A Mouse At Chez Freire, Part Deux
by Nicole Freire
I'm still working on those ideas from a few columns back, so here is today's.
A Pet Brings Solace And Love But Our Landlord Won't Let Us Have One
Yes, a pet. And by a pet I mean a dog or a cat. A cat to lie on my bed and ignore me, refuse to eat what I try and feed it, a cat to purr while I rub its ears.
Or a dog who likes to take short walks and doesn't bark and doesn't shed very much and is lovely and gentle. This kind...
That's the kind of pet all of us at Chez Freire would like to have. But our landlord, despite his many wonderful qualities, is not keen on pets. He was actually happy when the ceramic Irish setter arrived in our backyard.
In fact, when the fake dog first showed up he said, "Hey, now that's the type of pet I approve of!"
This was when I realized I was never going to talk this man into letting me have a cat. He has seen my parents' lovely sweet greyhound but only while they've been here visiting, so it's not like the dog is living with us, right? It's just here on a temporary basis.
Remember when this happened? I think I was more upset about having to clean out every drawer in the kitchen and the pantry than I was about having a live mouse running around our little house. That's because I had to use shelf paper and could someone please tell me why they can't make shelf paper that won't drive me insane by sticking to every surface except the shelf?
But we set traps baited with peanut butter and got the mouse and then disposed of said mouse.
We now have a mouse in the house. Except this one isn't running around pooping in the kitchen drawer where I keep the hand towels. This one lives in a plastic box with a water bottle. In the picture you can see it (I forget if the mouse is a boy or a girl and how could I tell anyway?) eating a cranberry from my famous granola.
Oh hello, Landlord! The box the mouse lives in is very secure! Not really a pet!
Why do we have a mouse? This is an excellent question. I am hazy on the details as this was one of those parenting decisions where I pretend that I don't care very much and when constantly asked questions about whether or not we could have a mouse in the house my eyes sort of glazed over and I would say, "Uh, I don't know, ask your Dad." And then I would wander into the bedroom and lie down and pretend to be fascinated by the LL Bean catalog.
The mouse came about because of the school science fair. While my child was busy swabbing different things in our house that get touched frequently (the door handle, the light switch in the hallway, the sink handle, the toilet handle) and making her own agar and baking petri dishes in the oven to see how many germ colonies grew --- well, some other child decided to conduct an experiment using six mice, all in little identical cages. And then this child very generously offered the mice to the other children to take home if they wanted to.
Hah! What child doesn't want a cute mouse? A tiny mouse. Maybe they call them lab mice?
And I am pretending now that I don't really care much for the mouse, despite me feeding it my precious granola. When the children of Chez Freire let the mouse out of the little plastic cage and hold it in their hands or let it run around in a basket on the floor, I keep a sharp eye on it to make sure it doesn't escape. Because then the only way to catch it again is the peanut butter trap of death. And who among us is cruel enough to kill their children's new pet?
I am pretending that I don't care much for the mouse because secretly I think it's really cute and if that piece of information got out, well, I would bet cold hard cash that more mice would find their way into Chez Freire.
I was brainwashed as a child by that wonderful author Beatrix Potter into liking mice. Those little books enchanted me, especially the ones with mice in them. The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a good book, don't get me wrong, but Peter is no mouse. But there's The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse and The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse and my personal all time favorite, The Tale of Two Bad Mice.
I love The Tale of Two Bad Mice because not only are there cute mice in the book, the big action in the story takes place in a dollhouse which is also unbearably cute because it is small. There is nothing cuter than two mice destroying a dollhouse and stealing little chairs and dishes to take into their own little mouse hole and then feeling bad about it and deciding later to clean up the dollhouse every week.
Also, the absolute best part of The Tale of Two Bad Mice? One of the mice is named "Hunca Munca". Names just don't get any cuter than that. Say it three times fast! Hunca Munca! Hunca Munca! Hunca Munca! Now fall down on the floor laughing.
While you ponder that I'll be over here staring at the mouse and figuring out how I can sew tiny clothes for the mouse to wear, just like the illustrations in those Beatrix Potter propaganda texts.
Some teensy dresses with petticoats and a hat with flowers on it for when she goes outside. Maybe a tiny purse to keep her granola in?
And maybe I have just lost my mind if I'm mentally dressing small lab mice.
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Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.