This week’s adventure, or one of them, began last Saturday. I was working in my office when I swore I could hear a weird noise in the kitchen, like when one of the appliances for no reason clears it throat or sneezes.

After going out to investigate, I traced it to the toaster which sits in a corner of the kitchen counter. I tend to be either hypervigilant or hyper-vague and in this instance I decided to go with the vague. Hunh, I thought. Maybe a rogue jolt of electricity has traveled through the cord and has decided to manifest in a faint tap-tap-tap.

Of course I did not actually look into or otherwise investigate the toaster. I “forgot” about it till the next day when I heard an even louder sound and realized there was an animal of some kind IN THE FREAKING TOASTER.

We all know what that means.

So I gave that whole area, which includes the sink, the cupboard with all of my dry food, and the coffeemaker a very wide berth, hoping the noise would “just stop.” But that night before going to bed I glanced furtively over and a small HEAD emerged from one of the toaster apertures.

I thought I would have a heart attack and emitted a long, loud shriek just like in the movies. The head disappeared and I went to bed with a blanket stuffed around my bedroom door in case the thing crept up on me in the night and tried to eat me.

It was all very unsettling and Monday morning I placed the right call, though the person couldn’t come till today. Meanwhile my friends made funny jokes like “Hah, why not press the lever and turn turn the toaster on!” I said “Well for one reason because I will not come within ten feet of the toaster so I couldn’t reach.”

Mike the Terminator Man arrived around 11 today and could not have been nicer or more informative.

“Can you look in the toaster?!” I cried first thing. “I’m afraid to go near it!” He ascertained that my friend was nowhere in sight, alive or dead (I don’t know which would have been worse), looked around, reported that the mouse seemed to be gone, seemed to have been alone, and had not in any way set up shop. He said it’s a very common occurrence for a single such animal to slip through a door, find some food or crumbs or whatever, go into hiding when a person appears, figure out the scene isn’t congenial, and leave.

I asked Mike if he had undergone some kind of psychological training–obviously he deals with way worse situations than mine–and he said “No, baptism by fire,” and now nothing fazes him.

He said he has dealt with grown hulking military men who were literally crouching on the dining table crying, begging him to get rid of whatever. Wusses! Why, I only turned all the lights in the house on each night, washed my dishes in the bathroom sink for three days, moved whatever food I needed to the dining room, jumped back a mile when opening a drawer or door, and was kind of unable fully to function till Mike showed up.

He set some traps and put out some kind of food and is coming back Friday at 7, he feels quite sure to give me the all-clear green light confirming that I had one rogue creature. He also suggested buying some oil of peppermint,mixing it with water, and spraying all around the doors and anyplace else that occurs to me as “they” are very sensitive to smell and especially dislike peppermint.

Mike also pointed out that different people have different thresholds around various kinds of fears. For example, when he asked what I did, and I told him, he said, “Well there you go! Sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper and having to write would give me tremendous anxiety!” “I can speak in front of people, too!” I added, trying to save face after having announced that I would rather go stay in a hotel than have to dispose of a trap with something dead in it.

Reflecting on my situation during the last few days, I did realize the mouse was a metaphor for all the tiny things in my life that I make a huge deal over in my head, and often heart, which also make it difficult fully to function.

I’ve asked many many people for help lately, and that is all to the good as I tend toward self-reliance in a way that can border on mental illness. The other day, for example, I needed to find a witness to my signaure for my Arizona living will as I was going to the doctor that afternoon. So I went out to the sidewalk and simply flagged down the first passerby–who happened to be a doctor, and to live just around the corner. Lovely man!

I’ve also met my neighbors on both sides and two others across the street and thus feel more at home by the day.

I’ve also made some very exciting progress vis-a-vis my attitude toward doctors and the health care system. But that can wait till next time. Wishing everyone a splendid week.

18 Replies to “A KITCHEN GUEST”

  1. Years ago, when I lived in Switzerland, I had a “pet mouse”. Put it this way: he (or she) set up shop in a paper shopping bag. His choice seemed rather endearing.

    I put out food for it and made sure there was water but we didn’t see much of each other.

    I actually don’t remember how the relationship ended. Ski season ended; I left Veyzonnaz. I suspect the next person was not as welcoming to my little rodent guest as I had been.

    I also had pet rats as a child. A psychologist friend had rats for some of her (non-harmful) experiments. They slept with her. Yes, you read that correctly: THEY SLEPT WITH HER.

    Rats are wonderful, affectionate creatures. Mice are not. They keep to themselves and prefer it if we humans do likewise.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh this is good to know! Thanks for weighing in, Nona. I love that your mouse lived in a paper bag. Yes, funny that we tend to call them “he”…as you point out, sometimes they’re female…

  2. Mice are just the most delicate, exquisite little creatures if you really look at them – bright little eyes, curious noses, twitchy whiskers & dainty feet … if only they would behave themselves better I would gladly have a family move in!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Great, next time I get one I’ll send it to you! Thanks, Lisa–I’m sure they’re cute; and rattlesnakes are God’s creation, too-I’d just prefer not to find one in my kitchen!…

  3. Joyce Bock says: Reply

    Hi, I just read Harrowed and now my neighbor is reading it. We are going to make lists from the book of which plants did wellI also discovered by reading it that our paths in life were so similar… only not at the same time. We attended St Andrews too, renewed our vows there and David was confirmed there. And David had privileges at the Huntington Library. I used to take my toddler there in the stroller back when it was free to get in. We left for the Monterey Peninsula in 1992. That was long before you were there I think.
    I am rereading Holy Desperation. What a gift your writing is! ❤️ Joyce

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh wow, we have much in common, Joyce! I do miss St. Andrews, such a beautiful church. And I had a membership at Huntington for the last couple of eyars, so that’s another place that became dear to my heart. The native plants here are somewhat different than those of southern Cal, so it’s a process to segue into a whole new landscape and “aesthetic.” Anyway, I’m so glad that you and your friend are enjoying Harrowed! I must say I do love that little book…

  4. I so agree! Mice faces are lit with bright, black eyes and their tiny feet and paws are the definition of “dainty”. I wish they could be held. Unlike rats, they seem to be inherently feral.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Still and all, I think I’d prefer to look at, say, a drawing of a mouse…I have a painting of St. Martin de Porres, who it’s said loved even the vermin–he has a broom in his hand, a row of hospital beds in the background, and a band of mice frolicking around his feet…so you’re in good company, Nona!

  5. “I’ve asked many many people for help lately, and that is all to the good as I tend toward self-reliance in a way that can border on mental illness.”

    That makes [at least] two of us who “tend toward self-reliance in a way that can border on mental illness.”

    Come, Lord Jesus, release us from the bondage of self.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      It’s so interesting, Brother Rex, to have gone along my whole life thinking my self-reliance is a virtue and to now be realizing that no, the “spiritual” thing is to join up with the rest of the human race and interact and depend upon one another! So much of which is self-will, let me do it MY way, and always, always, massive fear–the help won’t be there, I’ll be rejected, I’ll have to be in relationship with people who don’t “understand” me…I’m thinking you can relate. As you say, here’s to ever more release from the bondage of self!

  6. Hi Heather,
    What a good story.
    Years ago my cat Eddie was very good at catching mice out in the back alley. Then he would bring them into the backyard and, of course, play with them. I felt sorry for the mice and would free them. One time I got a tiny brown mouse away from Eddie and carried it in the palm of my hand into the alley. The poor thing was trembling horribly, so I kept on petting it on its little head, brushing my finger over its soft fur until it calmed down. Then I set it down on the ground in some grass. I thought it would just run off, but, instead, it turned around and got up on its hind legs, with its cute fore paws out in front, and looked me straight in the eyes! If it could’ve spoken to me I’m sure it was saying: “Th-th-th-thank you mister.” I finally had to shoo it away into the grass before Eddie came back to find it.
    I think they’re like little human beings, just trying to find food and shelter for themselves and their families — which can grow pretty fast! I wouldn’t want them to take over my house, but I just can’t kill or disrupt any of God’s beasties, especially poison them! Read Robert Burns’s poem “To A Mouse.”

    Peacefully yours,

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you, Ron, I so appreciate your viewpoint and your story of Eddie–
      Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse” is lovely.

      “Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
      O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!”

      That could apply both to the mouse and to me!

  7. Ms King, the way you’ve described your “visitor” and the kindness of Mike is just a delight! Of course I could not help thinking, “If she had a feline friend, such little visitors would dare not cross her threshold.” This was the best humor and humility writing I’ve found all month, so thank you! Praying for your continued convalescence and healing of your leg to pre-fall strength and dependability. Happy All Hallows!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you, Angela! There was a huge coda that occurred yesterday that I think I won’t go into at the moment. I’m not allowed to have a pet at my house, so too bad, as a cat would be perfect…Anyway, my convalescence on various fronts continues and again, many thanks for your good wishes….

  8. A cat might be perfect for YOU…but what about any little mice that come a-callin’ ?

    For the record, I have found dead mice in my apartment. When there is construction in any nearby building, the disturbance to nests cause mice to find new homes. Darned if I know how they climb up several floors to get into my apartment, but some do.

    And then they meet my cats.

    It doesn’t go well for the little rodents, alas.

    I have bought no-kill traps and taken mice to a nearby park. The mice are happy; I’m happy.

    (And I never breathe a word to my cats.)

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      There ya go, Nona! Thanks again for weighing in.

  9. I came to your Food section and thought I’d find ideas for … well, food! I’m a boring cook and afraid to try something new as my life is full of cooking failures! But we don’t starve!!! LOL but anyway, I’m delighted and have my own mouse story! My first move from home was with my brother and we rented a large house in the country from family friends. We didn’t keep much in the large pantry but still had mice now and then. One day my brother opened the cabinet pantry and there was a mouse on the shelf at eye level. Both parties froze in surprise… then the mouse backed up a few steps and took a running leap past my brother and landing, not so gracefully, then running across the floor under the sink and into the wall through some unbelievably small hole! It was so funny and we laugh about it to this day. Maybe it was Ratatouille?

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh Lordy, well that will teach me to take a reallly long time opening my cabinets…funny how mice are so cute in, say, a MEADOW…thanks for sharing, dear Gloria! That’s funny you went to the post thinking to find maybe a recipe…

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