The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse
In Several Parts
This being the First
Wherein we meet our protagonist and, for the very first time, encounter The Mouse…
I’ve never had a mouse before. Never even seen one. Well, not a proper one. Mickey Mouse, of course. Mighty Mouse. The little mouse in the Bugs Bunny cartoons that the elephant is petrified of and hikes up her elephant-skin dress-legs and tiptoes about in horror. So cartoon mouses, yes. But not real, live, proper mouses. (( Yes, yes, the plural of mouse is mice, my pedantic friends. But you see – and not a lot of people know this – mice refers to a collection of the creatures. Whereas mouses, naturally, refers to various individual creatures taken together in a collective statement. Thus we might speak of our mouses: the one in my house and the one in yours. Or we might speak of a fleet of mice if, say, 25 of them were running down the street. Or had joined the navy, presumably.)) I mean, they don’t even keep those in zoos or natural history museums, do they? Or do they? Because, perhaps they are in the natural history museums, but I always miss them on my way to the dinosaurs. Perhaps they’re in there, peaking their little noses out from behind the underbrush that early man is stomping through on his way to the watering-hole. ((Watering-holes were the “club scene” of early man. In fact, this is why modern clubs are so-called. You see, Watering-holes are where the men-cavemen would go to meet women-cavemen. And when they did meet them, or at least one they fancied, they’d club her over the head and drag her home. So Watering-holes soon became known as the scene of clubbings, whence “club-scene.” And this is the term we still use today, though obviously we don’t club the women over the head anymore. Not mostly, anyway.)) But if they are there, I’ve never seen them. And they’re certainly not in the planetarium, I can promise you that much. Well, not as exhibits anyway. Residents, perhaps.
I’ve never had a mouse before. And then one day, I did. That is, we did. ((We: my roommate and I. You see, I live in New York County, New York City. Most people call it Manhattan, about which if you’re curious I highly recommend A History of New York by Diedrich Knickerbocker, which is not actually by Diedrich Knickerbocker, but by Washington Irving. (Meta-footnote: “Knickerbocker” didn’t pass the spell-check, and I’m slightly indignant about that). The thing about Manhattan is, it’s virtually impossible to have your own place unless you happen to be phenomenally wealthy, or have had your own place since before Michael “Little Caesar” Bloomberg got his Midas-Real-Estate hands on the place. He’s the one that’s taken out all the trans-fats, cigarettes & poor people; The first two by fiat, the latter by presiding over astronomical rent-increases (about which if you’re curious I recommend Jimmy McMillan’s 2009 mayoral campaign and his Rent is Too Damn High platform). So when I say “we,” I am referring to myself and my roommate.)) I don’t remember exactly how we first discovered this. Odd scratching sounds against the wall, maybe. Or a scurrying shadow seen out the corner of an eye. Tiny little holes in food packagings, which to go by the spell-checker is not actually a plural. We may have been a bit slow on the uptake. Just because one watches BBC’s Sherlock, doesn’t make one Holmes and Watson, or rather Holmes or Watson, since we’re speaking of the proverbial “one.” But in the event, there are two of us, and so Holmes and Watson works just fine. Though this whole incident with The Mouse may have begun before we started watching that show, and so we can’t really be held entirely at fault on that account.
I’ve never even seen a mouse before. I didn’t even know anything about them. I suppose I assumed that mouses were basically very small rats that grew up to be proper sized rats; much in the same way that I assumed ponies were very small horses that grew up to be proper sized horses. ((I do dead languages, not biology.)) The result of this ignorance was that I spent a bit of time wondering how long it would be until our little mouse would grow up and become a rat. And I definitely did not want a rat. However, I kept this to myself as I didn’t want to worry my roommate.
That is, I kept the rat business to myself. We discussed, broadly, what we ought to do about this mouse. Initially, we considered actively precipitating its demise. But somehow this didn’t seem at all nice. To be sure, it sheltered under our roof and feasted upon our dry-goods. And to be sure, it did not ever offer to contribute to the rent. It didn’t even offer to bring back any food of its own, let alone buy toilet paper once in a while or do the dishes. But considering that it could drown in the sink much more easily than either of us, I was willing to overlook this last bit. ((Also, the sponge was much too big for it. I’d have gotten it a little mouse-sized sponge, if I wasn’t worried about the drowning, but I was so I didn’t. And of course by mouse-sized, I mean sized to fit its mouse-hands. Not a sponge the size of an actual mouse. That would be daft.)) The point is, we left it alone for a bit.
Back in those innocent days, I didn’t bother to close the door to my room when I went to work in the morning. “I’ve no food in my room,” thought I. “So why would The Mouse ever think to venture thence?” But venture he did. Perhaps he was exploring. I suspect he’s quite a curious little creature, when he expects nobody’s watching. ((I even suspect now that mankind has inherited its spirit of curiosity and desire for exploration from our furry forebears. Indeed I’m now quite sure that there were mice stowed away on all three of Columbus’ barks. Mission: the same as old Cristobal himself. “To India!,” spake the intrepid Spanish-employed Italian. “To the Land of Spices!” And, “To India!,” spake the mice. “To the Land of Cheeses!” It’s all right there in the now-lost pages of Columbus’ famous journals. I’m quite sure.)) The only thing is, he’s got a very small brain. A mouse-sized brain, in fact. So although he may expect nobody’s watching, somebody may actually be watching. And that’s just what happened one night.
I was lying in bed, watching Twilight Zone reruns, ((Here’s a question. When WPIX airs a marathon of TZ episodes, one may be said to be watching reruns. But, when one actively calls up an episode on the Netflix, is that a “rerun”? File under Φ for “φilosophy.”)) when I heard a knocking. A knocking at my chamber door. No, it was more like the pitter-patter of little feet. Or was it more of a scratching? And not at my chamber door, but at my baseboard. But near the chamber door, at least. So, to sum up: I heard the scratching of little feet, scratching near, on or about, my chamber door, which was open. At which commotion, my ears pricked up. Possibly like little mouse-ears, if they do that. If they don’t, then more like those of a dog. If I’d had a tail, I expect I might have wagged it. But not having a tail, I sat quite still. And listened. Listened in the general direction of my chamber door.
Nothing happened. The noise stopped. Perhaps his mouse-brain was keener than I’d given it credit for. Perhaps he was in the process of expecting that somebody was watching and so he was doing what I was doing. Namely, still-sitting and ear up-pricking. I paused the Netflix and looked about, a bit unbenerved. This, I think, lulled The Mouse into a false sense of security. Because after a few moments, the scratching of little feet scampered past my open chamber door and behind my desk and then a bit around the corner of the room. And I was not prepared for what happened next.
Did you know, a mouse is a very cute creature? I had no idea. It made sense later, of course, when I philosophized over this on-after-wise. After all, had not Mr. Disney inspired the soul of a friendly child-hood companion into the body of a mouse? Surely this owed to the body of a mouse being possessed of at least some measure of cuteitutde. But at this moment in time, I’d no idea a mouse was cute. And then, at that very moment, The Mouse presented himself in the most adorable way he could think of, and thereupon belearned me of his cuteness.
For at that very moment, he sprang himself upon my desk chair, and perched himself upon its crown. And then he sat there, in the blue glow of the computer screen, striking the “mouse pose.” You’ve seen it, at least in imitation. Up on the hind legs, little arms folded in across its chest, head bent down, cocked a bit to one side, tail curled around its feet. Imagine a cartoon mouse, eating a piece of cheese, and you’ve got the idea, though he didn’t have any cheese. He looked so peaceful then, in thoughtful mouse-repose. What was he thinking? Was he dreaming of open pastures, with cheese blooming in the underbrush, not an owl in sight? Was he thinking of the next freighter he’d stow away on, a chance to see the world in all its glorious cheesiness? Perhaps he was thinking of a particularly nice sharp cheddar he’d had when he was young, or the runny camembert that had got away. ((Presumably by running.)) Or maybe he was looking at me and thinking, “you know, humans are actually kind of cute when they’re not trying to kill you or lock their food away in cupboards you can’t get into.”
And then he was gone. Whereupon was I sore displeaséd. Because it’s one thing when you can see the little bastard and quite another when he’s hidden himself and yet you know, oh you know, he’s back there somewhere. So off he went, and with him, all my musings on my intrepid, romantic, philosophic tenant. In fact, I couldn’t sleep until I was satisfied he was no longer in my room. ((At least 3 Twilight Zone episodes later.)) The door has been barred ever since. And while that was the last time The Mouse has ever dared to cross the threshold to my chamber, it was by no means the last we saw of him.
Tune in next week for the next exciting installment of The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse, wherein The Mouse executes a marvelous deed of derring-do and thusly earns himself a name.