19 miles from nearest neighbor
South of Platina, Tehama County, California
Timothy: I was awake almost all of last night … the mouse. There’s a huge mouse who lives in this funky mobile home, with a body … well, at least three-and-a-half inches long, maybe four. Seems huge to me, for a mouse. Almost a rat. Long tail, of course. Wild eyes, whenever I see him, because he’s frightened.
Frances: And he’s fat.
Timothy: He’s fat, oh yes. He must have hogga-bogga teeth because he’s literally eaten a hole, a big half-moon … how deep is it … it’s an inch down on the edge.
Frances: You don’t wanna get bitten by that thing!
Timothy: He’s eaten a hole out of our cabinet drawer so he can get out from under the sink area into our living quarters, having squirmed through the gap where the pipes come in.
Frances: You better use the leather glove I gave you if you’re gonna go after him.
Timothy: Yes. If we shake the drawer down into our big laundry bag … presumably I can pull out all the staples that I put in the cabinet.
Frances: We can tie it with a rope below the top, and you can pull out the staples above that, and he can’t come up and bite you.
Timothy: Good idea.
Frances: The Case Of The hogga-bogga Mouse. (Sings) Our mouse eats the cabinets, we have no cheese. (She giggles, not Timothy.)
Timothy: There’s a whole family of mice that live up here. This is probably the big daddy mouse.
Frances: It eats the insulation.
Timothy: There’s a momma and four little babies we saw the other day.
Frances: We took ’em out and scared ’em, I feel sad about that.
Timothy: I went outside and opened one of the storage accesses in the rear of the trailer, and a box was there which we had put in a long time ago with a blanket and newspaper. Well the mice had found it perfect material to make a nest in, tore up the newspaper and made a nest. They were cozy back there. I thought … well golly, I don’t know about having mice in the trailer. Out!! So I took the box and set it on the ground. I started pawing through it because, at the time, I still didn’t know if there were mice in it. I wasn’t sure. But when I got down a little … sure enough, there was the momma mouse and four teeny baby mice that were not more that a day old. Each mouse was the size of the last joint of my middle finger. Teeny little guys. They were nursing like mad and trying to hang onto the mother and their eyes were shut tight. They knew their mother was very frightened and they were trying to stay on. She looked out at first. The first glimpse I got was a little triangle of gray fur with a black tip at the top and two little eyes at the bottom sticking out from the newspaper. It looked like a mouse nose to me.
Frances (tenderly): Oh.
Timothy: I moved a few things and uncovered them. She got very frightened, quivering. I thought, I don’t know if I want to make it jump. Well it jumped out!
Frances: First you came and got me.
Timothy: That’s it, yes.
Frances: And I got the camera and we went back and…
Timothy: I covered it up.
Frances: I took every thing out and there goes the mouse, jumped out. And two little babies fell off and we didn’t know it. And the momma ran under the trailer.
Frances: So then we heard this “squeak squeak squeak” and we looked down and there were two little thumbnails, little tiny mice, and I went, “oh no, they’re so cute!”
Timothy: It was cold dirt.
Frances: And I said, “oh no, they’re gonna get sick and die!”
Timothy: One was lying on it’s back and couldn’t turn over. All it could do was barely move it’s arms and legs.
Frances: It was so sad.
Timothy: We left them touching each other so they’d keep each other warm…and had some company.
Frances: I felt real bad, really bad… I was crying.
Timothy: You were crying real tears.
Frances: Poor little babies.
Timothy (lovingly): Poor little babies. You love all little babies and helpless things. That’s because you’re a wonderful momma.
Frances (sadly): And then I ran over that poor turtle.
Timothy: On the way back from Redding?
Timothy: Highway 20. It was going along highway 20. Just coming out of the town that’s near Clear Lake. We were rounding a bend and I saw a dark object actually on the center yellow line of the road.
Frances: Almost to it.
Timothy: And it stepped off the line.
Frances: It was going my way.
Timothy: The first moment I saw it, it was on the line and it started walking off the line onto the road and I thought, hmmm, that’s odd. It’s not just a blotch, it’s actually something. And we got close enough to see what it was and it was a big turtle, it seemed to me, with a shell at least four inches long. Seems pretty big for these parts.
Frances: And you said, “You just ran over a turtle!”
Timothy: Yeah… I knew the moment I saw it there was no possible way to avoid hitting it. There was no doubt in my mind that our wheels would crush it. And so my first reaction was total acceptance, instead of struggling. Because I saw the trajectory, I guess. My heart sank. I hated hurting that turtle. I love turtles.
Frances: I wanted that turtle so badly. I felt it was our friend and I wanted to take it home with us and have it for a pet.
Timothy: You were crying while you were driving. You were crying again when we got home… And then there was the rabbit before that.
Frances: I didn’t feel bad about the rabbit.
Timothy: It wasn’t as bad. It was truly a silly guy.
Frances: It ran in front of the car, turned around and ran right under the wheel.
I kept thinking that if I had been watching the road better I would have been able to miss the turtle. But there was no way I could have missed hitting that rabbit.
Frances: No way.
Timothy: No… I see what you mean about the turtle, because he was moving so slowly.
Frances: I could have swerved and not hit him. But I didn’t see him. I saw something in the road, but it was too late.
Timothy: There was no reflex time possible, yeah.
Frances: And I didn’t even know it was a turtle.
Timothy: You never did know.
Frances: Well I knew when you told me.
Late that night, in their trailer.
Timothy: It’s quite cold at night. We have all our blankets on the bed, and we cuddle real close. Right now we have the kerosene lamp burning to keep warm in here. We have the doors to the kitchen open and a double rope going in to a new kind of trap rigged up for the mouse. Well we haven’t been listening for the mouse, we’ve been talking a blue streak. But I’m soon going to take the block away and let him go in there and we’ll kind of go to sleep. We’ll see if he goes into the trap. If we hear newspapers rattle in the old laundry bag, I’ll pull on the ropes, which will knock over the photographic tripod on the mouth of the bag. At the same time it will pull the bottom noose around the mouth of the bag, which should achieve keeping the mouse in.
Frances: Without begging bonked on the head.
Timothy: Well he kept me awake all night, eating the cabinetry. I won’t feel glad if he does get bonked. I didn’t like him at all. I still don’t like him. It’s ridiculous! It’s gone too far, way too far. I’m furious!!
Frances: I know. In the middle of the night I woke up and you were grumbling. You were definitely upset. You kept going out into the kitchen.
Timothy: I was trying to catch it in the drawer. Three times I yanked the drawer and the bread-board out real fast when the mouse was in there, I could hear him in there. But every time, somehow, the mouse wasn’t in there. I was furious! And my neck would get tight in the night hearing the mouse eat and knowing that, “There goes another quarter inch of the drawer eaten up!” It’s worse than a wood rat, big gouges out. It’s like a chisel going on in there destroying the trailer. I’m absolutely burned out! Burned up and put out!! I’ve had enough.
The little baby mice with the momma, they can be under the bathroom if they want. But I don’t like mice in the house anymore. We’ve tried it and I don’t like it. I turn it down as an alternative.
Not that I really hate ’em or anything. It’s just that they make noise and they’re another consideration. I want to live with only you.
Frances: Me too. But how are you gonna live with only me now?
Timothy: Right now, we’ve got the mouse. Later on it’s going to be your brother’s house. Somewhere we’re going to be all alone again as we were up here. There have been times up here when we’ve been all alone. It’s truly a blessing. We’ve gotten a lot of good writing done and I’m very happy and Tedoc has been a wonderful story. It’s been the best chapter in my whole life, and there’s been a lot of love.
(He kisses her)
Oh you’re so cute. You have such a well proportioned little nose and your cheeks are so happy and supple and your mouth is so…intelligent. Your eyes are so full of information. And you have very expressive eyebrows.
Frances: Tell me about the mouse.
Timothy: I lay in bed for probably 45 minutes after we turned the lights out. I lay there holding those two yellow ropes, one going to the tripod, which would fall aver the mouth of the laundry bag when I pulled, the other going to a sort of noose, also over the mouth of the laundry bag, which was stapled over where the bottom drawer of the kitchen cabinets used to be. I pulled the drawer out to make the only exit from the underworld of the mouse into the supra world of the humans through that cabinet. The mouse had been digging the cabinet, eating, gnawing, wildly destroying my sleep every night. Gouging, gouging at the wood, never stopping, like a jack-hammer in the kitchen.
Frances: And I thought maybe he was gonna bite us on the toes when we got out of bed.
Timothy: Well it’s a big mouse! The thing I’ve seen. And I’ve seen it several times. I saw it tonight when I opened the cabinet.
Frances: And it’s scary that it might come up out of the bottom of the bed and get us.
Timothy: For a mouse, it’s very large.
Of course he just wants to stay alive. There’s lots of bread crumbs and pieces of cracker in those drawers, and stuff they had when they hid when they stole it from earlier when they had complete run of the trailer.
Frances: They stole a whole wheel of cracker bread.
Timothy: Yes. They were putting it down under the bed. So I blocked off the access and made it such that when we kept all the cabinets closed there was no way they could get into the trailer proper. But now, taking out that drawer and stapling the laundry bad to the opening, that was one way it could get in a little bit… So we put wadded up newspapers and crackers in the bag, and waited. And waited.
And sure enough, I heard. I had put a couple of little boards under it to make a smooth ramp down into the bag so it wouldn’t feel insecure when I stepped on the bag.
Frances: You heard the pat pat pat…
Timothy: I heard the sound of walking on that piece of wood so I thought, “Oho!” And then I heard the newspaper and I thought, “Did I really hear the newspaper of was it my imagination?” The next thing I heard the little board and it really went back into the cupboards. I’d missed my chance.
And I beat my brain, saying, “Why didn’t I pull the string. Why didn’t I pull the god damn string?!”… Because I wasn’t just absolutely sure. I didn’t blow it because if I do, it’ll freak him out and I’d never get him back in this same trap again. So next time I heard the sound, it was so faint I wasn’t sure it was the boards. I heard a little bit of rustles of paper but I thought, “Wait a minute, there are papers under the sink too. It might be those papers.” And then I heard a bottle rattle and sure enough it was. The bottle rattled so I knew it wasn’t in the laundry bag, it was under the sink. I was so mad. Then I heard another noise. It came clear back, under the floor boards near the bed. But then it went back into the kitchen again. I kept saying, “Go in, go in. Be interested in that laundry bag. Heeey, think of the smell of that laundry bag, all our dirty clothes, a mouse’s paradise. He was probably going, “Hmmm.” What a world of smells he’d have in there with all the dirty clothes that had been in it before it was empty. So I said to the mouse, “Go on in, it’s fascinating. There are a million smells…and lots of Frances’s home made bread as well as the Swedish crackers.” As well as the wadded up newspapers, so that we could hear when the mouse went in and rustled against them. I lay there. I was in a half sitting position, my arms were freezing in the cold, trying to hold absolutely still and trying to relax at the same time. The back of my neck was getting so tense from the tension of it.
Frances: And I was sleeping.
Timothy: You were sleeping so sweetly. I was thinking, “It’s a good thing somebody can relax, because I won’t relax until this mouse if out of the house!!!” So I lay still, and sure enough I heard the board wiggle. I knew for sure, this time. It was the board wiggling on the rolling pin. Then I heard the rustle of papers. I thought, “This is it!” I reached both hands up and suddenly the mouse…I sensed that the mouse stopped. But I held my hands on both the ropes. The mouse was in there. I pulled. I sat up as I pulled and I yanked on the one that brought the tripod and I pulled on the other one hard, ripped on it in order to tighten the noose.
Frances: You’re scaring me.
Timothy: Pulling myself out of bed at the same time, diving into the kitchen. When I got there I grabbed onto the rope and held tightly, ’till my knuckles were turning white.
I held absolutely still, almost stark naked in the kitchen, it was probably thirty or forty degrees right then and I had nothing on but a T-shirt. I squatted there, asking myself, “Is the mouse inside the bag or did it get away and is it in the cupboards?” I had not heard the rattle rattle rattle of the tail that it makes when the mouse gets away and it’s scared. The sound is like a, like an arrow quivering in a tree. So I thought there was a good chance it was in the bag. But I couldn’t really tell. The only way to really tell would be to out wait it. So I pretended I was a cat. I held onto the rope tightly to make sure, because if I did any other movements it would get…I didn’t wanna take the whole thing apart unless I really had the mouse.
Frances: And it happened so fast!
Timothy: I sat there for several minutes, actually. In absolute stillness. Absolute. I tried not to breathe in the direction of the bag, knowing that it would smell my breath and know I was there. I wanted it to be in doubt that there really was a human being there. It’s very rare to see a human being stand absolutely still and quiet. We’re always doing something and the mouse knows that. So I thought, “Aha, we’ll outsmart it by being absolutely still.” Time went on and suddenly I heard little cracklings of paper, newspaper. I thought, “Well It could just be the newspaper unfolding naturally, because it had just been jerked.” But I couldn’t be sure there was something in it. And all of a sudden there was a jerk inside. There could be no doubt about it, there was a mouse in that bag. I was overjoyed and jubilant, “I’ve got it, Frances!” I yelled. Then I pulled extra hard on the rope and pulled it up to complete the noose effect and tightened the drawstrings and ripped the laundry bag off the staples that held it to the cabinet and put it on the floor. It was absolutely still. The weight of the seemed a little heavier than it had been, then it would have been with the bread and the newspapers alone.
Frances: I was awake for most of this.
Timothy: You woke up, right. And I said, “The only way we’re gonna know for sure if there’s a mouse in there…
Frances: Is to wait and see if it wiggles the papers.
Timothy: Yeah. You knew it was in there all the time, huh?
Frances: Oh yeah, there was no doubt.
Timothy: There was no doubt that there was something in that bag.
Frances: Something big. And you said, “Frances, Frances, come on!”
Timothy: I said, “Let’s get dressed, we’re going for a moonlight walk. It’s a full moon tonight and we’re going to go out into it. It’s probably only midnight, and it’s probably forty-two degrees out there and we’re gonna go out in it and have us a midnight walk.” And you said, “Well, I’m pretty sleepy.” And I said, “Look, it’s only once in a lifetime we catch this mouse and I want you to see it. You still haven’t seen the mouse yet and you’re just taking my word for it. I want you to be able to see this mouse!”
Frances: I heard it though.
Timothy: So we started to get dressed. We got our pants and our bathrobes on and I put on my slippers and you put on your hat…and I put on the thick gloves, in case there was any need to encounter the mouse, to protect me from his teeth. So we walked down, we walked, oh, what is it? It’s a hundred yards or so.
Frances: In the moonlight.
Timothy: Yeah, in the moonlight. With a bag and us and the two flashlights and newspapers under my arm because I thought we wanted to dump the contents of the bag out onto them so we cold see the mouse run away. And all this time the mouse was absolutely still. I was almost to the point of wondering whether there really was a mouse in there. Just as we were approaching one of the big stacks of lumber, the papers jerked again.
Frances: We both heard it.
Timothy: Yeah… And we decided to pour the contents of the bag out on the corrugated roofing metal that was covering the big stack of lumber.
Frances: It was real bright moonlight.
Timothy: Bright full moonlight… You held up both flashlights, beamed on the scene. I took the newspapers out of the top of the bag, opened the draw string so it was wide open, and turned the bag upside down. Now the first thing that came out was two big lumps of bread.
Timothy: And there was some newspapers beginning to hang out, so I pulled it the rest of the way out and still we didn’t see a mouse. I thought, “Hmmm, that’s strange.” I shifted my position, pinching the bag at the top, thinking the mouse might be staying at the bottom.
Frances: You were scared it was gonna bite you too.
Timothy: Yeah, I didn’t want it to bite me. And you said, “Well shake the bag!” And I said, “Oh yeah. Good idea.” I shook it and nothing but one last newspaper came down…so I pressed it…
Timothy: Gingerly. Afraid I was gonna squish a big body of toothed fury within the cloth. But no. There was no bulge at all, the whole bag went flat.
We looked at each other in consternation. The mouse never did show.
Frances: He must have jumped out right away and we didn’t see him.
Timothy: He musta jumped out.
Frances: He musta been in the newspaper and jumped out. That was easy enough to do.
Timothy: My heart sank. I wanted to see that mouse a lot. I wanted to know how big my catch was. To this moment I feel cheated a little bit by that mouse. I mean, the effect of getting rid of that mouse had been taken care of but the…boo hoo…I never got to see him after I captured him. And you never got to see the big hogga-bogga mouse. It’s only a story.
Frances: We heard him, though.
Timothy: Yeah, we both heard him several times in the bag, but… On the way back you said, “So the mouse is there waiting for us when we get back to the trailer.” Well the only way we’ll know is if we hear any toothy gnawing. I have a strong feeling we won’t. The only other animals we know of that are living in the house now, well the spiders are dormant, they’re probably just hibernation…we haven’t seen any moths…there are no flies… So the spiders are probably just hibernating in the corners of the windows, or they found some other place to go.
(Suddenly loud and excited)
But the mice! There’s still the mother mouse and the little babies which we think are hidden underneath the bathroom floor. That’s what I think, I’m not sure. I’ve never had any direct evidence.
Frances: But they don’t seem to be causing us much trouble, they’re not gonna eat away so much. They’re much smaller.
Timothy: Less destructive. They are much smaller. The momma mouse doesn’t weigh a quarter, not even a quarter of what that big guy weighs.
Frances: It was a fat, giant mouse, I could tell by listening to it.
Timothy (dejected): Okay, so we didn’t get to see the mouse run away.
Frances: You couldn’t have been any more excited than when you were trapping it. Oh man, you were so excited.
Timothy: Every previous effort at catching the mouse, or sometimes I’ve just opened the doors or banged on the walls, because I was so angry at them, without any plan for actually catching one every time I tried. But every time before that, I’ve made some offensive thrust. I’d definitely heard him scampering under the boards in the trailer and it’s tail doing this quivering against the wall, like the arrow in the tree, rattling in there, like the nervous fear, like, “Oboy, I just got away from the most harrowing experience.” Well the mouse did. It knew I was after it.
I feel so good, so tough, for having outsmarted it. I feel like a true human. I feel like this homo sapien.
Frances (chuckles): Man over mouse.