"This is ridiculous," I said to myself.
As I scanned the corners of the bathroom, my heart pounding in my chest, I was half hoping to see the scampering critter, half hoping not to. I shifted to look in the corner behind me — nothing. I looked below my feet, past the half-used roll of toilet paper — nothing.
There were only two places the critter could have gone — either behind the hamper, in the corner across from me, or under the cupboard that surrounded the sink. I'd lost sight of it as I jumped up on the toilet cover.
I leaned over, gently, to get a better view under the cupboard, but saw nothing, and it was then I felt so ridiculous. I was perched on my tip-toes, folded at the knees and hips, my bare feet getting sweaty with anxiety, and I was scared of slipping. I held a folded-up towel to my bare chest, though for what reason I had no idea. The mouse didn't care that I was naked.
I wished that I'd left the door open, so that I could call to Sly or Jawa to come rescue me from the mouse. But cats, being cats, were not the type of animal to come when called. Most likely, they were each enjoying a beam of sunlight shining on one of the chairs or couches on the first floor.
Aside from the cats, and the mouse, I was alone. The kids were off to school, and my husband off to work. The boys would have been happy to take care of the mouse for me, scooping it up in a cereal box from the recycling bin or a Tupperware container from the pantry. My husband would have complained that I was whining over nothing, then would have swept the mouse out of the room with a broom.
I blamed my predicament on my husband. When I was Mikey's age, I would have loved to play with a mouse, too, though my mother would have been horrified had I ever brought home a prize like that. That spirit of adventurousness had lasted through adulthood. But our first apartment had mice, and when I objected to the killer traps he laid out, he changed my mind with stories of plague-carrying fleas, hantavirus, general pestilence. Later that summer, as I worked in the small garden on the side of the apartment building, I'd been bitten by a garter snake. The snake's small jaws had grabbed onto my hand unprovoked, or so I thought, and refused to let go until Jack killed it. I was done with small critters from then on, to the point that I had developed a true and honest phobia.
So, there I was, naked, sweaty, protected only by a folded, Egyptian cotton, forty dollar, periwinkle-to-match-your-wallpaper, towel.
Rationally, I had the edge over the mouse. If it truly was as afraid of me as I was of it, then we were even there. It had a bit of an advantage with its little nibbly teeth and little crawly claws. But I was bigger, I could, quite literally, flatten the critter with a well-placed heel. I honestly did not want to stomp on the mouse, though. I'd almost prefer to pick it up in my hands and toss it out the frosted-glass window, into the foot of snow that was piled in the back yard. Almost.
I thought that if I was right, and the mouse was behind the wicker hamper, I had some options. First, I could open the door and leave it behind. The problem with that was that I would then be in the house with a mouse, and it would be just like a mouse to sneak up on me as I prepared dinner or put a load of wet laundry into the dryer. Second, I could stay perched until I saw the mouse again, and then toss the towel on top of it, hopefully smothering it. Then Jack could dispose of it later. There were many problems with this plan, not the least of which was that I would never be able to use this towel again, knowing that a mouse had died in it. Lastly, I could capture the mouse in something, and dispose of it however I chose.
This last seemed the best plan, but it had its own drawbacks. Primarily, vainly, I didn't fancy mouse hunting in the nude. Too much exposed to a creature with claws meant for climbing and teeth meant for gnawing. Second, I didn't know what I had that I could use to capture the mouse. I tried to think what was beneath the sink, but all I could think of was extra bulk-purchased liquid soap and toothpaste.
I thought that I could wrap the towel around me, but when mouse hunting, one needs both hands free, and it would not do for me to be holding the towel up around my breasts when the mouse started climbing up my leg. So I reluctantly placed the towel behind me on top of the toilet tank. I reached over to the cupboard and opened the door to see what I had in there. I saw nothing until I shifted a bit to get a better angle. There, gloriously, was a nearly full box of tampons. It was a smallish box, but since it was my only choice, it was a good choice.
Gathering up my courage, I stepped down gingerly, keeping my eye on the floor around the hamper. I felt for the box, found it, and dumped it inside the cupboard. I could neaten up the pile of plastic-wrapped tubes later, once the deed was done. I closed the door and inched toward the hamper, listening for scampering, watching for a twitching tail or twitching whiskers. Seeing nothing, I grew a bit bolder and got closer to the ground, holding the empty box upside down, ready to pounce and imprison the critter. When I finally reached the hamper, I took a deep breath, and shoved it quickly out of the way. I moved to slam the box on top of the small, gray body, but I stopped short. The corner was empty of any living thing.
"Shit," I said out loud. As I thought hard about where it could have gone, I stood up and took a step back.
I screamed a scream any horror movie starlet would have been proud of.
I felt something vaguely soft underfoot, then felt something vaguely moving underfoot, then felt a vague crunch underfoot. The mouse must have been under the cupboard after all, and it had snuck up behind me, and there it found its quick end.
Not that I thought about all this at that moment. At that moment, I was too busy screaming, too busy jumping up onto the toilet seat again, too busy covering one of my breasts with the empty tampon box, as though I was afraid the crunched mouse had been eyeing my nipple as a tasty snack.
I thought about where the mouse came from as I sat reperched, protected by the box, watching the mouse lay still. Did it take a breath? I wasn't sure if I saw its little body move or not. What I was sure I could see was a tiny pool of red under its head, no doubt where my heel had crushed it.
Once my breathing return to normal and I could no longer feel my heart pounding in my chest, I got off the perch and moved gingerly around the little body. I saw a tiny spot of redness on the toilet cover, where my heel had touched as I jumped back up on the seat. I stayed on my tip-toes to avoid getting blood on the linoleum. I wanted to wipe any blood off my heel, and all the sweat off my brow, but I wanted to take care of the mouse first, just in case it was just stunned, and woke up pissed off and hungry.
I picked the mouse up with the edge of the box, and then closed the top. I put the box on the counter, and placed Jack's electric razor on top, preventing a zombie mouse from escaping. As I wiped the small spot of blood off my heel, and then wiped the toilet seat and floor, I started to laugh at myself. How silly, to have needed one of my elementary school kids to catch a mouse for me. Or my husband. Or one of my two lazy-ass cats. As I flushed the bloodied toilet paper down the toilet, I thought, I can do this myself.
I flexed a bicep in the mirror. "Just call me the mouse slayer." I burst out laughing at myself, then looked myself square in the eye. "You're so ridiculous."
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This was written in June 2009. A friend related a brief story about finding herself in a bathroom with a mouse. I took the idea and ran with it. I submitted this one to a short story contest. Didn't win.
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2011
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