Skip to comments.Mousehole...
Posted on 11/12/2010 9:29:01 PM PST by pickrell
I was ensconced upon the commode awaiting developments, while idly looking around the bathroom. We had an old-style freestanding steel bathtub, then, its porcelain badly cracked. Two water lines, together with the heavier drainpipe, ran down from it and into cutouts in the floorboards. The hole for the hot water pipe was covered with a cheap, pot-metal dress ring about the thickness of a soap bubble, meant to hide the ragged edges of the linoleum. It failed sadly. The whereabouts of the other dress ring was never properly explained, but we always held out that it was communists what done it.
Anyway, I was listening to the conversation floating up from the floor below, where my mom and dad, an aunt, and her fiance were all playing some sort of card game involving light cursing. Mostly it revolved around left and right bowers, and anxiety about- now that Ike was retiring- whether that Kennedy boy would get in, or Nixon would hold on for the Republicans. None of that made any sort of sense, of course, and so I glanced back at the tub.
At that exact instant, a mouse- a small, grey and incredibly fast little bundle- zipped out from under the tub and ran right down the hole in the floor cut for the cold water pipe. There were probably little mouse stairs under there that we hadn't previously noticed.
I was stunned. The nerve! The cheek! This mouse hadn't offended some mindless twit born yesterday. He couldn't have known that, in fact, I was headed for school next year, and I might just note they sounded pretty interested in my resume. Yessiree, potty-trained, solid foods, (hence the trip to the commode), and an all-around, metropolitan, up and comer, I was. Rosecrans Grade School was recruiting serious talent for the next first grade class, and yours truly was in the first draft pick.
No, this mouse had had his own way for far too long. Comeuppance was at hand. I was urbane enough to realize, having seen it on television several times, that on the other side of mouseholes are found little mouse couches, little mouse tables and little mouse televisions. And That Fact, coupled with a world class intellect, produced an instant response.
Without bothering to pull up my underpants, I hopped off of the pot, grabbed the long rubber shower hose,(which had long ago lost the little water-can sprinkly-head thing, and was thus simply a hose end), from inside the tub, and shoved it past the cold water pipe, and into the mouse hole. A quick twist of the wrist on the hot water faucet, and that mouse was going to get the surprise of his life!
Yep, any minute now he and his mouse furniture were going to come floating up out of that hole. He hadn't realized the mamma didn't raise no fools.
And yet, even as my eviction notice was being injected, some small part of my head, likely near my ears, was having serious misgivings about the entire exercise.
There was no way that I could have known that one floor below, my dad had just dealt himself the ace, king, jack, and nine of diamonds, together with the jack of hearts. So when the queen of diamonds turned up trump, and had been passed by all three players, it was left up to him. He took his time. You just don't hurry some things.
His joy at making it trump, "going alone", was cut short by the first warning drips out of the light fixture in the dining room, straight down onto the queen he was reaching for. "What the hel-".
It was strange, but until that point in time, I didn't realize that you can actually hear a pair of eyeballs cranking themselves upwards, as the oath escapes, "I'm gonna sell that kid to the Arabs." A mighty sniff and a chair scooting back suddenly were overshadowed by the sound of pieces of sodden drywall, which after so long had suddenly realized that the law of gravity still applied.
Some part of me that still wanted to see dawn tomorrow, pulled out that hose, and turned off that valve faster than anything I had ever done before. And then I knew. The cold certainty. I had done Something Stupid. The only thing that bothered me, now that retribution was assured, was that he assumed it was me. Why was it that with four brothers and four sisters, that he always assumed it was me- even when I knew that on many occasions no one even saw me do it. It just didn't seem fair.
As the bathroom door flew open I quickly tugged back into place my ankle-hugging "fruit of the loons", as we had always called them. It was a very slight padding, but I suspected that every little bit would be greatly appreciated in a very few minutes, now.
On this occasion, he assumed the oddest, most tired expression, and simply asked, "Why?"
There was nothing to lose, and no way out, so I did something odd. I actually told the truth, explaining about the mouse, the little furniture, and the funny way sudden realizations capture you just about 17 seconds too late.
For quite a while, he seemed to be practicing for the next Olympic Cross To Bear team, as the cigar worked its way slowly from one side of his mouth to the other, and then back again, as if looking for a parking space. All of the time, his eyes remained focused on that cold water pipe, and his eyes nearly watering until he turned around to hide something on his face.
Removing the cigar and wiping his eyes and mouth heavily, with an almost infinite slowness, he turned back around, those fatigued eyes met mine, and he asked gently, "I suppose it's too late to hope that you belong to the milkman?"
I hadn't yet mastered either genetics or satire, and so having no clue as to what he was saying- I just knew that I was probably dead if I smiled.
"No," he finally decided. "If I had the slightest hint that you had done this in malice or in coherence- we'd be trying out my belt for awhile. No use beating a dead horse or an empty mind." He carefully held one of my ears to the light, while making a show of glancing inside the other one, "...checking for daylight", as he described it.
You have no idea how ridiculous you can feel, standing in your underwear, trying to explain the stupidest thing you ever did. Something happened then and there, after all of the previous times in my checkered past when I had been thumped out of sheer exasperation.
I realized that I had disappointed my father.
I was told, years later, that father sat through the remainder of that entire card game, dripping water having extinguished the cigar, and pieces of saturated ceiling periodically punctuating his shuffling as they thumped down around the table. When one dropped into his coke, he merely drank around it. He never said another word about it.
And long afterwards, for years and decades afterwards, the lesson of that night burned on. I would have to live with idiot decisions forever, unless I made sure I thought long and hard before jumping based on something I "learned" on television. No transitory parental punishment would conveniently reset the slate to zero. What I did, and what damage it caused, I would have to live with, in everything I did in my life. I was embarrassed that I had nearly reached 4 years of age before I finally got the message.
This morning I was watching a panel of journalists, discussing how they got fooled in the last Presidential elections, 2 years ago, and I had to smile.
"Saw it on T.V., eh?"
Worst vanity opening line ever.
The rest of the story ain’t bad.
Like your writing style - I read it in the Jean Shepard inner voice - It worked - nice story.
I don't like where this is heading.
Fun story to read! - thanks
Great story! Thanks
Great story! Thanks
Your father insinuated you were too stupid to be his child. Then, rather than moving the table out from under the damaged portion of the ceiling, he and his friends continued their game.
At least you didn’t excerpt.
I was ensconced upon the commode awaiting developments....
Actually, I liked that.
I thought it was awesome. :-)
That was a very good story! Great ending.
This book was given to my husband for Christmas in the early 70’s. It has remained one of my all time favorites.
Pretty good, as far as blogs go, not bad...
I especially admire you for not getting electrocuted pumping water down there where there are lights and wires and volts and things!!!
Hint: Your writing skills vastly outweigh your exterminator skills!!
Buy some D-Con!!!
You write a bit like IowaHawk.
A great read; thanks!
Great story and congratulations on your courage for telling it.
Wish the author had used “plaster” instead of “drywall”. It goes so much better with the cast iron bathtub era. But a good read anyway.
You know, you are right! But I am writing from a 50 year old memory (yeah, , it did happen), and at that age I only knew that it was white ceiling stuff! I was filling in from current engineering materials. Too late to correct it now! Thanks for the observance.