Tiny Cold Feet

Winter is making me crazy. (How crazy, Jane?) This crazy.

A couple of weeks ago, as I put up the garage door to bring the boys to an appointment, a weird thumping sounded from outside. Given the 56 inches of snow on the ground (not sarcasm, sorry) and the thick coat of ice all over the roof, I figured we were just having some ice falling off the side of the house. Nothing unusual. It had happened all day.

As I came around the back of the car, though, something dashed into the mousetrap in the corner. Something small, furry and golf-ball sized.

The mousetrap has been there since about five years ago, and it’s the kind baited with poison. I’m guessing some long-ago mousie devoured the poison and obliged us by dying, and nowadays the thing exists mostly as a hotel for chilly mice. When I went back to shut the garage door, though, he was back out of the hotel and looking rather frozen. The boys came over to look at him: Oh, he’s so cute, can we keep him, can we pet him. I fulfilled my job as the Heartless Mom: No, you can’t keep him, we can’t pet him, mice have diseases. And meanwhile, the mouse just sat there, looking miserable, making no attempt to run.

Have I mentioned it was below zero degrees? And that overnight, it was getting to the negative teens? Did I mention the fifty-six inches of snow on the ground? And with the driveway being plowed, how would a mouse who went out to forage be able to get back into a home that was most likely plowed over with hard-packed snow?

It’s been an awful winter in Angelborough. We’ve had water streaming through our ceiling twice. Everyone had ice dams. People were paying hundreds of dollars to get their rooves shoveled. The snow burms topped six feet in places. We gave up thirty percent of our church parking lot for Lent.

Everyone is cold. It’s hard not to feel sorry for animals that have nowhere to go. That’s why we must be brave and firm in our decision not to engage with the vermin. We must not think of their tiny cold feet.

When we got back home that night, I looked again at the mouse hotel. And, er, I, known around the world as “Brave” and “Firm,” if not “Heartless,” lost my mind. Because he was still there. Still freezing. And there wasn’t really anything to eat in the garage.

I gave him a tiny pinch of grass seed, filled a lid with water, gave him some cut-up wool yarn to make a nest, then cut a dried cranberry in half and left it in front of Hotel Mouse. When I came back, the cranberry was gone and the water had been disturbed.

For three days, I, the Winter-Stupid Homeowner Who Damn Well Knows Better, fed a wild mouse in the garage.

On the fourth day, guess who scrambled up the inside of the walls of our warm house?

On the fifth day, I never heard from him again. There’s no more nibbling in the garage, no more scrabbling in the walls. Because while the mouse trap in the garage probably no longer had poison, there’s plenty of other mouse bait in the attic and in the wall spaces. It’s possible he got back outside to where he always wanted to go. I’d like to think that’s where he went, this frigid kindred spirit who tried to save himself in my garage.