The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

25 March 2011

Of mice and math

I worked in an older library yesterday: old wooden shelves, nearly-as-old books, cozy corners, nooks and crannies full of the dust of ages. Toward the end of the day, I began to notice a tiny squeaking noise resembling a small, far-off bird, or a baby mouselette. The librarian’s desk is tucked into an artificial corner made from bookshelves, filing cabinets and a small table, separating her work space from the computer lab quartered behind. Perhaps a wild creature of some sort was nesting under a piece of furniture… but books needed shelving and soon enough it was time to go home, so I gave it no more thought.

Later that evening, I was working at my own desk at home when I noticed that tiny squeaking noise again, just like I’d heard at work. How odd, I thought. What a strange coincidence: two chirps in one day. I could tell that the sound was coming from the direction of my book bag, but couldn’t make any sense of that. Then I put two and two together, to make five (math not being my strong suit). That book bag was sitting on the floor in the corner, within scurrying distance from that imagined critter nest under the ‘shelf wall’. I pictured a youngling mouse tumbling out of his nest, and thinking the warm interior of my bag made a good substitute. I inadvertently brought him to my nest, and now there he was, chattering for help.

I was not about to rootle through the bag with my bare hands, but even if I put gloves on and then found him, what was I going to do? Hug it, pet it, and call it George? I determined I was going to bring the bag to the front porch, and dump its contents out, letting the poor thing go back to nature. But I was already in my jammies, so there’d I’d be, in the dark and cold, wrapped in my fuzzy pink bathrobe, displaying my kookiness for one and all to see.

As I approached the bag, ever so slowly, in the way one does when one really doesn’t want to do a thing, I spotted my stainless steel, environmentally friendly travel mug. I remembered having tightened it that afternoon, and then tightened it again because I’ve had a few episodes of leakage. Gone were the horrified visions of trapped mouselings in the depths of my bag. I opened the sippy lid of the mug, releasing the built-up pressure inside. The whistling stopped at once.


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