A wizened old prune of a man, my great grandchildren clamour round me, tugging at my sleeves, my shoes and even my beard, urging me to tell them the remainder of the story of the mouse that haunted my dreams one weekend. I pretend that I'm asleep and am not to be disturbed or touched, drooling some, kicking a little here and there, and being pretty liberal with the flatulence. Alas, they do not desist, and I awake, cursing as if I am the me from decades earlier who has just caught sight of a smug looking cat waltzing up and down my own hallway. Some of the children cry, and their parents tell them that Pappy Benji was just clearing his throat, and was dreaming of bad people "like the doggy does". I eat the last chocolate biscuit, and more of the kids cry. I tell them they can have peanuts and that allergies are for the weak.
Pacified by this small storm I straighten up my concertinaed old back, carefully arrange crumbs into my beard into a position for optimum spray, and begin the tale of the mouse that haunted my dreams one weekend (that is not as good as Matt's little story
The year was 2006, and Summer was beginning to realise that it was silly to hang around anymore and that it was time to go get drunk instead of shining it's sweet rays onto the people below. I was a mere pluck of a lad who took teenagers bowling and suffered from severe anxiety when I could not find a way to lose to them. My room was my sanctum, my fortress, my den, my cinema and my niche. One night, whilst deep in slumber I awoke one night to the unmistakable sound of a small rodent busying itself amongst my rolled up posters beneath me (I slept in a loft bed). I turned up my radio and rolled back over to sleep. In the morning, my mind had relegated the incident to the status of an insignificant dream, and I went about my business as usual.
Then one night I SAW the mouse whilst watching a DVD. I was at once draped in a cloak woven of fear, annoyance and excitement, the latter because I thought it make a good blog post on catching the creature in a humane trap. How wrong
I was. Little did I know that the fear would eventually morph into an all in one jump suit with no buttons or zip that would only unhand me when it decided.
Later that weekend, after I had spent a good portion of my hard earned cash on an electric mouse repellent and humane trap, I prepared for a good nights sleep. When I think of that poor man child that was once myself laying his head down, being so drunk on naivity and plain stupidity as to believe that the night would bring anything but horror, I spit on the ground below me, and a tear weeps for the child I will never be again.
Sleep came to me soon but was an infrequent visitor. On several occasions I seemingly awoke, engulfed in the folds of darkness of my room not knowing even if I was awake, or, more chillingly, what I had been awoken by. The room was so still I felt suffocated, and my ears strained for tell tale scrabblings from below. My targets should have been directed much closer, however, and my sense of touch, not hearing, should have been employed.
Above my quilt, I felt the quivering, rapid movement of a tiny body moving at great pace. I froze, and ensured my head and all limbs were concealed beneath said quilt. I do not know how long I stayed in this state for I do not know how to measure a time that may not have even taken place. If fear be the hands on that particular clock however, then surely civilisations would be born and destroyed with the smallest of movements.
Sleep returned, my reluctant saviour, but not for long. Throughout the night I felt little bodies invading my quilted cocoon to touch my feet. Again and again, the fear, the wait, silence, and then they returned. Down below a storm raged, the trap seemed to rattle and shake as if straining to contain a rampant tiger rather than a nervous rodent. No radio would help me now. The world was over, and I was to be tormented forever.
Merciful morning came and somehow I managed to stumble from my bed into the joyous world of breakfast and morning tv. I convinced myself that I had been plagued by nothing but nightmares and busied myself with the day. Then I saw the trap. It was shut. It had been knocked from its perch by some force. It was empty. My heart ran cold. I needed this creature out of the house, soon, now. When I went back for the trap however, it had disapeared, the dog had chewed it all up. Had my dog now chosen sides with the animal kingdom against me to ensure the torture, real or imagined continued? I couldn't tell, but I felt alone. Cold and alone.
Having returned from a trip to the hardware shop, where I was the last person allowed in before closing, with an even more advanced repellent and a replacement trap, I entered the evening in a confident mood. Whilst watching a DVD, more scrabbles were heard. I could detect quick movement out of the side of my eye that vanished as soon as I turned towards it. Maybe it was my hair, maybe it was the tv's reflection, maybe it was the creature. I sat firm, watching my movie.
Then it came out. A tiny little mouse, grey, and scared. It was actually quite endearing, I reached to take a picture of it but it detected my movement and scuttled away behind my chest of drawers. Quickly, I moved the trap to cover where it had just come out from, folded my arms and played the waiting game. I didn't have to wait long. I didn't see the mouse again, I heard a swift pitter patter, and the sound of the trap closing and rocking back with the weight of it's cargo. I picked it up, the strength of the thing was incredible, enormous. It must've been the King Kong of mice. I was going to put it at the bottom of the garden but my brother said he would release it on the common that night, which he did.
I don't think I've slept sounder than I have done on that night. The sun was a bright beaming blue when I awoke, and the sun massaged my eyelids: summer was back for an encore, or at least a victory lap. I took my dog out with a fresh spring in my step, even though my life had been unloaded of around 10 grammes of matter, it felt like an effort not to float to the moon, or even to Pluto to commiserate about it's minor planet status. The dog looked so happy, bounding here and there in the long sun dappled grass, and the whole sunday stretched out like an undiscovered beach.
Boy that dog was happy, leaping around, playing without a care in the world..."What's that you got girl?"...She had fixed her attention on something and was playing with it. Small enough, hmmm, maybe it could choke her, what is it? Grey, small, "Oh Jesus Bella Drop it, bad dog, BAD DOG...DROP IT, DROP IT NOW!!!"
Bella bounded away from her prize. I looked down upon it, a dead, grey, house mouse, twisted and drenched. A cloud covered the sun, and I shivered.
I asked my brother where he released the mouse, and he said it was quite far away from where the corpse was found. Did that make me feel better? I cannot get the picture of the little thing just sitting there with its front paws up out of my mind. Nor can I cast aside the notion that there is another mouse lying in wait for me to forget about the possibility of its existance before striking in vengence for its fallen brother.
Whether it was or was not the mouse that did or did not climb up my loft bed stairs to torture me I cannot doubt that the whole episode wore away something of the gleam in my eye and contributed to the cooling of this old man's heart that means he takes joy out of preventing small kids from sitting on the seat at the front of the bus. (More on that later).
Keep watching the shadows....