I thought I had come to terms with the undeniable fact that mice, rodents, live among us in the city. I could accept their mostly invisible presence in my kitchen. Even when they made their presence known—once I caught one scurrying across the counter and down into the stove; another time I came home to find a sink full of dishes and two tiny ones hiding among them—I got over it . . . by scooping them up in the colander and dumping them out the window.
Though I knew they were there, around, somewhere, as long as their existence was no more than conjuncture, if I never gave too much thought to the transient wisps with tails ghosting through the walls, it was fine.
The Mus musculus, commonly known as the house mouse, lives in close association with humans, and its survival depends on that association. Bodies range in length from 65 to 95 mm, not including the tail, which is from 60 to 105 mm long. Weight is between 12 and 30 g. Not a very intimidating size, is it? Compared to their strictly rural cousins, house mice tend to have longer tails and darker fur.
Apparently, they are also equipped with bigger gonads.
That’s just what I need. Gutsy mice. Mice with stones. Mice with reckless courage. Mice that breach the lines of neutral territory and come down the hall to the bathroom. Mice that enter without knocking first.
I was putting up my hair, about to get in the shower, and only happened to have my gaze directed at the floor, when I saw it shoot under the door, round a quick corner and go under the sink cabinet. It was so small. It seemed to move without touching the floor. I would have mistaken it for a dense gray dust bunny if its body hadn’t had such marked forward thrust. Clearly, it had places to go, and my towel, which I’d dropped to the floor, blocked its path between the doorway and the heating vent.
My yell began as a groan, a sound of dissenting horror. I snatched up my towel and clutched it to my chest, only to wonder if I shouldn’t burn it—how close did those little feet come to it? But by then, I’d thrown the bathroom door open and my roommate had come running down the hall. We both stood in the doorway while I professed my absolute certainty that I’d seen a mouse and not a hairball and she tried to persuade me that whatever I’d seen was already long gone, and I reasoned that to get long gone, it must have had feet.
When I finally reached into the shower to turn off the water, which I’d already had running, we both heard the scratching of paws from under the sink. She cracked up and I whined one long, wordless note of misery.
I detest being such a girl about it. It’s not like I’ve never encountered a mouse before. We had them in my house when I was a kid. One summer at camp, I named the mice we saw darting into dark corners of the cabin. I called them Stuart, Stuart, Stuart, and Little, and I hoped my campers would accept that woodland creatures roam the woods, or at least be more comfortable with their harmless little cabin mates. Maybe the mice got too comfortable, though. I was reading on the couch one night when one of the Stuarts crept toward me across the top of the back cushions, trying to get close enough to read over my shoulder.
A curious mouse in a cabin in the woods in the middle of the night is one thing, but Speedy Gonzalez had the pluck to interrupt the dinner hour. He entered an inhabited room under a closed door. He saw me naked.
And he’ll pay for the privilege. With his life.