In 1995’s Apollo 13 — the captivating cinematic account of NASA’s failed mission to the moon in 1970 — one controller asks another: “Is it A.M. or P.M.?” The second controller responds, “It’s A.M. Very, very A.M.”
That’s how I felt a few nights ago. It was very, very A.M. when a mouse decided to scurry across my forehead as I slept.
I’ve been told that there is nothing that will bring a parent out of a deep sleep any faster than the sound of a kid puking. I beg to differ. When I hear a kid puking, I kick my wife and mutter, “Go clean that up.” But when a mouse scurried across my head at two a.m., I was up in a flash.
Actually, that isn’t entirely true. His first foray into my bed came as he scurried across my forehead, causing me to sit up and strain against the sleep that left cobwebs in my eyes as I tried to make sense of what had just happened. Then, not willing nor able to stave off sleep, I tried to pretend that I was mistaken — even though I knew deep inside that I wasn’t — and began to drift off again. The second time, I wasn’t quite into REM sleep, which explains why I was up so quickly when the furry little rodent came scurrying up my leg.
I’ve also been told that you feel personally violated when a burglar invades your home, and you’ll never feel quite the same again. I’ve never had a burglar in my home, but I have had a miniature rat in my bed, and I can tell you that the feeling is probably much the same. I’ve never had a phobia of mice — unlike my wife, who has been known to make her young children check the mouse traps for successful harvests because she’s too scared to do it herself — but there’s something about lying in a trance in your bed while something that can nibble off the ends of your fingers and toes is scurrying about, carrying God-only-knows-what diseases on the germs that infect its sharp little fangs.
So after I sprang from bed and cracked the little piggy that had roast beef for supper on the leg of a chair that some moron — that would’ve been me — carelessly left in the middle of the room, I did what any sensible man of the house would do in response to a mouse invasion.
I went for my gun.
Understand that I would’ve gladly stomped the little varmint with my bare foot, but it was very, very A.M., remember, and I was in no mood for fun and games. So I headed upstairs for my air rifle. This is not your child’s ordinary pellet gun; this is a .177 caliber pellet rifle by Gamo, Bone Collector edition. It packs a punch of 1,300 feet per second, is scoped, and is intended for small-game hunting, with a capability of putting dinner on the table from distances of a hundred feet or so.
In a moment of weakness, I considered the shotgun, then decided that would do too much damage to the Sheetrock. The Bone Collector, a.k.a. the mouse collector, would serve the purpose just fine. It would blow the side of the mouse’s head off, happily dispatching him to that great cheese factory in the sky.
For the next 20 minutes, I tore apart the bedroom, constantly aware that he might dart out from under a piece of furniture at any time, biting a hunk out of my toe before I had time to jump out of his way. When he finally did emerge, we played a game of man-and-mouse for another 20 minutes, during which time I shot several holes in the baseboard along the wall and came dangerously close to losing my religion.
Ultimately, I prevailed. It dawned on me afterward that I could’ve turned my kids’ cats loose in the bedroom, but these are the same felines that lay fat and contented on our front porch, tails twitching as they watch moles tunnel through the landscaping.
The clock was nearing three A.M. by the time I pitched his lifeless body outside. I had early appointments the following day and knew I would be cranky and miserable. But I couldn’t help feeling a sense of primal satisfaction as I posed for a photo with my quarry and my gun.
I supposed later that I should have cut off his tail and tacked it to the headboard of the bed, as a lesson for other mice that might attempt to scurry across my forehead in the very, very A.M. of the day. But the cats had already devoured him. Apparently they have no problem with eating rodents; they’re only averse to catching them. So, instead, I went back to bed with visions of mice dancing on my forehead.
I kept the air rifle by the bed, though. Just in case.