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Creature Comforts

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a … ” Oops. Hold up. That’s not quite right this year. This year a mouse was actually stirring. And it changed my views a tad on the circle of life.

Let me begin by saying that I am a big dog lover. And by that I actually mean a lover of big dogs. I’ve never been a huge fan of animals smaller than, say, a washing machine. I’m not sure why, although plagued as I was by nightmares of the childhood family cat clawing my eyes out, it’s amazing I tolerate any creatures at all.

After losing the beloved family golden retriever a few years ago, however, we returned from the shelter with Annie, a cute little black-and-white cat who did nothing to assuage my nightmares. She was much like a teenager, in fact, finding her own space and closing her door. I could envision her paw held up in “stop” mode, saying, “Thank you. I’ve got it from here.”

Regardless, I’ve grown to love her, much to my surprise. So when a beautiful kitten came our way a couple years later, I thought, what’s the difference between one cat and two, especially if the one cat’s existence is barely perceptible? And Indy was everything we wanted in a cat: We could hold him and pet him, and after a short phase of peeing on my husband, he became a part of the family.

Now to my Christmas epiphany. When I went down to the playroom recently to feed the cats, the plastic container was knocked over and a little pile of food had spilled out. Annoyed, I glared at Indy and started scooping it up. Then I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.

I looked over and saw a very little mouse perched on their water dish, drinking. I actually thought for a moment that it was one of their toys the cats had somehow propped up for my amusement, but no. It was real. I determined this when it stopped drinking long enough to glance over at me with a look that said, “Awesome! Breakfast!”

The whole time, the cats flanked me with what I assumed was nature’s curiosity. They watched the mouse for a moment, then looked at me, and then looked at each other. I could almost hear the exchange: “I’m not going to get him. YOU get him,” followed by, “Well, I’M not going to get him. YOU get him!”

I slowly rose and left, choosing to let nature take its course, whatever course that might be. Maybe my cats were complete weenies, maybe not. Maybe I was underestimating them. Maybe they would “cat up” and do their thing. I only knew I didn’t want to be there when they did.

Once upstairs, I waited for—well, anything that would give me a clue as to what was happening downstairs. And I waited. Nothing. No noise. Dead quiet, so to speak. They make more noise passing each other in the hall, for Pete’s sake.

I finally went back down, quietly, so as not to disturb. I prepared myself for what I might find, reminding myself that it was a natural process and I really didn’t ever want to touch either of the cats again anyway. I turned on the lights and found . . . nothing. Not one thing out of place. In fact, by the cats’ looks, I was intruding on their precious sleep time. They were clearly annoyed, but not full.

So after a few days of seeing neither hide nor hair of our “guest,” it finally hit me. The cats weren’t afraid of the mouse. Our circle of life is somewhat misshapen. They were friends. Heck, they could be dating for all I know. As I envisioned the playful scene downstairs after I left that morning, the Christmas story jumped back into my head: “And we heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

I mean, they ARE talking about the mouse there, right?

Maggie Lamond Simone is an award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwinsville. Reach her at maggiesimone@verizon.net.

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