us: 1, mouse: 0

Living in London means that, eventually, you have to deal with mice. The works on the tube upset their homes, they migrate around, and go from house to house, rather like Santa Claus but without the presents, and not just at Christmas. But it is one thing to know about mice as distant little fur-covered ideas. Another thing to have a mouse in your kitchen.

He’d been lurking for a while, poking his head out here and there before disappearing for days on end, somewhat like an overripe guest who somehow manages to wangle a copy of your house keys. But he’d been gone for weeks. I thought he’d accepted the break-up and moved on.

Mr. Mouse made a sudden reappearance, not on the floor, but on the kitchen counters. My flatmate A. shrieked, he squeaked, then he ran behind the microwave.

Being the least shriek-y of the four girls in the flat, I was called. I organized the mission.

“You,” I said, pointing at A. “I deem you too shriek-y. You are not included in this mission.” She headed meekly up to her room.

I turned to the others. “Get your shoes on!” I ordered. C. & L. ran to comply.

“Make a path!” We took our cereal boxes and walled off a little path, from the microwave to the edge of the counter.

“Box!” A large cardboard box was sacrificed for the cause. I instructed C. & L. on how to hold the box for optimum mouse-catching as well as minimum hand-risking. I could redraw the graph for you but it’d take some time.

I, of course, took the hardest part of the mission: the task of scaring Mr. Mouse into running the right direction. If it went wrong, he’d be coming right for me. I smiled. I liked living on the edge.

I took a wooden spatula. It was A.’s, but she wasn’t there to complain.

Tap, tap, tap. No movement from Mr. Mouse. Was he still under the microwave? Yes. I had to move closer.

Tap, tap, tap. A nervous squeak, a sideways wiggle.

BANG! I smashed the spatula on the counter and Mr. Mouse sprinted away, down the pre-made cereal box path and right into the box. C. let go in fright. L. jumped and screamed and held the box at arm’s length, begging me to take it from her.

I wandered over, curious. Mr. Mouse jumped up the sides of the box and I jumped with him, surprised. L. flinched and held very still, as if a wasp had landed on her nose. Mr. Mouse kept jumping, his feet scribble-scrabbling against the sides. It was no use; the box was too deep.

We ran down the stairs and down the road, shrieking as Mr. Mouse scrambled around. Well, I didn’t really shriek. I only did it to keep L. & C. company.

We reached the side of the room. Then we noticed Mr. Mouse had gone all quiet. We all stopped to peer into the box.

He was small and tiny and cute. We all aww-ed simultaneously.

“Can we keep him?” said C., her previous shrieking bouts seemingly forgotten.

“No,” I replied. “We must let him go. It’s the right thing to do.”

There were some grassy tennis courts nearby. We traipsed down the road and slowly, carefully, tipped the box on to its side.

Mr. Mouse ignored the tempting luscious grass. He raced out of the box and ran across the road, heedless of the approaching cars.

“No!” we all cried.

But this is not a sad story. Mr. Mouse did not get run over, and disappeared into a gutter.

Mission accomplished.

This is something that happened two years ago when I lived in Camden. For some reason it came to mind today!


About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
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