A question I never thought I’d have to answer:
“Why did you replace your laptop with a trap, Lisa?”
Well, I will tell you why:
Location: My living room at The Inn.
Characters: Me… Blaze… Marshal
Scene: I am on the sofa, binge-watching The Good Wife. I have managed to muck up my muh-niss-kuss. It is painful and freakishly unable to, like, extend. So I have a heating pad on my knee. Blaze is sleeping beside me. Marshal is sleeping on the chair across from me, and my writing desk is behind him. I can see the desk clearly from where I am sitting. This will be important in a minute.
On my TV screen, Alicia is mulling over the implications of her firm representing a mob boss, even though they are only representing the ‘legal’ side of his business. In my brain, I am appreciating her ethical quandary, and also noting that she always seems to wear excessively high heels. I think she might be yearning for the comfy clogs that she got to wear when she played Dr. Carol Hathaway on ER.
And that’s when I first became aware of a sound.
Sort of a shuffle-ish, scratch-y sound.
I am pretty much a veteran of living in a nearly 200-year-old house on the coast of Maine.
I am used to the walls creaking as wind shoots across the water.
Rattling windows do not send me under the blankets or into a closet.
And I lived through the Red Squirrel Infestation of 2006.
This was not wind.
And this was not coming from inside the walls.
It was coming from inside the room.
I moved my eyeballs only, and I moved them in the direction of Marshal, and then in the direction of Blaze. This is when I became aware that, all biological research be damned, my hearing is way more advanced than that of a German ShepHerd.
They both remained asleep the whole time.
So this quiet “chzzz chicka shuffle chhhhhh” was happening, and I began to sweep my eyes slowly around the room.
Just as they alighted on my desk, something… something… sort of slither-moved over the lamp and right onto Zombie Pig!
And then it stopped.
And kind of settled.
And then it was looking… right. at. me.
This is what my brain decided, very quickly and in rapid succession:
That is not a snake (despite the slither-moves)
That is not a rat.
That is not Tic.
That is not Tac.
That is not Janet.
But, luckily, my body engaged its oppositional reflex (which is good, because my knee was inoperable).
I moved super slowly… well, I moved my arm super slowly toward my phone and quietly took a photo. I risked this because you guys are big on photographic proof.
So here it is:
It’s a bit grainy because I had to zoom in so much, but that’s the critter (possibly using his little tail to calm Zombie Pig by covering his eyes).
After that, I got up to open every single door to the outside, with the idea that – maybe – I could urge this little guy out one of them.
Arriving back in the living room, I found the varmint still happily seated on Zombie Pig.
I moved around the desk to one side of him and gave a little ‘Okay, c’mon’ and moved my hands toward him and then he stepped off of Zombie Pig, kind of waddled to the end of the desk, plopped onto my chair, climbed up to the top of the back of the chair and – I am not kidding you…
Threw his hands and legs out and suddenly became a PANCAKE MOUSE and HANG-GLIDED TO THE FLOOR!
I was stunned.
He had these little furry-flappy things attaching his wrists to his ankles, which gave him the ability to hang glide, but made him kind of ungainly when trying to speed-walk.
I was so stunned, in fact, that he sprint-waddled all the way into the woodpile under the kitchen fireplace before I could react.
I went over and carefully took out one piece of wood and then he shot out from below that, RAN BETWEEN MY LEGS and into, I think, the back room and I could not find him again for the rest of the night.
I should remind you that, this entire time the pancake mouse was launching himself hither and yon, the ShepHerds were still sleeping.
Guard dogs my a$$.
I did manage to send my phone picture to JoHn and the kids, and they found the whole thing quite hilarious.
That night…er… very early morning, I closed the door to my bedroom very tightly.
I wasn’t super concerned that he represented a pancake mouse invasion because he was downstairs and all alone and there’d been no wall or ceiling sounds. It probably seems wHeird that I speak of these things with a such a sense of calm, but super old houses in the country have to deal with this stuff on occasion. Best to keep a sense of humor about it all (at least until they organize… and eat your house).
The next morning found a few paintings tilted and a sign askew over the kitchen fireplace. I was hoping he found his way back up the chimney that – I assumed – he came down through.
But then, that night, at about ten…
Clink clink clink…
Me, to the ShepHerds: “Uh… guys?”
ShepHerds: ‘We got nothin’.’
I make my auditorially-superior way toward the noise, which is in the kitchen. And there, at the tippity top of my curtains, making little clinky sounds as he moves along the wooden rings, is the pancake mouse.
I have, by now, looked him up and he is really a flying squirrel, which – much to my surprise – are fairly common ’round these parts.
Also, as indicated by his habits at The Inn, flying squirrels are nocturnal. Which, I deduce, is why this one has eyes that are about 50 percent of his body mass.
I head to the counter, where my Pancake Mouse Removal Kit sits.
Which is really just JoHn’s big black puffy winter gloves.
I put them on.
I open all the doors… again.
I hold my arms up above my head and move slowly toward him.
He pancakes, glide-plops onto the kitchen table, scurries across it, pancakes again, glide-plops onto the floor, heads into the wood pile again… heads out just as quickly, speed waddles across the floor faster than I can follow him, turns the corner and I hear the ‘click click click’ of his teeny-tiny claws and he’s gone.
I am telling you, you cannot corner a pancake mouse all by yourself.
You need backup.
German ShepHerds won’t work.
Also? It is extra hard with any type of knee paralysis.
That night, he showed up two more times and disappeared super-duper quickly, before I could lead him to freedom. Both times, he just sat there quietly and observed me (he may have been communicating to his mother ship… telepathically).
The next day, per my friend Pam’s suggestion, I went to the local hardware store and acquired a small catch-alive trap. Following the directions for flying squirrels, I generously baited it with both peanut butter and jelly:
I put the trap on my desk, with the opening toward the wall. And put Zombie Pig at the bait end (because it’s always nicer to be trapped with someone you know).
Then I waited.
JoHn was due home that night and, sure enough, he walked in at about 8:00 – bringing Mac as a surprise!
I must say, they were both quite admiring of my trap.
I explained that I expected the little dude to show up any time, as long as we were quiet, as he seemed to have a bit of a routine.
At about 9:00, JoHn was loading the dishwasher in the kitchen when Mac and I hear him say, “Uh… guys? He’s heeeeeeeere…”
Which was a bit dramatic and poltergeist-y, but that makes sense because JoHn does many jobs around here, but adamantly opts out of wildlife management.
He told us our friend was up on the curtain rod again, and backed slowly out of the room as Mac and I tiptoed in.
And, sure enough….
Is he not the cutest pancake mouse on the planet?!
I got my aforementioned gloves and Mac positioned herself by the woodpile and, sure enough, within about two minutes (and only a couple of glide-plops), the little guy was on the screen porch and then out the door.
When he got outside, he stopped a couple of feet from Mac and kind of flattened himself (pancake superpower), like an indoor cat that suddenly finds itself outside. But he recovered quickly and shuffle-waddle-sprinted his way across the yard and up into a tree.
When we got back inside, and all was safe, JoHn asked me how I thought the little guy had survived for the days he was stuck inside the house.
Then John got an uncomfortable look on his face.
He asked if I thought the pancake mouse had gotten into the cabinets.
I said I didn’t think so.
JoHn pushed a few more times, with a few more questions.
I could see that he was entertaining emptying all the cabinets… and possibly fumigating… and maybe even nuking the house from orbit (just to be sure).
I assured him that I’d googled pancake mouse-es and found that they can survive a few days without food and water. JoHn then began to breathe more normally.
That actually isn’t true though.
But I didn’t feel guilty because I knew that the pancake mouse didn’t get into the cabinets.
Because of the peanuts, dried fruit and water I put by the fireplace each night.
The little guy was a wayward traveler, stuck and with no place to go and this is – okay, was – an inn.
We have a history of hospitality… and also of providing a very nice continental breakfast to our guests.
Just zip your lips and scroll back up to see the cutest pancake mouse who ever walked waddled the planet.
JoHn never has to know.
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