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As Long as We Remember...

December 22, 2009

Mice in My Kitchen

Roy Meachum

Pushkin and I live in an about 250-year-old house; built entirely of logs down to its foundation, walkers-by can’t see that. The front on North Market Street was added in the early 19th century, sometime before pocket doors were invented. The older part was then covered with bricks to match the new addition.


While accepting the walls are so thick because the original logs are still there, the mind-blower to many guests is the kitchen’s cooking fireplace; it may be the only one downtown. Then there is the bricked-in shed that contained the “privy,” which doubtless had its own entrance to the house, but no more; I have no explanation how it vanished.


The principal embellishments added the last 11 years was the conversion of back porches: upstairs became a full-fledged bath and downstairs was converted into a garden room that allowed carpenter Dick Morgan to create a half-bath. I got tired of running upstairs when nature called. Guests also appreciate not having to pound the stairs to the original toilet, put in when plumbing made the indoor version possible. I don’t know.


Nor do I have any idea when the first tiny mouse came to live here. In summer, its descendants apparently make-do out of doors, but I’ve never seen one among the flowers and plants in the paved patio. They must be there, too little for me to see. In any event, when the freezing season arrives, scurrying on the counter, they convert into petty adventures many trips through the door beside the computer desk.


I’ve never seen more than one at a time. However, I found a critter “dead” on the linoleum several weeks ago; a paper towel grabbed his tail and tossed the carcass among winter-dead plants and flowers out back. A couple of days later I caught a tiny mouse – the same one? – running lickety-split until he vanished into a “burner:” since I inherited an electric stove I don’t really know what to call it.


Over the past weekend one long-tailed critter climbed his way out of the sink’s garbage disposal, looking miserable and drowned. Unable to scale the stainless steel I gave him a boost with a large spoon, which I carefully washed afterwards. Finicky readers should know I never leave food out on the counter, not knowingly. Doting on my tiny housemates, I still observe certain sanitation principles.


A lady of my acquaintance asked me why I didn’t take the “dead” mouse and flush him down the toilet; considering each weighs in ounces, short of a pound, I don’t think I would have to call a plumber. Still I have this natural reluctance to end another life, man, animal or critter; it does not apply to mosquitoes: I might not have survived New Orleans if I had not made an exception of the anopheles species that brought me malaria, in the first grade.


Besides their ancestral tenure in this former log house certainly predates mine, and since I’ve heard no alarms and rumors they brought plague, I let them go, free to roam the countertop, investigate the stove and drop their really little feces behind the toaster; I clean up after them.


I’ve got to wonder, nevertheless, when the other guy with a white beard comes to call Thursday night, will he leave a tiny present or two for my littlest housemates?


We’ll all find out Friday morning.


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