eek!

I love all of God’s creatures. In theory. I don’t however, want to live with any of them in my apartment, particularly tiny animals that  scurry or skitter or crawl. A large animal, if it somehow got into my apartment, would, at most, scare the hell out of you the first time you saw it. If I came home one day and there were an elk standing by the fridge, I’d freak for a minute, but then we would reach one of those uneasy ‘Wild Kingdom’ truces as I calmly walk around him and make a sandwich. Each of us keeping an eye on the other, but as long as I don’t threaten the elk, we could, I suppose, coexist until I lured the elk outside.

Which brings me to the mouse. They’re cute, mice. But they scare the shit out of me. Irrational, bone-shaking terror. First of all, they’re not content to just scare you the one time. After they scare you , they run away and can scare you again. Anywhere, anytime.  Just because I saw him under the sink doesn’t mean I’m safe at my desk. Said mouse can simply scurry along the wall and show up at my feet as I’m writing this. And I know they’re really small, and I know they don’t attack people. But somehow I feel all it will take is one rogue mouse to leap from the floorboards to my throat and I’m a goner. All the other mice will see this from a crack in the plaster or under the microwave or inside an envelope (because they can freakishly shrink in size!) and then–it’s on. Forensics teams will spend days trying to match hundreds of tiny bite marks.

Now don’t give me that ‘they’re more afraid of you than you are of them’ crap, because in the animal kindgdom, they fight through the fear. Mr. Lion might be initially startled by Mr. Gazelle, but he finds a way to push past the fear and eat the gazelle. ‘They just came in to get out of the cold’. Great, nice to know I’m running a mission for rodents.

So one morning last winter, I dragged my ass to the bathroom for my morning ablutions, and as I’m peeing (a detail probably not necessary to the story), I glance in the direction of the shower and notice there’s something in the tub. And it moved. Now when I first wake up, I’m not very coherent, so I actually did that cartoon double-take where I literally shake my head and look again. When it moved again, this time trying to crawl up the side of the tub. Quickly flipping through my recollections of biology class and the Discovery Channel, I realized it was too big to be a roach, and too small to be a raccoon. Waking up a bit more now, I know that between roach and raccoon therei’s a lot of possibilites (is it a lemur?). When I finally realize t’s a mouse, I also realize I have no idea what to do with that information.

Do I make myself look really small or really big–no, that’s for bears. Do I try to kill it–get all alpha on its rodentine ass? Because then I have a dead mouse to deal with, and the ick factor goes up exponentially. Chase it around my studio for a while? Here’s what I decided, folks. I stepped back from the tub, and as I backed up, trying to look as little like…cheese as possible, I grabbed a towel and my toothbrush, and backed out of the bathroom. And then I shut the door. Understand what happened here. I made the conscious decision to CEDE an entire room to the mouse. I was apparently playing some inter-species game of Risk, and was trying to isolate the attacking mouse army, Not my proudest moment as a man.

A friend came by to toss the mouse outside, but that night I was still a little rattled. Thought about leaving a light on, but couldn’t remember if mice were maybe attracted to lights. But in the dark, I heard the skittering. Little evil mouse feet. I was sure I would wake up and see them lining the perimeter of my bed, all along the headboard like some outtake from ‘Willard.’ I grabbbed my cane and put it by my bed, apparently thinking that somehow I would be able to swat the oncoming horde and they would then worship me as their king. But my crowning touch came into play when I realized that there was no actual door separating the…mouse area from my ‘bedroom’, just a door frame. I fixed this by placing a pile of clothes from the hamper on the floor in the at the boundary between the ‘kitchen’ and the ‘bedroom’. I guess I thought, ‘Well, mice can come through the cracks in a wall, but they’ll never get past my inpenetrable barrier of fabric.

I haven’t seen any other mice since then, frankly because they understand who’s in charge here. This is my house, dammit!

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angela

My friend Angela called me again today. She’s called every day for the past six or seven months, sometimes twice a day. She rarely leaves a message. I use the word ‘friend’ loosely, since I don’t know Angela’s last name or even what she looks like. I do know where she works though. Angela is a collections agent with Capital One.

Now you all know Capital One.The company that gives credit cards to people who can’t get credit cards because their credit sucks? Their catchphrase is “What’s in your wallet?” (what’s in my wallet? NOTHING! that’s why i need your credit card!)…anyhoo, you’d think they’d know how unlikely it is that the kind of person who actually need a Capital One card would ever have enough money to pay them back, but Angela believes in me.

You would also think that a 21st century financial company would have the technological savvy to understand cell phones and caller ID. Considering the number of companies to whom I owe money, I tend to not answer calls if the number starts with 800 or 888.  See, none of my friends have toll-free numbers. But here’s Cap One, thinking ‘Maybe this time he’ll pick up. He’s probably just busy figuring out how to pay us back.’ I can picture the supervisor saying”Angela–try him again–he’s gonna be home eventually.” As if after five hundred calls, I’m gonna pick up the phone and say “Ok, how much do I owe you Got it. I’ll send it out today.” I really should answer it one of these days, just for fun.

“Hello? Oh–hey Angie. Yeah, I guess you’ve been trying to get a hold of me for a while now. Sorry, I’ve just been really swamped. No, no it’s not you. It’s me. I just feel like you’re pressuring me. ? Ang, if this is about the money, I gotta tell ya–I just don’t have it. I know, I know. I let you down. Anyway, look–I gotta run. But call me anytime. Yeah, you can call me tomorrow. I may not be able to pick up, but just leave a message”

But my dear Angela never leaves a message. She has her friends do that. I particularly like the British chick that calls to say she’s from ‘Alliance Solutions’ (a collection agency) and would “really appreciate’ a call back. She always sounds upbeat in that kicky, Euro way, sorta like Emma Peel from the Avengers. And who wouldn’t want to call her back? I mean, she’s offering solutions. And she’s from…an alliance.

Actually last week, I accidentally answered. I didn’t have my glasses on, thought the ten digit number was a friend in Seattle calling, and I answered. It was my girl Angela. She didn’t sound very happy with me. She finally gets the chance to talk to me, and she takes this tone with me. All scolding, and judgemental. The conversation taught me one lesson: I would be a crappy spy, as I tried to pretend that I was my own roommate.

“Is this Michael?” “Uh, who’s calling for him?” “This is Angela.” “Uh, this is his roommate–let me see if he’s here…–no, sorry, he’s out.” “Do you know when he’ll be back?” At this point, Angie’s already on to me, but plays along like an expert criminal profiler. “No, sorry, he’s not very good at communicating (what?)–can I give him a message?” “It’s a personal matter.” Now for some reason, i continue the charade. “Well can I tell him what it’s about?” At this point, she’s done playing games. “Why would I tell you if you’re just his roommate? And I think I’m actually talking to Michael Dane.” I had no idea what to do. Hands sweating. Head spinning. Then, my masterful comeback. “No, this is…his roommate.” Her response? “Are you sure you’re not Michael Dane?” Atthis point I’m not sure of anything. Realizing she’s seen through my clever subterfuge, I decide there’s only one thing I can do. I hang up. She hasn’t called me in over a week, and I miss her.

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