'Twas the Night Before New Year's, and All Through the House

I was in the garage, looking on the gardening shelves for potting soil. I had grand plans to repot two plants that needed new homes. It was cold outside—only 16 degrees Fahrenheit, so the doors were closed, water from snow packed under our tires was puddling on the floor, and our gardening stuff was apparently hidden behind shovels and salt and everything winter.

Suddenly, I heard rustling over near my car. I stopped, quiet, to listen. Then I heard it again. What was that? I walked toward the noise, paused. Heard it again: a rustling, scratching, something.

I gingerly moved toward the sound—it was near the garbage cans. Grumpppph, and then swissshhhh. Grumpppph, swissshhhh. Grumpppph, swissshhhh. I carefully leaned over the open trash can that I knew had just one white, lumpy Hefty bag in the bottom. There he was, a little mouse. He was mustering up all of his strength to try to jump out, and then falling back onto the full bag. Over and over again. Grumpppph, swisssshhhh.

It made me laugh—I felt for the little guy. How many hours had he been doing this futile leaping? He was never going to escape. He was like Aron Ralston in 172 Hours, canyoneering in Moab. He should have never gone out alone. Eventually, he’d have to gnaw off his own leg.

I considered my options:

1)  Go upstairs and tell my boyfriend D., who would come down and take care of it. But last time that happened, it involved a bunch of baby mice and his sneaker, and I was left feeling like he needed to expand his lovingkindness.

2)  Clearly, it was way too late for a mousetrap. The mouse was already trapped. In college, my roommate Kara once claimed you could trap a mouse with a stack of books and some peanut butter—surprisingly, it never worked. Plus, the angle inside the can was way too steep for a book ramp.

3)  My last option: Do what always do when I find something inside that belongs outside—open the garage door and let him out.

I opened the garage door, and brought the trash can out into the driveway, carefully tipping it onto its side. I was thinking how happy the little guy was going to be to be free again. This is what the Buddhists would do. Love all things, no matter how tiny and destructive they are.

The mouse carefully poked his nose and whiskers out the edge of the can, looked both ways, and then jumped. It wasn’t far—he landed with all four feet in the snow. And then, at precisely the same moment, an identical thought occurred to both of us: Whoa, it’s cold out here. Much warmer in there. And we both looked toward the garage, and he made a mad dash back inside and disappeared.

I had to laugh at myself. Clearly I hadn’t thought through the consequences of this great liberation. Even if I had put him out 500 feet away, he still would have found his way back to our spacious, glowing, warm building. He just would have had to work a little harder to get back in, maybe through a drainpipe or a tiny hole in some trim.

As far as mouse chances go, he will likely end up meeting some fateful end anyway, like the rodent that died somewhere in the wall by our guest bedroom and is currently stinking up our hallway. Or, maybe he will happily live in the camping gear in the basement for the winter. My first home was a farmhouse built in the early 1700s, and mice were always eating our food—there are a lot of holes in that kind of house. I remember the time they ate an entire Tostitos bag of chips. When we found it, the bag was still was puffed out and sealed at the top like new, but there was a small hole at the bottom, and every last tortilla chip was gone. They did the same thing with a bag of Hershey’s kisses, only that time, they left behind the silver wrappers.

I guess for 2014, I better make sure every bit of food we have in the cellar is canned.