“We have a problem,” my husband Todd says as I walk in the front door. It’s an early fall afternoon and I’ve just returned from a walk in the ravines with our dog Sam.
“What now?” I ask as I enter the kitchen where he is sitting, not wanting to know.
“Rose caught a baby mouse and it’s on the patio—kind of fidgeting.” He says. “It looks shocked but it’s still alive.”
Rose is our cat.
“Well go kill it.” I tell him.
“You kill it!”
Todd heads back outside to work in the yard and I Google How to feed a baby mouse. I am introduced to Stuart on YouTube who is a big white mouse with pink eyes, and Matilda, who’s grey and smaller than the size of the quarter that has been placed beside her for effect. She’s nuzzling up to Stuart and he’s being very patient. This reminds me of Sam with Rose. My heart melts.
“Wait!” I yell. “Come here! Look at this! They’re feeding this little speck of a mouse some kitten formula with a tiny brush and she’s lapping it up.”
“I don’t want to see it.”
“Seriously, come and look. They’ve put the little thing in a shoebox and punched holes in the lid so it can breathe.”
“We don’t have a shoebox,” he grumbles.
Yes, we do. I’ll get it. You get the mouse.”
I go for the box and also grab a roll of unscented toilet paper, like the video recommended, and start tearing tissue. Todd returns with the mouse.
“Is it bleeding?” I don’t really want to know.
“Put it in the box. I’m going to the store for kitten formula.” I start to panic. Where do I get kitten formula? CVS. Hurry! I say to myself. “We have to save the mouse!” I say out loud.
I return with baby formula and a little syringe. We can’t get the mouse to take the syringe—I go back upstairs in search of an eye liner brush.
“We should name him.” I yell down.
Todd suggests Willie but that reminds me of my dad William and I don’t want to name this mouse after my dad.
“How about Tappy?” Tappy reminds me of Danceworks, where I work. We need a Danceworks mouse. I get excited thinking about having a pet mouse at work and am certain everyone will take to him like I have—except for Elyse. She’s allergic.
“Sure.” Todd says about the name.
Tappy eats from the brush out of Todd’s hand just like on YouTube. I can’t believe my heart is bursting over a mouse
We put him in the bathroom for the night with the lid of the box held open by a chopstick–so he doesn’t get claustrophobic?—and shut the door to keep Rose out.
We both dream of mice.
I wake up the next morning with a sore throat and fever. Todd informs me Tappy is gone. I think he’s teasing. How could it just disappear? There’s no way it could climb out of the box and get down from the sink. Then, it occurs to me Rose could have bounced the door open, gotten in, and eaten him. I’m heartsick and I can see Todd is not taking it well either.
Todd goes to work, leaving me alone in bed with orange juice, the mouse killer, and Sam. Rose is being incredibly affectionate, cuddling up and massaging my arm. I try to ignore the fact that she’s digesting a mouse and fall asleep.
I wake up in time to see her dash towards the big red chair next to our bedroom window. I jump up and see her take a bat at Tappy. Then, tucking her paws neatly beneath her, she sits and glares at him. I discreetly reach out and grab Rose as Tappy lies on his back with his little feet in the air.
I lock Rose in the bathroom, grab the box and return to find Tappy back right-side up. I pick him up with a piece of toilet paper, put him back in his box and take him outside, thinking he might do better with a little fresh air.
The sun is bright and I sit down beside him. He plays dead for about two minutes as I sing to him. Suddenly, he scratches his little ear, opens his eyes and stares up at me. “Tappy!” I’m overjoyed.
I call Todd to see if he thinks I should let him go and he says he probably won’t make it on his own yet so I head back inside with the mouse in the box.
That evening, Todd brings home some of his leftover Pakistani rice from lunch for Tappy. He holds the tiny creature in his hand and feeds him more formula. “He was doing much better last night,” he says.
“Maybe he doesn’t like spicy. I’m sure he’s going to be okay,” I reassure myself. Tappy scaled the wall of the box, survived a great fall, and escaped Rose, twice. He’s already on his third life. He’s a remarkable mouse.
I share the mouse video we made on my phone with the ladies at work the next day and make plans to buy him a cage and a wheel after work. I call Todd on my way home, and he says, “Tappy passed.”
I immediately burst into tears and I am shocked at the level of my emotion over a mouse. I call my co-worker, Amy the tapper, who inspired the name. There’s something so happy about Amy–about people who tap. I thought a happy name and an organizational affiliation could save the mouse. She listens to my Tappy story.
At work the next day, the ladies ask about Tappy and we’re all a little sad together—because that’s the way Danceworks is. If you’re down, which is hard to avoid in nonprofit work, our saying is, “Get in the wagon. Someone will pull.” We support each other. It’s a special place and this probably has something to do with why people of all ages and abilities take dance and get moving with us.
I thought this was a silly story about a mouse but I realized it’s about heart and a group of people that tell you to get Tappy, to get moving, to experience the joy.
Epilog–Todd helped me bury Tappy under the Bleeding Heart bush in our back yard. I wrapped the tiny body in a white Kleenex and set him inside a bloom from my Peace plant. Todd dug a hole and I placed Tappy in it. When I started to sing “Kumbaya My Lord” we cracked up.
Rest in Peace little Tappy.