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Sabbatical, 2004
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If a Tree Falls in the Woods, continued...

Intrepid Mice

(This is the fourth part of an account of our cottage vacation in July 2002.  Click here for Part One, the beginning of this year's adventures.  The full saga actually started in July, 2001, when we inherited a run down shack in the Québec woods.)

Heather and Diana are sisters.  In fact, the two sisters are married to two brothers, and we now occupy cottages on adjoining lake property.

The sisters enjoy one another’s company, and spend the summer playing endless games of backgammon and chatting about all sorts of things.  My brother and I tend to “do our own thing,” but there are plenty of occasions where everyone gets together – for a meal, a parlour game, or a glass of scotch.

Those gatherings, more often than not, have been at Tim and Diana’s cottage – since ours is still very much a work in progress.

There was one night, however, when Heather and I found ourselves alone, enjoying a quiet evening in our own place.  The dishes were done and there was no nailing, drilling, or assembling.  We were both just sitting in our [increasingly comfortable] cottage, reading.

Then I saw a mouse.

It ran out from under the couch where Heather sat, and disappeared near the kitchen counter.  A few minutes later I saw him again.  He had climbed up to where the old shelves used to be.  A moment later he was on the floor again, then running up one of the chairs beside the dinner table.

When I moved, he scampered back under the couch.

Moments later he was out again, tentative at first, then back on the same route as before: kitchen sink, up the walls, down again, and up the chair.

His problem was that everything was clean and new, and all food was carefully stowed away.

The trips up the chair were amazingly acrobatic.  From the back of a chair he would attempt to leap over to the tablecloth.  Problem was, Heather had covered it with a sheer plastic sheeting.  When the mouse grabbed at what appeared to be fabric, there was nothing there to grip, and he slid down to the floor.  Repeated attempts always worked out the same way.

Heather was a mixture of triumph and fear.  Triumph, because her mouseproofing was obviously working!  But she was sitting on the couch from which he had first emerged, and to which he kept running for safety!

“I’ll make him regret choosing to live right where I am sitting!” she said, and proceeded to bounce up and down vigorously where she sat.  She laughed at her own joke, but she was also very rattled.

With good reason.  His next appearance was right beside her feet.  First whiskers, then a nose, then all of him crept out onto the floor only millemetres from her heel.

I could see him.  She couldn’t.  Should I tell her?

Frankly, I don’t remember if I said anything or not, because when she did spot the creature, she jumped and cried out so violently that we were all frightened – particularly the mouse, who disappeared entirely for the next ten minutes.

When he returned, his boldness seemed to have increased.  He found something edible well into the middle of the room, and stayed there to eat it.

At this rate, there wouldn’t be much sleep for us.  I could imagine lying awake wondering where he was, and whether he would run up onto the bed.

Something would have to be done.

I didn’t particularly want to kill him [even Heather, as tense as she was, admitted that he was very cute], but I wondered if I might somehow trap him alive, and carry him off into the woods.

I got up.  He almost didn’t bother to zip back under the couch.  We had visions of him in top hat and tails, taking a little bow.

A cardboard box which had held our new toaster seemed to be suitable.  I made a duct tape handle for it, then got some cheese out of the fridge, and placed the cheese on the floor near to my armchair.  Then I sat down, holding the box – open side down – by the handle, and resumed reading.

It wasn’t very long before our friend was back.  He resumed his foraging, and in due course picked up the scent of the cheese.  Would he come for it?  Yes.

I kept the carton suspended over the bait.

He grabbed the chunk of cheese and tried to make off with it, but it was too heavy.  So he stayed where he was and got to work.

Clunk!  Down went the carton, and I had him!

Now what??

Very carefully I lifted the edge of the carton and began to slip a glass pane along the floor under it.  The mouse’s paw – pink and almost like a tiny hand – poked out from under the carton, but went back in as the glass slipped along toward it.  Then it was done.  I inverted the carton, and there was mouse and cheese at the bottom, looking up at me through a glass ceiling.

He leaped up to the opening only to bump against the glass.

“Well, Mr. Mouse, you and I are going for a walk in the woods,” I said.

Off we went, and far away down the forest path I released him into the night.  I left the cheese there, too, in case he was still hungry.

Peace once more settled upon the cottage.  Heather and I resumed our reading, very pleased with this humane piece of work.

Then we heard a scratching sound, apparently coming the outside wall of the house.  Moments later there was a mouse – surely it couldn’t have been the same one – running from under the couch and into the kitchen.

That night, Heather jammed the bedroom door shut.

The next day I went to town and bought several mouse traps.

“I let you live, and you abused the privilege...,” I said to the unseen creature as I set the traps.

That evening – another quiet one with both of us enjoying our books – there was a loud “SNAP!!”

The intrepid mouse was no more.

The next day was Heather’s last at the cottage.  She was to fly home from Montreal, while I stayed on at the lake a week longer.  We drove into the city, stayed overnight at Ross and Barbara’s, and early in the morning I put her on the plane.  The traps were once more set, and during our time in the city, two more mice met their end.

On the way back to the lake, I bought a chainsaw.

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