Mouse 5 – The Homing instinct

The story continues from last week /-

It moved with smooth grace and great speed when it wanted to, Mighty Mouse on steroids.

Okay, now that we had caught it, what did we do with it? Answer: take it far from the house and release it into the wild.

Not wanting to cause it post-traumatic stress disorder by over-long imprisonment without trial, we took it out that very night to a long stretch of open land beyond the next two homes in our enclave. That’s more than a hundred metres distant.

We returned satisfied. Half the job done, only the other pygmy to catch now and our trap worked perfectly. We slept well.

Next evening we set up the trap again and duly caught the second mouse, giving it the same treatment.

Job well done. Mice disposed of, none hurt, everybody happy.

The next night the pygmy mouse, or a pygmy mouse, appeared in the kitchen as usual. It was baffling. We had seen only two and then rarely together. Surely there couldn’t be a whole family?

We caught this one too and went through the same procedure – into the bush.

The night after a mouse was there again, which made four mice if they were different ones. Or were they somehow coming back, my wife suggested? If so, how could we tell? They all looked exactly the same. We would have to identify them somehow. She had the right idea: paint them, just a dab of colour on the body. It turned out to be a great deal easier said than done.

The next evening we trapped a mouse once more without a clue which one it was. Dor fetched a bottle of red vegetable dye she used in cooking and a small artist’s paintbrush. We opened the trapdoor, she dipped the brush in dye and reached into the box. The result was spectacular.

The pygmy took off like the ball in a manic squash match, zooming at Mach 5 all over the interior, so fast it became a blurred streak. Every time Dor poised the brush to dab the mouse rocketed away. She couldn’t get near it.

Eventually, after considerable sweating and swearing, mouse and brush collided more by accident than design and the mouse had a patch of red on its flank.

It promptly sat down in the middle of the cage and licked it all off.

Tired of small game hunting, we gave up for the night and dumped it in the bush with the rest. We knew we would have another one to play with tomorrow.

And so we did. What convinced us it was one of the same original pair was its familiarity with the kitchen. What puzzled us was that it had not learned from experience. It roamed for a time then made a beeline for the trap, marched in, grabbed the crumb of tennis biscuit and found itself back in the clink with a clunk. Possibly it enjoyed the room service. Maybe it was an habitual recidivist.

Now Dor was determined to mark it irremovably. She found a small tin of green oil paint in the workshop, dipped the brush and the branding race began again. The mouse zoomed around the box in all directions at once until at last there was the inevitable collision and it had a small but very obvious green brand on its bum.

No way was it going to lick that off.

We carted it out to the wilds, this time walking another hundred metres or so further before opening the door to let it out. It seemed rather reluctant to leave.

But yes, the next evening the mouse was back in kitchen, the same one without any doubt. We could not tell by the green brand because that had gone, vanished almost completely. The mouse had plucked out all the hairs with paint on them leaving only a tiny spot of green on naked skin.

It was one very clever and bold mouse. But now we had its measure, more or less, and there remained only one more step we could take to defeat it: remove it a lot further.

That night we walked a long way from home, almost a kilometre, before we freed it into a mini-jungle of tall grass and bushes sloping down to the sea.

One down. The following night another mouse appeared as expected – brandless, not our captive of the previous evening therefore its elusive partner. That was encouraging. Again Dor wielded the brush, the mad race ensued and a second branded pygmy was sent forth almost a kilometre distant, near somebody else’s house.

The next day was one of painful anticipation. If a pygmy mouse reappeared it would be a moral defeat. The psychological impact would be severe.

We would have to carry it so far it would take years to find its way back . . . take the cable car, leave it on top of Table mountain.

Night came. Whiskey eased the pain of waiting somewhat. By midnight – no mouse. We had won!

We have never seen a pygmy mouse since. We almost miss them.

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