It sat there looking at me through pleading eyes. Whether it was a he or she I don’t know. I really wasn’t in the mood to pick up a mouse, flip it over and conclude whether it was a male or female. So I’ll stick to ‘it’ for the purpose of this blog and also due to the dangers any such gender-investigating activities on stray mice might pose. And it wasn’t technically ‘sitting’, but when you look at a mouse from a height, the default assumption is ‘sitting’.
I had no idea how it had entered the house on the first floor and come to be there in the kitchen, and that too at the very Godly hour of 5 in the morning in early summer. But it was there and that was the truth, and at that point in time that was all that mattered. Being in a very critical stage of my life, having to prepare to not only sit through 18 hours of Xth standard exams over a couple of weeks, and not only pass, but also pass with very high marks, these weeks were crucial. I had been brought up to believe just that. No questions asked or entertained.
It hadn’t been easy. I had spotted it under the stove. Something grey moving there. And then it had moved behind all those vessels, cleaned and inverted to dry, and then made its way down using the gas cable to disappear behind the cylinder. I had held on, relentlessly tapping away to get it out, at the back of my mind already calculating how it would affect the amount of time I would get to nap that afternoon. Or God forbid, watch less overs of the World Cup!! It emerged, running for the next shelf under the cooking platform to disappear into the darkness, amidst the lesser used vessels. I was in no mood to give up and walk away. I tapped along, making sure I was maintaining a pattern so that it emerged from where I wanted and not just kept running around in random. It came out eventually and I chased it to the spot where it currently sat.
The most difficult part was now. I had a broom in my hand. All it would take was one hit – strong, firm and precise. It wasn’t the physical part, but the mental thing. It might be a mouse, but when you come right down to it, it’s just about having power in your hands. Power to take a life out. Power to influence the fate of a creature. And it wasn’t like an ant that was walking which you crushed. Or a cockroach that you sprayed some ‘Hit’ on. This was a live mouse, that stood there knowing what it had gotten itself into, knowing what it had been running for, knowing clearly what the possible outcomes of this chance encounter with this Human could be. And it was there, helpless, watching me. And there I was, all of 16, knowing that I could easily walk away and let the mouse live. But I knew that it would just be a matter of time before it ran into my parents, got trapped or poisoned. Of course I could also bring down the broom on it and that would be it. No matter what, I knew I’d walk away from it with no change in my life. It was unfair.
I kept looking at it, still not able to bring the broom down. The whole transaction lasted for just a few seconds. And then it made its move. It made a run for it and by instinct the broom came down. Strong, firm and precise. Somehow, for all the stealth with which I had cornered it, I screamed and swore as I brought it down, and followed it up with a couple more blows. It lay there twitching before a final blow gave it deliverance.
Epilogue: The din brought my parents running. The mouse was cleaned up and thrown out for the crows to feed on. Later tiny, pale and blind mice, probably children of this mouse were found and thrown out. I have no idea what became of them. A few weeks later, another mouse came in which showed us how they entered and that hole was blocked for good.