It’s midnight when you first hear the scratching and scurrying under the bedroom floor.
You lie in bed awake as your children sleep in the next room and hubby snores gently by your side.
Your mind runs wild and your heart beats faster. Is there an intruder in the basement? A madman, hatching a dastardly plan to put a pox on your family?
You realize you’re being ridiculous. You must curtail your vivid imagination. That has you holidaying with George Clooney and swapping wardrobes with Cate Blanchett.
The noise must be a little creature. One of those furry animals who belong in the woods.
And you know it’s irrational, because you are a gazillion times bigger than that sweet, brown furry creature, but you’re deathly afraid. Your heart starts pumping faster and beads of sweat dribble down the sides of your face.
You wake hubby, shaking him by the shoulders.
“What’s happened?” he cries out, alarmed.
“There’s a creature, a mouse, in the house,” you reply in a deathly whisper.
“Oh,” he says. And rolls over, closing his eyes.
You are alone.
Your cat, Viktor, lies curled at the foot of your bed. Asleep. Your only hope.
Viktor has been your faithful pet for five years, ever since you and hubby rescued him from the pound. He’s perfect. Handsome. Not too demanding. Tolerant of your children.
But he has one fatal flaw.
He is a pacifist.
You hope he will swoop down, thrust his claws under the floorboard, and murder the critter.
You fall asleep, dreams plagued by visions of giant vultures.
The next morning, there is silence.
Soon after you’ve put Baby B down for her nap, you hear it again. More scuffling.
You scream “Fuck!” and inadvertently disturb your sleeping child, who wakes up crying.
You know you have to pull it together. You are a grown up, for God’s sake.
You turn to Viktor, goading him to fulfill his Darwinian destiny.
“KILL, VIKTOR!” you command. “GET THAT MOUSE! NOW!”
Viktor looks at you and sidles up to the crack between the floorboards above the scuffling sound. He peers in, tentatively. His expression seems to say, “Why on earth does this woman want me to exert any more energy than I absolutely have to? For pity’s sake, please chill.”
Then he yawns, and trots upstairs for a Science Diet fix.
The pacifist has spoken.
And the scuffling continues, taunting you.
You realize, with a heavy heart, that the time has come. You must curb your instinct to flee. You must face your fears.
You walk, slowly, slowly, towards the noise. Taking deep breaths. Your mantra: You are bigger. It is smaller. You are bigger. It is smaller.
You peer in. And see a little nose pointing towards you, whiskers twitching.
“It’s pretty cute, actually,” you think.
But you want it dead.
You place a box of B’s toys over the offending crack and frantically tape up all holes in nearby floorboards, hoping this will deter the creature from thinking it’s invited into your bedroom.
The scuffling noise goes away.
You let out a breath.
You call hubby to relay the details of your bravery. Hubby grew up in nature, and cannot understand your phobia. Hubby thinks mice are cute. This is a bone of contention.
You rack your brain for an explanation of the mouse’s presence. You need to know. Hubby reminds you that Baby B threw up the other night. In the crack, as we held her.
Mice like food.
Even if it’s regurgitated, apparently.
Riddle solved, you continue to encourage Viktor’s dormant inner rage. You try catnip and tickling him under his chin.
But this pacifist won’t be bribed. Viktor has his morals. His integrity.
A few days later, the scuffling sound has gone. You know the mouse must still be somewhere in the vicinity.
But out of sight out of mind.
You pat yourself on the back for weathering the storm.
Though your pet has let you down, he has also been an agent of personal growth. You have finally faced your fear and stared the beast in the face.
And with a face like this, how could you ever complain?