The Mouse (loosely based on a true story)

It wasn’t the mouse itself, it was the anticipated catastrophe, the smell, the noise of scratching through the night, the imagined proliferation of mouse cities in the roof and walls. War was declared one Tuesday morning. Barry circumvented the house where he’d lived alone for ten years. Alert to any movement, crack and crevice, he stalked the property armed with a tube of filler which he administered liberally. Each squirt rewarded him with a sense of victory.

After phase one of Barry’s plan was completed, he advanced with confidence to the next stage. The traps. Yesterday he’d been to the local hardware store to gather supplies. He gazed at the newly purchased mouse traps with a mix of determined execution and distaste. If only the mouse would leave, just relocate, none of this would be necessary. With resolve he gathered his cheese chunks dipped in peanut butter and began to load the devices. He acted in hope as he carefully placed these bullets of irresistible ammunition. One and two worked beautifully, the third was tricky and snapped Barry’s finger more than once and did not make it to the battlefield.

While the earth was blanketed in darkness, Barry lay in bed trying to locate the exact position of the scratching. Hearing a distinct snap, he smiled with relief. It was over and he could now sleep in peace. However, morning brought the discovery of two triggered mouse traps, empty of both cheese and mouse. Silence mocked Barry as he imagined a well-fed mouse fast asleep somewhere between his walls and his sanity.

Distraction is good for the soul Barry thought, and decided to go out for the day. He tried not to think about the mouse and for the most part he was successful. Until that night. He’d had an evening with friends with a welcome beer. He fell asleep easily, then woke in the early hours. His need to stay warm in bed was overcome by the need to go to the bathroom. As he stepped out onto the board floor, he heard a scratching above. Fury overcame reason and Barry marched to the hall where he picked up the umbrella leaning in the corner. He returned to the bedroom, climbed on the edge of the bed and reached to bang on the ceiling. Barry felt his balance falter and was unable to prevent the inevitable.

Hospital beds are not the most comfortable. Especially with a broken hip. There was an air of humour throughout the ward, and amongst Barry’s family and friends when he related the reason for his demise. It would be more acceptable if the furry creature had been a tiger, or a grizzly bear, but a mouse, this tiny little squidge. Barry was never sure whether it was the haze of the drugs, or the surgeon/philosopher who convinced him of the mouse’s innocence. It was doing what mice do, being true to its nature, and maybe it was time for Barry to let the Pest experts do what they do.

While Barry recovered at a friend’s house, the mouse issue was dealt with at his own. On his return he found a package from his artist son on the benchtop. He hadn’t heard from him for a while and eagerly ripped off the paper. The attached note spoke of love and a promise to visit soon. The gift was a hand painted plaque depicting a sleeping mouse with the quote ‘Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’. It was impossible to wipe the smile from Barry as he hung the plaque over his bed. The mouse had taken him on a journey, from annoyance, to frustration, anger and finally some degree of acceptance and even gratitude. Sometimes it really is the little things, thought Barry, as he finally drifted into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Helen Buckle – Creative Writer ( – and consumer of cheese).