Squeaky

by Jay HOLLEY
 

Squeaky was an affable little house mouse, about four ounces large, who enjoyed eating cheese puffs, Popeye’s fried chicken, and day-old macaroni. He also enjoyed rooting through plastic bags to get at my expensive French bread and snuggling up to me while I slept, curled under the downy protection of a winter-grade comforter. Our friendship ended when I cracked his neck by proxy of a spring trap, but until the very last we had our good times. We met when I was living in an overpriced basement apartment.

A sidewalk-salvaged television set filled the corner opposite the couch I was sitting on. I didn’t have a bed, just a mattress and box springs on the floor that I’d dragged from Greenpoint Avenue a few blocks away, the foot of the mattress butted against the T.V. stand. It was eleven o’clock when we met, though he didn’t have a name yet. I was easing Kamchatka vodka into a tumbler of generic orange soda and ice, glancing toward the television to watch the opening credits of Shipmates, when I saw a tiny gray body with pink eyes standing upright on the floor between the couch and the television. “Hey there.” I said. The mouse offered no response — its eyes remained steadfastly fixed on my Wise-brand cheese doodles. I threw one to the floor. It dropped its fore-legs, ran up to the orange mass, nibbled through half of it, then scurried under the dilapidated piano that was pushed against the adjacent wall.

In following weeks our meetings became routine. On my way home from hawking Christmas trees I’d stop by the liquor store to pick up a flask of vodka, then the bodega to grab orange soda and two or three dollars of snack food. I’d switch on the television, yell down the hallway to tell Emily I had booze, then sit Indian-style on the couch and hope Squeaky, who I’d named after Visit # 3, would join us. He loved spicy-fried chicken, that devil mouse.

My intellect barely outshined Squeaky’s: I beat him on pure mass.

I’d walked a mile to the health food store, home of delicious breads, and bought myself a loaf of fine French. When I brought it home I’d sliced off a chunk and stashed the remainder back in the plastic bag, spinning the bag closed and twist-tying it sealed. The next day there was a hole in the bag and a wound in the loaf. I didn’t grasp what’d happened. I’d never lived with a mouse and was too dim to realize their ways. Squeaky As Perpetrator never entered my mind.

One day beyond, A.M.: I was in the kitchen cutting two slices, trimming around Squeaky’s theft when I insisted that my roommate Come Look At What Happened To My Bread. She looked at the bread, ran her finger around the hole in the bag, then matter-of-factly informed me, “Squeaky must’ve eaten it.” I was nonplussed: my Squeaky, “why would he steal when he gets Doritos for free?”

I set about to trap him. In mouse form, he was a friend who’d overstayed his welcome on the couch and emptied the refrigerator. Squeaky needed to go, but I didn’t want to harm him. Call me Rube Goldberg: I screwed two brass eyelets into the piano, through which I ran a string that terminated in my grip on one end and the open end of a large cardboard tube I’d scavenged at the other. I’d closed off the other end of the tube, forming a round dining hall with a surfeit of Velveeta cheese. For four nights I stood guard waiting for him, my hand looped with string — but Squeaky stayed away. He did not watch Shipmates. He did not eat cheese. He would not face me.

Was he trying to convey his apologies for eating my bread when on the forth night I felt him skulk across my bead covers while he thought I was asleep? I lay in bed unsure he had joined me. I told myself it was only the comforter shifting, or residual dream, but as I reassured myself his boldness increased and he climbed from my feet to my chest. I wish I’d opened my eyes and told him off, informed him that we were through and his execution was decided, but instead I inched my hands to the corners of my blanket and snapped it as if folding laundry, rocketing hime toward the piano.

I bought four spring-traps and loaded them with Cheese Puffs and Hostess Swiss Cake Rolls.

One day more and I found Squeaky, bloody and broken and fat.

It was a Wednesday — I was watching Shipmates again — when I heard an unexpected metal snap. I didn’t Squeaky know had a son, but there he was (an only child).

Dear Son of Squeaky: I am sorry. As far as I know you never took undeserved liberties with me as I slept and am sure you were a very polite mouse. Your father was an unappreciative jerk, though.

Moral: Mice climb. If they can climb to your bread, they are apt to make personal advances. Unwanted snuggling might occur as Mice Do Not Respect Personal Boundaries. Take precautions.

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