Of mice and macaroni
For Valentine’s Day this year I got a big surprise: two mice in a bucket.
Not the most romantic surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.
I went out into our stable to feed Teddy the pony and reflexively reached for the trash can that holds his grain. But instead of feeling the familiar plastic lid, I clawed at empty air. It had been left open the previous night, by a party who will remain nameless (my husband).
Uh oh. I knew what that meant. Open grain buckets and barns are a bad mix. In a heartbeat, I switched on the overhead light and peered into the can. There, huddled together in the bottom, were two adorable mice.
“Aww, I think they’re in love!” I squealed to my daughter, who announced they were disgusting and went back to the house.
The mice weren’t moving, which led me to wonder if they were dead. I phoned the guilty party, my husband, who assured me they most likely were alive, but probably just overfed and unable to scale the slippery sides of the trash can.
“You’ve got an Aroostook County mousetrap, baby,” he said. “Just tip it over outside and let them out.”
But I had a better idea. I placed a long board in the can, thinking they’d use it as a ramp to escape. Then I got my videocamera and waited. And waited. And waited. There was no movement whatsoever. No adorable YouTube worthy footage of them scaling the ramp and jumping to safety like Desperaux.
So I gave up my plan and followed my hubby’s directions, dragging the can to the front lawn and tipping it over into the snow. One mouse scurried out quickly and then made a beeline for our fieldstone foundation. I’m sure he squeezed himself into the basement where he could wait patiently for the next time my forgetful husband would leave the lid off the grain bin.
The other mouse was not so lively. She wiggled her nose and whiskers, her beady black eyes gleaming, but didn’t move. I kicked the can and said, “Party’s over. Out!” The rotund little mouse looked like Gus from Cinderella. She clearly was in no hurry to leave her all-you-can-eat buffet. Or she was too full to move.
So I tipped up the bottom of the can, spilling a few pellets of grain into the snow. That’s when she decided to make a break for it. She ran a few feet, then stopped to rest. Then she zigged and zagged through the snow, following the trail her sweetheart had made, until she too reached the foundation. Oy vey.
When I turned back toward the house, my dog was standing a vigilant post at the front door, his collie ears perked up and his head cocked to and fro. The cat was staring intently at the cellar door. It’s the circle of life, I guess.
When my dad called that weekend, I filled him in on our mousy encounter, and he traded tales. He related that a few years back his tenant reported finding a single uncooked ziti macaroni on her carpet in the middle of her living room. She asked if he had been in her apartment for any reason, which he had not.
“I don’t even buy this macaroni,” she announced suspiciously.
A former police detective, my 85-year-old father got on the case. He examined the macaroni with his magnifying glass, then headed straight to the basement. Recognizing the pasta as a perfect match for the ziti he keeps stocked in his pantry, he checked the metal shelves and found a one-pound box completely empty.
Most surprising to him was that the box of pasta was on the very top shelf. He suspected a mouse, but could a mouse steal the ziti from the sealed box on the top shelf in the basement, scurry down the shelving, carry it up the stairs, get through a locked door into her apartment and deposit it on her rug?
And furthermore, where was the rest of the missing macaroni?
He retraced the mouse’s steps, and looked around the livingroom. There had to be more pasta somewhere. He checked the tenant’s kitchen, the bathroom, the cupboards, the corners, and the cabinets. A meticulous housekeeper, the tenant assured him that was the only ziti in her house.
Then it hit him. The sofa!
Dad lifted the throw pillows. Nothing. Then he raised the couch cushions, and a pound of raw macaroni spilled onto the floor.
I was amused by my dad’s story, but wasn’t taking it as seriously as he was.
“I don’t think he acted alone,” he said, dead serious.
“Who?” I asked.
“The mouse,” he said. “He had to have help. This had to be at least a two-mouse job, maybe more.”
Now I was laughing. It just spurred him on more.
“I think it might have been a whole gang, and the more I think of it, they had to be working together,” he said. “They must have looked like the Seven Dwarves. I can just visualize it.”
And the beat goes on.
Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro and wishes a very happy 85th birthday to her father this month.