TO THE MOUSE
By Zary Fekete
Content Warnings: Death, loss.
There is a mouse in my kitchen. For a few days, I have been hoping it might not be true. I heard scratching… I thought it might be the upstairs neighbour’s cat… but the little black droppings in the kitchen cabinets are unmistakable. I’ll need to get some traps.
A few months ago, this would have been something my husband would have taken care of. I did have time to prepare for when I would be doing everything myself; the staff at hospice care had plenty of suggestions for getting things in order. The way they all made it sound was like, you never know… your first weeks home alone, there might be an earthquake or some other catastrophe. Instead, it’s a mouse.
As I sweep up the black droppings, I can’t help feeling guilty. I have not spent much time at all keeping the apartment clean. I haven’t had the energy for it.
The traps are in place now. I bought them at the corner store. The lady who owns the store is also a widow; her husband died twenty years ago… but I didn’t know that until last month when she gave me her sympathies. I hadn’t told her. I would not have guessed. She seems so normal. She put one hand on my arm when I was fishing out my change that day. She kept it there until I stopped fumbling around and looked at her. She didn’t say anything… just smiled.
Today, when I bought the trap, I told her about the mouse. She said she’s had mice, too, and that peanut butter works better than cheese.
When I got home, I put one trap in the upper cabinet. I also put some down below the sink area and stuffed some tin foil around the hole where the stove vent enters the wall. The internet said to do that.
There is a new apartment building going up one block over. I read somewhere that large-scale excavation activity can make ground mice nervous, so sometimes they look for new places to nest.
The building caretaker says that he talked with the rest of the tenants. Apparently, no one else has found any mice. I think this might not be true. The rest of the folks who live here are pretty private, and I don’t think they would like to admit to having mice. It makes one feel dirty and careless.
I have just finished cleaning up after dinner. I’m going to switch off the kitchen light when suddenly I see a flash of movement on the top of the cabinet. She is so tiny. The moment I catch sight of her, she freezes. I freeze too.
Her eyes are fixed on me. Mine on her. I can hear the clock ticking in the bedroom. We look steadily into each other’s eyes.
Her whiskers twitch lightly as though she is evaluating me through the air. I become aware of my breathing. I try to slow it down. It seems in that moment like we are alone in all the world.
Then, she turns her head slightly, creeps back, and is gone.
I usually read a book before bed, but I don’t tonight. Instead, I stare up at the ceiling. Tomorrow, I will go back to the corner store and ask the lady if she has any soft traps for the mouse.
If I manage that, I would like to bring her outside, perhaps down the street to an empty lot. I imagine what it will be like to let her go. I think she will scurry off in a hurry… but then she will stop and look back at me. We will stare at each other again for a moment. And then she will be gone in the grass.
And I will return home.
Zary Fekete has worked as a teacher in Hungary, Moldova, Romania, China, and Cambodia. She currently lives and works as a writer in Minnesota. Some places she has been published are Goats Milk Mag, JMWW Journal, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, and Zoetic Press. She enjoys reading, podcasts, and long, slow films. Twitter: @ZaryFekete