There. She had it at last. The weeks it had devoted to eluding her, the tricks, the clever hide-and-go-seeks, the routes it had in all sobriety devised, together with the delicious moments it had, undoubtedly, laughed up its sleeve—all to no ultimate avail. She had that mouse.
From Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks
The first time I saw it, from the corner of my eye, me, at my desk, early, working, I thought it was a roach. Saw nothing but a spot of black moving past, formless in my peripheral vision. And a roach was bad enough. Bad enough I pulled my feet up onto my chair and called for my husband. It should have been in our vows: Do you, Danny, promise to rise up from the dead of sleep in the wee hours to hunt down any real or imagined intruder, no matter how small or how big or how yucky, when your wife calls for you? Yes, he will; he does.
But it wasn’t, as it turns out, a roach.
The next sighting was worse. I was working in the kitchen since my office had been barricaded, the door sealed off with towels stuffed at the bottom. (I told my friends that when I saw the mouse, I thought we'd simply move out. Let him have the house. In truth, I only let him have the one room.) Also, we’d never seen a mouse in the kitchen. (Although it seems obvious to me now that the mouse we had barricaded in the office had no interest in my books, my paper-clips, my piles of magazine and half-completed manuscripts and junk. No: he wanted food.) I heard something hurrying, fluttering, it sounded, behind me, and I yelled, of course, for Danny. Who came.
I was standing on the table when the disgusting thing scurried from beneath the oven and darted into the tiniest, narrowest crack between the dishwasher and the cabinet.
There I stood, on the kitchen table, screaming, hyperventilating, crying, praying, shaking, gripping onto my husband’s shoulder. He wanted to go check the kids, make sure they weren’t too terribly frightened by all the screaming I was doing, but I begged him: Don’t leave me. You can’t leave me.
So, he had to eventually carry me out. And tuck me into bed. And lie down beside me. And fetch my xanax.
And now, we have a cat. Lucy. Who sits on my lap or at my feet while I’m working. My guard-cat.
But, what I really wanted to say about this whole thing is that, ironically, during the several days of trauma, before the cat came to live with us, I was more determined than ever to get my writing hours in. I wore my sweats to bed, rose early, put my shoes on, and drove to Denny’s. I spent a few nights at my in-laws’ house. I wrote in bed, where I was reasonably sure they couldn’t get to me. I wrote in the evening, when Danny was awake to protect me. I wrote in snatches during the day, while the mice, I imagined, slept inside the walls. I wrote and wrote.
It reminded me of the early days of motherhood. When Abby slept, I wrote. I wrote right away, without googling anything or checking my email or facebooking or fidgeting. Because I never knew how long she would sleep. Or when she would sleep again.
So, for a few days, it was almost a good thing. That stupid little mouse. An enemy of my writing. Giving me a force to fight against. I imagined the thing didn’t want me to write. That its purpose was to stop me. And though I did give it the office, for a few days, I never let it take my work away from me. I kept writing. I won.
But now, there’s no tiny brown disgusting horrifying invader driving me out of my house. No, if anything’s going to force me to get up, drive to Denny’s, and write, it’ll have to be me. Just me, fighting me.
(Still, I don’t miss the mouse.)