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It’s always a little dicey to tell stories about folks who’ve passed way. Usually I try to make sure I don’t write anything (much) that I wouldn’t have said while they were alive.
This story is an exception.
If I had written this while my grandmother, Ella Mae McClellan, was around, I would still be in her house tracking down a little four-footed friend who quite literally dropped in one morning while I was there for a visit.
For some background, I should point out that Mother Mac got irrationally upset about any type of vermin inside her house. If she saw a bug, she took it as a sign that something needed to be cleaned more thoroughly. If she saw a roach in a cabinet, for example, life as we knew it would stop while she pulled everything out, found the intruder and scrubbed all the surfaces he might have touched. And if you happened to be there, you were automatically drafted to help.
Not surprisingly, I learned as a young child to keep my mouth shut when I saw a bug there. I hoped she would mellow out a little as the years wore on, but if anything she got even more vigilant.
One day when I was home from college, I stopped by for a cup of coffee. We sat, as we had all my life, on bar stools around the counter in the center of her kitchen. As we talked, I caught a glimpse of movement on top of the cabinet.
I thought it might be a roach and quietly hoped he would disappear back into the wall. But when I glanced up a second time — very subtly so Mother Mac wouldn’t notice — I saw a tiny mouse looking back at me.
Now, we had a real problem.
Mother Mac would spend an hour cleaning for a mere bug. I was scared this mouse might cost me a semester of school if she saw him.
While I was trying to send the mouse a telepathic message to scram, Mother Mac was finishing her coffee. When she turned to refill her cup, the mouse leaped from his perch on top of the cabinet right down onto the center of the kitchen counter.
My heart was in my throat.
Mother Mac was on my left, with her back to the counter, turning toward me with a full cup of coffee. On the counter in front of me, right beside the salt and pepper shakers, was a two-inch mouse who was suddenly frozen with fear.
I think I prayed, and I’m sure there was divine intervention because at that moment Mother Mac spilled a little bit of her coffee and turned back toward the sink. The mouse got his bearings and jumped off the other side, onto the floor and out the door.
She never saw him.
With that tension relieved, I started laughing uncontrollably.
“What’s the matter with you?” she asked as I tried to catch my breath.
I didn’t want to lie, but I wasn’t about to tell her about the mouse.
“I just thought of something funny,” I said.
That was absolutely true. I was trying to decide whether it was me or the mouse who came out better.
He left with his life and I didn’t spend half of mine trying to find him.