Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mousey behaviour

1994. I was sharing a house on Eglinton West with an lovely environmentalist friend from high school and an intense Japanese exchange student. Neither of them have anything to do with this story.

My friend Llewellyn (nicknamed Welly) was fighting with a synthesizer on my desk and with his girlfriend on a wonky cell phone. He was trying to convince the synth to provide a series of cello, violin and viola sounds so I could write string quartets while he was in Japan to teach English (he made it to Japan; my composing talents were never uncovered). The synth didn’t want to create the sounds and didn’t want to record the sounds it was creating. He was sick of messing around with it.

I don’t know what he was fighting with his girlfriend about; he was claiming to be innocent about something and she was apparently being unreasonable about something and it was convoluted enough that she asked me to get on the phone to hear her side of the story and he was sure enough that I would agree with him that he volunteered me to do it. I declined and he was now sick of me in addition to the phone and the synth.

My girlfriend Louise was on her way over, and I wasn’t sick of her. I was beginning to feel that she was more attracted to my word processor than to me (she didn’t own one) but she’d promised to spend the afternoon and evening without the need of it. I didn’t quite believe her but wanted her around anyhow. And of course, there was the mouse. One of several, I suppose. Our cat Allegri had been having a mouse buffet for around a week, but had either eaten enough or decided that mousehunting was a younger cat’s game and gave it up in favour of sleeping at the end of my bed. The mice hadn’t worked their way upstairs but were frequently seen under the couch and in the boot tray at the front door.

The events pass by rather quickly:

1. Louise arrives. She is welcomed with kisses and cuddles until she takes some handwritten pages out of her coat and asks if we’re using my computer. At the same time,

2. Welly comes downstairs yelling into his cellphone saying “I’m going to go outside because I’m losing the signal and I don’t mind yelling into this thing…because…because you’re not listening and if I yell there’s a chance you might…” as he

3. Heads to the boot tray while I take Louise upstairs to show her the synth, the mixing board, the diskettes, the instruction manuals, and the coffee cups on my desk. It has made the computer impassable. She asks carefully if maybe we could move everything to the dining-room table instead so she could do a little work when we’re working and I ask if if maybe she’d like to save time and borrow the damn computer and maybe send me a postcard from time to time if isn’t so busy occasionally when

4. Welly makes a new foul sound downstairs. It doesn’t sound like one of the foul sounds he’s been making into the phone recently. I hear the front door open and close and

5. Louise looks hurt that I’m accusing her of visiting me simply to use my computer and she’s within her rights to be hurt. She puts her documents away and asks my permission to sit on the couch downstairs and do nothing while Welly and I fight over the synth. And would I mind terribly much if she read a book or should she simply sit and wait for m’sieur to be ready to receive her? After a few minutes of this very cheap theatre

6. I’m apologizing for being oversensitive and for the fact the synth is taking so long to set up. I look out the window and see Welly standing on one foot in the snow on the sidewalk on Eglinton Avenue. I’m wrapped up in synth issues and don’t pay much attention to the fact he’s only wearing one boot. So

7. We go downstairs and Louise starts taking off her coat and goes to the kitchen to pour a glass of water while Welly half-walks, half-hops into the house wearing one boot and one wet dirty sock. “Mike, can I tell you something?” he says with something close to a sheepish smile on his face as he leads me upstairs on one squishy foot. He closes the door and says “I don’t want to gross Louise out, but I think I stepped on the mouse.” I ask

8. Exactly how one can step on a mouse? They’re experts at not being stepped on or made into canap├ęs by hungry cats. He says “I stuck my foot into my boot and I heard a weird squeaky noise. Then I felt something on my toe. So I took my foot out and I saw blood. Look.” He shows me

9. His sock which is wet and muddy and with a few drops of blood near the big toe. Now. There’s a new issue. How does one remove a presumably squashed mouse from a size 10 workboot? We head downstairs. Louise is sitting on the couch with a very odd look on her face, something I mean to inquire about after making sure the mouse is either okay or fully dispatched. I pick up Welly’s dry boot, knock the heel on the ground, wait for the mouse to fall out. No mouse is forthcoming. Welly comes downstairs and

10. Takes a good look at the boot. The mouse is among those not present. It got away. Where is it? Has Allegri found it? Is he playing with it? We lift the other shoes and boots off the tray, looking around the hallway. Louise finally says, very loudly (motivated by forces I couldn't understand) “Are you looking for the mouse?”

“Yes,” I say, “he thinks he squashed it. Where did it go?”

11. Louise, very quickly and loudly says, “I found him and I put him in the potatoes so he could die in peace!”

12. It gets very quiet. Welly and I both look at Louise. She’s sort of laughing. The whole thing is sort of funny. Right up to the dead mouse in the potatoes part. I ask her exactly why she thought putting a damaged mouse in the potato basket at the back of the house would be a good idea.

13. She says “I was sitting here and I saw this little mouse…walking sideways…and there was blood on its head and its little nose…I didn’t want to put it outside and I knew Allegri would find it so…I looked around the back room and just put him in the side of the potato basket…its quiet and warm and he can curl up and it's an okay place for a mouse to die.”

14. Welly and I continue to look at Louise, silently. This clearly strikes her as perhaps a little unconventional but a legitimate way to deal with a very injured mousey. There’s

15. Not a lot to say after a speech like that. Welly goes upstairs and I go to check out the mouse. It’s slightly breathing and barely twitching. I’d been finding mice in traps for a few weeks without being squeamish but this was different. I decide to put it out of its misery. The only way I can think to do this is to put it in a paper bag and drop a heavy object on it. The paper bag part is easy. The heavy object proves to be

16. A challenge. The first thing I find is a heavy book, which turns out to be a history of death squads in Chile. It doesn’t seem right to use it. I look around some more and find a rhyming dictionary which I bought during a Bob Dylan phase and don’t use very often. I take it all outside and drop the book on the bag. The bag is flattened sufficiently to ensure that the mouse is no longer in pain.

17. These activities sort of killed the afternoon.

18. Welly finally shrugged and told me I’d figure out the synth while he was away. He left the house and for a few minutes I envied him.

19. Louise asked me to stop looking at her like she was an alien for putting a dying mouse in with the potatoes. I tried. It took a great effort.

20. Louise didn’t use my computer after all. We ended up watching a French movie on the tiny TV in the small room I called home.

Allegri slept through it all.


STAG said...

So did you ever get the Synth to do a horn solo?

Mike D. said...

I got the synth to make a horrible piano noise. Once. And sort of a cello sound that was more like a Theremin. I gave up. Whether the world mourns this loss or not, only time will tell.

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