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Family Matters: Best-laid plans of mice and women

I went nose to nose with a mouse last week, and I’d rather not say who won.

I was taking a meal to a friend recovering from knee surgery when my cellphone rang.

“There’s a dilemma,” she said, “and it involves you. My cat found a mouse, and I don’t know how you feel about cats with mice, although I have the impression you are afraid of bugs.”

“Your impression is wrong,” I said. “Bugs are afraid of me.”

I used to be afraid of bugs, but I flipped that equation after I was bitten by a brown recluse. My new philosophy is simple: Get them before they get you.

“I’m not afraid of bugs and I will get the mouse,” I said, “but there may be screaming.”

The mouse was under the fridge when I arrived. The cat was standing guard, slowly swishing its tail. I tried to shove a broom handle beneath the fridge to force surrender, but there were too many coils. My friend pulled up a chair at the table, and I pulled a chair beside the fridge, armed with a plastic box as my trap.

It was a good plan, but as is usually the case, it didn’t go according to plan.

As we were chatting, the mouse poked his head out. I knelt down on the floor in front of the fridge and angled the box to create a no-escape trap. The mouse ventured out farther, and I slammed the box down, closed my eyes and internalized a scream. (An internalized scream sounds like a car that won’t turn over in 20-below weather.) Unfortunately, the only thing inside the box was the mouse’s tail, still attached to the mouse, which was now spinning its little legs in an attempt to escape. (More internal screaming.) The cat just sat.

Meanwhile, I had the impression that my friend was going soft on the mouse. “Don’t you dare name it,” I said. “Once you name it, this is over.”

The mouse crawled up on the broom handle that I had used earlier, and we were now eyeball to eyeball. If I had wanted to – and I didn’t – I could have grabbed it with my teeth.

I yelled that I needed something else to get the mouse. My friend hustled over, as fast as her post-surgery self could, and a spatula descended over my shoulder.

“A spatula? This is a mouse – not a mousse!” She handed me another container. I lowered the second box over the mouse’s body, still on the broom handle, with his tail still in the first box. Despite my two-box move, the mouse escaped and shot back under the fridge.

I told my friend to leave the kitchen light on, and maybe the mouse would stay under the fridge and not wander into her bedroom at night.

Shortly after I left, she found the mouse. It was in her bedroom basking in a patch of sunlight. The cat was sitting next to the mouse, soaking up the rays, as well. She said they were a cute couple. Learning from my mistakes, she got a box – and a lid – and said that the mouse all but jumped in the box and helped her seal the lid. She tossed him into a field.

His name is Mortifer.

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Email her at