‘Twas a few days before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for one blasted mouse.
J.D next to me snores his peaceful sleep, the sleep of hard work. The children are nestled all snug in their beds, unaware of the havoc that one wretched little creature wreaks on my sanity. I hear him. I slide my feet into slippers and creep, ever so softly, to the dresser where he has taken up residence.
Flashlight in hand I crawl down on all fours and shine it into the space between the floor and bottom side of the dresser. His black beady little eyes shine back at me for an instant, and then he’s gone—shot straight into a hole on the bottom side of the wood.
I yank the drawers out, tossing them onto the bed—thus disturbing my dear husband’s rest.
“What are you doing?” He struggles up on one elbow and peers at me.
Whirling around, I shine the light in his face. “That mouse is going to destroy this house.”
“I’ll get a trap in the morning. Now come back to bed.”
The sheets are now cold, and I swear under my breath at not only the mouse and his demolition of my home, but at J.D.’s comfort in sleeping through such racket. I try to snuggle in. My toes hit an especially frigid spot in the sheets. I clutch the cold metal of the flashlight and listen. Nothing. I start to doze. That rascal must have been watching, for as soon as my eyes close, he begins again, this time from somewhere higher. I flip on my light and shine it at the little monster. He glares back at me, mocking me. In his tiny mouth he holds a bright red string off my favorite sweater. Did he just smile at me? Oh, you rotten little critter. I take careful aim and hurl the flashlight at the dresser. It skims across the top knocking over an array of perfume bottles which go clattering to the floor. The last thing I see in the beam is his little tail flip out of view where he disappears behind the mirror.
“What in the blazes are you doing?”
“I saw the mouse again.”
J.D. is standing next to the bed. “I told you I’d take care of it tomorrow.”
Sheepishly, I pick up the decanters, some of which spilled, and now the room reeks of a mixture of wildflowers, musk and wood scents—all at once.
He opens the window letting in a blast of frozen air, climbs back into bed and bids me a gruff good night.
After cleaning the surfaces with Lysol wipes I crawl, shivering, back into the now icy sheets. My toes are numb. My nose is running, but I refuse to drag my hands out of the covers and reach for a tissue, so I keep sniffling. To which my husband asks, “Are you crying?”
“No, just cold.”
He pokes me. “I’m trying to sleep here.” And then he rolls over and begins snoring again.
He better buy that mouse trap.
Next morning I shuffle out of bed into the frigid air, close the window and turn up the thermostat. The aroma of eau de par fume has dissipated. J.D. still sleeps soundly, and I scuffle off to the bathroom for a hot shower. What do I see on my countertop? Mouse droppings, not many, but enough to make me nauseous.
“J.D.!” I shrill at him. “You better get that trap today!” I drag out more Lysol wipes and disinfect not only the flat surfaces, but the tub, sinks and floor. Satisfied, I reach for the faucet in the shower and grab, not the nozzle, but a fuzzy mouse tail. Another scream pierces the early morning.
“Mommy?” Little Megan peers around the door. “What’s the matter?”
“Mouse!” It’s not that I’m afraid of them. I’ve seen enough of them, even fed one to a snake once. But to come upon one like that sent heeby-jeeby chills down my spine.
I looked again. It’s only the tail end of the nylon loofa sponge. My heart still races, my palms sweating.
J.D. patted the top of Megan’s head. “Hi, Sweetheart. Your mommy is having mouse issues.”
“Today, John! It’s either me or that mouse.”
True to his word, J.D. buys, not only several mouse traps but poison as well. I began laying them out—a little dab of peanut butter on the spring, a little sprinkle of powder. That ought to do it. I rest assured that little critter doesn’t have a chance.
After three days I don’t seen a trace of him. At last I am rid of him. Yet each trap I check is sprung, the peanut butter stolen, and there are no paw prints in the poison. This is no ordinary creature. Thinks he can outsmart me, huh?
We begin preparations for Christmas Eve. The tree set up in the front room, garlands on the banister, and lights around the house. I reset all the traps, even putting a tad of poison in with the peanut butter. That will show him who is boss.
Christmas eve I wake up to his chewing, hear a little pop and the soft lights from the living room that shine upstairs abruptly blink out. I poke J.D. “There’s someone in the house.”
He rolls over, gives me a quick pat on the hip. “You’re hearing things.”
Again I poke, this time harder. “Look, the lights went out.” I point toward our open bedroom door. “Go see what it is.”
“If there’s a burglar downstairs, I am not going face to face with him.”
I hand him the phone. “Then call the police.”
The squad car pulls up to the curb, and J.D gets up the nerve to open the front door and let in the officers.
“There’s a burglar in the house.” I stand behind J.D. My heart racing.
The uniformed man pulls out his pad and begins scratching notes on it. “Tell me what you heard.”
“This pop came from down here and then the lights went out.” I point to the tree. “See.”
The officer’s partner begins a search of the downstairs. By this time two of our four children have come down the stairs and are standing in the front room. Jake in his baggy t-shirt, Megan rubs at her sleepy eyes. Baby James starts yelling from his room next to ours.
“I don’t see anything.” The officer returns to the living room. “I’ll make a quick check upstairs.”
I follow him up the stairs and into Micah’s room. My fifteen month son reaches for me, and I hoist him onto my hip. Micah stirs in his bed but doesn’t waken.
“Honey.” I hear J.D. holler up at me.
With the baby in my arms I lead the way back down the stairs into the front room.
“Here’s your problem.” The officer shows me one of the cords to the light strand. “Your husband tells me you have a mouse problem.”
“You have got to be kidding me.” I examine where it is chewed through.
“Mrs. Collins, I can assure you that while this intruder isn’t harmless, he isn’t dangerous. I’m surprised he didn’t electrocute himself.” The policemen bids us good night. I can hear their chuckles all the way to their squad car. And I catch the sound of my husband’s snickers as well.
With the baby back in bed, Jake and Megan given drinks of water and quick kisses I reassure them all is well. I curl back into bed which is chilled again, knowing I am living with a marauder under my roof. Once I close my eyes, I am sure I hear the sound of giggles followed by gut splitting peals of laughter. I imagine that white-furred demon is rather amused at his antics. I make a mental note to redouble my efforts in the morning. He will not get away with ruining my Christmas!
Christmas morning comes before dawn has a chance to even show her face. All four children run squealing into our room and pounce on us. Bleary-eyed we roll out of bed, trudge down the stairs and stare at our rapscallion-darkened tree. Never-the-less, Santa has arrived anyway, and a plethora of gifts beckon for attention.
A half hour later wrapping is strewn across the floor. I hope I will be able to sort out what are gifts. J.D. hands me a lovely box wrapped as only a gift shop can do. A sheepish grin spreads across his face. Since I hadn’t opened my traditional pistachio nuts, I figure this must be it. Excited, I peel back the wrapping with all the wild abandon of my four little merry makers. I scream. Not with delight, but terror. There in the box looking up at me is two of the beadiest eyes I’ve ever seen. I think he screams. Or maybe I imagine that, too. He leaps from the box, runs for the kitchen and dashes behind the refrigerator.
Laughing J.D. put his arms around me.
“That’s not funny!” I fling the box at him, scattering nuts everywhere. Apparently, the little rascal chewed a hole in the packaging.
“I didn’t put him in there.” J.D. shrugs. “I’ll buy you another bag tomorrow.”
I don’t want to spoil the children’s Christmas so I smile sweetly up at him and through gritted teeth I say, “I would rather you get rid of that mouse!”
“Mommy, Mommy.” Micah tugs at my robe. “We forgot to put the baby Jesus in the manger.”
In all of the commotion of the mouse last night, and then the early awakening this morning, we had indeed forgotten the most important of our family traditions. “I’ll get him.” I wander into the kitchen to retrieve the porcelain figurine when I stop short. There on the counter is that wily rascal. He runs behind a cookie sheet propped against the backsplash. I grab the first two cups I see and slide them from each side of the cookies and close in on that critter. He has nowhere to run. I scoop him up as I close both cups over him.
“Ha! Thought you’d outsmart me this time.” I gaze into his terrified little eyes through the plastic. This mouse is history.
Triumphant, I walk into the living room and hold up my prisoner. Victory is sweet. “I know what I am going to do with you, my four footed furry fiend.” I march into the bathroom, the whole family in tow. They stand and watch as I toss him into the toilet. I hear my family gasp. Before I change my mind I give the handle a resounding flush, and smile with satisfaction as it struggles against the current—his little legs pumping faster than I’d ever seen him scamper across my floors.
Puzzled I give the toilet another flush. Panic on its face, he stares up at me. I reach for the handle again.
J.D. places his hand over mine and draws it back. “It’s Christmas.” He reaches into the toilet and fishes out the drowning bit of a thing. Holding it up by its tail God’s creature looks back at me, pleading in its face.
Defeated, I hold out the cup. J.D. drops it in. Together we walk to the back door where our house butts against the forest. While there is no snow on the ground, it is cold. I lay out a dishtowel, set the mouse on the rag. He buries himself among the folds, sticks his nose out once. And for a moment, just a brief moment, I could have sworn I heard him say, “Merry Christmas.”
And I couldn’t help but think that my Savior loves that little mouse, too.