By late autumn the mice have usually set up camp in our house. In the past they have been one of the Great Plagues of Linwood, that at times have included fleas, head lice, street racers and golf balls (yep!).
i have always had mixed views on the mice. i quite like them. They have collapsible skeletons and when they are born they are so transparent you can see the milk travel into their tiny stomachs. i have been known to catch one in an ice cream container and let it loose across the road - where it probably comes staight back in again. i put bait out some winters, and hope they don't eat it. The label says it's painless. i shut my eyes as i put it down and i say a little prayer for their small speedy souls.
My daughter has claimed that mice are employed by cats. When cats want to live in a certain house with certain people, they send mice. After a while the humans give in and decide to get a cat. The cats are monitoring the household for just this very moment. When the last person to be convinced (usually the man) says wearily, OK, we will get a damn cat if you insist, they scan the statement for sarcasm. Scanning....scanning....statement free of sarcasm! They mean it! They will get one of us! The cats and mice together cheer and high five each others' paws. The mice then move on... maybe to your house?
This year we had evidence of mice. Well, actually my husband opened the linen cupboard and there was a mouse bouncing around on the towels. We investigated. The mice had burrowed right into the towels and made nests in little cavities. While i washed our entire stock of linen my husband attempted to mouse proof the cupboard. Soon the air was blue with words as he hammered and sawed and banged. Blokey fixing things always requires Words.
Meanwhile, i had a word with Isis Fang.
i invoked the ancient covenant between cat and human. i told her about how her ancestors had come to live with humans, to protect their granaries and kitchens from vermin, in exchange for food and warmth and care. As a result, cats have conquered the world, from the North African sahel to the sub-Antarctic islands, there are cats. It's been a good deal for cats.
i also reminded her of her own past. How she came to us from the animal shelter, and how we had tolerated her ripping up the lino and spraying on visitors' trousers, and how we had looked afer her expensive and complicated medical conditions. How when we got her, we were told that she was a good mouser and that she was affectionate and how both have turned out to be untrue. Thus, she lied on her CV*, and we are unimpressed, but nevertheless and against our better judgment we have forgiven her.
The point being, i told Isis Fang, it is time for her to honour her end of the bargain.
This is Isis:**
A middle aged brindled tortoise shell moggy, very neat and small, plump, lies in from of the heater like a small Uluru on the outback of our carpet, and when she speaks it is with the voice of Renee Zellwegger in Bridget Jones' Diary.
She says, in her adorable Bridget Jones voice:
Your job is to feed me and my job is to eat. It can be hours before my bowl is filled. Hours! And so what if all the exercise I get is rolling away from the heater when it gets too warm? The heater should roll away from me at my command! I know you say I'm overweight but I consider myself to be merely plumptious. Uluru is sacred after all. And there is barely enough room on the bed for both of us. I never get to sit on the hot water bottle because you've got it, and of course I have to bite your feet to stop you pushing me off it. You make me jump through that idiotic cat door and you wait ages to let me back out again. Living with you guys is not easy. You are lucky I stay here at all. I am the amazing Isis Fang. I am like a chief executive. I don't get paid for what I do, I get paid for what I might do. Or in this case, I might not do.
She was unmoved. So we bought wood and plastic containers for linen and my husband will work on lining the cupboard, and we bought a supposedly painless mouse trap, and the winter is setting in nicely. I wonder why the cats are sending us more mice? Perhaps another cat wants to live with us? That would be our revenge on Isis Fang!
* Humans never do that.
**That was a weird sentence to type!