It was the worst way to spend an hour past bedtime: chasing a pet mouse that escaped two months ago. Or so says my daughter, Sharon, who spent an hour chasing said white mouse with her husband, Jacob, and four children.
It began after the nightly teeth brushing. Caroline, 8, screamed, “I saw Shadow!”
“You saw who? What?” Sharon asked, alarmed by the scream's tone and volume.
“I saw Shadow.” Caroline pointed to toddler Katie's room and began telling everyone else what to do while doing nothing herself.
“Get a bucket or something,” Sharon told her.
Caroline ran to find a bucket. Eli, 10, came to check out the action.
Jacob and Sharon began picking up toys and clothes and pulling furniture away from the wall. Stuff stacked on the furniture fell behind it. As the family picked up toys, the kids were dumping out baskets holding toys and books. Daisy, 6, moved toys and held a flashlight.
Caroline kept screaming, “It's over here! It's over here.” The mouse ran across the room seeking sanctuary.
Katie, 1, stood in the middle of the floor surrounded with toys and books saying, “A mouse! A mouse!”
The parents rattled furniture to scare the mouse out of hiding and tripped over kids. Caroline ran to get the mouse cage. They shut the door to contain the mouse. Jacob knelt on the floor ready to catch the mouse which was moving toward him. At that very moment Caroline opened the door and knocked her dad over. The mouse escaped Katie's room and dashed into Eli's room. The whole family screamed. This time at Caroline for making Jacob fumble the mouse like a blooper version of football.
Six people followed one mouse into the Lego strewn room. Everyone shoved blankets under the door and into any crevasse. Eli scrambled out of the way of the mouse and climbed to the top of his bunk. That night the family learned Eli's room cleaning secrets: Shove everything behind or under furniture or into the closet. Eli's room had to be really cleaned to find the mouse. Beneath all the toys, trash, shoes and clothes they found mouse droppings. The mouse had been living in Eli's room. Newly aware of his roommate of two months, Eli announced from his top bunk, “I am not touching that mouse. It will bite me, and it has rabies, then I will get rabies.”
Shadow crept out, looked around and scampered toward the bags of trash, running between Katie's legs. Caroline, who once proudly carried the mouse, refused to try to catch it with her bare hands, scared of the mouse's speed. Her bucket missed the mouse. It ran under the book shelf and hid in the mouse-sized space beneath the bottom shelf.
Sharon shook the bookshelf to startle the mouse into leaving its hiding place. Jacob grabbed a toy light saber and bent down sweeping the saber beneath the bookshelf until the mouse ran out.
Everybody yelled, “There it is!”
Nobody caught it. Shadow ran across the floor between feet and disappeared into the mess. No one saw where it went. Eli stayed on the top bunk and randomly moving the flashlight beam around the room. No one saw Shadow again that night. The mouse had found sanctuary.
One exhausted mother concluded, “We can't find him, and you need to go to bed.”
Jacob yawned and said, "That mouse better hope I never find it. It won't be a happy ending." Meanwhile, Caroline hopes to find her sweet, domestic mouse sometime soon ... even if it is bedtime.
Joan Hershberger is a retired journalist who lives in Parkers Chapel with her husband. She may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.