The instructions are simple: point at attacker at three feet distance and spray. Effects last 45 minutes.
I pull the couch out a foot and make sure that Pinky is outside the door, which I leave slightly ajar. To her mind, ajar is not wide enough to slip through and she will wait until someone comes to open the door properly.
On my hands are oven mitts, which will be demoted to mouse mitts should they ever come in contact with a mouse.
One, two, three! I spray behind the couch. It isn’t a spray that emerges but a full stream of liquid. There. If the mouse runs out I am ready to grab it. Of course, I count on its being blinded. Pinky is my backup. I look behind to check that she is out of harm’s way.
What I see is Pinky’s little black paw swiping through the gap in the door and I stare a moment too long. The next thing I know my eyes and nose are streaming and I am coughing. I run for the door, and Pinky comes in as I rush out. In a second she, too, has joined me in the hall coughing and sneezing. The mouse? Neither of us saw it, if it was there
I purchase pepper spray over the Internet. In the order box I select the visor clip-on model. I don’t care if I save 50 cents if it comes by ground. Just send it.
That mouse living behind our stove is going to receive the shock of its life. Since it has been so clever about avoiding the glue traps and the traditional ones baited with peanut butter, I will wage all-out war.
The mouse that Pinky chased up the hall has been lodged, first under the refrigerator, and then behind the stove.
Each night I have been moving the cat chow and water dish to another room. This has been self-delusion. The mouse will roam anywhere it wants. And it does, for Pinky lets me know the mouse is now behind Renato’s couch. That is when I order the pepper spray.
Loaner is all I have now. She sleeps most of the day and I think not at all at night. She can’t get up on the bed with me, and it is a ritual that I pick her up each night and deposit her there. I know she misses our lemon tree, under which she drowsed away the days.
I miss having a kitten. The sheer exuberance and joy of kitten hood is a big lack in my life. Mojo would be out most of the day, checking in now and then with me by uttering a meow as he came through the pet door. And he and Bijou were the best fly ball catchers anybody ever saw. I would pitch and they would leap up and snag it smoothly as you please. Any one of their toys sufficed.
Ah, sweet babies. I long to cuddle you so.
Loaner has grown very fat. She eats all she can, and asks for more. Perhaps she is pregnant. All I need do is glance out my kitchen window and I will see her sitting on the railing looking at me. Unwilling to grapple with the pet door, she waits to be noticed and let in. I wave, and we arrive at the same moment at the patio door. Her weight worries me. It might be that her owner has put her on a diet and so she turns to me or eats elsewhere. Perhaps I should keep my head down and pretend not to see her. As I think it I know it is impossible to ignore her.
One day I take it in my head to make a beef stew. All the good stews I used to prepare took hours of simmering that now seem absurd in my solitary existence, but this day I mean to have myself one of those.
Pinky watches the process of chopping, peeling, scraping, but when it comes to cutting the beef I have to flee around the counters ahead of her as I do when chopping shrimp.
I am going to show you, I say to Pinky, what a home-cooked meal tastes like.
As I dish out the stew, I set some aside on a plate for her. She sniffs, then turns her head aside and throws up.
Pinky, the food editor.
It’s a nice feeling. My story, “Tin Cans,” won first place in a contest at Dream Quest One, and a piece of flash fiction, “Here Comes the Groom,” also won first place at Scribejar. That makes 11 first-place awards over time. And my books are doing fine.
I went on a special tour of the East Bay SPCA in Oakland and brought with me extra towels I no longer need to donate.
We went from the new facilities, very streamlined, to the cats, dogs, and birds in their enclosures and as I expected it hurt my heart to see them there and being unable to take them home with me. I have been there too many times in the past when Tango didn’t come home and I went to see if they had him.
One little black kitten cried and came up as close as he could against the cage wires and I stuck my fingers through and stroked his little head. I almost cried too. Where I live now is no place for a kitten, who needs lots of space. Both of the kittens I had at the house used to gallop up and down just out of exuberance and energy to burn. My two rooms won’t cut it. And what will happen to it when I pass?
I’m still not sure it was a good idea to go on this tour. The pain lingers.