We live in an old house - not old enough to be historic but old enough to be a problem. Our house has an inaccessible attic space inhabited by bats. The bats have always been there according to neighborhood lore. They don’t bother us and anything that eats mosquitoes is a minor deity to me, so there they stay. There have been a few visitors to our interior during times of heavy repair and we did almost lose a startled roofer who was at the entrance to our "bat cave" at dusk. I told him there were bats in there. What he thought I really meant by "bats come out of there at dusk", I’ll never know.
There are no bats in this story. The bats were merely mentioned for effect and because the bat cave also allowed entry for a far more terrible adversary - MICE. As the invading hoards became more and more bold, we developed a "take no prisoners" attitude. The tale of the mouse-cicle takes place at the beginning of the "war of the rodents", when our hearts were still softened by their tiny size.
It began on a frigid winter afternoon. A mouse was spotted in the bathroom. I caught him in a paper cup and headed for the door. Papa stopped me and told me it was cruel to put him outside. I reminded him that it had originally come from there and must have alternate lodgings. Mice live outdoors all the time. He would go home to his cozy nest filled with bits of fluff gathered in the fall. Well, I must have been exposed to too much Beatrix Potter, because, unbeknownst to us, what he actually did was head for the center of our yard and promptly freeze solid. The reason we know this is because he entered the house again later that afternoon…
Tristan flew by me as he came inside and headed for his "playroom"
under the dining room table. He seemed fabulously happy with himself. This
is always cause for alarm. A peek beneath the table revealed his joy. He’d
found a new toy the other dogs had missed. There was a mouse tail sticking
out of his mouth - frozen stiff! I shrieked and sent him out again into
the deep snow. I grabbed a handful of dog treats and bribed him back inside
- minus his prize. Now the mouse was back out, Tristan was back in - and
we had no idea where he’d left the mouse. A mouse hunting expedition was
launched to no avail. There was nothing to do but wait. Sure enough, hours
later, the mouse-cicle was back inside. A few treats later and it was missing
in action again. This went on for hours. Nightfall came, and with it a
chilling thought. What if the mouse-cicle ended up in our bed? That’s where
Tristan would head after "final pee". We could not outrun him.
So another polar expedition was launched with flashlights. Just before
frostbite set in, the frozen confection was found and placed in a final
resting place in a trash can.
The roofers (later to be referred to as "the first roofers" because of their stellar lack of skill) left quite a mess. Bits of wood, shingles and nails were everywhere. I spent hours tracking down anything that could possibly be consumed by a dog and filling trash cans, but it gets dark early in the fall. That night I let the dogs in and Tristan jumped over the back of the couch, as was his custom, and perched there for his treat. In the dim light I noticed he had something large and dark in his mouth. Damn! I had missed a shingle. He’d been finding bits all day and now he’d found the mother lode! I did something those with furkids should never do - I reached out to remove the shingle. Submissive dogs like Tristan will turn their heads away when you try to take something. As he turned, I saw it. The CLAW! My hand was an inch away from grabbing a very dead crow by the foot (at this point in the story you can make a claw with your hand and make the kiddies twitch). Papa was summoned by my screams as Tristan paraded this trophy before the other dogs. Earnest was disgusted but Arthur was intrigued. I knew the crow would soon change hands, so to speak, and Arthur was not one to give up anything. Many promises were made and Tristan was eventually persuaded to trade the corpse for a treat.
The hair on the back of my neck went back down in only a few days… I don't reach for anything in the dark anymore.
Tale Waggers - Stories for Dog People
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