Of Mice. & Men.
I'm not good with rodents.
So when a mouse ran across my foot as I sat on the sofa last night I moved more quickly than I have done in some considerable time.
Surveying the sitting room from the safety, I thought, of a kitchen chair, I pointed wildly in the direction of the wood basket where the mouse had taken refuge.
The children had long been in bed, so that left J and I, our rather elderly cat and the laziest dog in the world in the sitting room.
J laughed. "What are you doing?"
The dog and cat just sat at their respective ends of the sofa looking at me.
"A mouse! There! Under the wood basket," I screeched in a very un-butch manner.
J went and moved the wood basket. "Oh yes! Hello!" He said to the cowering rodent he found there. "Is this something to do with you?" He asked our cat. She seemed completely nonplussed by the whole thing and quickly moved across to join me, standing on the neighbouring chair.
"That's no use, you bought it in, you deal with it!" I told her.
In the meantime our dog had opened and eye, surveyed the room, and closed it again. That's about as much activity as we can hope for from him in the evening.
A friend on Twitter told me at this point to 'man up' and deal with the mouse.
My response was that I am the one in the family who deals with spiders, daddy longlegs, beetles, in fact any bug that enters the house. They, I can deal with. Rodents I can not.
The reason for this goes back to my childhood.
When I was about seven or eight I had a friend. His name was Johnny. He lived in a terraced house not far from our own and his mother worked for my parents. I'd often go to play there during the summer holidays. Overseen by his elder brother and sister as his father was out at work elsewhere and his mother worked alongside my parents in our family business.
The family were warm and friendly. At ease with one another and any visitor who entered the house. No standing on ceremony for them.
Ceremony, when visiting someone else's house, was something I had been brought up with. Well, not exactly ceremony. But certainly a degree of formality. Middle class formality which must have seemed overly prim to Johnny's boisterous, healthy, lively family.
Sitting alongside Johnny one warm summer day, eating lunch at the dinner table with our backs to the kitchen, through which access was obtained to the back garden, I waited patiently for the lunch his elder brother and sister were preparing.
Placed in front of us by his sister, Johnny's brother called from the kitchen, "would you like some more meat?" Answering politely that I would he approached me from behind.
And over my shoulder, dropped a dead mouse onto my plate.
The memory even now makes me go cold. Johnny's family thought it was hysterically funny. It was the kind of prank they played on one another all the time. I, on the other hand, was simply hysterical for another reason. Remmebering to say a polite 'thank you,' I disappeared home with no further ado.
From then on rodents, which had held some curiosity and no fear for me, became an object of terror. Alive or dead I couldn't deal with them. My phobia ingrained. The hysteria bubbling beneath the surface whenever I encounter one.
So, last night, as the cat and I stood on our neighbouring chairs, J chased the mouse around the sitting room with a box, attempting to corner it and remove it to the garden.
Interested to begin with our cat became bored, as cats do. Washed her whiskers for a moment or two and then jumped down to exit through the cat flap and go outside for her ablutions.
The movement woke the dog again, who stirred slightly, seemingly deciding whether he should or could be bothered to make a move t see o what was going on. The mouse darted in front of the sofa where he lay In plain view. Heading for the safety of my office.
Our dog decided this was the point at which he should stir himself and give chase.
In the opposite direction to the mouse.
Disappearing into the utility room he started by sniffing around the clothes baskets there, following the scent back into the sitting room. Along the bookcase. Behind a sofa. Under a chair.
By this point I was beginning to despair.
The cat reappeared and resumed her position on the chair next to me.
J disappeared into the kitchen to look for a torch and any other utensil suitable for prodding the mouse back out into the open. The rodent by this point was safely ensconced under my desk. Somewhere. In the dark.
Much crashing and bashing from the kitchen resulted in J returning with a broom and no torch.
"Seen the torch?" He asked.
"Last seen with Three," I said, referring to our three year old daughter.
"Oh," J said, allowing those two letters to convey the sense of hopelessness we now both feel whenever we realise an item has been in the possession of our daughter and is therefore most likely lost for the foreseeable future.
Having been standing on the chair for a good twenty minutes I, in common with the cat, was beginning to get bored.
Quickly re-arranging animal sleeping arrangements, I shut both dog and cat in the sitting room, from which the door into the office stood open. "They can sort it out overnight," I said to J as we went to bed.
"That'll be cosy," J said, understated as usual.
No sign of the mouse. Now named Marvollo by J and the children. "He's part of our family!" I was told firmly by our daughter as she lay staring intently into the dark space under my desk drawers.
Our son arrived with a piece of cheese. "This will get him to come out," he said. Sitting alongside our daughter and, with her, beginning to coo. "Mousey, Mousey" the cried, while waving a piece of cheese each in figures of eight.
Dragged away reluctantly to school, I promised our son that his sister and I would look out for the mouse and let him know as soon as he returned home if we had seen Marvollo.
So, as I sit writing this I know that Marvollo the mouse is somewhere nearby.
Waiting. Patiently. To Pounce.
Update, Friday 5.30pm
While sorting the washing earlier this afternoon our daughter, who had been settled in front of the tv while I did the laundry, came running in.
"Mouse is back!" She said excitedly.
"Really? Where?" I screamed, heading for the nearest chair.
"It's having a sleep. In the middle of the carpet. With its eyes open!" Said our little girl excitedly. This was good news and bad news. Good that we knew where the mouse was. Bad that the only thing more frightening for me than a live mouse is a dead one.
"Where did it come from?" I asked.
"Jack (our dog) found him. He gave him a kiss!" Our little girl was trying to prise me from the chair as she said this.
"Eeew!" was all I could manage.
"Do you want me to get him for you?" Our daughter asked.
"No thanks!" I was quite clear. Then a thought struck me. "He might be uncomfortable in the middle of the floor, perhaps you could put him in the dustpan and we'll let him sleep under the hedge." This, I thought, was a Good Plan.
Have you ever tried to direct a three year old prodding a 'sleeping' large mouse onto a dustpan, using the brush from a distance of about 10 feet?
Easy in theory. Horrendous in practice.
However, eventually, our little girl managed to manoeuvre a, by that point slightly mangled, Marvollo onto the dustpan, out of the door and into the hedge. All remotely controlled by me from a distance of at least 10 feet at all times.
RIP Marvollo. Your contribution to our family was short lived, but eventful!