And, on balance, being marginally glad it was the latter.
|Balls to this harvesting lark.|
So, what then? A brief flashback revealed my mum, her own mop bristling with carbolic as she rendered the house uninhabitable for man and beast alike. Domestic overkill was her generation's answer to everything and I smiled, remembering how we thought our nasal hair would never grow back and our lungs would forever wheeze with the croaky rattle of Phosgene survivors.
No scattergun approach then, and besides, those chemicals have long since been banned. A waiting game sounded more sensible (and a lot less labour-intensive). After all, he might quietly slip away into the night now he knew we lived here, like a conscientious squatter. "Sorry man, my bad. I've left the seat down and a quid in the gas meter."
And if not? I closed the book and washed my hands, muttering. "It's just a wee mouse. Shouldn't be too hard to catch, when the time comes."
How terribly naive I was.
Now peripheral vision is a funny thing. This gift of human evolution must have been great for snagging bats off cave walls to roast, or spotting the blade of grass a sabre-tooth just moved. Today though? Well, it's just a bit of a pisser isn't it? There are some things you'd rather not see, if it means having to conduct a mouse-hunt every time he catches the corner of someone's eye.
Three months on. A typical scene. We are watching tv and there's movement from the through-lounge carpet. Under the dining table, a piece of sweetcorn from dinner is about to be claimed. He is less discreet now, his appearances more regular and brazen. We merely gape for a moment, fascinated at his audacity and at how plump he's become.
"He's like a tiny hoover," my daughter giggles, as he scoots under the sideboard.
"Except there's no bag for the doings," I remind her, and croon, menacingly: "Little pellets in your clothing, little pellets in your hair..."
It is a costly song and the shrill unison of 'ewws!' from wife and daughter alike spell doom for the singer. A tolerance, borne of cuteness and fellow-feeling has been thoughtlessly shattered. I am an idiot.
"Don't worry," I bluster, "Where's he gonna go? Everything's open plan. They like nooks and crannies, holes in skirting boards. He's pushed it too far."
"Don't hurt him!" the daughter relents, "even if he does poo he's still sweet."
Except he had somehow vanished, leaving us to scratch our heads. Later, we found he had a trick of slipping inside the middle of the double radiator. The third time he did it, Carole spotted his tail hanging down between the impossible gap and the skirting board. "Well I'll be!"
I opened the patio door, just a foot away from his spot. "I'm giving you every chance to leave quietly," I said. "Before it gets ugly."
But he's safe within an impregnable fortress of steel. The only thing I can do is tug his tail, and he's either going to detach it (they can do that, apparently) or sink needle teeth into the webbing of my thumb and forefinger. Carole, less gingerly and more angrily, approaches with the mop.
"There's nothing you can do," I say. "He's in his ivory tower."
"Get out of my way," she snarls, and begins whacking the radiator with gusto. "I might not be able to get at the little f***er, but I can certainly ring his bell!"
|Put the freshness back. And buy a shotgun.|
Tomorrow - Part Two - Of Mice and Men.