cook up wild rice this week, because the one, spilled onto the countertop, very closely resembled the other, which I had just cleaned up from said countertop.
And so it goes.
Now that our 20-pound cat is back in the house–and we are too I might add–you’d think the mouse(s) would vacate. Run away! Too dangerous here! But they/it are stubborn. Also, it was 10 degrees the other afternoon. There is a lot at stake! Too cold to be outside.
So I am writing a little story about a mouse who battles with the cat and then wins. One of his demands is a conversation with the mayor which he has on the roof of the courthouse. At this point the mouse reveals his angst, but this is the part that is stymieing me. What is a mouse worried about? Tonight I plan to set up a little microphone and recording device behind the fridge to catch our own domestic mices in conversation. Perhaps I’ll prop up a postit note: “So, what bugs you? Certainly not these traps.” And I will convey the results to my husband, who is Chief of the Traps. (I am Chief of Evidence Removal, which is time consuming, I must say. On Sunday I emptied out 3 cupboards and the knife drawer, silverware drawer, and spice drawer and bleached the crap out of everything. Then found more evidence in each place the next day.)
You think of vacation as being primarily to risk sunburn, or of smashing up your rental car, or of taking the wrong route back to the airport and nearly missing your flight. You just don’t think of vacation as being a risk to your sanity, especially as far as kitchens are concerned.
Of course, it’s time to blame the cat. Hey, Cat! Stop sleeping on the couch! Our cat really likes to hunt mice. We catch him snacking on them at least once a week. But only outdoors. He is a picnic-er. That’s his way. And at 20 pounds, he is at least as large as my willpower — there is no changing him at all.
In any case, this week I am writing a story about a mouse battle, and simultaneously doing battle with a mouse. Not a great coincidence, but you take what you get on a Wednesday.
For the curious among you, this is what I’m up to, writing wise. While researching for my next memoir, I’m also working on a collection of short fictions. I tend to write these little fairytale-like pieces which frequently involve animals, and which frequently, much to my delight, get published. Last month I had a piece appear in “Fugue” which is a cool literary magazine — you should check it out. (They haven’t yet updated their tab, “Current Issue,” by the way.) My piece is about the moon which starts to feel lonely and slips closer to the earth. It’s called “Moon,” which might not surprise you. Wednesday is a day that is best kept surprise-free.
Like this morning, the mouse trap was empty when we got up, but last night I was convinced I heard the trap go off. The peanut butter was completely eaten. Which was no surprise.