And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street

I love Monday mornings. Right before first class, my students and I swap stories from the weekend.

I ask, “Did anything exciting happen to you last weekend?” And they tell me all about their adventures. Or they yawn and give me a blank stare.

How is it that we all love stories? There must be something deep in the nature of humans that drives us to recount our adventures. We’ve told them ever since that first campfire. Our children hear them at bedtime. And I tell them to my students every Monday morning.

Last night, something very unusual indeed happened to me.

Our bedroom floor is made of two-by-six’s laid edge to edge. And I suspect they were laid wet, because now there are gaps between them. I would mention that the gaps are sizeable, but sizeable is relative. The gaps I speak of are the size of a smallish mouse.

As it relates to most things, my dear wife Claudia is definitely above the average. But when it comes to chocolate, I believe she is pretty typical. You could find chocolate on our nightstand more times than not.

And a week ago, a smallish mouse was delighted to discover the same. I awoke to the sound of nibbling. I swung my hand out of bed. He scurried back though the crack. The next morning the chocolate bore the marks of mouse teeth.

Now I know it was a waste of great food, but we broke off the very edge of the bar and Claudia threw it in the garbage. I would have dropped it though the crack. There is a soft spot in me for smallish things. Yet every soft spot has its edges. I was personally responsible for moving the chocolate from the bottom shelf, to the top of the nightstand.

Last night we finished that sweet dark substance. I’m sure you are familiar with the possess: crumpling the empty wrapper, looking at each other and sighing. I turned it over thoughtfully. Precious fragments lingered still. The soft spot wakened, and I dropped the package over the edge of the bed.

“For the mouse,” I told Claudia.

I slept and dreamed someone was typing on a rattly laptop. I woke. The sound came from the floor beside our bed.

For the next half hour, I teased the smallish mouse. I’d make a sudden motion and listen to him scurry off. Soft spots have edges. Many ideas came to me. I could drop my iPad on him and convert him to dog food. I could pounce my hand on him. I could continue building his trust with empty threats. But most of all, I wanted to see him.

How well can mice see in the dark? I know little about the eyeball of the mus musculus except for the way it peers from under the trap spring. But it is reasonable to expect they have great night vision. They spend most of their lives careening through dark passages. I began an experiment, mixing in my own twist of psychology.

Question 1: Do mice see in the dark?

Question 2: If so, do human eyes bother them?

Experiment 1: I put my face over the edge of the bed and turned my closed eyes toward the chocolate wrapper.

Experiment 2: If my mouse began rustling, I would open my eyes and hopefully scare him badly enough to give him daymares.

Solution 1: Yes

Solution 2: I don’t know.

After lying senseless with my face exposed for nearly fifteen minutes, I gave up. There was not a squeak. I turned over, put my arms beneath my pillow, and would soon have gone back to sleep. Except for the rustling.

I closed my eyes against it.

Suddenly the rustling had stopped, and something was tickling my arm where it disappeared beneath my pillow. I jerked. It was gone.

I lay still. My brain whirled. Could it have been a largish Romanian spider? Or was it a smallish mouse? I remembered playing with a mouse in my sister’s house in British Columbia. Sleeping in her living room that night, I had listened to it crawl over the back of the couch, and had waited to make my move until it was between my bare ankles. It escaped unscathed.

Last night, I didn’t.

As I lay still, the tickling began again; and just as I began to move quickly and intelligently to catch the belligerent beast, he sank his not-so-smallish teeth into my arm.

I jerked and roared. Claudia sat up in bed. Something like a giggle dropped though the crack in our floor.

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