by Lisa Lebduska
In Maine, October cold descends even during lambent afternoons. Critters migrate.
As the chill descended on one of those afternoons, Millie Gigio kicked off her boots anticipating the easy warmth of cozy fleece. But instead of sliding in smoothly, her right big toe snagged. Expecting a small twig, she removed her leopard-edged slipper and shook it. Two pieces of raw elbow macaroni clattered onto the tile. She picked them up and walked into the kitchen, where a trail of black turd seeds lay scattered across the crisp white counter, along the top of a Cheerios box, ending at an olive oil can. Millie followed the trail, and against her better judgment, hoisted the can. Unctuous thuds. She knew the signs. Bloated corpses of home invaders filled the can-turned-coffin.
“How could they do this?” she asked her husband Ed, who had been watching the forensics.
“Super flexible bones. Squeezed through the spigot. Splash.”
She shook the can so that the mouse bodies bumped against its sides. “Disgusting.”
“They could ruin our entire electrical system.”
“We’re supposed to do something,” Millie said.
“My grandmother used to smash them with brooms.”
At Home Depot they browsed execution devices. Poisons, nest killers, bait on sticky paper that trapped the mouse until it starved to death or chewed off its own leg. They decided a quick kill would be best and bought old-fashioned snap traps that Ed spread with Jif.
Millie felt like a pioneer.
That night as they watched Survivor, two tiny brown orbs wobbled across the floor. One scuttled under an antique chest, the other tumbled toward them. It was an acorn, the rogue meal of a mouse who had lost control of its accelerating tumble and now peered at them, its furry paws clasped like hands.
The vermin who had violated their bedroom, contaminated their food supply and imperiled the safety of their home sat wrapped up in this one trembling creature. The invisible raider turned out to have a small pink berry of a nose, cupped tan-felt ears, trembling white whiskers and an expectant gaze.
In another universe, she might have fed the mouse every day and nestled him on her neck at night. They might have danced for coins in New Orleans, exchanged banter on Ed Sullivan’s stage, ridden trains, belted out show tunes in animation, made Walt millions. Or she might have mutated his genes, induced epilepsy or a cancer-ridden pancreas or a neon tail. Things happen to mice. Some are even made to faint in the lab. They die by the millions to save eating, hoarding murderous two-legged hulks. This one just wanted to burrow safe and warm in the gentle dankness of their basement, nibbling at the edges of their life.
Ed reached for his boot. Millie tensed. The mouse dashed to the kitchen, crashing against baseboards until it found a sweet spot of space to swallow it.
The raiding would continue, and sooner or later the traps would achieve their deadly success. But for the moment, Millie sighed relief. Her pioneer spirit had fled, chased by the curious bright eyes of a small wild soul.
About Lisa Lebduska
Lisa Lebduska teaches writing and directs the college writing program at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in such journals as bioStories, Kudzu Review and Narrative, among others. Her experiences with mice are too numerous to list.