There was a mouse that lived inside a small garage. It had taken shelter in a pair of forgotten running shoes that had been cast into the darkest corner of the back of the garage, buried deep under flaking cardboard boxes filled with stiff knotted Christmas lights and camping equipment. The mouse had acquired some of the richly insulated down from one of the compact sleeping bags and created tiny feather cave in the toe of one of the shoes. I was a small dark little cove that held the same shape as its body when curled into a tight little ball.
Once the mouse was finished working on its nest it spent most of its time sleeping. Three or four times per day it would stir and poke its tiny pink nose out from under its back leg and sniff the air for any changes. Most of the time it would catch wind of the recent pass of a squirrel, a certain smelling rat and the distinct scent of a small dog that lived nearby, but not in the garage.
Sometimes the mouse would wake from his sleep and sense the dog was in the yard, far from the back of the garage, but still closer than usual. The little dog’s scent would get pushed by the fall wind in under the crack of the garage door. It carried the sick strong smell of the dog and hints of food from inside the house that had clung to its fur. The mouse had seen the dog once, at dusk when the sun had receded enough across the sky to leave a good section of the garage in shadow. It had woken up from its daily slumber abruptly due to the large door opening. The mouse froze at first, then crept to the edge of its refuge keeping itself in darkness. It was alarmed by the sudden opening of the door and the sound of the dogs’s nails ticking on the smooth concrete floor. Just a quick flash of the dog, and as the mouse took the instant to see it the dog turned to face it like it knew it was there. The mouse flattened itself and froze on the sole of the shoe. It clung it’s nails into the woven fabric surface in the fear it would be torn from its place and eaten alive.
It had seen it happen before. Watching its mother get torn from their nest and eaten only a month earlier. A cat in another yard south of the garage. It was how the mouse had found its way here. It had run blindly mid-day into the sun managing to escape while the cat was distracted devouring its mother and siblings. The screams of its doe sisters still echoed in it’s memory.
The dog moved in closer and pushed its front paws up onto one of the cardboard boxes. It moved the shoe and all of the surrounding debris enough to warrant the feeling of a massive earthquake. The mouse stayed glued to the bottom of the shoe unflinching, locked in a wide-eyed coma of terror. It’s defence instinct ready to react in an instant if the threat became worse. The mouse had constricted every muscle in its form and was ready to spring high in the air any second. It hoped this would work to escape the clutches of the clumsy dog.
There was no need. the dog dropped it’s front paws down off of the boxes and turned its body around to face the large open doors. it stopped for a minute and the mouse sensed it was looking back at him. It knew it was in there. It would be back now much more often. Animals never forgot the presence of another once they were convinced of it.
At night there was a little less to worry about and food to find. The mouse was hungry all the time and needed to forage, hoard and eat food constantly when it wasn’t sleeping. There was a large family of rats that lived in the yard north of the garage. The mouse had seen them moving in a pack late one night in the moonlight across the yard as it peeked out from under the crack of the garage door. A large male with a missing eye, a light grey female and three small pups.
Rats were also something to steer clear of. They would eat just about anything they could get their claws on and the idea of getting torn to shreds by a pack of starving rats was not something the mouse was interested in experiencing. Sure, some mice were able to live in harmony with rats but only if there was a glorious food supply for the taking.
The mouse was hungry and food was scarce. It imagined it was the same for the rats. He watched them as they passed unaware of his leering. Little did he know that he was lucky to be downwind from them otherwise they may have found their way into the garage.
The rats were looking for refuge. Their hoard was a lot larger a week ago. A human had set traps and killed two other families in the course of a week. The family would venture out to the traps and eat the bait off of them after their companions had been killed. They would try and coax their friends out of the clutches of what had captured them but gave up once they realized there was no movement.
The mouse watched them pass and disappear across the yard and under the rotting wooden fence into the opposite yard. The mouse had never travelled that far from the garage, and had no intention of doing so unless food became so scarce that it had to.
Lately the mouse had spent it’s evenings cutting small chunks off of a crust of bread he had found on one of the outside walls of the garage. Something a squirrel had stashed and forgotten about. The mouse could smell the squirrel on the bread itself. Tonight it wanted to see if it could pull the remaining chunk in one piece around the garage wall and in under the door. it had bitten off large amounts of it in past evenings and intended on getting the lot of what was left back near its nest for safe-keeping.
To be continued.