Of Mice and Men... A Christmas Story
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I wondered why my cat had been scratching and meowing at the basement door. Yes, I wondered, but deep down I knew. I knew that the only time he did this was when we had a mouse, or more likely many a mouse. For some reason our home was a haven for their kind. Apparently somewhere outside my house there is a sign that reads, "Welcome to the Mouse House. We’ll keep you warm and fed for the winter."

My husband and I run a no kill shelter. We just can’t bring ourselves to killing them the traditional way. There’s nothing I hated more than hearing that SNAP and then finding a tiny ball of fur stuck to a small slab of pine. So you can only imagine how pleased we were to find a humane trap that gently coaxes the mouse inside while a swinging door closes behind it. Once inside the trap, the mouse can comfortably enjoy the ever-popular Fig Newton we so lovingly place in the back of the trap. We then can take the filled trap for a short ride and let Mickey go. We like to call the process, "Free Mickey," – kind of like Free Willy but on a much smaller scale.

However this year we have been visited by Harvard bred mice. They know how to grab the cookie and free themselves. No, these mice will not be trapped by a common swinging door. They have obviously gone to some Ivy League school for rodents that teach them state of the art engineering maneuvers. Every night we placed a cookie inside the trap expecting to find one of our newfound friends safe inside, but that was never the case.

The only way to beat them at there game was to outsmart them. I mean they’re mice, and we’re men, well, figuratively speaking. We tried putting extra weight on the trap’s door in hopes that it would close behind them with a solid thud. We thought surely this would capture them.

One morning while gathering figs for our guests, I spotted them in the midst of their tenaciousness. One of them actually held the door open while another one ran inside to get the tasty treat. The "Gate Keeper," as we called him didn’t only hold the door; he did it nonchalantly while leaning against the trap using one paw to hold the door open and the other to mock me with a crude gesture. Yes these were warriors – a higher standard of rodent.

Being as it was so close to Christmas and realizing they are of higher intelligence, I decided on another method. I thought of an outlandish scheme of dressing the "Gate Keeper" up in a Santa suit that I painstakingly crocheted for him in my spare time. I used branches from a white birch tree, in our yard, and made teensy weensy antlers for the rest of the gang. I even had a little sleigh for them that my husband had made from Popsicle sticks and dental floss. I thought for sure that Christmas Eve would come, and they would pack up their Fig Newtons and deliver them to all the less fortunate mice. You know, the ones that live outside.

Christmas Eve came, and I found the Gate Keeper tapping out some kind of music with his paws on an old paint can. I think it was something from the Broadway play, "Cats." I gingerly walked over to him as he looked at me condescendingly. I was able to grab him and place the Santa suit on his body. The others were all nearby enjoying the show tunes, so I snatched them up and strapped on the tiny antlers. I hooked them up to the sleigh and wished them all a good flight. I even helped them load up with extra Fig Newtons. I left the basement door open that night to help them along on their journey. I had a good feeling that we would finally be free of them.

I slept well that night. I awoke refreshed and invigorated. I am the smarter one. I walked down the stairs only to see that our little friends had left some of their figs under our tree. I was touched beyond words that they had left us presents before they went on their way. I had gone into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee only to see there was already a full pot made. My husband was still asleep, and I was perplexed over the steaming java. Could it be? I smelled french toast, my favorite. No, they couldn’t have. How could they? I poured myself a cup of coffee and looked out into the backyard to see that they had carved out a trail in the snow that read, "Thank You." Somehow they must have known that we were different from the others. We were kinder, gentler. I felt a warmth deep inside and a pride that I had performed a good deed by not killing them.

Yes, that Christmas morning, we sat by the fire and talked of the holiday miracle of the mice. The miracle of how they left us some morning treats. However, when we attempted to get more wood for the fire, we realized our back door was jammed. We tried the front door only to find the same problem. We were trapped in the house. Like animals. Days went by, and we were growing weary from being stuck inside. And then, finally we heard the front door open. We were free, we thought. We ran to the hallway to see that the door was closed but a large bag had been left on the floor. We opened the bag with anticipation only to find boxes and boxes of Fig Newtons. And if we were very quiet we could hear faint giggles outside our front door. They hadn’t left after all.

Eventually we did get out, and the first place we went was to the hardware store. We bought boxes and boxes of mousetraps. And now we can sit by the fire on a cold winter’s eve, listen to the crackling wood, and occasionally we hear that beautiful sound of a SNAP.

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