Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cat...and Mouse

I can’t speak “mouse.” I wish I did. If I were fluent—or even passable in the language—there’s a good stiff talking to I’d be giving a certain white-footed mouse who visits my back porch every night, trying to get in the patio door. “You idiot,” I suspect I’d yell, and possibly even box his little mouse ears. “It’s not worth it! They’re waiting for you!!”

I had known that the cats alternated sitting at the patio door, staring into the dark, night after night, for some time. I thought it was just idle speculation, or wishful thinking on their part. But the other night, curious, I finally flipped on the porch light. Smokey, the big black fifteen pounder, was a motionless sentinel, nose pressed to the glass door that provided a clear window from floor to ceiling. On the other side of the door, with a screen in between, was a mouse, staring straight back at him. All I could see above the wood framing around the screen was his little mouse nose, and big beady eyes, and quivering whiskers, and little mouse ears. And his itty bitty front paws as he stretched up on tiptoe to look inside and foolishly consider his options.

He didn’t stop there. Someone had left the sliding screen door ajar by an inch—the equivalent of throwing open the castle gates—and he scampered inside, running straight up the screen until he reached the decorative handle on the patio door. And then sat on it. Smokey leaped for his prey. But, partitioned by the glass door, he looked like a comedy sketch about impossible dreams.

If this mouse gets inside, there’s going to be nothing funny about it. He’ll be a goner. Smokey has built up quite a reputation as a mouser. Before the contractor plugged the hole in the siding a couple of months ago that was the main entrance to The Great Indoors, he’d had a slow but steady stream of hunting projects. And he was proud of his kills. I remember going down to wake the boys one morning, and being surprised to find a tiny trophy placed in front of my younger son’s room. I screamed, of course. Then I turned to walk to my other son’s room, and found another trophy displayed near his door, too. I screamed like a chick in a horror film. I’m sure it had something to do with the fact it was six in the morning and I hadn’t had any chocolate yet. But still…

Evil genius that this cat is, there’s an artistry and social commentary to his conquests and displays. The mice are always meticulously cleaned up, ready for their close-up. Usually placed in a major traffic area. I left him at home for three days once, and found a mouse placed at the top of the stairs to the living room, eye-level to where I’d see it as soon as I opened the front door. He propped another one perfectly centered atop his bowl of cat food one day, like a cherry crowning a hot-fudge sundae. And one Sunday morning I kicked off my slippers and settled into the recliner to read the paper. When I was finished, I set the paper aside, kicked down the foot rest…and found yet another prize placed between the tips of my shoes. I picked up the dead mouse by the tail when Smokey wasn’t looking, and flushed him as I always did the others. He always looks so confused when I do that.

What does he think happened? Since he brought me the mouse as a ritual token of esteem and affection, does he think I tucked right in and ate it? Probably. Good to keep him guessing.

Brenda, a gal I work with, could never get her head around my equanimity about Smokey and his conquests until I finally found a picture of a white-footed mouse on the Internet for her. “My God, they’re so cute,” she said. “They look like something you’d walk into a toy store and buy off the shelf!” They are pretty cute. And they’re strictly outdoor mice until the weather turns cold. Little fawn colored heads and backs and furry tails, with snowy white feet and snowy white chins and bellies. I chased a family of them out of the home they had made in one of my bluebird nest boxes, and it was a heartbreaker. No wonder I’ve been known to rescue a few from the jaws of death if Smokey takes the chase into the kitchen or the living room, slipping into a pair of leather gloves before picking them up and then tossing them out the front door to the grass outside.

The mouse was back again last night, and I watched as he ran up the inside of the screen until he got to the handle of the patio door and perched there. He looked even more relaxed than he had the night before. Smokey stretched his full length up to the handle, but still couldn’t figure out how to get through the plate glass and finally gave up. This time it was Mooka, the spare cat, who looked and sounded like she was having a seizure, throwing herself in frustration at the door to get at the prey safely beyond.

The mouse eventually tired of the game, ran down the screen, and raced across the deck, disappearing into a hole in the snow. I expect to see him back here again tonight. And I think he knows exactly what he’s doing.

1 comment:

Frederique said...

Your entire blog is just wonderful. The writing is so well done and very down to earth and refreshing reading. I enjoyed all the stories very much. You are very talented. Keep up the great work!