Earlier in the year, I wrote a story about our dearly departed cat Saint Squeakus, in which I suggested that he and his brother Dante diverged over the matter of pacifism. Squeaky never hunted. He was content to sit on the cabin top and watch the world go by. Dante, on the other hand, is inclined towards psychopathically playful killing sprees involving small wrens, large lizards, and the occasional mouse.
Except, he’s rarely been able to bring himself to kill a mouse. Only once, as I recall. Instead, he brings mice aboard like rescue pets. He delivers them as gently through the companionway as a bridegroom conveys his sweetheart across the threshold of their new home. He drops them on the galley floor, gallantly preening as his new friend scampers beneath our makeshift cabinet.
At present, I am absolutely certain we have one tiny field mouse living beneath our floors. The shanghaied seafarer just crept out from under the refrigerator to steal a piece of Dante’s vittles, which seems only fair. Naturally, I screamed, terrorizing the little stowaway, and he scurried back to his hideaway.
Jack is going to pick up a live trap today in the hopes we can catch it and release it, but it’s safe to assume mice popping their little heads out of crevices could be a thing moving forward, what with Dante’s soft spot for rodents. I can’t jump up on the chair every time it happens. I’m not a cartoon character from the 1950s.
This actually isn’t our first encounter with miniature monsters from Mother Nature. Fain is not a fan of spiders, and the Shanti is crawling with them. Mostly harmless, fuzzy wolf spiders, but every evening, an orb weaver constructs a web over each companionway, so it’s important to pick your path wisely when walking across the cockpit at night. Otherwise, you wind up with a face full of sticky silk and desiccated gnats.
However, our spider crew are no more dangerous than our resident dormouse. I noted to Fain one evening that the companionway orb weavers were like gatekeepers or sentries in heroic epics. They act as Shanti’s guardians. He liked the idea and named the one over his cabin Arachmed. Now, he gets concerned if Arachmed isn’t posted up when the sun starts to set, and he’s taken to studying arachnids.
Living aboard the Shanti is like living in a displaced treehouse or a floating back porch. Sometimes grouchy herons croak out complaints on our cabin top. Sometimes large alligators swim menacingly around the boat waiting for someone to toss them a marshmallow. (We don’t.) Mosquitos are not infrequent visitors, and lizards stow away regularly. We’ve even had close encounters with baby nutria and the occasional elusive otter spotting.
We can’t live shoulder to shoulder with nature and then be offended by houseguests. It’s just another lesson I’ve learned about changing my expectations to be more appropriate to my circumstances. Irrational expectations are at the root of most unhappiness, I’m pretty sure.
Fortunately, some of my favorite children’s books had heroic mice as characters, including Scuttle the Stowaway Mouse (see blog post image), which is currently in storage because I wasn’t able to part with it in the Great Purges of 2017 and 2019. So our little stowaway* will henceforth be known by the name Scuttle.
I’m hoping having a friendly greeting on hand when he next appears will be enough to prevent me from being uncivil and irrationally unsettled by his cute but startling cameos.
*Or stowaways. I’m not naive enough to think there’s only one little bugger on board. But I’m immature enough to pretend there’s only one aboard, so they’re all Scuttle to me.