Monday, November 26, 2012

Scat, scat

I'm worried about Maynard.


     When I told my mother some months ago that I had a mouse living behind the dishwasher here at the cabin, she said, "Time to get some Decon."
     "You must have me confused with your sane daughter, the one who doesn't rescue spiders from the tub and ferry them to safety in the garage," I said. To be clear, I am an only child.
     "You can't live with a mouse in your house," she said. "And where there's one, there are always more."
     "Nope. There's just the one," I said. "I'm sure of it."
     "They carry diseases," she said. "I read about a woman somewhere near where you live, New Mexico or Wyoming, and she contracted some horrible disease from rodents."
     "Hantavirus?"
     "That's it!"
     "If my mouse had hantavirus, I'd be in the ICU or dead by now. And anyway, operation relocation is underway, so don't you worry. I'll capture him, then release him in a well-covered spot behind the barn. Give the little guy a chance."
     She let out one of those motherly sighs through the phone, the ones that don't require accompanying body language to interpret. Translation? "Tsk, tsk. Good grief. Who are you, and what have you done with my rational, practical daughter?" Never mind that I've never possessed either of those traits in more than trace quantities.
     There are dozens of ways to catch a mouse, alive or dead, but the trap I found at Ace was just so ingenius in its design, I had to have it. Forget about electronics or chemicals. I'm a sucker for cool mechanics. This contraption -- or conTRAPtion as I'd have named it -- is friggin' brilliant. I brought it home, played with the tiny, spring-loaded ramps, inspected the cavity, marveled at the see-through top,  the way it slides away to let the little buggah out, with plenty of room inside to add a little sustenance in the event he's stuck in there for a few hours. The night I brought the trap home, my wheat-hued, round-eared pal got his name: Maynard.
     "I'll wait until the weekend, so you're not stuck in there all day," I told him. Yeah, I talked to him. What of it?
     That first weekend came and passed, then another, and another. The trap is still in the box. I've come to listen for him at night. A clink in the dark, and I sneak down the hall in my slippers, a cat on the prowl, a native hunter, silent, slinking toward the kitchen. Flick goes the beam of a flashlight. Maynard freezes, there on the counter against the wall, an unprepared performer caught by a spotlight onstage. He stares back at me, aghast, looks both ways, then scurries, behind the faucet, across the countertop onto the refrigerator plug, along the coils and poof. Gone. In the morning, behind the coffee pot, a tiny trail of bitsy black Maynard turds shows me his path. A spritz and a wipe, and the evidence is gone. Scat, scat.
     My initial theory was that if I left munchies in a safe place on the floor, he'd have no need to scavenge the countertops. Ah, but Maynard is a born explorer, like the Vikings, Magellan, the Hawaiians in their single hulled canoes, Lewis and Clark across the plains to the Pacific. He is Lawrence of Arabia, bound to uncover the tiniest mysteries of a barren, formica landscape.
     It's been two days since Maynard snatched up my offerings of granola and veggies, neatly contained in a jar lid behind the fridge. There have been no clinks, or rustling, no dash in a blur of fur when I flick on the kitchen light in the wee hours.
     Nothing smells weird. There's no detectable decomp. Maybe he found his way back through whatever hole lead him in. Maybe he found a mouse spouse under the house, and the happy couple chose to settle somewhere else. Maybe he's exhausted the intrigue of this place, and has moved on to other adventures. Hope clings like droppings to a stovetop.

Wherever you are, adios, Maynard.