Life of Carmen


There’s that scrabble of tiny feet again. Late at night in my turtle bus bed I lie head held stiff, an inch above the pillow. Scritchy-scratch. Houdini’s back.

Over the past few days he’s grown bolder, daring to be seen in scuttle from shelf to door. He nibbles fruit, neat small bites in the morning plums. I admire his etiquette, leaving all but no trace. But soon he grows sloppy and indiscrete. Now it is the food drawer and a trail of droppings. The rattle of wrappers, gnash of tiny teeth. I’m losing sleep, waiting for the nocturnal raid to begin. There’s a small hole in my bag of Texana brown rice, and worse, in Joy’s pricey handmade granola. 

Friends offer sticky traps and rat-snappers but I can’t do it. First precept notwithstanding, Houdini doesn’t need to die, not yet. I saw down a board lid for food box and fit it on tight. Patch the holes in the granola and rice bags with duct tape. Hide away the plums. Thinking, I’ll starve the bastard out.

Bleary from another night of scrabbling fits and starts I open the sealed box to find the rice and the granola bags, small holes chewed neatly through the duct tape. Nothing else touched. No hole in the lid, no mouse in sight. I re-tape the bags and devise a trap. A deep 5-gallon bucket, a ramp to the bucket top, a handful of Joy’s granola in the bottom. It’s hardball time.

Late at night there is rattle and chew. I spring out of bed and open the food box – again, he has chewed through only the two bags: granola and rice. A choosy thief. I put all the food on the roof of the bus and close the box. Lie stiff in my bed. Soon enough, scritch and scratch. And then, a plastic plunk and frantic scrambling. I grab my headlight and sure enough, he is in the bucket, leaping furiously to ten times his height, falling inches shy of the bucket rim. Ha ha, brought down by his own addictions! He’s mine. It is 3 in the morning but I can’t listen to him bouncing in the bucket so I place a board over it and walk out in in the warm summer darkness in t-shirt and pajamas, through the tall dry grass, down the familiar forest road. I walk perhaps a kilometre, to a small orchard. OK Houdini, you like fruit. You’ll be happy here, best of luck. I tilt the bucket and flash, he is gone. Triumphant I walk back to my bus, sit for a spell looking at the stars, then enjoy a quiet sleep.

Last night: scratchy-scratch, he’s back. Righteously pissed I throw open the food box to find, for the third time, chew holes in the granola and the rice. I know your game now muthafucka. Food on the roof, granola in the bucket, and minutes later—bounce, bounce. I place the bucket far from the bus, put in a saucer of water to drink. In the morning, mouse, you are relocating for real.

This morning I find Peggy, who specializes in moving and delivery, come to visit Nora in her truck. I ask her, will you please take Houdini away? She offers to throw him in the ocean but I say no, we have a relationship. She agrees to the transport. Wanting to save the bucket I empty plums from a cardboard box and upend the box into the bucket to scoop the mouse inside. He jumps onto the box and out of the bucket. The dogs take chase. Nora and Peggy and I corner the mouse behind the barbecue, he runs under the car, the dogs bark, we poke him out with a shovel, there’s a lot of barking and I yell a whole bunch of words out of keeping with farmhouse gentility. It’s hopeless. The mouse weaves and feints and doubles back and disappears. 

Houdini has escaped again.

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