After one day housesitting in Emerald I had to go to work. A similar distance from here than it is from the boat, but more things to have sorted before leaving. Feed the dog, check water, let out the chooks… I asked Small DB to fill the food bowl for the Guinea pigs, while I faffed around organising my lunch, my dreams of vacating by 8am rapidly fading.

“Mama!” DB comes running in, breathless. “There was a mouse in the Guinea pig food bag and it went into the cage when I gave them the food and now it’s stuck – it can’t get out!”

Of I go, anticipating that I will merely have to open the door of the cage, stand back graciously, and the mouse will run out and away. Wrong.

The mouse has panicked. It has not thought ahead. It has thrust itself through one of the half inch squares of wire mesh, fitting its whole body through…to the hips. Like Pooh, stuck in Rabbit’s hole.

Pooh. Stuck.

I am not good in such situations*, but I try and help the mouse. The mouse and I are similar in our inability to think forward. I should have realised that the first thing a panicked mouse is going to do when you attempt to help its front end is bite. Hard.

I jump up and down, blood dripping from my index finger. The mouse has narrowed its eyes. The Smalls are horrified. I attempt to pull the mouse backward by the tail, but this is also unhelpful and I am becoming more like the mouse than ever. Panicked and thwarted.

“Get in the car!” I bellow at the Smalls. “That’s it! I can’t help it. It got in there. It will have to get itself OUT.”

It takes me 20 minutes of deep breathing to stop freaking out about the mouse. My thought are diverted by Small Z’s insistence that she wants to come to my work, not to her nana’s house. I choose the path of least resistance, drop Small DB to my mum, and bring Small Z into work, where she plays solitaire and minecraft to her hearts content – while I make my apologies for being late and show my bitten finger as evidence.

“Tetanus?” Sal queries.
“Eucalyptus oil,” I tell her.

M calls me and I tell him about the mouse. He suggests something I’d already thought of. Wire cutters.
“But I couldn’t get them around the wire to cut it without almost certainly cutting the mouse?!”
“Well a little cut on the mouse is better than trapped mouse having its toes gnawed off by Guinea pigs…”
“Guinea pigs aren’t CARNIVOROUS!” I shriek.
“Wanna bet?”
I don’t want to bet. And I’m too scared to google it.

The rest of the day is consumed by work, by Small Z having a terrible stomachache, by dinner at my mum’s and then driving back to Emerald. We pull up out the front of the house just on dusk. What follows is not my finest parenting moment.

“Right. I want us all to walk to the front door with our eyes shut.”
“But I want to see the mouse…” Small DB starts bleating.
“I don’t!” Small Z is emphatic.
“Here’s the thing. If the mouse is still there, there is NOTHING I can do about it. I can’t help it, I don’t want to look. Dadda can deal with it when he comes to look after you in the morning. So KEEP YOUR EYES SHUT. Got it?”

We link hands and stumble our way to the front door.
Small Z is the dissenter.
“I looked! I looked!! The mouse is gone! It isn’t there!”

My relief is so much bigger than the mouse. I don’t even care if it has been devoured by Guinea pigs or has Houdini-ed itself to freedom. It is gone. I go looking for wine.

* this includes the time that my cat terrified a mouse which went into shock. I put it in a lunchbox with some greenery, but it remained silent, staring, and breathing fast. I did not know what to do. I called M, who was on a train travelling to Glen Waverley.
“I don’t know what to do! This poor mouse. It’s so still, but it’s ALIVE?!”
“Dsdlfjsldfj,” muttered M into his phone.
“Hold it under water in the fishpond – it will only take a minute…”
“DROWN IT…” His voice dropped. “Everyone on the train is looking at me now. In a bad way…”

There was no way I could drown the mouse. Instead I walked with it, five blocks down to the vet – they kindly gave it a life-ending injection and didn’t charge me.