“We were on track to be out the door to school on time that day,” my daughter, Sharon, recalled, “then Jacob came to the door of the kitchen in his underwear saying, ‘C’mere quick.’”
If their dad said ‘Come, quick!’ it had to be good.”
The four children and Sharon followed him upstairs to the bathroom being remodeled. “Everybody crowded into our bathroom, where tools and trash lay everywhere.
On top of the tools and trash was my leopard print robe, a basket and a box,” Sharon said.
“Shh … look, I caught Shadow,” Jacob announced. “Shadow is under there.”
Jacob indicated the basket and box and awaited his family’s accolades. Shadow, a white mouse, came to the family last Christmas as a gift for Caroline. He lived in a cage for a couple months, then escaped and disappeared somewhere in the bedrooms, bathrooms and closets of the second floor. A few weeks ago, bedtime was postponed when Shadow appeared and the family tried to capture one little mouse that ran between toddler Katie’s legs and disappeared.
For days afterwards, Katie talked about “A mouse. A mouse.”
Shadow had appeared a couple other times, yet remained at large. So, if Jacob said he had the mouse on top of the robe, under the basket held down with a toolbox, well, Sharon better find the unused cage. She put the cage near the mouse caught inside the turned-over plastic basket and prepared to sweep it into its cage.
Jacob explained, “I came in and saw a shadow move. I looked behind the toilet and there it was. It ran behind to the closet. I pulled out the suitcases. I got a small plastic basket and popped it down on the mouse.
“When I lifted it up the mouse scooted out.”
He recaptured the mouse and put a heavy box on the basket to hold it in place. Sharon undid the basket and shook the mouse into the cage. The mouse lay there with its legs splayed out straight.
“Uhhh, did you catch it dead?” Sharon asked.
“What? No, it wasn’t dead,” Jacob declared.
“Well it’s dead now.”
“What? No!” he protested.
Caroline started crying.
“Maybe he is just stunned,” someone suggested.
With no further time to fuss before school, Caroline put fresh food and wood chips in the cage with the stiff-legged mouse.
The children arrived at school five minutes late. After school, the unmoved mouse again presented the obvious truth: It was dead.
Caroline began crying.
“I’m sorry. That does happen,” Sharon said. “We will have a funeral.”
Caroline stopped crying and began planning a funeral, including a eulogy, miniature floral headstone, original song lyrics and refreshments following the graveside service. The whole family attended.
“He brightened up my day every time I saw him,” Caroline said.
Eli recalled, “I would wake up at night and hear Shadow playing in the Legos in my room.”
Daisy quietly said, “He was a nice mouse.”
Katy simply stated, “Daddy killed mouse.”
Caroline wrote a song about Shadow: “Shadow, Shadow, Oh Shadow, why are you gone? Shadow, Shadow. Why did you do this to me, Shadow? Shadow, why did you do this to me?”
With all the pathos an 8-year-old can muster, Caroline sang it out loud and clear and expected the rest of the family to join her in the funeral dirge.
“Quite entertaining,” her mom reported.
Caroline asked for another mouse this Christmas.
Sharon assured her, “There will not be another Christmas mouse.”
The saga of Shadow has ended, and there will not be a second verse.
Joan Hershberger is a retired journalist who has written her award-winning, slice-of-life columns for more than a decade and may be reached at email@example.com. She lives in Parkers Chapel