The Mutant Mice of Milton – a bedtime story

SR.2019crystalandpalaceMy dad loves gadgets. He is always among the first to buy a new smart phone or tablet when it comes out. I suppose this is not surprising really as his job is helping banks with their computer systems. His friends call him a “bit of a geek”.

But it was my mum who first spotted the mouse. She saw a small piece of silver paper partly tucked under the skirting board in our sitting room and then, shortly afterwards and out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a mouse scurrying across the kitchen floor. She was sure she heard some scrabbling noises behind the cover under the kitchen cupboards.

Dad was quickly on the case. Fortunately he had just taken delivery of some very smart, wireless security cameras. He fixed one up behind the cover and linked it with his latest smart phone. In the middle of the night his phone woke him up. Half asleep, he looked at the video being sent from the camera. It showed a plump mouse, with enormous ears like an elephant, wandering about under the cupboard. The mouse sat and looked at him. There was only one thing to do – set a trap.

At breakfast the next morning, he explained to my sister Dora and me that he would have to set a trap because mice were dirty animals that could cause all kinds of diseases. Dora and I looked at the recording of the mouse on dad’s tablet. The mouse looked cute and quite healthy. We were worried for it. We need not have been. The next day, the video showed that we did not have a mouse. We had mice. Two of them paraded all around the space under the cupboard and took no notice at all of the metal trap, which had been baited with cheese.

He decided to change the bait. I forgot to tell you that, before he had got into this computer malarkey, he had studied chemistry in great detail. He said, “Robert this requires a scientific approach. We need to find the right chemical mix to attract the curiosity of the mice.” Personally I had my doubts but out went the cheese and in came a small piece of chocolate. It had no effect. That night the two mice made their usual appearance and the chocolate went untouched.

Dora and I looked long and carefully at the new video. We were both convinced that the mice were dancing and even waving at us. When we mentioned this, dad laughed and said, “That’s nonsense. You must be imagining it.”

Dad has had his eyes laser treated and this has given him perfect vision but I wonder whether it has also removed some child vision layer, like frosting, which was preventing him from seeing what we were seeing. It is a possibility you must admit.

My little sister, Dora, is quite naughty. She was sorry for the mice. She thought they looked bored as they only had a piece of kitchen floor to play on. That evening, after Dad had baited the trap with another tempting morsel – peanut butter this time– she pulled the cupboard base cover back a little, just so that she was able to push a small bed and sofa from her dolls’ house inside.

The alarm went off again on dad’s smart phone in the middle of the night. He could not believe his eyes – the mice were relaxing on a bed and sofa. When Dora and I looked at the video in the morning, we could see them laughing and waving at the camera. We decided to give them names. We called the smaller, female mouse Crystal and the larger, male mouse, Palace.

Dad was getting very frustrated. You could tell that because he decided to talk to his dad and see if he had any tips. He does not do this very often as he thinks grandad is ‘past it’. The two of them had a long discussion on Facetime. Grandad thought that, because they had such large ears, these were wood mice that had come in to escape the cold winter weather outside. He thought it possible that they might prefer more natural foods such as seeds. He also suggested that dad try a bit of potato as the little beggars (I think that is what he called them) had taken every morsel of his seed potatoes stored in his garage last winter.

Dad thought he would wash the trap in case there was some smell which was putting the mice off. He then dug around in his old seed box and found some suitable seeds. He also cut off a piece of potato and stuck that on the trap. He gave Dora back her toy bed and sofa. He was now ready and very confident that he would outsmart the mice this time. He thought he would watch the football on television before going to bed. Crystal Palace beat Leicester 3:0 – not a good sign. He went to bed straight afterwards and was so tired that he fell asleep immediately and did not hear the alarm on his phone.

In the morning, he played the video. The bait was untouched and the mice were still there. When Dora and I looked at the video we thought we could see the mice having a party. Crystal and Palace were celebrating their team’s victory. They had red and blue bobble hats on and were jumping up and down but dad could not see that.

Dad was very annoyed. He said it was time for a mechanical approach. He spent most of the afternoon building a large and complicated machine from my Lego. He used lots of wheels, levers and springs. Dad explained that there was a sensitive pad which, when the mice stood on it, would move rapidly and throw the mice into a net at the other end of the apparatus. He said it was based on an idea he had seen in a Tom and Jerry film. He showed it proudly to my Uncle John who said it certainly looked like Jerry had built it.

When the machine was wound up and set, there was just room for it to slide under the cupboard. Dad kept the original trap and set that too. This was an example of the belt and braces approach he said.

Nobody heard the new machine go off during the night. The video next morning showed a scene of complete chaos. Dozens of pieces of Lego had been fired all over the place and they had even set off the original trap. The mice had assembled a few of the pieces to make a simple car and had had a fine time trundling around the space once they had moved the Lego pieces to one side. They had taken the bait from the other trap and had apparently gone off for a picnic.

Dad lost heart at this point. He had run out of ideas. His hair had definitely become much greyer. He thought our mice could be a new strain of super intelligent mice peculiar to our part of the Wychwoods. Perhaps they had been eating spinach or kale. He turned off the cameras and tried to forget the mice.

A month went by and he thought he would see what had happened behind the cupboard cover. He slowly prised it off and shone his torch into the gap. There was nothing to see. Dad sighed and said, “I think all my efforts combined must have made it so uncomfortable for them that they decided to move out”. Dora and I however could see a small Ted George sign at the back in the corner. It said ‘To Let’. Outside in the garden, it was Spring.

Alan Vickers
With thanks to Stephen Ricketts for the cartoon.

December 2019-January 2020

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