This is a true story with no embellishments – it didn’t need any! As Joe Friday would say: ‘names have been changed to protect the innocent.’ Only I didn’t change the names, it didn’t seem to make any sense as you’d surely guess it was me. I was 10 or 11 when the story took place.
Drawn by a circle of kids peering into a large cardboard box, I squeezed in to see what the excitement was about. A sleek grey mouse was running around the bottom of the box in a desperate attempt to escape. My pet collecting gene was instantly awakened. I had to have it.
"What are you gonna do with it?" I asked, glancing around the circle to ascertain the captor's identity.
"Keep it I guess, or maybe just let it go. Why? Do you want it?" her friend Dianna's older brother replied.
I quickly wracked my brains. I wanted the sweet grey creature so badly, but how would I convince my mom to let me keep it? Mother's Day… it was coming up in a few days… maybe I could give it to my mother! How could she refuse? With a certainty I didn't really feel, I negotiated with the boy for the frightened animal.
With the box awkwardly held out in front of me, I made my way home, and with a quick glance at the kitchen window to make sure the coast was clear I hurried into the garage. Setting the box on the floor, I sat on the bench to take stock. The little mouse couldn't live in a box, it was bound to chew its way out. Plus I needed something fancy to present it to my mom. My eyes fell on an old birdcage that had been my great grandparents. With chipped paint and bent bars it didn't look like the palace I was hoping for but it would have to do.
Back in the house I tip-toed down the stairs to the workshop. I felt certain that there was some spray-paint on one of the shelves. Gold! I thought a gold cage would be pretty. Over the next few days I sprayed the cage until the dull gold paint turned it into (in my eyes), a fairy-tale castle. I couldn't wait for Mother's Day to arrive.
On the auspicious day, as soon as I thought it was late enough to get up, I crept out to the garage to retrieve the precious gift. With gloved hands I transferred the skittish mouse into the renovated cage and tiptoed up the back stairs to the kitchen. My sister Kirsten was waiting, as excited as I was about the new addition to our family. I had barely set the cage on the floor when the mouse, who we had now named 'Snoopy', escaped. Keeping as quiet as we could, we cornered our new pet and stuffed it back into the leaky cage, plugging the holes with crumpled paper.
Leaving Kirsten in charge of Snoopy, I practically sprinted down the hall to my parents bedroom and asked Mom which she wanted first: her present or breakfast in bed. With some trepidation she asked for her present, perhaps being somewhat alarmed by the commotion she heard a few minutes earlier.
Kirsten and I proudly carried the golden palace into the bedroom and set it on the bed.
"Oh my!" my mother exclaimed (because really, what else could she say!). "He is lovely. Why don't you keep him in your room for me?". The scruffy mouse with its beady little eyes and creepy hairless tail sat looking at us. It didn't have a sleek coat, and didn't smell very good either but my mom received her gift with the grace befitting a queen.
The smelly grey field mouse attracted the attention of Puff, the intrepid hunting cat, and with the spectre of escape, the next day mom got Snoopy a more secure home.
Snoopy's story does have a sad ending though, as do all stories with small animals. Mom was out gardening one day and thought that Snoopy could use some fresh air, and so could my smelly bedroom. She set him down and didn't realize that the shade had retreated, leaving him in the sun. In her naivety, she thought that he was running around enjoying the sunshine, but he was really trying to escape the deadly rays. He didn't survive his excursion.
By the end of this story you will most likely agree with me that my mother was a saint. Sadly this wasn’t the last incident that she had to put up with…