Christie Shary

Short Stories - Mr. Mueller and Company

Mr. Mueller and Company

It wasn't a good weekend to have guests. The air was hot, muggy as a rainy day in New Delhi. The breeze moved slowly as molasses and the flowers in our courtyard bowed with exhaustion. We had been drinking ice tea all morning as if we had just returned from a survival trip in the Southern Utah desert. We certainly weren't in the mood to have anyone around.

But our unannounced guests were not of that same persuasion. I first realized they were with us as I was redoing my make-up for the third time that day as it had melted away from the heat's intensity the previous two times. As I stood before the bathroom mirror, I thought I saw a streak flash by in the wardrobe mirror behind me. A tiny, brown streak, that is.

Immediately I thought, 'mouse,' and screamed. My husband, Tom, came roaring up the stairs, thinking I was having a heart attack or something. Actually, I was. The thought of a mouse racing up my sticky thigh was not at all appealing.

Tom raced down the stairs to the garage for a mousetrap; I to the fridge for some cheese. Provolone or mozzarella? I thought, slicing a tiny bit from each wedge.

By this time Tom was armed with a large green plastic cup. "I'll get him! I'll get that sucker!" he screeched.

But our mouse guest, whom we decided to call 'Mr. Mueller," had other ideas. He raced from the corner behind the armoire towards the nightstand. Tom tore after him, cup in hand and corned him again. I followed still holding my cheese, which had by this time begun to melt in my hand.

Mr. Mueller was stranded in a corner, thank God. He was tiny, no more than an inch long, and when he turned those Mickey Mouse ears toward me and looked up with those little beady eyes, I felt so sorry for him. How terrified he must be looking up at these two giants posed for combat.

"Take it easy," I told Tom, who was by now yelling for me to find a piece of cardboard to tuck beneath the cup when he made his capture. He acted as if he was about to tie up a big business contract, rather than capture a poor little mouse.

But once again, Mr. Mueller had other ideas. He charged from the corner and into our walk-in closet.

"Oh, no, he's going to crawl into my shoes!" I screamed. "Or into your pant's pockets! We'll never find him."

But Mr. Mueller did not prove to be a 'clothes horse.' He didn't seem to care for our claustrophobic closet either. Instead he raced from a pair of dirty socks on the floor, out the closet door, under the bedroom door, and to the landing at the top of the stairs.

"Perfect spot," Tom gleamed. "I can corner him on the edge of the top step. Hurry up with the cardboard!"

Poor Mr. Mueller looked up at Tom, his tail twitching. He cowered against the wall at the stair's edge and started to make a squeaking noise, like he was pleading for his life.

Of course Tom took advantage of his positioning and zapped the cup on top of him. I could hear the scrambling inside as Mr. Mueller tried to escape. But Tom grabbed the cardboard from me and slipped it under the cup.

"Got him!" Tom smiled, as he shook the cup up and down like he was making a martini. "Should I flush him?"

I turned white. For the thought of little Mr. Mueller twirling around in our toilet bowl brought tears to my eyes. "No, don't do that. How can you murder someone you just named? Put him outside beyond the fence. He won't come back."

Tom looked at me like I was nuts, yet knew it was the best solution, as he would otherwise have to go to war with me, being the animal rights activist that I was.

The remainder of the day passed rather uneventfully. We did, however, set a mousetrap and baited it with cheese, just to be on the safe side. But something was wrong. Each time we checked the trap for a victim, we found no captive—but the cheese was always gone.

"Gotta be another mouse in here someplace," Tom said, replacing the cheese for the third time. "And he must be too tiny to spring the trap. We'll have to try poison."

"Oh no . . . not in this house," I said, now barely daring to walk across the room for fear I'd step on a mouse. "When they find there's no food, they'll leave and go outside." Hurriedly, I picked up the dog dish in the kitchen and placed it on the counter top.

"Don't count on it," Tom sighed. "I have a feeling we've got more than one weekend houseguest."

Seeing no further 'mouse signs' for the remainder of the day, and due to the fact that the most recent cheese bait had remained on the mousetrap, we concluded that Mr. Mueller's wife had checked out of our B&B. We figured she must have joined her husband outside near our barbecue, where we had previously seen some of their relatives.

So by the time we readied for bed that night, we had completely forgotten about our mouse incident. But apparently they hadn't forgotten about getting their revenge on us, however.

Due to the sticky tropical night, we left our bedroom windows open, even though the screens had been removed for repair. We also threw our comforter on the floor at the foot of the bed and slept with only a sheet.

At about three a.m. in the morning, Tom felt a little trickle crawl up his back and onto his neck. Thinking it a moth or fly, he brushed it off. It proceeded to my side of the bed, up my bare arm and crept onto my face.

I sprang up from my dream of lying on a white sandy beach sipping a pina colada when I felt something flutter across my face. Reaching up to brush off what I thought was a mosquito, I felt fur. Suddenly, I realized it was Mr. Mueller's little wife. I screamed, grabbed her, and tossed her clear across the room. Then I jumped up and stood on the bed.

"What the heck's going on?" Tom asked, sitting up, although still half-asleep. "You having a nightmare or something?"

"That mouse! That mouse! It just crawled across my face!" I sat back down and reached over and turned on the bedside lamp, then dashed in the direction I had thrown what I was certain was a mouse.

Cowering behind our box fan, I found her. She was terrified. I could almost see her heart pounding in her tiny chest.

Tom proceeded to re-arm himself with his 'mousing' cup. We chased her around the entire upstairs in our underwear. But finally we cornered her in my office, trying to hide behind a wicker waste basket.

Our next prisoner of war was captured. Of course, we called her Mrs. Mueller.

"This time I'm going to flush it!" Tom insisted. "Mrs. Mueller's history."

"No, please, don't. Put her outside with her husband."

Reluctantly, Tom tiptoed outside in his jockey shorts and deposited Mrs. Mueller in the middle of the street, hoping he wouldn't meet up with some neighbor leaving early for the office.

I barely slept the remainder of the night. "What if I had been snoring or sleeping with my mouth open?" I asked Tom.

He answered me in a groggy voice, half asleep. "That's okay, mice have long tails. You could have jerked it out."

Then a worse thought occurred to me. What if the Muellers have children? I had visions of hundreds of little mice running all over our room. They raced up the green curtains, played tag across the chest-of-drawers, and hide-n-seek in our many Mexican baskets. They even teethed on my ears.

Hence, I decided that I had to remain on watch. So I plucked my emergency flashlight from the drawer and pointed it from spot to spot around the room for several hours. Of course it was low on batteries, as is usually the case when they are needed, so I could barely detect furniture shadows, let alone tiny mice.

At about seven a.m. the next morning after Tom left for work, I opened the door for our dog, Lucky, then went back to bed and turned on our bedroom television. Exhausted, I drifted in and out of sleep, lulled by the dullness of the stock report. That is, until I saw a dark streak beneath the T.V. stand.

"They do have kids!" I moaned, jumping up from the bed and grabbing Tom's plastic capture cup.

Then I saw another streak in the corner of our retreat. I raced in that direction and cornered a tiny mouse beneath my purple wrist weights. "Got you!" I said, but the mouse slipped away fast as a speeding arrow. I chased after her. Finally, after several unsuccessful attempts, I caught daughter number one, whom I called 'Matilda.' But where is her brother? I was sure she was not an only child; that I had seen more than one Mueller youth.

I proceeded to get the vacuum out, deciding it was a better weapon. Another streak raced across the room and under the bed. Cup in hand, I left my trusty vacuum unattended.

No luck. Oh, well, I'll vacuum the carpet while I'm at it, I decided. And as soon as I turned it on, Matilda's brother raced from beneath the vacuum where he had been hiding and right up my bare leg. For a moment I saw stars-no maybe it was hundreds of tiny mice-as I dropped to the floor in a heap. My head spun and I felt dizzy. But instead of fainting, I began to sob. I couldn't stop. And the little fellow looked at me for a few moments, tore under the door and down the stairs to freedom.

Our dog, Lucky, stood at the bottom of the steps, probably wondering what all the current commotion was about, and why he had gotten so little sleep the night before because of his master's screaming. Little Hermit, as I had already named him, saw Lucky first and dashed out the open front door like a speeding race car. Lucky picked up his scent and tore after the mouse. But Hermit won the race. The last I saw of him was his tail. And it was trailing beneath our front gate.

Nonetheless, I decided that I would sit in a chair by the front door all day long, plastic cup in hand, making sure that we would have no more uninvited house guests. Am I becoming paranoid or what? I should go to my computer and work for a while.

My logic won out, so I finally went upstairs to my office. Here I felt secure. Besides, I hadn't seen any more young Muellers for several hours. Great-I must have captured all of them. Still I wondered how many kids mice families generally had.

I didn't have to wait long for an answer as little Mueller number three soon inched from beneath my printer stand and across my bare feet. "Why don't those damn Mullers practice birth control!" I screamed, running for my cup.