The Prime Directive
We have a stray-ish gentleman caller. He saunters into the backyard and asks for food which we dutifully proffer: We call him Black –And-White Kitty. He is handsome, vocal, uncollared. He seems increasingly hungry with each visit, and likes to roll around in front of the back door. Our cats are very indignant that we dare to acknowledge the existence of Black-And-White-Kitty, much less give him cans of food – last night when I fed him Twiggy seethed, ran around the room, and then glared at me, and it wasn’t until this morning that she stumbled on the bed to rub her face against mine.
Last Saturday was sunny – we had fed Black-And-White-Kitty and I was puttering around, when Trey exclaimed:
“Black-And-White-Kitty has a mouse!”
I ran to look – and yes, Black-And-White-Kitty HAD trapped and was "playing with" a mouse, a very tiny one employing that mouse maneuver of freezing, then making a (futile) break for it, only to feel another terrifying paw-clap on his little mouse back.
What was I supposed to do? Part of me was rooting for Black-And-White-Kitty: He HAD trapped his mouse, after all. But he had just eaten a can of Fancy Feast – he didn’t need to eat Mr. Mouse. But what if Mr. Mouse was hurt too badly to rescue? Then what? I asked Trey, he didn’t know what to tell me. Finally, I decided, fuck it, I’m going outside. Trey yelled “DON’T TOUCH THE MOUSE WITH YOUR HANDS.”
I got in between Black-And-White-Kitty and the mouse, who was hunched in a ball less than an inch and a half long. I scooped him up with two curved and dry leaves and held him in my palm. His tiny ears were translucent, his fur was mussed from being in Black-And-White-Kitty’s mouth. He quivered like a hummingbird’s heart. What was I going to do now? He had gone from being tortured by Black-And-White-Kitty to the palm of a giant who didn’t speak Mouse and could offer no reasurance. I realized that there was no place I could set him down to relax without Black-And-White-Kitty seeing me and returning to finish the job. Where could I put
I returned to the kitchen.
“Trey, can you bring me that takeout container? And put some toilet paper in it?” He did, and I set Mr. Mouse and his leaves in the little plastic box. We marveled over his smallness and his shell ears and such a long tail for such a small mouse! He just shivered some more.
“I didn’t know what to do,” I said. “I didn’t want to leave him outside to get eaten again – so maybe he can just rest and get better and we can take him outside in the front? Can you bring me the top of the box before he – FUCK!!!”
Mr. Mouse sprang to life! and leapt out of the box in my hands and ran for freedom! Or rather, ran UNDER OUR REFRIDGERATOR!
“Oh, FUCK! Oh, NO! I’m sorry, Mr. Mouse!”
Black-And-White-Kitty was looking into the kitchen. Poor Mr. Mouse was now under the fridge, the fridge Twiggy stares at daily as if it were the television set from Poltergeist. I had made a terrible mistake. Unless Mr. Mouse could find his way out through the house, perhaps through the same route the occasional giant cockroach uses to enter our kitchen, I had consigned him to death by starvation or housecat. He was already probably hurt – now he would very well waste away in the darkness, like a mouse version of Adrian Brody in The Pianist.
Every day that week when we’d see Twiggy looking at the fridge, we’d ask her brightly if she had seen Mr. Mouse, and hoping he had gotten away.
The following Sunday I got up and staggered to the bathroom -- someone had left a hairball in the living room. A hairball with a very long tail.
Mr. Mouse lay on his side, at once rigid and deflated, his little feet clutching at nothing. I gathered his body up with a paper towel and laid him in the dying garden.