Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Of Mice and (Wo)Men

Here we are. Me and my baby sissor. That's Robin. Road trip. Kind of. Driving a law abiding 25 through the streets of Salem, Massachusetts in search of the Peabody-Essex Museum showcasing the most fantabulous collection of Chinese art and artifacts this side of Beijing's Forbidden City and Summer Palace.

When lo and behold out of the corner of my eye a grey image darts up the driver's side of the windshield. Robin is redirectioning her iPhone's GPS. But I know. Immediately. Like one knows the cries of her baby in the navy blue middle of the night ... and whether they signify a wet nappy, hunger or loneliness. That was a mouse.

A mouse? How?

Backstory: Yesterday Charlie and I drove our pewter Volvo V70 wagon the 90 minutes from the coast of Maine to the lovely 18th century saltbox colonial of my sweet sister and Ken for a farewell visit.

Parenthetically, before I go further and to further illustrate how I seem to be able to find the perfect partner for everyone sauf moi ... that's her husband. The result of my yenta-style match making in the early 1980s when Robin sauntered into downtown Boston to meet me for lunch. And right there amid the not-so-attractive metal desks of a dozen bank trainees in varying modes of pre-noon preparations (read: distractions) lightening bolts sparked.

On the itinerary is a day trip to Salem. Home of witches, pilgrims and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But since we have different end destinations ... Robin and Ken back to their home, us to Maine ... we are driving in two cars.

Ooops, I forgot to mention that they reside in the country. The leafy Boston exurbs. And that their dog food (kept annoyingly open in their three-car garage) attracted colonies of teeny mice over the winter. The country one. Brownish grey with oversized ears.

Back to the future: We are driving through the rambling streets of Salem. Robin fumbling nervously as I keep repeating obnoxiously "was that a mouse?"

Approaching the parking garage scary things roll through the crevices of my mind. What if it is a mouse and it jumps in the car while I reach through my window to grab the ticket from the automatic attendant? Or worse, suppose an entire family is nesting under the hood wreaking havoc in the insulation surrounding the engine? Even more disastrous, chewing cables and wires that will render the car inoperable at the worst possible moment?

My head swirls as I head up the ramp. Bravely I lower the driver's window. Just far enough to grab the ticket and hit the up button. No more than necessry. Safe. No mouse jumps in.

Oh ... did I mention that Bailey is curled up in the back of the car? She joined us to visit her canine cousins, the Doodle Brothers. An open sack of her kibble on the floor. Treats, too. Mouse bait. And, it is over eighty degrees outside. Windows must be opened a bit the sunroof slid back to let air circulate.

Up the ramp we drive. Floor 2. Robin is still fooling to align the GPS software with our new coordinates. I am sweating bullets. I slide the car into a space on the shady side of the garage. Steel myself and slowly open my car door. I peer up onto the roof.

There, clinging cartoon-like by every toe on its teensy feet to the edge just below my face, is one very scared large eared mouse. Petrified. Both of us.

I beg with my sister to put down her iPhone (we are at our destination for god's sake). Hand me something to swat the mouse off its perch. She grabs Bailey's leash. What am I? A circus act? Am I going to whip the frightened rodent into submission? No.

I spy the Maine atlas of road maps is peeking from the pocket behind my seat. My weapon! Grab that. Please. Tentatively (and I might add more freaked than our roof top passenger) she cracks her window. Barely. And shuts it so quickly that the map book gets stuck. Hurry. Pleeeeeeeze.

Hunter Alice. Armed with the clumsy, page flipping open atlas I sweep the roof of the car. The mouse darts from side to side and then falls into the channel on the hood between the wipers and the windshield. Eeeks. Is it going to go under the hood? In the dimly lit space I cannot see the color-coordinated mouse. Yikes.

I sweep the booklet one more time. With gusto. And purpose. Bingo! The mouse jumps to safety and scampers along the concrete and steel girders. Far far away from its transportation. Farther from its family and friends. Alone on an adventure in rugged Salem.

My heart pounds. I jump back in the driver's seat. Turn the key in the ignition firing up all cylinders post haste. And screech the car in reverse heading to another floor. God knows that I do not want to vacate my open-sunroofed vehicle. The mouse might just be thinking this is the mothership.


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