The Mr. Mouse story continues...here is the first part, if you missed it.
Anita was breathless from screaming. She caught her breath and looked furtively behind her toward the house. Had anyone seen her? Heard her? She was humiliated at such a reaction. First, because Martha would be disappointed in her--"Really, Anita. Such drah-ma." And also because, as unrealistic as it was, Anita felt responsible for keeping all of the house tidy and orderly, including these bins. It was a poor reflection on her as a housekeeper to have a mouse infestation. She vowed to herself to get rid of the problem before Martha found out about it. So Anita indulged her stubborn side by standing perfectly still on the path in front of the bin, her baking tray poised and ready to clobber any rodent making a run for it.
If her heart hadn't been pounding so hard in her ears, Anita might have heard the rushed breathing of Mr. Mouse as he struggled to gain composure. Calm, he thought. Calm. Smell the food, breathe the air. If he could only lie down in his bed again, he promised, he would never, ever invade the humans' garbage again. Through the slats, he could just see the tips of Anita's sensible shoes on the path. His little heart beat mightily in his chest and he wondered if he would have the chance to keep that promise.
Anita stood still for 15 minutes while her adrenaline rush subsided. Deciding she didn't want another face-to-face confrontation with the furry creature--had it been a rat, God forbid?--she headed toward the house, tray swinging, her head down with determination.
As Anita retreated, Mr. Mouse felt relief and then profound exhaustion. It was nearing sunset, as far as he could tell, and his wobbly legs reminded him that he simply couldn't cross the yard again. The garbage bin was to be his bed tonight, like it or not.
He rustled around in the heap and pulled a few cupcake wrappers free. Laying them underneath him as a relatively neat little mat, he gave into his wobbly legs and curled into a ball. As he drifted to sleep, his thoughts ranged from images of Anita's square-toed shoes, to image of his baby sister swaddled in flannel, to oozing pools of pink frosting, to strange, squarish forms that floated in the sky and blotted out the sun. He woke several hours later to the hollow sound of his old companion (but not friend), the short-eared owl, and he realized that he was hungry. And for once, food was plentiful.
Though the cupcakes had lost some of their appeal for having slid into the mess of other garbage, they were soft and fragrant and sticky. His paws were still covered in icing, in fact, and there were bits of cake stuck to his left haunch. A bath, he decided, would be a good start to his meal. When he was done, he was clean, and now hungrier than ever. Martha's cupcakes were legendary for a reason, and once he started, he couldn't stop himself. His promise to leave human garbage alone notwithstanding, he dug into the remains of coffee cake, and cupcakes by the dozen, until his belly was so full he was certain he wouldn't fit through the slats to leave in the morning. Exhausted and almost sick with sugar, he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep for the rest of the night.
Anita, for her part, had been busy for hours in the night as well. She had spent hours touring the grounds with dozens of mousetraps. By the time she went to bed, she had armed almost every place conceivable: the pantry, the basement, the attic, the garage, the stables, the greenhouse, the wine cellar, the root cellar, and the chicken coop. All except the garbage bins. She was embarrassed about it, but she was afraid to go out there in the dark, worried that that creature might run out from between the slats, perhaps across her foot this time. It gave her the shivers just thinking about it. That trap could wait for daylight. She fell into a fitful sleep, full of strange dreams of a parade of cupcake floats and squealing rodents.
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