Thursday, March 17, 2011

In the Walls

Margo jumped onto the couch and shrieked. Her nimble movement surprised me more than the scream. I loved her, but my dear wife was an ample woman, and the quickness and speed with which she raised her chubby legs made me cock my head to the side in admiration. I tried to ignore her and keep my focus. I was in the middle of a thought and needed to write it down before the words sunk back into the convolutions of my brain, lost among the other diluted thoughts and sporadic ideas.
            “There! It’s there!” Margo screamed. She alternately lifted her knees up to her chest, which for her was not far because of her roles of heftiness that layered her body. Each time her feet hit the couch it sagged in the middle, the bottom almost reaching the floor, like a trampoline under extreme stress. “It went into the bedroom Georgie! The bedroom! Oh gawd, eeeeeee! Oooooooooh!”
            I scribbled the remainder of my sentence on my paper. I laid my pen down and looked at Margo. She stood on the couch, head of curly red hair brushing the ceiling, her chubby arms crossed over her body in self-defense. Such a large woman should not be afraid of such tiny creature. She continued her squirming dance there, and had we not made love on that very couch earlier in the week I would have worried for the stability of it.
            “Margo, darling, please come down,” I said.
            “Georgie, I saw it! It has a taaaaail!”
            “Well, yes dear, I saw it last week when he was stuck in the bathroom ceiling vent.” The culprit had been trapped there for a day, his tail hanging down through the slits of the vent, peering at me as I sat on the toilet reading the newspaper. He had made me slightly nervous at first, but then I thought of him as more of a companion while Margo was away visiting her sister.
            “Eeeeeeeee!! Georgie!” She gave an involuntary shudder and closed her eyes. She plopped down with her ankles crossed and the couch sagged more under the total impact of her weight. He looked at her there, still amazed at her flexibility for being so large. He walked to her and took her face in his hands. She started at his touch, then melted into his hands and relaxed her tense facial muscles. She opened her eyes and looked at me pleadingly.
            “Please, Georgie.”
            “I’ll see if I can find him.” I kissed her on the lips and made my way to the bedroom. I knew I wouldn’t find the mouse now, but also knew it was my duty to at least look for him. This mouse had been the center of our world for the past two weeks. Margo first discovered his droppings lining the kitchen sink. Neither of us had ever seen mouse droppings before, but we knew instantly what they were. The little turds were elongated ovals, tiny, yet had the power to send Margo wailing into the bedroom.
            I entered her old refuge with caution. I wasn’t particularly afraid of the creature, but was not exactly fond of the dirty thing running over my feet. I flipped on the lights and checked along the walls, behind the door, behind the dresser, under the bed. Tediously. Cautiously.
            Two days after the discovery of the turds she left to visit her sister in the country. That’s when I encountered him in the bathroom vent. I stood and stared at his tail swinging down and his tiny claws poking through, wondering how he came to such a place.  I did little to eradicate the problem. He eventually gave me a slight comfort; company while Margo was away. By the time she had returned he escaped his incarcerated cell, and he had generally been absent until that day.
            “Did you find it?” Margo asked from the safety of her couch platform.
            “No, darling. I’m afraid he’s probably slipped into a hole somewhere.”
            “Honestly, Margo, he’s just a tiny little creature. He’ll hardly do you any harm.”
            “I don’t care, Georgie! It’s a mouse! Eeeeeeeeww!”
I sighed and sat by her on the couch. “Shall we go buy some mouse traps then?”
“Yes, of course we should.” She shuddered again and I was sure she was picturing the dead varmint pinned under a spring loaded metal trap.
“Well then, let’s get on with it.”
We bought the traps and set them, one in the kitchen and one in the living room. We placed peanut butter on them and I assured Margo he would be caught by morning.
When we woke the next morning, Margo rushed to the kitchen like a child to the tree on Christmas morning. Her excitement surprised me, so when she wailed my name in her typically distressed way—“Geeeeeoooorgiiiiee!”—I was unsure of what I would find when I joined her.
She stood like a statue, her arm extended and her index finger pointed at the upturned trap on the linoleum floor. I reached down and picked up the trap, void of both peanut butter and mouse. I looked to Margo and she let out a whimper. I checked the trap in the living room. It was still set but the peanut butter had vanished from it as well.
“Well, looks like he’s a smart fellow,” I said. I couldn’t explain it but I felt a certain relief at the critter’s narrow escape.
“Stop talking about it like it’s a person,” Margo said. She crossed her arms and her fingers protruded like little sausages from the inside of her elbow. She let out a deliberate humph and I couldn’t help but smile. My lovely wife, the strongest woman I knew, reduced to a whimpering, shrieking, humph-ing little child. A woman who had killed rattle snakes on the prairie terrified of the snake’s prey. Growing up in the country should have eradicated this trifling fear from the woman, yet her shrieks and wails at every sign of the mouse had proved otherwise.
“We should buy some of that rat poison,” Margo said. “You know what they say, you never have just one mouse.” I nodded in agreement but instantly regretted conceding to such a plan of action. I secretly denied the idea of there being more than just my one mouse; the existence of mice would erase the slight bond he and I had created in our shared existence.
For days we didn’t see him, but he continued to leave his little turds on our kitchen counter. I stuffed towels between the wall and the refrigerator to keep him from climbing up. Then he must have climbed up the back of the stove, because he was still getting on the counter. We moved all our food and appliances to the kitchen table, and when we lifted our toaster off the counter we found several turds mixed in with the breadcrumbs. We reset the traps but he avoided them altogether at this point. I couldn’t help but be proud of him in a way; for all our efforts he seemed to be one step ahead of the game.
My feelings toward him all changed at 6.08 a.m. on Thursday morning.

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