One of the requirements set forth in the contract to sell our house in Vermont is that the place be free of all signs of rodent activity at the time of closing. This is an existential minefield.
-What exactly is “the time of closing”? When the last person has signed the documents? When everybody shakes hands and leaves the room? When the first person signs the documents? Because in the time it takes for one person to sign the documents, there may very well be more “signs” of rodent activity.
The rodents we’re talking about are field mice. The house is in a field. the way I look at it, and them too, is that 200 years ago somebody built a house on their field and therefore it’s their house. Can hardly blame them if there are yummy apples inside after all the outside apples are rotten.
But the folks who are left, our caretakers, have been scheming to outsmart the rodents. In stalking them, setting traps in odd places, finding their teeny doorways and teenier tracks, they noticed a mouse with one eye. His face looks slightly smashed and they think he may have been caught in a trap and then escaped, minus one eye. He stares at them with his one eye. He is not afraid, an entitled mouse, an experienced mouse, wizened and careful and willing to get it on with a befuddled human or two. He’s small and fast and with his one eye he understands traps.
I think the mouse may be God. Or the one-eyed furry ghost of Claudio Arrau, who used to own the house and who used to play the grandest of grand Steinways in the room where the one-eyed mouse now holds power. His one eye might actually be a third eye, the other two having been removed by the cruel trap.
The third eye sees a new family, young and busy and looking forward to their few minutes in the big house on Arrau Road. But tomorrow the kids will be grown, have summer jobs, be too engaged elsewhere to get up there from the city. The new people bought a couch so big it had to be brought in through a window – frame and glass removed entirely – because it was too big to get through the door. I wonder what color it is. It’s from Restoration Hardware. How long will it take the one-eyed mouse to find a few nuts, or seeds, on the floor or in the pantry or on the counters, and gather them all under the new Restoration Hardware cushions, safe and sound for the next time there’s a famine? How long will it take the one-eyed mouse to adjust to the new people, undoubtedly more careful, cleaner, neater than the last people (us).
The one-eyed mouse isn’t interested in the existential questions; he’s interested in saving for the famine, which will inevitably come. And the day will also come when the big new sofa is old and sagging, and offered to the highest bidder. The kids will be grown, the parents will be old, too old to make the trip with the dog and the coffee beans and the big winter coats.
Four things: Lucy’s baby snow boots, sent back to us from the house in Vermont. They’re on the mantle in our bedroom because I don’t know what else to do with them. Memories: Byron’s steady boy-steps on the half-frozen pond, finally breaking through in order to rescue little Tommy the Shiba Inu, who was so greedy for a drink of cold water that he broke through the ice first. Toddling Isabel, walking on top of the stone wall that surrounds our – well, not ours any more – lavender garden, tip-toeing her way through the cousins’ tradition: the big ones hold the hands of the little ones while they learn to jump over the spaces and negotiate the uneven stones. And footprints on the rug, whipped cream and pumpkin, once a pie, that little Clara with her maryjanes had run right through and kept on going.
She’s still going. And I’m still working, fighting really, to put one step after the other, to keep on walking towards something, not the house in Vermont or the baby grandchildren or my youth or my husband’s youth, but somewhere that’s not right here. Maybe I need the one-eyed mouse to help me.