Below are the words I've written so far for 1000 Words of Summer:
"Is there something in the fridge, trying to get out?"
I turned my head around and peered into the dark kitchen. Thump... thump... thump. The noise continued. "Probably not," I said. "Unless it's one of your bloody animal parts."
"Ha. Good one," Larry said. The thump persisted.
I clicked the mute on the remote. "Is it coming from outside the window?"
Larry listened to the thump for a few beats, stood up, and slowly walked into the kitchen. I watched him from my chair, my half eaten salad on the TV tray beside me. I held my breath as he silently walked to the kitchen window. "No. It's not outside. I think we have another mouse in the house."
"Damn." I let out my breath in a long sigh. "How are they getting in?"
"I wish I knew." He turned around to face me. "Maybe it's that compost pile of yours. It's attracting vermin.
"We live next to a forest. The vermin are already here."
"And now they're inside our house."
He opened the cabinet and pulled out the live mouse trap -- a small, rectangular box with a one-way entrance. "Feels like there's one in here. I'll take it outside."
I nodded and glanced back at the Mustie video playing on our TV. Mustie was digging his finger along the inside rim of yet another rusty car part, pushing out wads of stuffing and straw. "Too many mice in New Hampshire," he said on the screen. "At least too many in my neck of the woods." He chuckled. I wondered how close our neighborhoods were. His a stately residential area, and ours a backwoods trailer park. Ever since we started watching Mustie's videos, and seeing him excavate his mice, we've been seeing more mice show up in our trailer. I smiled as I imagined an underground mouse tunnel from Mustie's garage to our compost pile. Larry stepped back into the living room with the empty trap and a flashlight.
"Was the mouse OK?" I said. "Did it run away?"
"The mouse is fine. But it didn't run away."
"What did it do?"
"I dumped in on the cart next to the grill... and it just stood there, looking at me." Larry shrugged.
I giggled and glanced back at Mustie, using an air blower to create a tornado of mouse nest fluff. Another mouse excavated from a rusty car part. I looked back up at Larry. "Are you sure it's OK?"
"Yeah. It's eyes were blinking."
I shook my head. "That's not normal. It's supposed to run away." I took another bite of salad, paused the video, and got up. "Show me." Larry walked down the hall and I followed him to the mudroom. The motion-detecting light outside the door was still on. I opened the door. A breeze blew in, cool and damp with springtime. All was still and quiet. As I stepped onto the deck and into the lit night, the cheepers and peepers of the forest resumed their serenading. The cart next to the deck was shrouded in the deck's shadow. All I could see were the leaves and pine needles still layered on the surface from last fall. A big start-o-summer bonfire should take care of that, along with all the twigs and branches that came down in the snowstorms of the winter. Unless I simply decided to add them to the compost pile. I stepped to the edge of the deck. "I don't see the mouse." Then I leaned over the deck railing. Two small black eyes peered up at me. The mouse was... OK, I suppose. But it was in an odd position. It was dangling by its back feet over the ledge of the cart. "Why did you dump it out like that? It's dangling by its legs."
"I didn't. I dumped it out in the middle of the cart. It just walked over to the side like it was going to jump off. Then it stopped."
"And then just decided to hang by its feet?'
"Yeah. I guess."
I looked back at the mouse. It looked as if it were straining its neck to look back up at me. It blinked again. "Why doesn't it jump to the ground?"
"I dunno. Let's go inside." Larry stepped back into the trailer and shut the storm door.
"We can't just leave it dangling there!" I yelled through the door. "That's not normal. We have to help it. Maybe get something for it to jump on so we can put it on the ground."
"I dunno. Like my salad bowl. That way it can eat, then run off into the forest."
"We're not feeding the mouse. It already ate the peanut butter in the trap." Larry took a step back and shut the steel door.
"But it's just hanging! We have to help it. I'm not going to let it hang all night. I will dump my salad out in the compost. That way the mouse won't associate the house with food. It can... maybe even live in the compost pile. Help break down the food scraps."
"Jesus!" Larry yelled through the door. "There you go again. We're not-"
"But I need to get a plate or box or something it can use as a platform to get to the ground. And don't fret, we're not doing anything. I'm doing the right thing. Mice are people too." I opened the door. Larry stepped back and handed me the flashlight.
"Suit yourself. But if you start feeding these mice, the next mouse that gets in the house, you're dealing with... that person."
I paused, imagining a short, squat, hairy man with a mouse head, and small black eyes, blinking up at me. "Fine. This will be my project. I might even build a mouse run with the twigs and branches in the yard." I stepped back outside with the flashlight. I was about to switch it on when I saw, in the shadow, the mouse jump to the ground and scurry into the night.
The mouse we let out of the house last night came back. Same small size, same gray color, same big black eyes. It made its way into our kitchen again, and helped itself to more peanut butter in the same live trap. Larry had been checking the trap every few hours. I figured it was the least we could do, considering we were luring it in there in the first place. Maybe the mouse considered our house its home, and us as the unwanted visitors.
We carefully excavate all manner of creepy crawlies from our trailer in the woods. Spiders, flies, gnats, beetles. I usually escort the crawlers with a paper towel to the front porch. Larry sucks up the flies with the vacuum cleaner and lets them out back. But this year is the first year we've had mice. Or a mouse.
Last year, I read about mice infestations of homes in the country, and so we decided to be pro-active. Larry plugged the gap around the sink drain pipe with steel wool. That was the only potential porthole we found. Then he sprayed anti-mouse spray in the cabinets in the bathroom and kitchen. Non-toxic -- I think the spray was made of cat pheromones. And after we let out the mouse a couple nights ago, Larry sprayed more.
But now that the mouse has gotten into our house two nights in a row... I'm kind of hoping it will come back tonight. It's a neat little mouse. Doesn't poo everywhere. Doesn't gnaw through our potatoes and onions or shred our cardboard boxes. Quite unusual for a mouse. If it does come back, it will get another peanut butter treat and be safely escorted outside again. So maybe I should disable the trap. Larry wouldn't stand for having a mouse in the house, even a neat one like... Blinky. That's its name now. Blinky. And so I will just secretly disable the trap and maybe even set a little saucer of water and a few peanuts in the back of the cabinet. Blinky will be fed and safe and happy, and Larry will never know. I will change out the water every couple of days and replenish the food with a few kitchen scraps a couple times a week. I know Blinky won't make a mess of things. Blinky is an intelligent mouse, and knows how to live with people. I can tell when I look into Blinky's big black eyes. There's an understanding there.
Now that I write this all out, I can see how Larry -- or anybody -- would think I'm being just a tad bit unrealistic. After all, I've seen the movie Willard. Both of them. And Ben. More than a few times. And I know what the humans did wrong. Their hearts weren't pure. They wanted to control the mice, instead of letting the mice control themselves. Mice are perfectly capable of controlling themselves. They do it in the wild all the time. Another thing... the humans weren't vegan. It doesn't make sense to have a pet and not be vegan. A mouse is no different than a cat, except for its size and the shape of its face. And its bare tail. And non-human animals can sense whether a human animal is vegan -- it's a survival instinct. Humans usually can't tell whether another human is vegan, because humans have had their animal instincts brainwashed into obsoletion. I used to be brainwashed too, but no more. Animals are my friends. They want the same things I do, and live on this earth along with every other Earthling. Typing all this out on the screen feels good. I read it back to myself and I feel affirmed. If Blinky comes back, I will provide for my friend. In secret, of course. And I know Blinky won't bring any more mouse friends into the house -- at least not any who poo and gnaw and shred everywhere. It's the intelligence I see in those big black eyes.
This trailer park is full of stray cats; no wonder Blinky is moving into our trailer. Yes, cats are my friends too. And I do feed the cats. Which makes them more likely to make more cats to hunt the mice. But sometimes a dilemma is your only option. My compost pile is a feast for all manner of woodland creatures. Mice, squirrels, chipmunks, turkeys, frogs, and deer. I've even seen a few snakes slithering through the intermingled leaves, banana peels, and onion skins. I guess they're eating the frogs. And eating the mice! Such is nature in the raw. No wonder Blinky moved into our trailer -- or tried to...
Please stay away from the compost pile, Blinky! Come back inside the trailer. This is your home. I will feed you and keep you safe. I'm sorry about Larry; he's a meat-eater and just doesn't understand. The meat has mucked up his brain. He's a nice guy, of course. He set a live trap instead of a bad one. And he's nice to the stray cats. Every now and then he sets out a saucer of his meat scraps for them. But I know he doesn't make the connection between cats and mice. But if you come back and stay a while... maybe a few months... then I will tell him you have been living here all along. And when he realizes he's seen no poo, gnaw holes, and shreds, he'll have to concede... mice are just like cats! I will tell him we now have a small pet cat with an odd-shaped face.
When I read all this back to myself, I admit it sounds a little weird. Me wanting a pet catmouse in my house. But it's not just any pet catmouse. It's Blinky. Coming back for the third time tonight. I know it was the same mouse, because when Larry dumped it into the backyard -- away from the house this time -- it turned around and looked up at me. And blinked. Recognition.
Last night came and went with no sign of Blinky. Larry and I checked the live trap several times before going to bed. A couple times I woke from a restless sleep and quietly made my way to the kitchen in the dark to check. I pray to the woodland spirits that my little friend is safe out in the wild. Blinky has survived into adulthood in the wild, so I'm relieved at that. I haven't told Larry my intension; he mustn't know. He wouldn't and couldn't understand. Larry lives in a black and white world-- no shades of grey, and no room for little gray mice. Or rather, "mouse." Last night I dreamed that Blinky had moved into the trailer again, settled into a straw and cushion stuffing nest I made, and gave birth to four wee mouse babies. They were furless and pink. In the dream, Larry discovered the litter , put all the mice in a box, drove them far away, and dumped them. I cannot let that become a fully prophetic dream. When Blinky comes back, I must do everything I can to keep this a secret. My subconscious was giving me a message of great news, and also a warning. Blinky will come back and have a litter of mouse babies in the house. But if Larry discovers the family, they be exiled to a foreign land.
So Blinky isn't back yet, but she will be. Funny, this is the first time I realized Blinky is a "she." I hadn't thought about "female or male" until just now, thinking about her giving birth. And now that I think about her becoming a mother, I know where she is and what she's doing. She's in an underground chamber... being friendly with a male mouse. That explains why she didn't return last night! Blinky is preparing for motherhood. And so first thing this morning, I got a cardboard box from the shed, some straw, and some stuffing from a busted cushion and made a nest. I taped the lid shut and cut a hole in the side. All this while Larry was on the computer buying more ammo. (Yep, he's a prepper. Prepper culture is popular in east coast trailer parks.) I shoved the nest box under the kitchen cabinet as far back as it could go. Then I stacked some thick recipe books on either side of the hole to hide the box from Larry. It should be safe; he hardly ever looks in the cabinets anyway... except recently, when checking the trap.
Larry was all smiles this morning after checking the trap. "Looks like we finally got rid of that rat!" he said. Ugh, calling Blinky a "rat." Not that I have anything against rats -- they're as closely related to mice as cats are -- but he said "rat" with such distain. Blinky is not a filthy, violent vermin! She doesn't wander the sewers. She doesn't attack cattle. She's a soon-to-be mother of four precious little pups. As I was writing this, I imaged Blinky's babies as being human babies. My mind automatically envisioned Blinky laying on her side, and four tiny human newborns nursing from her. So I deliberately called the babies "pups." I'm not delusional, I'm just an animal lover. And I know I've said "Mice are people too," but that's metaphorical, of course. As in "Mice are exactly the same as people, except in the way they look." (And that their houses [in most cases] look a bit different.)
And so I was all smiles too this morning after shoving the box nest under the cupboard. "Yep, no more mice!" I said, as Larry poured the coffee.
"You mean 'no more mouse'," Larry replied. "There was only one that we got rid of. And I hope that's the end of that."
"Yes, only one mouse," I said, thinking about Blinky and her soon-to-be babies / pups. "Now that it's almost summer, I'm sure all the mice would rather stay outside than try to squeeze their way into a scary, unpredictable house." And my heart immediately panged as I said that. Surely Blinky wouldn't chose to have her babies outside and raise her family in the wilderness. But we had evicted her from the house twice. And surely that was traumatic. Exploring a new place and getting stuck in a trap two nights in a row, and waiting hours until you're finally dumped outside again! Poor Blinky, what have I allowed to happen? I take that back. What have I done? I didn't passively observe the entrapments and evictions (though that would be bad enough), I participated in them! With this realization I feel my face get hot. I am ashamed. How dare I call myself an "animal lover" when I treat a mouse like this? No wonder Blinky didn't come back. She'd already taken two chances that this house would be friendly, and both times she was imprisoned and booted out. I've been so deluded about my thinking and behavior. All this time I thought I was the most hard-core animal rights activist I knew! I could blame the non-vegan culture I live in, but it's my own fault. There are activists who go out into the animal-eating world every day and release animals from their human captors. And what do I do? Sign a few "animal rights" petitions online and call it a day. And at night, evict a mouse from its house. So this was a wakeup call. I must think through my every action. Identify and eliminate all non-animal-friendly behaviors. And yes, sign those petitions, but also educate others about animal rights. Because all of us are animals! And I must start by educating Larry. But as he's a hard-core meat eater, it will take some time. I can't spring the mouse nest on him just yet. Maybe persuade him to visit an animal sanctuary with me first. Do some volunteer work while we're there. Let him get into the spirit of animal welfare through sweat investment.
Two nights in a row Blinky didn't come back. Though I had disabled the live trap, in the cabinet I had set out a saucer of water with a dab of peanut butter on the rim, and sprinkled flour all around it. But no cute, tiny, little pawprints. It's OK... I can deal with it. In fact, this just gives me more time to build Blinky's Dreamhouse. Though it mustn't be too big for it to still fit under the kitchen cabinet. But I do want to make it roomy, with plenty of twists and turns. Like a maze. Like what an actual mouse burrow would have outside in the wild, with tunnels escape routes... Which gives me an idea. I will just build Blinky's Dreamhouse outside, under the compost pile! Scoop up the pile, put in the foundation, and put in the walls and roof and cover it with the compost. That way there's zero chance of Larry finding it inside, and I can make the house as big as I want. Plus all the kitchen scraps will be right there, on top of the house.
So after Larry left for work the next morning, I took a pitchfork out of the shed and started digging at the compost pile. Immediately all manner of creepy-crawlies scurried from the scoop I had unearthed. Millipedes, spiders, June bugs. Appropriate for the first day of summer! I giggled at their scurrying... but then I realized I had just unearthed their home, and they were running for their lives. Maybe some of them were even pregnant, like my little Blinky. Or maybe their babies were still underneath the disrupted compost. I had effectively blown the roof off their house. And I call myself an ethical, animal-loving vegan. What a hypocrite I am! So I carefully replaced the scoop of compost the best I could and went back into the trailer to think. I reconsidered building the Dreamhouse under the cabinet. But compared to building it outside, it's too risky. I need Blinky and her future babies to be safe! And really, where else outside could I build it? I can't just build the house in the yard somewhere -- Larry would see it, and he wouldn't understand why I was building a home for mice. He'd tell me that mice don't need to have homes built for them, that they built their own homes underground. But Larry doesn't understand that Blinky -- and by extension her progeny -- are... (maybe there's no word to describe it). Divinely chosen? The next step in mouse evolution? My trans-species soulmates? Yeah, something like that. So I briefly considered digging a hole in the back of the yard, next to the forest, quickly nailing some scrap boards together, and then burying it with just a tunnel hole as a front door. But then I remembered that time I was ten, and my cat had kittens, and after they were weaned, my mom started giving them away, one by one, to strangers, even after I had named them, in spite of my tearful protests... I decided to save the last kitten from this uncertainty and dug a hole next to the house in the side yard -- a place where I'd never seen my mom wander. I had planned to put Iris (my kitten) in there at night, with a cardboard lid and mulch covering the hole, then take her out during the day and feed and play with her. But I had only managed to shovel out a few scoops of hard-packed clay soil when I realized a hole in the ground was no place for a kitten. And when I got home from school the next day, Iris was gone. "She's in a good home," my mom said. And thus began my ongoing animal rescuing. Baby birds fallen out of their nests, earthworms squirming around in puddles after a rain, scrawny stray cats, upside-down beetles. So many Earthlings needed to be rescued every day. I just had to find them! I'd put the baby birds in padded shoe boxes, remove the worms to a hole in the ground, feed the cats, and flip over the beetles.
And now I must build a house for a mouse. Underneath the compost pile is the only place. Larry doesn't go near the thing. "Too many bugs!" he says. Good. I'm glad a put my foot down and insisted on a compost pile when we first moved into the trailer park. And I've already unearthed the creepy-crawlies. And they're probably used to being unearthed every now and again by the foxes and groundhogs that go digging in the pile. So I will just buck up and start digging again.
3:00. Another half-hour and Larry will be home. He'll see me with pitchfork in hand, covered in coffee grounds, bread crumbs, and pine needles and see the compost pile moved to the side and me standing in the hole I've excavated. Damn. I've got to work faster. But I don't want to do a slip-shod job of it. Blinky and her babies deserve the best! So I decided to finish the project tomorrow. I placed some long boards across the top of the hole, then covered the boards with mulch. I stepped back to admire my handiwork, but then shuttered. Suddenly I was that ten-year-old girl again, peering down at the hole I had dug in the yard, and wondering how I could keep my pet in there. But his is different. I'm an adult now. I'm smarter. I know what I'm doing. I know I can and will save Blinky and her babies. And so I was rinsing myself off with the garden hose just as Larry pulled into the driveway.
"Hi, hon!" I said. "Just cooling off with the hose." Dripping wet, I shivered in the cool shade of the pine trees. "First day of summer!" I said through my chattering teeth. Larry walked across the yard to were the compost pile had been.
"Did you... move the compost pile?" he said.
"Yeah, I just moved it further away from the house. I know you get the heebie-jeebies from creepy-crawlies."
The next morning I got up and almost didn't bother checking the live trap. The trap is still disabled, of course (unknown to Larry), but a mouse can still get in there. And if a mouse can still get in there, a mouse could possibly still get stuck. The mouse would have to walk backwards out of the trap, and what if it were too frightened to do so? But sure enough, I checked and no Blinky. I checked my saucer of water. No pawprints in the flour. And so with Larry safely at work, I put on some ratty jeans and a tee and stepped outside.
A rainstorm passed through last night, and the ground was still soaked. Pine needles, leaves, and twigs carpeted the yard and the displaced compost pile. Walking around the pile, I saw the leave-strewn boards, and carefully lifted them off the muddy hole. The hole was filled with water. Damn. Another delay. Even if the water were to drain by mid-day, the ground would've still been too gloppy to secure the foundation before Larry got home. Dejected, I walked back to the deck and sat on a chair. Looking out at the messy compost pile and the dense forest behind it, I pictured Blinky in a mouse burrow somewhere out there... maybe digging a new tunnel, or excavating a new den, or perhaps having breakfast with her mouse friends. Or dinner. (Mice are nocturnal.) Maybe this Mouse Dreamhouse was a foolish idea after all. Maybe Blinky was perfectly happy out in the forest, and only ventured inside the trailer on a whim... But she did venture inside two nights in a row. But again, that's what mice do. They find a food source, and they come back to it. And when they find another food source, they go to that one. And what bigger food source is there besides a forest? Enough food for all the woodland creatures. Enough space to roam around. And how much fun could a mouse family have in a box underground? Mice build elaborate tunnels running all over! If I'm going to build a Dreamhouse for Blinky and her babies, it's gotta be big, and it's gotta be tunneled. And obviously building it underground would be impractical, and would take too long. So I will build it above ground. In a tree, like a Habitrail. Build the main house first, in one tree, then additions in other trees, with sturdy shafts joining the rooms. Brilliant! That way I can work at a reasonable pace, Larry won't complain that the houses and tunnels are taking up the backyard, and most importantly, Blinky and her kin will be safe above ground and away from predators.
After racking the leaves and twigs from the yard, I put my boots on and took a walk through the forest. The low-hanging tree limbs were still wet and dripping rain, and the undergrowth was thick and viney. I tried to get an idea of how far apart the main tree branches were. Which trees should I put rooms in? Should I choose a cluster of trees, or a line of trees? Or maybe just wing it? I imagined myself as a mouse digging tunnels and dens in the earth. I would probably run into a rock or a big tree root here and there, so would have to zigzag and wind around until I had dug a makeshift network of tunnels. Lots of hallways to run around in, and lots of escape routes. And I'd probably just continue to dig more tunnels; that's what mice do. So I don't need a blueprint to build Blinky's Dreamhouse. I don't even need a plan. Just a ladder. And some more wood -- lots of wood. The wood boards I put in the hole yesterday were still covered in mud, so I pulled them out and leaned them against some trees to dry.
After changing into dry clothes, I spent the next several hours online looking at pictures of Habitrails, outdoor cat runs, and tree houses. I imagined Blinky following a trail of peanut butter... she'd find her way to the base of a tree and climb up the trunk, using the tiny little planks I nailed into the bark. Then she'll see her Dreamhouse in all its rustic wooden glory. She'll go exploring and find an entire network of houses in the forest canopy.
But one step at a time. I have to install the first room first. Then I can keep putting in additions, and join them with something sturdy, flexible (to withstand the wind) and lightweight... maybe rubber piping? I think Larry can pick that up at the hardware store. Along with all the wood boards and tiny little nails I need. And luckily, Larry already has saws, hammers, and power tools.
I heard the front screen door slam. He's home. Now to get him on board Blinky's Dreamhouse construction.
"Hi, hun!" I ran up to him and gave him a kiss. "How was your day? Anything exciting happen?"
"Yeah, the boss had me and a couple other guys unload lumber all day. My back's ready to give out." He plopped down in his chair with a groan. "Could you get me a beer, please?"
"Sure!" I turned and walked down the hallway. "I bet you guys have a lot of leftover lumber with those big shipments," I called over my shoulder. "Odds and ends and scraps and stuff." I reached into the beer cooler and grabbed a Budweiser. I heard Larry turn on the TV. I walked back into the room with a smile and handed him his beer. "So... you guys must have a lot of extra lumber laying around now. Does the store just put it in the dumpster, or do they give it away?"
Larry popped the top on his beer and squinted up at me. "Give away lumber? What are you talking about? That stuff is expensive, and we sell every board we get."
Yesterday, after Larry explained how expensive lumber is, and how there wasn't any "scrap pieces" in the shipments to the store, I decided to let my subconscious mind solve that conundrum. Last night I went to bed and told myself the answer to "What shall I build the Dreamhouse out of?" would come to me in a dream. How appropriate! I was so excited I couldn't sleep, so got out of bed and found one of Larry's hardware pricing guides and a mini flashlight, then crawled back under the covers. I barely got through half of the first page of one of those number charts when I felt myself drifting off into another world. So I clicked off the flashlight and welcomed my dream. The world quickly materialized, but it was dark and empty. And cold. At first I wondered whether I was still awake with my eyes closed (Larry likes to put the bedroom fan on at night, even when it's already cool). So I listened carefully for the fan, and didn't hear it. Then I got the sense of my body in the dream, and decided to lay down and fall asleep in my dream, so that I may have a dream within my dream. Whatever it takes to get an answer. I remember drifting off, then getting out of bed. Everything seemed so real -- Larry had already left for work, and I could smell the coffee as I walked down the hallway. It was then that I realized I was awake. As I sat at the kitchen table sipping my coffee, I tried to recall any scraps of the dream I had, but... nothing came to the surface except a sense of emptiness. So I build the Dreamhouse out of... nothing? What does that even mean?
After breakfast, I got online and searched for dream meanings. Turns out that in dreams, "nothing" means... "nothing." I searched for cheap building materials. I searched for free building materials. For local sawmills. For local scrap yards. Nothing, appropriately enough. By then it was lunchtime and I had already wasted half the day on "nothing." I was low on the salad mix I usually eat, then I remembered I had been neglecting my garden ever since I became obsessed with Blinky and her future Dreamhouse. Maybe I had some early lettuce sprouts coming up... Finally outside, the sun peaked through the clouds and warmed my skin, and my spirits lifted. I made my way to the side yard and saw my garden dotted with weeds between the spare rows of lettuce, tomato, and onion sprouts. I knelt and began weeding, slowly working my way from one end the to the other, and that's when I saw it. A shape in the garden. Small. Grey. Furry. Still. The mouse was laying on its back, legs splayed out, eyes closed. I saw the flies circling. I flinched and looked away. Back inside the house, I sat in front of the TV, watching the news of the latest police riots. Something I usually would never do. But I was desperate to get the dead mouse image out of my mind. I knew it was Blinky. Even though her big black eyes were closed, I could see by the curve of her bulging eyelids how big they were. I'd never seen another mouse -- in person or in a picture -- with eyes as big as Blinky's.
If only Larry hadn't insisted on getting rid of the mouse in the first place! So we would've had a mouse in the house. So what? In the olden days, people had mice in their houses all the time. And not just poor people. Royalty had mice in their castles. It was considered normal. But today sharing your home with mice is frowned upon, at best. And Larry is such a clean freak, any sign of mice or bugs or dust in the house and he turns into a cleaning tornado.
I couldn't bear to look at Blinky's lifeless body again, so I left a note for Larry that I was on a walk, and to please remove the mouse from the garden to the forest. Still hyped up from the trauma, I power-walked through the trailer park, making several laps around each cul-de-sac. Most of my neighbors were at work, or maybe some of them were inside, as by then all the clouds had cleared and the sun was blazing hot. Damn. The heat... the flies... poor Blinky. What state will her body be in when Larry finds her? I recalled nature documentaries showing how a body decays in the wild. Time-lapse progression of rot, infestation, and then... nothingness. So that was what my subconscious was trying to tell me. There's nothing to build Blinky's Dreamhouse out of because there's no Blinky. And finally the tears came as I was walking up my driveway. From the side yard, I saw Larry emerge from the forest with a shovel in his hand.
"Hi hon," he said. "I took care of the mouse for you." He held up the shovel. "Sorry about that. But sometimes, out in the sticks, with all the critters... you know..." I wiped my face on my sleeve and Larry put down the shovel and walked up to me. "Honey, I'm sorry," he said, giving me a hug. "The mouse is in a better place now."
"It was Blinky," I said.
"Blinky. I named the mouse 'Blinky'. It was the same mouse that was in the house."
"Aw... no, it could've been any mouse."
"And I was gonna build a Dream- I mean, a little mouse house and put it outside for her, to keep her safe..."
Larry patted my back. "You can still build a mouse house. The forest is full of mice."
I gave a shuttering sigh. "I know. But those other mice are just... mice."
Larry gave me a quizzical look and shrugged. "Sorry, honey. Want a beer?"
He took a step back and smiled. "I'm thinking about your famous potato wedges on the grill tonight."
"OK. I think I have the spice mix in the fridge," I said. "Thanks for taking care of Blinky."
Larry nodded, walked up the steps to the back deck, and stepped inside the trailer. I climbed the steps and sat on the swing. The sun was behind the trees, the clouds were moving in again, and the breeze cooled my skin. It was gonna be another cold night. I shivered, got up, and stepped into the comforting warmth of my house.