Walnut Street Mice

image of Walnut Street mouse

December 12, 1980

Pipsqueak voices from the furnace vent
newborns in the wall
seeking the nipple

Frances gave them cheese on a plate
they took the grains in the cupboard
We gave them the run of the stove
they nested in the dresser
We offered sanction from the neighbor cats
they took the darkroom enlarger for their business

they scamper near the bed at night
we found a pellet on our pillow.

I’ve been dreaming merciful mouse traps
with infra-red detectors and sliding-door cages
They’ve taken the engine compartment of the refrigerator
They’ve taken the inch beneath the piano

We hear a rustle in the dark kitchen
I high-wire with outstretched hands
wincing at each floorboard creak
as I grope the wall and splash light on two grey fluffs
scampering the back of the counter
behind boxes of herb tea and bottles of condiments
across the inch-wide chasm to the stove
into the nearest burner hole
and out of sight

My field of view was littered
with symbolism of their defile
I could see trails of their play
between chunks of cauliflower and tomato
abandoned at the assembly of our evening salad.
I reach for the paper-covered wheel
of Finnish cracker bread
It had been their refectory
They had feasted on the rye

I look inside
Suddenly face-to-face at twelve inches
papa mouse quivers tooth to tail
Voltage grips me
I cast for an empty bag, box, jar
then ease the flap of the package closed

“Frances, I’ve got the mouse in the cracker bread!”

“Don’t hurt it, let it outside.”

The prisoner moves under my hand
squirms like a snake through the folds of paper
the whiskered face scans an instant for a getaway
my stomach clenches, the throbbing body leaps into space
tiny feet lay rubber on the linoleum
under the old upright
asylum too slim for my prying flashlight

Two notes make sluggish returns
The typewriter’s been taken; the V key sticks
In Victorian outrage I screech
and saddle my Sunday to their defeat.

~ Tim

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