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In Good Company: The Bathroom Terror

...Who could imagine the fear and trepidation wrought by one small breakfast announcement from son, ‘By the way I met a mouse on the bathroom corridor this morning.’...

Enid Blackburn tries to face up to her fears.

Who would dream that one small creature, barely two inches long, could plunge a robust household of seven into such frenzied jeopardy?

Who could imagine the fear and trepidation wrought by one small breakfast announcement from son, ‘By the way I met a mouse on the bathroom corridor this morning.’

Undeterred by my nervous collapse, he rambled frighteningly on, ‘He was just ambling cheekily along the edge of the carpet not even hurrying.’

Just our luck to get an adolescent-type mouse. ‘Wwwhat did you do?’ I managed to blurt, after persuading my heart to ‘keep going, you fool.’

‘Oh you would have laughed,’ he chuckled, as I grabbed a handful of Codeine. ‘I stuck out my foot and he just walked over it!’

In two twitches of a mouse’s whisker, coats were donned, bags slung on shoulders, doors slammed and I was . . . alone. Well, just me, the dog and our wild beast in the bathroom.

All morning I kept near the dog, quaking and jerking at every sound. Then during one stoic spell of fortitude, I had just endured five minutes of Tony Blackburn, and if I can stand that surely anything is possible, I told myself. So, grabbing the reluctant dog who, by this time, was sitting with his legs crossed looking hopefully at the door, I forced him up the stairs and dragged him towards the bathroom.

We peeped gingerly around the door. Nothing. All was silent except a syncopated metallic click that turned out to be the effect of my heartbeat on the good luck charm I wear around my neck. When the rise and fall of my chest became less noisy, I bravely thrust the dog’s head into the cylinder cupboard and waited. Again, nothing.

Had my son been joking? I pondered as I listened to our mongrel’s urgent sniffs. We surely couldn’t have a mouse running - I mean strolling - around and not observe other give-away signs? At this hopeful point in my conclusions, the dog started some non-stop sniffing in the area why my nightie normally curls up. ‘Good dog! Find it lad!’

This was quite exciting. My primitive instincts were impressively aroused for all of two heartbeats. Up until the moment I happened to turn my eyes towards the other corner and perceived a diminutive brown velvet form creep out of a wool sock and dart towards me.

I didn’t stop until I reached the safety of the kitchen door, with the dog panting at my heels.

Some hunter he turned out to be! All that showing off with the next door’s cat.

I spent the rest of the morning fighting hysteria and looking through house sales. I screamed when the milkman opened the door, and when a letter dropped unexpectedly through the letter-box, I picked up the poker.

Even my shopping trip was mouse-miserable. It was so depressing seeing other carefree shoppers hurrying happily back to their pest-free homes. All able to visit their bathrooms without initially performing a hearty clog dance on each stair. It’s not that I minded him living with us really, I rationalised – if only he would learn to use the bathroom last . . after me.

By tea-time everything had become mouse-shaped and I was gasping like a puncture. That dark patch on the curtains, the crease in the towel . . . was it? . . . could it be . . ?

The previous afternoon I had lounged felicitously in a silky warm bath up to my neck in tranquillity and Yoga breathing. Little did I realise small eyes were watching and planning a big take-over. All the promise of Yoga ruined in a day by three ounces of mouse flesh.

‘Did you catch it?’ was the optimistic tea-time greeting. Never before have I welcomed a table full of school clutter so gratefully. We decided, after a brief conference, no one was going to bed until Father or big brother had done his duty.

Spider-addict son now turned mouse lover was aghast. ‘Kill it! Kill a harmless creature . . . What harm has it done?’ he asked as I filled the sugar basin with scalding hot tea. But wielding charm and promises of no coal fetching, eventually we persuaded him into the bathroom with orders to ‘just carry it outside, then.’

We sat quietly planning who should sleep where. Using my age, authority and nervous twitching, I bagged the dining-room settee. Our big white hunter entered briskly in a clean shirt, minus the day’s grime, sporting a toothpaste smile. With a cheery ‘Lend me a quid – see you,’ he was off. Never even mentioned ‘the you know what.’

It would have to be Father. I hesitated to disturb him. Just having completed an epic kitchen paint job he was now busy painting all the buffets. It would seem strange to see him without a paintbrush.

Still, priorities had to be preserved. Which would he prefer, a mortified wife or a glossy kitchen stool? It transpired he wanted neither. The call of a TV football match proved bigger than both of us.

Son arrived home unusually early, raising our spirits slightly – until he took his place beside other heartless fan.

Nothing for it but to try the dog again. After much searching I eventually discovered latter crouched behind piano. This time we shut him in the bathroom and ran away. His cries of anguish echoed downstairs, even drowning the ecstatic yells of our football fanatics.

Between shouts of advice to the referee, son playfully threw small furry objects at anyone who stopped twitching long enough. Small daughter, who only yesterday was on her knees begging me to take in the school gerbil for the holidays, was now a mental wreck at the thought of being first to bed.

A useful time to mention my gerbil doubts. She reminded me that this is a cage-dweller. I’m beginning to wish I was.

She was eventually persuaded to dole out goodnight kisses and ran her finger nails up the back of my neck just for a laugh. I burst into tears.

At 11 pm I prepared my farewell speech. ‘What sort of son is it who will not kill a tiny mouse for his mother? St George tackled a fire-spurting dragon for his.’
Husband turned up volume and I noticed for the first time that his face has a distinctly unhealthy pallor beneath the mushroom paint. ‘Look, it’s only that size,’ he tried to convince me at bedtime, as he placed his clothes on top of the wardrobe then locked the bedroom door.

But thanks to a sprinkling of wonderful, peace-bringing rodent poison, our household has now returned to normal. I followed the instructions on the tin, tried to ignore the children’s, ‘Ooh! Come and listen mum, it’s great! You can hear it crunching.’

Tried to ignore eldest daughter’s remarks about their college mice going berserk for three or four days before finally succumbing to death’s blessed release.

Since our son triumphantly carried one small, strong-smelling corpse to the rose garden, I have stopped tying our dog to the bedpost when I make the beds. He trembles so much he makes me nervous anyway.

But uneasy questions still pervade. Where did it come from? Was it, hopefully a bachelor out for a night on the tiles? Or, heaven forbid, has he a wife and family tucked away . . . somewhere?

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