It's a little after 4:00. The sound was feline. It was not Tabasco, my marmalade male with fragile health, because Walt had just put him out. It was not Emma, the tabby and white queen of the house because I had to pull my legs up and around her curled form to get out of bed. That left Cooper, Tabasco's nearly feral mother, or Grace, the half-siamese sister of Emma and Cooper, as the only possible suspects.
I flick the light on in the bathroom across the hall from our bedroom, hoping to avoid any possible vomit or other kitty fluids in the dark. All I see is Grace, sitting in the hall, staring at me, blue crossed eyes wide, tail twitching.
"Do you want out? What's going on?"
She continues to sit and stare at me. I pick her up and put her outside - the default decision when the cats don't communicate more clearly than she is right now. I need to pee and while I'm sitting in my way-too-bright bathroom, something gray and tiny zooms along the edge of my bathtub. Its trajectory carries it past my feet and behind the toilet.
As my fuzzy brain registers "mouse" an involuntary and surprisingly loud grunt makes Walt ask from the dark bedroom if I'm okay. With feet lifted as far off the floor as possible without lodging myself beyond a point of no return, I reply that there's a mouse in the bathroom. When I'm pretty sure the mouse is done scurrying for the moment, I stretch my feet as far forward as possible and fling myself to standing. I look behind the toilet. Nothing. I move the shower curtain and a flash of gray transports to the opposite corner where it shivers to a standstill.
This little thing is the size of a small hen's egg. Pretty dusk gray. Long trembly whiskers. Snow white belly. Slender tail. Bette Davis eyes.
I get myself out of the bathroom, briefly consider siccing Emma on the mouse and decide I can't do that. She's so annoyed that I picked her off the bed - I came that close - that she huffs into the kitchen and out of sight. I close the bathroom door on my small visitor and try to sort things out.
Clearly Grace cornered the mouse in the bathroom. Where it came from is a mystery. Why she woke me up to deal with it, a bigger mystery still. This is the cat who brings mice the size of Weimaraner puppies in from the field. Sometimes she shares them with Toby after eating about half. Sometimes she gives the whole thing to him. Sometimes she marches right past him and out the gate where he can't follow and eats the mouse just out of his reach.
Whatever. I have a mouse in my bathroom. It can't stay there, no matter how cute it is.
This actually is not the first time I've rescued a mouse from my house. Four cats, five acres surrounded by more acres and many trees, an older not-so-air-tight house have all contributed to mouse invasions before. Even in my sleep-soaked state, I know what to do.
I grab a large plastic glass and a magazine from the kitchen, open the bathroom door carefully and tiptoe inside. She's right where I left her in the corner behind the toilet, whiskers trembling, eyes bugging, but otherwise frozen. I set the cup over her quickly, pull it and her out of the corner and slip the magazine underneath. She popcorns in the cup - clearly not understanding that I'm a good guy here.
I carry my package carefully to the front door where Grace and Tabasco are waiting to come in. Grace shoots in, Tabasco writhes around on the mat playing coy. My hands full of mouse and precarious mouse trap, I finally boot him through the door, and close it behind. I step onto the front lawn and gently release the mouse. She sits very still for a moment, and I resist my little girl urge to reach down and stroke her soft fur. Instead, I nudge her with the cup and she scurries for the flower bed.
Mission accomplished, I become aware of the dawn chorus going on around me. Robins are raising a racket in surround sound. Our two hoot owls have a throaty conversation in the neighbors' fir trees to the west. A perfect crescent moon hangs just above the trees in the east while Venus announces the coming of a new day from her solo perch to the south. There's only a hint of chill in the air, no hint of clouds in the sky. Another perfect summer day is about to begin. I breathe deeply, send a small prayer toward my rodent friend, and smile at the glory that is my life.
Photo by Phillipe Carrier