“Do you hear that?”
A little later the exchange repeats.
My husband is a self-diagnosed sufferer of tinnitus and has the best hearing of anyone I know. He hears things all the time that I can’t.
“It sounds like crunching gravel.”
“No, I don’t hear it.”
He gets up out of bed and looks out the bedroom windows to make sure our moving next-door neighbors didn’t pull a truck to the front of the apartments. Next he does his tour of the apartment, checking all of the doors and the locks, and looking out of each set of windows for any unusual or suspicious activity. It is after midnight.
All is clear.
We lie there in the dark waiting for the sound.
“Was that it?”
“Yes, that’s it!”
“It sounds like a magazine. I have that magazine on my side of the bed folded over with my book on top. Maybe it’s slipping down.”
The lights come on.
Our bed is the mattress and box springs on the floor. Each of us has a nightstand next to our side. Between my side of the bed and the wall are stacks of books and magazines and a headboard leans against the wall. My husband moves all the books and magazines on my side of the bed in search of the noise. I put all of the books and magazines back.
He pulls out a plastic grocery bag that contains jewelry boxes and is convinced it is the source of the sound. He moves it to the middle of the open floor.
The lights are turned off. He returns underneath the covers.
“Why did you move that?”
“Those bags make a lot of noise.”
I hear a rustle or scratching sound.
“I’m wide awake. I can’t sleep. It’s freaking me out. Maybe I should sleep downstairs.”
My husband listens intently for any sound that does not belong in our bedroom at this time of night. It is almost one-thirty and all he hears is my snoring and the heavy breathing of the dog.
My eyes fly open and I’m facing my husband. My back is to the wall.
“I heard it again.”
“Turn on your light.”
“I don’t want to turn on my light,” I say.
“Turn on your light.”
“I don’t want to. You should turn on the bedroom light.”
We stare at each other.
I roll over and turn on the light on my nightstand. I half expect something to spring out at me from the dark. I am blind without my glasses. I look at the headboard, the books and the magazines.
A noise I don’t recognize leaves my lips. It is a sound of fright that sounds more like a moan.
“What is it?”
“I saw something move or fly past the leg of the headboard. It was dark.”
I scoot to the middle of the bed and my husband stands up. My knight in shining armor is dressed for battle in a white undershirt and plaid boxer shorts. He turns on the bedroom light. He walks all over the bed and moves the headboard, trying to see what I saw. I put on my glasses.
“There’s a blue bag with a brown sock in it and a used tissue by the leg. Maybe the tissue fell over and that’s what you saw.”
I know that blue bag. It is full of Avon beauty products I won at a baby shower for the first baby on his side of the family. Cameron will be two years old in July. I prefer Mary Kay to Avon. That bag’s been there a long time.
“Yeah, you know I can’t see anything without my glasses on.”
We exchange a look. Neither of us believes the lie but we don’t deny it.
I rearrange the blankets on the bed and pat my side. I think a horrible thought.
“Zilla! Zilla! Want on the bed?”
My husband turns off the bedroom light and the dog jumps onto the bed. He lets me scratch him behind the ears and pet him for a few minutes. He lies down facing the wall.
I voice my horrible thought. “If a snake or something jumps out at me, it’s going to get the dog first!”
My husband finds this funny and laughs. After a few minutes, Zilla decides he’ll be more comfortable at the bottom of the bed. He lies there with his nose pointing straight at the three bedroom windows on the other side of the room.
I waken to Zilla’s low growl. He hears something he doesn’t like. I put on my glasses and I see he’s looking towards the far right window. His head swivels to the left and he lets out his short alarm bark. He stares intently at the spot where my husband removed the grocery bag. My husband turns on the bedroom light again. He looks out the bedroom windows once more.
“I think there’s a mouse or something in the walls. Go downstairs with Zilla to sleep. I can’t figure out where it is between your snoring and his breathing.”
I praise Zilla for his good work. He accepts the praise but continues to keep an eye on that corner of the bedroom. Occasionally his eyes shift to me to see if I’m going to do something.
“Do we need to go sleep in a hotel tonight?”
“No, just sleep downstairs.”
I don’t need to be told twice. I take my pillow and tell the dog I’m going downstairs. Zilla follows me.
I lie on the couch with Zilla at one end. I listen to the sounds of my husband’s footsteps above me. The light from the bedroom bounces into the upstairs hallway and halfway down the stairs. I try to sleep but keep waking up, thinking I’ve heard the rustle again.
I hear my husband’s voice from upstairs. It is a sound of surprise and horror all mixed up. I run to the bottom of the stairs. I look up and am afraid to venture any further.
“Are you okay?”
“It’s definitely a mouse. I have it in my hand.”
He has it in his hand? How can he have it in his hand? Why isn’t it biting him? Why isn’t he bringing it downstairs so he can throw it out the front door into the yard? I wait for him to say more. No answers are forthcoming to my unasked questions.
“Do you still have it?”
“No, I lost it.”
I return to the couch and try to make myself sleep. I hear the whir of the computer fan followed by the click-clack of the keyboard. I know he’s looking up on the internet how to catch and kill mice.
It is shortly after two in the morning and Zilla is whining. He whines when he has gas but he also whines when he is upset or has to go to the bathroom. I decide he may be upset but he probably has to go to the bathroom. I put on my jeans and tuck in my nightshirt and put on my coat. I lock the back door behind me. My husband is still on the computer. There is frost on the grass. We walk around to the front of the apartments. From nowhere, I see a male figure in front of me. He comes towards me and is unsteady on his feet. He is a block away from us. I clean up after Zilla. As the man gets closer I pull Zilla’s leash a little closer to me. I don’t know if Zilla will try to make friends with the man or if he will sense my uneasiness from the events of the night and bark at him.
“Good morning,” I respond. I smell the alcohol.
We pass each other and Zilla finds some good spots to smell. I turn around and watch the man rapidly disappear from sight.
Inside, I give Zilla a treat for being so good. I take off my jeans and power up my laptop. I start to make labels for our holiday cards. I need my Palm Pilot so I go upstairs. I hug my husband and tell him about Zilla’s walk and that I’m working on the labels. He tells me everything he’s learned about mice and how he came to find it.
“I stuck my hand in that bag and felt something funny. I pulled my hand out and the mouse was on my hand. As soon as I realized what it was, I made that noise and he flew across the room. So he’s not in the walls anymore.”
Since they’re nocturnal, he’s going to sleep in the office on the love seat. I look at him like he’s just told me he’s Queen Elizabeth.
“I’m five two and can’t sleep comfortably on that. You’re taller so there’s no way you can. Take the couch and I’ll take the floor. Zilla won’t bother me.”
“I’ll sleep in the bed with the lights on.”
And that is just what he did. My husband cocooned himself in the blankets and was a big lump in the bed for the remaining hours of the night. He came downstairs when my alarm clock went off so I wouldn’t be late to work.
I don’t know if he heard the mouse after that or not. After I finished with the labels I read and then tried to sleep as best as I could. Zilla would let out a bark now and then, which would wake me up at odd intervals before six. What I do know is this war. That mouse is going down!