Midnight musings with mouse

April 20, 2018

: This tiny, endangered Pilliga mouse lives in the NSW Pilliga scrub region. His giant, common relative Heathcliff lives in my wall.

Out here in lawnmower land the nights are closing in, the frogs are retreating, and there are things that go bump in the night.

Or whumpy-thump.

Or whumpety-bump-scratchety-thump.

Sometimes I think I am living in a Wuthering Heights nightmare where Heathcliff is trapped in my ceiling trying to reach Cathy who has been walled up between my bedroom and the laundry.

Other people have told me of mice running riot through their semi-suburban homes this year.

Trails of sawdust and tiny poo droppings are the signs.

The little blighters turn up everywhere — from sink cupboards to bedroom drawers and gardening boots.

But at my place for the past 170 years, little Mr Heathcliff has been stealing high-protein dog food from Prince Finsky and stuffing his face in a quiet corner to wreak havoc in the darkest hours.

He is now so much more than a mouse.

He is the bloated ghost of a long-dead Commonwealth Bank customer trying to chew his way to freedom through a choking web of fees.

It is peculiar and eternally fascinating how the mind exaggerates everything in the darkest hours.

An unreturned library book becomes the final loose thread that unravels the jacket of chaos that your daily life has become.

That planned trip to your overseas family becomes a terrifying itinerary packed with flight times, rail connections and car hire options — before anything is written down or actually booked.

Those superannuation fees must be checked and a letter written.

Occasionally, when the torrent of words becomes too much I get up and sit in the lounge room to write it all down.

When they hit the paper they evaporate like soap bubbles and I can feel my shoulders and eyelids loosen with the loss of so much flotsam.

Occasionally I look at what I have written in the morning and think to myself what a poor lost soul I am to be chained by such feathery worries.

Sometimes I see a nugget of gold in those wee-hour ramblings and keep it as a brick for a poem or a song or a painting.

But not often.

Sometimes Prince Finski hears me lumber down the hallway in the dark to the loungeroom, switch on the corner light and sink into the sofa to begin unloading my thoughts.

Then I hear his slow pad down the hallway to join me.

He collapses on the rug at my feet with a sigh, and there is always an unspoken line of gratefulness between us.

Lately we have been joined by Heathcliff and his noisy rummage through the walls.

Occasionally, Heathcliff’s frantic scrambling is frenzied and loud enough to make Prince Finski prick up his ears.

Then we both sit in the early hours listening to the invisible life of a mouse filled with worry and sawdust.

At that moment all three of us are connected in some ancient, genetic way.

The wait, the search, the scratch.

Then the sun rises and it is back to superannuation and trails of poo and sawdust.

John Lewis is chief of staff at The News.

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