Knit vs. Crochet

The ongoing drama(?) of a girl torn between two obsessions with too little time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An unexpected house guest.

Sometimes the smallest things can be the most thought-provoking.
This weekend I helped the boy (officially now the "fiancee") tear down the junky old rusted storage shed we had sitting in our front yard. During the course of this we disturbed a nest of mice--a mother and her 4-5 half-grown pups. They huddled, terrified (I could hear the pups squeaking during lulls in the drilling and hammering), under one of the plastic pallets that served as the foundation for the shed (I did mention it was JUNKY, didn't I?) during the entire demolition process. When we got down to moving the pallets, the mother mouse made a run for it with most of the pups and escaped. But one of the pups got separated from them and huddled there, frozen, in the open.
The boy and I looked at each other.
-What should we do?-
-Kill it. Step on it- I say, then turn away, giving him time to carry out the action.
I turn around, and the little pup is still shivering there. An inch long, maybe two. Furry, yes, but with eyes still closed.
He can't bring himself to step on it.
I insist that it's for the best. That the mother's gone and otherwise the little thing will just starve/freeze to death. That we would kill it without a second thought if it were full-grown, and in our house. That just the other day we were contemplating mousetraps at the store. But he can't, and I can't either.

Next thing you know it's crawled onto his glove and I'm making it a little home in a plastic strawberry box (with lid) lined with shredded paper towels. Opening up a can of Slimfast (closest thing we have to formula in the house) and mixing it up with crushed cornflakes in a bottlecap dish. Setting the ersatz mouse house in the under-sink cabinet in the bathroom, the warmest place in the house I can think of that the cats won't be able to get at.
The next morning the little guy is still alive. Eyes open, moving about, trying to find a way out of the strawberry box after all. I close the cabinet door (and the bathroom door--the cats know/smell something interesting is in that cabinet and crouch by it, all intense x-ray stares, when I leave the bathroom open) and go to work.
That evening (yesterday) I let the mouse crawl into my hand (my superego and mother tsk-tsking me in my head), and it laps up a little bit of slimfast from a soaked q-tip. It falls asleep in my palm, the same size as the first segment of my thumb. I can feel myself getting attached.
I "feed" him (attachment requiring a gender, however arbitrary) twice more before I go to bed.

This morning I set my alarm half an hour early.

I hear a little squeak when I come into the bathroom and turn on the lights. (Shutting out cats impatient for their morning attention and meal.)
My heart drops when I see him. If a heart can drop for something as absurdly little as a mouse pup in a strawberry box under a bathroom sink.
I've worked with enough lab mice (healthy, mutants, young, old) to know. And even if I hadn't...he has his eyes closed tight again, and has that tremulous, hesitant, wandering stumble and unkempt fur of a little creature on its way out. I try to feed some more q-tip slimfast, but really only make a mess.
The boy comes groggily into the bathroom and I ask him to "take it outside" in the ol' yeller sense of the word. And he does. And I am guilty, and upset, and relieved.

Because what person in their right mind would try to nurture and raise a mouse?
Or feel sadness when they fail at the task?