Quiet as a Mouse
I’m not sure why I did it. Sure, the window was ajar and all the lights were out. And I had been drinking. But that’s not a reason.
Anyway, I walked over to the house very stealthily, looked around – left, right, left again, right again – methodically scanning the alleyways and murky corners. It was all clear. I lifted the window and climbed in. I didn’t feel scared because I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Inside, it was dark and quiet. All I could hear was the mechanical shuddering of the refrigerator as it rattled out the heartbeat of the house. I felt thirsty from drinking, so I picked up a mug that was sitting in the sink and poured myself some water. I held the mug up to the moonlight. It had a picture on it of a mouse wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket. Under the picture, it said: “Take it cheesy, baby.” The mouse was shrugging and grinning at the same time. I drank the water, but I was still thirsty.
I shouldn’t have turned on the tap again. Above me, I heard strange, insensate mutterings and then footsteps began to creak the ribs and joists. I’m a meticulous person, so I replaced the mug in the sink. Then I looked for somewhere to hide. In the next room, there was an understair cupboard. I opened the door and clambered inside. It was stuffed with cushions and duvets, and I squirmed and absorbed myself, then pulled the door shut behind me.
Soon after, I felt pressure and vibrations coming from the steps above me. But, enclosed by the cushions and duvets, I felt safe, invisible, untouchable. The footsteps passed over me and grew faint as they moved into the kitchen and then there was the muffled sound of the window shutting. I heard the lock clunk. Then the footsteps returned and echoed over me again before melting away.
I sank further into the fabric and curled up. I rested against the wall and the metal pipes warmed my head. I imagined their spluttering arteries stretching through the skeletal cavities of the house. It was comforting. I thought about the mouse in the leather jacket.
“Take it cheesy, baby,” I whispered. Then, I must have fallen asleep.
I dreamt that I was being chased by a giant filing cabinet. I was dressed in a leather jacket and shades. No surprises there; my dreams are always pretty easy to decipher: I had a big presentation to do the next day. But it was odd that I might be worried about it, because I thrive on pressure. The most important thing is to be adequately prepared. I think it’s very important to work hard and to make a good account of yourself.
When I next opened my eyes, I knew it was morning because I could see a vein of daylight beneath the door. There was movement in the room. I heard the front door close.
I climbed out of the cupboard and went to get another drink of water. When I looked at the mug again in the daylight, I noticed that there was a second mouse on the other side of the mug. He was wearing bermuda shorts and was carrying a surfboard. Underneath, it said: “The Squeak-end Starts Here!” Once I had drunk the water, I opened the fridge and looked for some food. I didn’t want anyone to know I was there, so I took a tiny nibble out of everything, so nothing would be noticed. As I say, I’m a logical person.
I went to the bathroom and then went back to the kitchen and stretched my legs for a while. Then I got back into the cupboard. I think I was hoping that I would get caught and go to prison. Either that or I would stay there for ever. Quiet as a mouse. Anyway, it wasn’t long before I fell asleep again.
I dreamt that I was surfing at the peak of a colossal wave. I’ve never surfed before and I was terrified of falling. To keep my balance, I looked down at my feet and noticed that I was standing on a giant computer keyboard. The wave began to curl above me until there was ocean on all sides. The churning of the water was deafening. Finally, I became completely engulfed. Under the water, everything was quiet and featureless. The giant keyboard sank slowly into the deep. I watched it until it was out of sight. Then, there was nothing. This is it, I thought. I remember feeling very happy. I smiled to myself and said, “The squeak-end starts here”. And then I woke up.
There was a clunking sound coming from another part of the house – the front door was being unlocked. I heard the door shut and then the sound of approaching footsteps. Keys clinked onto a hard surface and then, in an instant, there was muffled chattering; the television had been switched on. After a while, I heard the scrape and clatter of cutlery on a plate. I remembered all the things I had nibbled and wondered which of them was on the menu tonight.
I tried attuning myself to the sound of the television over all other noises. If I concentrated, I could hear pretty well. I stayed nestled in the cupboard all evening and listened.
In the middle of the night, I climbed out of the cupboard again. I walked out the front door, being sure to close it securely behind me, and went home. I suppose I should admit one thing: I took the mug with me.
The next day at work, my supervisor called me into her office.
“What happened, Michael?”
“I was ill.”
“We needed you for the presentation.”
“I know, but I was ill.”
“Why didn’t you call?”
“I was ill. I couldn’t get to the phone.” She stared at me searchingly. “I am due some leave,” I said.
“I know, Michael, but we needed you.”
“I was ill.”
She looked at me for a few seconds and then looked down at my file. Statistically, I have a very low record of absenteeism. I’m a model employee.
“OK. We’ll let this go today. You’re a good little worker, OK. But because you didn’t phone in, we’ll have to take this one out of your leave. OK?”
They made a note of it, I’m sure. But no-one ever mentioned it again. I worked extra hard for a few weeks after that and started coming in at the weekends now and again. It’s important to make a good account of yourself. I think I got away with it.