No Pets!

By Don

I saw it right there when I was signing the lease for my new place. It was line 14(a), I think, and it was set off all alone by itself on the page. It said, simply:

“No pets!”

This was a big disappointment, because I always liked to have a cat or two around, just for the company if nothing else. I got my first cat when I was six. Or I guess I should say my parents got it for me. I had the choice between a dog and a cat for my birthday, and I picked a cat. My mom was always big into teaching personal responsibility, and what better way than to have to feed and care for a pet? Now, my folks were frugal people, so the cat, which was really only a kitten, was free. He came with a bag of food, which was also free. That was the deciding factor, the free bag of food.

His name was Cinders because the first thing he did when he was brought into the house was make a beeline for the fireplace, where he hid. He was also black, so Cinders made some sense. Cinders was a good basic cat, but he went to cat heaven before too awfully long. He was replaced with Soxie, who was also a black cat, except he had white feet. I think my favorite cat of all time was Koshka, or “The Kosh” as we called her. My wife and I got her right after we were married, as sort of a wedding present to ourselves. Koshka is a slight twist on the Slavic word for “cat,” which is “Katka,” spelled with two “K’s.” The Kosh was really smart, and she would play fetch, and would roll over when I asked her to. But I digress.

I moved into my new place, and began to have the funny feeling that I wasn’t alone. I would hear scratching noises in the kitchen wall sometimes. Also, at night, when I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I would sometimes hear rustling noises in the stack of newspapers I keep next to my bed. I’d also hear squeaks from time to time. Turns out the apartment came with built-in pets! You guessed it. I had mice!

I first saw them one night when I got up to use the bathroom. It must have been around 3am and I flipped on the kitchen light. There they were! Three of them, cute little guys. Two white ones and a grey one who was so dark he almost looked black if the light wasn’t real good. They all took one long look at me and decided they wanted no part of whatever it was I was offering. So they all skedaddled behind the stove. I got out my flashlight and peered behind there. Sure enough there was a little hole in the wall, just big enough for a mouse to squeeze through. That explained the scratching noises in the kitchen wall, at least.

Being a man with a refined sense of personal responsibility (which I had learned at the tender age of six, because my mom insisted I get a cat) I felt the only fair thing to do was feed my new pets. So every night I’d leave a potato chip right at the door to the kitchen. And every morning it would be gone. So one night I decided to set out the potato chip early, right after I finished dinner at around 7:30. I sat down in my lounger and started to read the paper. Before very long I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, the little gray mouse was stalking up on the potato chip. He grabbed it, and I looked directly at him. He didn’t like that at all, so he scurried up under my lounger, potato chip firmly in mouth. I figured I had him dead to rights, so I tilted the chair up against the wall. There he was, zealously guarding his potato chip treasure. He looked all around, trying to figure the best way out of this predicament he had found himself in. He picked the fastest and safest way out, and ran really fast over behind the stove. He left the potato chip behind.

So we played this game for maybe a week. I’d set out a potato chip right after dinner, and sure enough the little grey mouse would appear and eat it. He eventually got comfortable enough with me that he’d just eat it right there, even if I was watching him. But then one night I just forgot. I don’t know why exactly, maybe I was just distracted or something. But right at 7:30 the grey mouse appeared where the potato chip was supposed to be, except it wasn’t because I forgot. And he was just staring at me, with a look on his face which said, “OK, big fella. Where is it?” Before long my mouse was appearing early, at 7:15, and he’d follow me around from room to room until I fed him his potato chip. He’s turned out to be a pretty good little pet, but the funny thing is that I’ve never named him. There’s only the two of us, and I know who he is, so I see no real reason to have to give him a name.

Anyhow, I started to worry about this. Potato chips can’t be the best diet for a mouse. Maybe it would mess up their metabolism or something. Could be they get really big and fat. I actually had a dream about this one night. My gray mouse was waiting for his potato chip, except he was about the size of an average housecat. Maybe bigger even. And he was baring his fangs and hissing at me. He really wanted his potato chip! Now, I don’t know if such a thing is possible or not, but it might be. So I’m keeping a really close eye on my mouse. Mainly I want to know if he’s getting any bigger. So far he’s about the same size as he always was, but that could definitely change. If he ever starts to put on significant weight I’m employing the nuclear option. I’m getting a cat!

August 2014

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