I grumble and roll over. “I don’t hear anything.”
She turns on the light. “I heard something. Go check.”
The male of the group, the appointed protector and investigator of things that go bump in the night, I am voted to see what kind of monster lurks in the shadows.
I make a quick check and return to a warm bed. “I couldn’t find a thing.”
I find a comfortable position and almost fall asleep when her body tenses. “Did you hear it that time?”
I feign listening while continue searching for sleep until I do hear a barley audible, yet frantic scratching under the oven. After a minute of half-awake consideration, the noise gets louder. Finally, the pots and pans start banging. Aggravated, but cautious, I get up and open the back door across from the oven, then unlatch the cabinet door. There is so much noise, I half-expect a raccoon or fox to bolt for the door. A little more awake now, I get a flashlight and search the cabinets.
Assuring Barbara there is nothing in the cupboards, I return to bed and lay half-awake, while being forced to listen to a cacophony of bangs and scraping from the back of the RV.
When the sound reaches the countertop, I turn the light on and sit up just in time to catch a glimpse of the grotesque monster. “Honey, it’s the cutest mouse you’ve ever seen.”
I watch him finish a single bean, then continue racing around in search of more food.
She rolls over and pulls a pillow over her head. “Get rid of it!”
Okay, no problem, it’s only a small field mouse. How much problem can one little mouse be next to human ingenuity?
In a hurry to get back to sleep, I grab a paper bag and tie a string at the top. I lay the bag on the counter, with a few crumbs sprinkled about and loop the string around the upper cabinet knob, then stretch it over to my place in bed.
A minute later, with wild abandon, the mouse leaps into my bag. With a cocky attitude of superior intelligence, I yank the string and leap over to close the top of the bag. Before I’m able to reach the makeshift trap, I watch a streak of brown fur spring, clear the top of the bag and flash out of sight behind the oven.
My second try takes some time and a delectable piece of cheese to coax him back into the bag. The moment he’s trapped, I yank the string and continue jostling the bag so he can’t get a footing. In one fast motion, I reach over and fold the top of the bag down, then watched in horror as he wriggles out through an impossible fold, bounding back to safety, behind the oven.
I glance at the clock and read three-thirty.
My third attempt entices him with more scrumptious mouse goodies, but he understands my meager little bag trick. Bleary eyed, I accept that my bright idea is no longer feasible. Before I give up and settle down for what is left of the night, as if to prove to me his superior speed, the little guy sprints across the counter right under my nose, leaps onto Barbara’s head, and runs down her bare arm. I’ve never seen a human move so fast. Swatting, screaming, banging the sheets, Barbara thrust the covers back in a blood-thirsty search for the little monster.
Her eyes blazing, she snaps, “that’s it! Enough being nice. We get a trap when the camp store opens in the morning. We kill this little. . .”
I point out the window. “It is morning.”
We get up and dress. With dark circles under our eyes we go out to witness another amazing desert dawn over Lake Alamo.”
After breakfast, we drive to the camp store two miles away, forgetting that our lost night sleep was New Year’s eve and of course, the only store in an eighty-mile radius is closed.
Once back at the campsite we sleep on our mouse schedule. We nap from nine to eleven when he comes up for a snack. We have another sleep allotment from one to four until he wants dinner. Our last sleep reprieve lasts until nine that night. From then until dawn he’s awake and so are we.
That afternoon, necessity being the mother of invention, forces me to create the perfect trap. I use the only things available, an empty sanitary napkin box, a little string and some duct tape.
Night comes and as soon as we lay down, I hear the familiar scuffling under the oven. I turn on the light and position myself to spy the entrance of my Trap.
Twenty minutes later, this time much more cautious, having approached the box numerous times, he slips inside and I snap the lid. I jump up with a shout and triumphantly grab the box. I watch in horror as a little nose wriggles through a minute crack in my solid-as-a-rock trap door. By the time I move my hand over to push him back in, he wriggles out of an impossible quarter inch gap in the box and disappears.
To this point it’s obvious that this has all been fun and games for him. Working on my second night without sleep, I’m get deadly serious. I reinforce the trap door with a writing pen, three stick matches and more duct tape. I get the most delectable mouse delight from the refrigerator and look at the clock. It’s one-forty. It’s okay, I can get this little guy and still get what’s left of a good nights sleep.
From under the covers, she asks, “What are you doing?”
I sneer. “Don’t bother me, I’m on mouse patrol.”
The rest of the night, I sit huddled in a corner of the RV, keeping one eye on the scurrying mouse and one on the super-trap. He goes back and forth, up and down, in and out, on and below, every surface on that countertop, but not once does he go inside of my trap. After hours, with bloodshot eyes, crazy from sleep depravation, I watch the little beast cautiously venture into my box for a morsel just beyond his reach. I yank the string hard and fast. The lid is half closed. I witness another light brown flash of fur streak past the opening, across the counter and back into the stove.
Unable to keep my eyes open a moment longer, I give up. He’s won this round, but I have mouse blood in my eyes. My last hope is the little store. The Gods willing, they will have a mousetrap.
Later that morning, we stand devastated when the proprietor says she has no traps for sale. She sees the desperate, haggard looks on our faces. She goes in the back then comes out with one of her used traps hands it to me. “You can use mine to catch them alive. It’s better that way.”
I take the trap and give her a glare. “I only have one mouse.”
She strikes an odd smile that I don’t understand until much later.
That night, within the first ten minutes, the little pest snaps the cage door. Afraid he will somehow wriggle out, I duct tape the doors firmly closed and we drive out far from our campsite. Fearful that he’ll somehow run back to the van, I release him, sprint back to the van with the engine runnung and we speed away.
For the rest of the night we sleep in peace, assured that no mouse will be bothering us.
At four-thirty an all too familiar scratching assaults my ears. I turn on the light and we look at one another. “He’s back!”
I reset the trap and we go out to enjoy another bursting dawn. Within a few moments, the snap of the trap door closes. I go in to find an exact version of our first tormentor. This one is obviously female and she looks very pregnant.
That next afternoon I tear apart the van and find an empty nest of cotton batting in a corner and a smallish hole in the floor beside a waterline. With a scrap of plywood and some screws, I close the breach in the floor, certain we have seen the last of our rodent friends.
The sun is setting by the time we get around to returning the trap, so we put it off for the next morning. Before settling down to sleep, just for fun, I set the trap and put it below the sink. Before my eyes are closed, the trap snaps on a third mouse.
Two days have gone by and we haven’t heard another sound. Last night, and maybe it was just a dream, but I thought I heard something viciously scratching at my plywood patch.