I stand up and walk over to the window because
– well, because why does anybody do anything?
At first I mistake him for the tiniest hedgehog this world has ever seen,
all spikey topped and bunchy backed,
lost from a children’s book
struggling home through rain-soaked grass.
Wanting to get a clearer look
I open the door so gently, well, at least I try
I push to no avail –
still a stranger to this borrowed cabin myself
I finally sort it out and pull the door,
step gently onto the fresh back deck
to peer over the rail
to see the tail that marks him: Mouse.)
He’s shivering, trying to wipe the rain out of his eyes,
(because it was pouring buckets here, moments ago)
he seems unaware that I exist, until I speak
“hey dude, looks like you’re having a bit of a bad day”
and then he simply shrugs over his shoulder “ya think?”
and goes back to his vain attempts at drying off at least his face,
his whiskers and eyes?
is that too much to ask?
Shivering now so strongly he’s staggering, blind
on long hind feet and slender, once-kinked tail.
I wonder if he’s eaten the rat poison my brother leaves around
or been flooded out of his home by the recent downpours?
He’s probably just wet and cold, caught out in a storm.
I go inside to fetch a box.
Because I’m daft.
Because I’ve been a stranger, caught out in a storm;
I’ve been welcomed in and dried and fed and made warm,
given a place to rest awhile,
then sent off on my way again, refreshed.
Because “even as ye do unto the least of these”
– and it’s hard to imagine much more of a least
than this bedraggled, half-drowned rodent,
his body half the size of my thumb,
dragging himself up the quarter-inch edge of my cardboard box
like a ship-wrecked sailor onto an enemy life-raft
past trust or hope or thoughts it could get worse
– seeking only to delay the inevitable.
I dry him gently with soft, white tissues,
he shows no fear so I feel none,
wondering how this strange accord came to be.
His shivering starts to subside
and he looks towards the bread, unsteady;
I bring it to his mouth
he takes the smallest crumb,
then hunkers down to shivering again.
I cover him with a blanket of folded tissue,
lacking the faith to warm him in my hand.
He shiver-sleeps awhile,
then it’s the cheese, in earnest now
he feasts on the calories of fat and protein
then runs around the box
attempting to scale the smooth brown walls
looking for cracks.
He’s still a little damp
but maybe he’s got places to be
a family that’s worried
a ritual of place and season he’s neglecting.
I carry the box outside to where I found him
I lay it on its side like an Adirondack shelter
no mouse emerges
I wait some more
and then I walk around the box and peer inside
to find the mouse huddled on the back wall
staring at me, “please, I wasn’t complaining, I didn’t mean this”
and so we go inside again;
I’m in no hurry and he certainly doesn’t eat much.
Now, he sleeps.
He sleeps so deep I think he’s dead.
Hesitant to touch his wee delicate self
(with razor teeth when startled, yes I think this too)
I tilt the box a bit
and he shifts in his sleep,
one long, slow back foot takes a step in the air
his shoulder gives that same shrug as before
the wee pink tip of his long grey tail
motions me away,
“I’m fine, or not,
you’ve done enough,
just let me sleep, OK?”