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Animal Tales

Mr. Moon Meets His Match

Just who has nine lives here?

Story and Illustration by Marianne Gingher

I’m reading peacefully in bed one night when my cat, Mr. Moon, struts into the room, a small, limp mouse dangling from his jaws. Oh dear. Of course, I praise him — after all, it’s what cats are supposed to do to earn their keep, right? They’ve been dispatching vermin from human habitats since before the ancient Egyptians, and the Egyptians deified them for their efforts. My cat drops his little trophy on the rug and preens.

I slide out of bed, fetch tissue to shroud the victim before removing it. Mr. Moon’s nudging the poor thing, hoping it will resume their play date. I do feel sorry for the mouse in some tender Snow White way, until suddenly it leaps from the dead and is on the run again. Eeek! I jump back in bed and watch the rodeo of cat-and-mouse for a good 10 minutes before the cat loses it again beneath the bathroom radiator. He’s clasped it in his paws several times, tossed it, carried it in his jaws, set it down and waited for it to sprint again and again. Has he talked the mouse into being his pet?  The mouse appears to have figured out that pretending to be dead for a few minutes will leave his adversary puzzled and less inclined to play rough.

But this is not Mickey’s Playhouse. There’s a life-or-death drama going on in my bedroom. Now I hear them scuffling near the bathroom — Rocky Balboa vs. Jiminy Cricket — then all is quiet. I can see the cat sitting on the rug, his tail twitching, waiting for the critter to catch its breath and declare game on! But the mouse has other plans and eventually Mr. Moon abandons his vigil, curling himself at the foot of my bed. Believe it or not, I turn out my light. Everybody’s exhausted, and I trust that my cat’s got my back should the little pipsqueak revive.   

In the morning, Mr. Moon doesn’t revisit the crime scene. He believes his mouse toy is broken. I check behind the radiator and see it lying there, lusterless, still as a stone. I follow Mr. Moon to the kitchen, feed him, eat my breakfast, read the news and sip a second cup of coffee before I remember my grave chore. Back in the bathroom, paper towel in hand, I stoop over the radiator. But Houdini the Mouse has vanished!

I’m always cheered by the prospect of tiny besting big: mouse besting cat, David besting Goliath, Ukraine besting Russia, little Greta Thunberg calling out world leaders on laxity regarding climate change. Small is beautiful, some of us folks used to say in the ’70s.

These days of big seeming to gobble up small every place we look, I think rooting for the underdog — or mouse, in this case — is irresistible. Its valor and escape artistry are inspiring, its ferocious will to live. I could write a poem! But wait, I’ve still got a mouse in my house.

“Oh, Mr. Moon,” I call. “Let’s catch that mouse, pal!”

He’s grooming himself in a living room chair, getting ready for his morning nap. “Let’s?” he says. “Did you say ‘Let’s?’ Don’t make me laugh.” 

Off I go on my lone safari to find that clever mouse and diminish (humanely) its small but potent influence as it wanders at-large through my house. “Courage!” says Mr. Moon, grinning his crescent grin like the Cheshire cat he’s not.  OH

Marianne Gingher has published seven books, both fiction and nonfiction. She recently retired from teaching creative writing at UNC-Chapel Hill for 100 years.