It was cold and the wind rattled the windows. I was very pleased with the house,
and the owner answered all my queries openly, even enthusiastically.
“Anything else?” his smile rounded his cheeks.
“I noticed a hole in the wall,” I said.
His voice lowered.
“We have a small rodent problem,” he said. “But it’s nothing a few traps
won’t fix,” he said more firmly.
I smiled. I wasn’t worried. Would you be?
I had been unpacking boxes for several hours. Most of my furniture had been
brought in already, and I was slowly putting the house together. It was getting
dark out. The setting sun let only a small ray of dim light through the window.
Suddenly I heard a scratching sound. I turned around.
“Just that little mouse,” I said to myself, “I have traps around here somewhere.”
Sorting through the boxes I found a little mouse trap and stuck it out on
the ground in front of that hole I had noticed and gradually got back to
unpacking. The evening moved on without any more scratching noises. I settled
into bed confident that the small rodent problem was solved.
The next morning I woke up and came down the check the trap. To my horror I
saw it empty, with a second hole carved in the wall next to it. It was at that
moment I realized I was dealing with no ordinary mouse.
Days passed and my encounters with the mouse grew in number as well as intensity.
I’d spotted it several times in the open. That’s how I knew there was only one
mouse: it had no tail. I set countless traps for it, plugged up holes, and even
tried poisoning it, but achieved nothing. I tried ignoring it for a time, but every
day its complex grew. New holes, new tunnels, new tricks, but always that same
I decided one night to bake a cake. The recipe was simple enough and I had no
problem getting a good batter mixture. Then I heard the scratching. The mouse
emerged from a hole where the wall meets the counter, heading straight for my
cake. I ran at it with the nearest object, a broom. Cake mix was everywhere.
It happened two weeks after the cake incident. I was sitting at my desk, mostly
bored, but occupying myself with some light reading. The dreaded noise crept
into my being. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch.
Only hesitating for a second, I hoped up. Slowly and soundlessly I crawled over
to the wall where I heard the scratching. Before I knew what I was doing I was on
my feet kicking the wall, crazed. First the plaster cracked. Then broke. Then
shattered. The entire coating of the wall began to collapse around me. Terrified,
I ran from my bedroom. Behind the closed door I heard the unmistakable sound of a
tailless mouse scurrying across the open floor.
Weeks passed. The couch was worn from sleeping on it. The house was in a general
disarray; curtains knocked down, chairs pushed over, broken plaster and wood
shavings. Mouse holes lined every wall in a primitive and evil pattern. The
mouse had gnawed through the wires in the living room and a small fire was
burning in the fire place for light. I sat there among the mess with blood shot
eyes. Book in one hand, bat in the other.
Then I heard it coming. The scratching. I jumped up. It was running across the
floor in front of the fireplace. I chucked the bat. Coals were everywhere.
Fire spread from the rug to the hollow walls in seconds. It burned like paper.
Panicking, I ran from the house, but as I broke through the front door I turned
for one last look and saw the mouse among the flames.
I sat out on my lawn chair watching the flames consume my house. To my right
a fire truck pulled into the driveway. Firefighters jumped out from all sides.
A hose was pulled up from the hydrant. Behind me someone was yelling. I ignored
him. I wasn’t upset about the house or my belongings. I’d rebuild in time. A
small smile crept across my face. All I felt inside was peace.