By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
There’s a mouse in our house. I say this, knowing some of you will assume this means the place is filthy. I assure you it is not. It gets cleaned top to bottom once a week without fail, and we don’t leave food on the kitchen counters. Nevertheless, there is a mouse.
I saw a brief flash of him last week as he sprinted across the fireplace hearth. I quickly jumped onto the back of the sofa, squealing like a tween at a Jonas Brothers concert, and watched as Tom set traps to catch him.
Fast forward two days later. Four-year-old Jack bounded upstairs mid-afternoon and raced into my home office, wide-eyed and out of breath.
“Mom! I need you!” he said.
“What’s wrong? What is it?” I asked, scanning him for blood or bruises.
“I saw it in the hallway. A chipmunk!”
Normally, I would dismiss this kind of claim and go right ahead with my work. I don’t want to say all four-year-olds are liars, but I will say this: If I had a dollar for every monster a four-year-old saw, I’d be counting my money on a beach in Aruba right now. But this time the emotion behind the tall tale seemed genuine, so I asked a few more questions.
“Where did you see this chipmunk?” I asked.
“In the hallway downstairs, by the door. Come on, I’ll show you,” he said, leading me to the scene of the chipmunk spotting.
“It ran out right here, and then it went down there and it was very fast,” he said, re-enacting the chipmunk’s path.
“So then what happened? Where did it go?” I asked, expecting that this was the point where his story would fall apart.
“I opened the door and it went outside,” he said.
“Seriously? You opened the door and it ran outside?” I asked. He nodded his head solemnly and never once flashed his tell-tale smirk that indicates he’s lying.
Over the next few hours, I grilled Jack about the chipmunk encounter, expecting that the story would change with each telling. It did not. He was certain about every detail, so I probed further.
“Jack, what did this chipmunk look like?” I asked in my best detective voice.
“He had red eyes!” Jack said.
I flashed back two days prior to the mouse-spotting. I asked one more question that was sure to cinch it, one way or another.
“Jack, what did the chipmunk’s tail look like?” I asked, hoping his reply would indicate that this was all imaginary and not what I feared.
“His tail was kinda long and skinny,” he said.
I knew then that Jack’s chipmunk was my mouse. And I really hope the part of the story about Jack letting the “chipmunk” out of the house is true because our mouse traps are still empty. I can just imagine my neighbors sipping coffee and watching out the window as our preschooler played doorman for vermin.
Fast forward to the end of the week. I’d just arrived home from driving carpool and realized that the garage door was locked. Tom’s car was in the driveway, so I walked around to the front door. As I rounded the corner, I saw our sprinkler repair guy standing on the front steps, waiting for Tom to answer the door.
“Hi,” I said. “Are you waiting for Tom?”
“Yes,” he said and then pointed his finger toward a potted plant by the door. “Is that a real snake sitting there?”
“SNAKE!” I yelled, and then I’m pretty sure I levitated off the ground a foot or so and backed up several feet.
There it was, a black and green snake curled up on the edge of a large potted plant nestled into a bed of ivy. He was perfectly still, which made the sprinkler guy think it might be fake. (For the record, anyone who would have a fake snake greeting people by the front door is not somebody I want to know. But I digress.)
I ordered Tom to kill the snake immediately. But the snake made a quick escape, thwarting the murderous mission. Before you write a passionate letter calling me bad names for wanting to kill harmless garden snakes, just know this. A snake – any snake – that is capable of triggering a homeowner’s heart attack is not what I call a “harmless” snake. He’s got to go. Period.
I suppose we’ve been lucky in that, after nearly four years of living in a house that backs up to the woods, this is the first snake encounter we’ve had. He probably showed up on our steps last week because he heard Jack was letting mice out the front door. Just a guess.
The good news is that – other than the few years the mouse and snake sighting shaved off my life – nobody got hurt. The bad news is that there is still a mouse, a snake and quite possibly a chipmunk on the loose around here. And I’m nervous. Very, very nervous.