I stumble into the kitchen early in the morning and trip on a crayon. It is the soft fall of the not truly awake enough to hurt oneself, variety. I feel around for my dislodged glasses in a state of temporary blindness and befuddlement. I should have large neon glasses to aid me, instead of the apparently invisible pair that I invested in. I notice the unusually dirty skirting boards. I look more closely. My nose is about to scrape the wood when I dart back in shock. A mouse hole!
I scrabble around on the floor checking my skirting boards. There are so many! We've been invaded by an army of mice, an infestation no less. I grab a wooden spoon and poke tentatively at the hole. How strange? The hole isn't a hole at all, it's solid. I touch the hole with my finger tip. Definitely solid. I look closely at the little grey archway, a cartoon mouse hole, or rather, many, many cartoon mouse holes. I step on my glasses. Well they were wonky anyway. I arrange my glasses and go for a closer inspection. There is also a small grey toilet cartoon, mouse sized, as well as a lamp. The lamp is the clincher, I know which nocturnal child to blame. I start scrubbing my skirting boards in-between gulps of tepid coffee. Washable markers indeed! What a nerve!
Within half an hour I have eliminated half of the invaders and the kitchen stinks of bleach. My eldest son appears, he is in a dither, “hey mom something's freakin me out, kinda.”
“What is it dear.”
“Er, come wiv me.” He leads me by the hand to his sister's bedroom. She lies sprawled on the bed, still wearing her dressing up outfit. “It's just dress up dear, nothing to worry about.”
“I know but it's kinda scary, er is she a witch or something?” We look at the black curly wings protruding from her back. “I think it's some kind of fairy outfit.”
“I know but it's kinda freaky when it's not Halloween.” This is no longer a two and a half speech delay for my eight year old, it's something else entirely. We leave her to slumber and trot back downstairs. Our steps stir the little one who comes skittering down after us like a can on a string tied to a car’s bumper.
In the kitchen both are horrified but for multifarious and different reasons. The artist is incensed at the destruction but unable to articulate his outrage as he pinches his nostrils. Bleach. The other one recognizes that we are under siege.
“I do not like mouses!”
“There are no mice dear, really, these are just pretend mouse holes. See! I can wash them off.” I scrub to demonstrate, but they're hard work to remove.
“No. I don't see. Where are the mouses?”
“Mice dear. There aren't any.”
“Where are the mouses? They are in the houses, er, the house, er home, er here?” His little brother picks up on the rhyme, guffaws with laughter and spins off chanting “mouses, in the house es, mouses, in the house es, mouses, in the house es.” I foresee the day ahead of me.
“There aren't any mice in here and anyway, even if a mouse came in, we have two brave cats to protect us.”
He looks at me dubiously as I continue to scrub and push my wonky glasses back up my nose.
“But we had a mouse before, one time.”
“Good remembering. Yes, you're right we did have a mouse but that was over two years ago.” Fancy him remembering that? Fancy him telling me about it! His little brother spins back into the picture, “you must leave them, dey are dah jolly good joke dat is funny.”
“Really!” I would like to point out that at this moment he is in the minority.
“Yes! Dah mouse come in, he run at dah hole and go boink on his head, fall down.” He is delighted at his wit. I am less so.
“The mouse come in?” squeaks his brother.
“No dear. A mouse hasn't come in, it's a joke, his joke.” A bad joke. We are in the midst of this cycle when spouse appears to see what all the commotion is about. After a couple of repetitive cycles he's up to speed and in the loop.
“Oh well you don't have to worry about that. We have two cats remember?”
“Mum is already said that.” Good grief is this the same child?
“Good, so we're all on the same page then. So really the only reason we had a mouse in the first place was because Jasper caught him and brought him inside for you as a present!”
“Jasper! My old cat?”
“Yes. Do you remember him?”
“Jasper bringed the mouse into the house!”
“But mum said that cats stop mouses coming into the houses, er house!”
“Well yes, that is true but………” He runs away screaming.
We debate how to proceed.
“I didn't know he was afraid of mice?”
“He isn't, or rather he wasn't, but he certainly is now.” The volume of screaming subsides.
“I wonder if he's always been afraid of them but never been able to tell us before?”
“Maybe?” I'm uncertain if he's stopped screaming or is just so far away now that I can no longer hear him.
“Maybe the price of speech is more OCD?”
“What a trade off!” I think of the many years I have spent moaning about how different they are.
“I wonder if there's a modern day equivalent of the Pied Piper of Hamlin?”
“I assume you only want to get rid of the virtual imaginary mice?”
“Well he's always had a thing about bears.”
“What percentage of his inexplicable meltdowns were caused by fear about something or other, but he wasn't able to tell us do you suppose?” I hear another blood curling scream and the thunder of size two feet charging towards us. On arrival he leaps into my arms, wraps his legs around my waist and clutches my neck, “it's freaking me out man! There is a huge spider in dere!” The adults exchange glances as we collectively feel the floorboards reverberate. He clutches me tighter, a stranglehold as I carry him to the front door. Outside I point across the road, “it's just a jack hammer dear, they're digging up their driveway.” I wonder how long it takes to dig up a drive way as I carry my quaking son back inside? “They're, they're gonna dig up our house too?” he gasps.
“No dear, there's nothing to worry about.” I squeeze him tighter as the 'no carrying under any circumstances' campaign dies again.
“They are strangers? How can we tell if they're bad guys?”
“Do you think they are…. burglars? Are they gonna come and steal me?” I see tears welling up in his eyes as he nibbles the edge of the band aid on his finger. I notice that I am trembling too! Probably just insufficient caffeine intake?