Overnight, a mouse found its way into one of the lower kitchen cabinets and ate through the bags of three different coffees stored there. I wondered where he was and, sure enough, found him stone cold dead in the mousetrap behind the basement door. I don’t know if he had spent enough time between the cabinet and the basement to let the effects of the caffeine hit? Had he done so, he might have become king of the mice and lead his fellow rodents to a new world order of productivity and dignity, prosperity and honor.
Maybe they’d turn away from imperiling both our species by invading my house and other human spaces for food. Instead they might begin to build their own dwellings and gather unclaimed food from fallen tree nuts and seed, buried roots and low-lying fruits and vegetables. Did such a thing as “unclaimed food” really exist though? Was not all food sought out and eaten by the fiercest. Wasn’t it all guarded by something?
Let’s not forget the overhead winged creatures that snatched up thousands of mice each year. This mouse had probably seen with his very eyes his second cousin carried off into the sky, alive the whole way up and squeaking bloody murder. The fields were no place to plant the seeds of this new way of life.
Perhaps the food in human houses was actually the best, but our mouse would need a new method. No more raiding large stores of food; we humans were far too jealous of it and smart enough to prevent it. But our mouse was smart too and he himself had seen it play out too many times. The more potent the smell of food, the more likely one of his kind would never escape or would keep coming back to it, walking the razor’s edge toward certain demise.
In his estimate, gluttony unavoidably led to death. His aunt came home stuffed to the brim one night with a novel food she had found in a kitchen cabinet and in the morning when all were roused by the light of day, there she lay, dead in her paper towel bed. Her grandfather had lost his life to a cat that seemed inescapably fast after years of gorging himself had made him jiggle a bit more than his peers.
No, they must remain lean and hungrier by putting more time and space between bites. Follow your nose, run a bit, find a small bite, eat it, run some more. Crumbs were a method that had always worked out well. In his memory, they’d never eaten crumbs and then lost friends or family to traps. Yes, humans didn’t seem to miss crumbs. Maybe this was the answer. More running, more food, stay fit, stay fast, stay alive. Besides, they could ingratiate themselves to the humans and reconfigure their entire relationship. They’d all become the brooms of the human household. A public relations campaign that would secure their rightful place in the homes of a growing number of humans everywhere for generations to come. “A mouse in every home” they’d sell to lazy people worldwide who were sick of having to clean up the floor after dinner.
His elders would never go for it. They were a proud crew who rested on their laurels, having never gotten caught, surviving by strict adherence to traditional dogma that “humans are the enemy”. They’d hear nothing of this co-mingling mouse aims with those of humans. He could see it now: them all staring at him with their doubtful, beady little eyes. What a crusty bunch!
However, in just over a year and a half, he’d be an elder. They were all nearing their end anyway and they’d soon be replaced by all those of his generation. He couldn’t wait that long, though; he was convinced this new way of life was right and it had to happen soon.
Maybe he’d pay them off. Bring food with him when he proposed the idea. But who to approach first? If he chose the wrong elder, they’d bite him to death right then and there for so boldly accusing their corruption. Short-tailed Mike was a good start, but he had no relationship with him, and how was he going to get him alone for a private conversation?
Perhaps he ought to consider legitimizing the whole thing: propose a way to lessen the load on the elders permanently – a way to secure their ability to eat long after they could run fast enough to assuage the risks.
Still, where would he get all the food it would take to do that? He couldn’t possibly collect enough by going crumb to crumb; too much running, he’d need so much energy to sustain that project. But he was feeling more energetic by the minute! Think, think, think…
Oh, God! Was the only way to get enough bounty to find a massive storage location? It would be risky; he’d have to plan it well over days. Following the raid, surely dozens of his comrades would be taken out, thinning the herd and weakening the possibility that they’d ever come to elderhood in great force. Plus, if anyone ever found out the source of his payments, he’d be blamed for the souls of every one of those who had perished. And how could he maintain his integrity and honestly propose never raiding storages again if he already had blood on his hands and had just endangered them all for the foreseeable future with such a conspicuous act of doing exactly what he was now deeply against? Ahhhh, which way to turn?
No, he must scrap that idea. Only through mission integrity could they move forward in the world. The ends never justify the means, he was sure. He’d preach his way and attract likeminded mice over time. Once he had garnered enough support, each would be asked to gather just enough crumbs to intoxicate the elders.
And not only the elders, he would organize a food drive for those of his kind who had lost limbs to traps and gnawing disease; a benefit for those less fortunate who didn’t have the advantages he had had and who now, in their present situations found themselves incapable of safely searching for food and unmotivated by their depressive states, no longer as free as all the others to run and climb, to swiftly slide through crack and crevices. He would show them they could rely on him and others, but only if they were on board with the Crumb Campaign. It would become synonymous with humousity and demonstrate the glory of neighborly solidarity. Bring food to all! How had no one else thought of this? Maybe one had! Shit! It might not work out. Someone must have thought this up already, it’s surely not that unique, and how gifted was he intellectually? He never really remembered the exact way to get back to the garage in the back yard, and nobody ever claimed him to be a source of much wisdom. He could see it now: the elders would say, “Oh, please, Niko-mouse, your great grandmother proposed the same thing in her heyday. It is a stupid idea and it will never work out!” Oh, despair.
You know what? He was going to try anyway. So what if they had heard it before? Nobody could articulate it with as much enthusiasm as he now had.
Oh, it was so exhilarating – it must start now! He had all the mojo in the world, but did his fellow mice have enough to do double their normal work to accomplish this task? Where would he get the fuel to feed the burning fire he felt inside? Oh Hell Yes! He’d bring them to eat those same bitter brown nuts that were presently making him feel so inspired, so ALIVE!
He should go get them now, without delay. Go, go, go! Through the opening between the cabinet and the wall, down the wall studs, across the floor joists, up to the stairs, and oooo a little peanut butter for sustenance along the way. Lick, lick, mmmmm. Lick, lick, lick, it was all happening! Lick; wow, this peanut butter is tasty, and the glory is all…CRACK! Fade to black.