The mousetrap

by Julie Alpine-Crabtree

There has been another mouse incident. I am reminded of the furore in the press following the release of the 1996 Alanis Morissette hit Isn’t it Ironic. What was the argument? That a traffic jam when you’re already late is less ironic than unlucky? Ditto meeting the man of your dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife?

Yeah, so we had captured and released back into the wild a couple of shrews and cleared up the remains of a rabbit before lunch. Failure to have noticed the potential significance of a cat staking out the family’s wellington boot collection would have been reckless. I knew the drill: I made up the drill. Left boot upside down, two firm whacks on the sole. Pinch toe to make sure nothing is lurking within. Repeat with right foot. Upside down, whack, whack, pinch toe. In 40 years of family life at this address, no one has ever found a mouse in their boot.

Until now.

I slide my foot in. Tug. Push my heel into place, shift my full weight onto it.

Something soft and warm. Yielding. A slipping sensation…

I rip the boot off, shake it, take it to the window, peer in. I want to see an old, curled-up inner sole. I. So. Badly. Want. To. See. An. Old. Curled-up. Inner Sole.

The mouse is yellow and white. It is moving.

Aha! Oho! Oh my! Oh woe! I have stood on the mouse from The Gruffalo!

The kids watch, interested, as I howl for several minutes, a kind of horrified, intermittent keening. My chef’s phone goes to voicemail. As does my sister’s. It is just the children and me. And the mouse.

Anyone knows it’s inhumane to injure a poor, defenseless creature and not do something about it. I have to put it out of its misery. I picture myself knocking the mouse unconscious with a tiny, mouse-sized rock. Too visceral. I would have to bludgeon it to death after knocking it out. Could I do it? If I had to?

I call faybird33. She urges courage. Do the right thing.

And then it comes to me: I will drown the mouse from The Gruffalo!

I pull on boots, other boots, my stomach contracting in hideous anticipation as the right foot goes in. Safe. I close the door, leave the kids behind, pray that the toddler doesn’t bludgeon the baby while I am gone.

The water in the burn is clear and moving fast. I gently upend the boot. Sorry mouse. It plops into the water, swirls around a couple of times. Drifts to the doldrums, dead before it hit the water.

There is nothing to be done. I swallow. Set off back towards the house to face the children. I must soldier on.

When I pull my boots off, I remember my socks are new on today. They’re canary yellow, made by an American company. There is white swirly writing across each sole: Happy Socks.

Ironic, isn’t it?