Late last night I was sitting in the kitchen when I heard a small noise in the living room.
We have mice. On current evidence I would say we were outnumbered by mice in our house at a ratio of about 25:1. The other day we found one in a box. It must have accidentally slipped off the end of a shelf into an empty toy-box. It was then caught there all night like a schoolboy in the Somme. We found it in the morning, quivering.
We then spent a very long time discussing how to get rid of it. It is these conversations that cement a marriage. We discuss the children’s education with no less low-voiced, furrow-browed, arms-folded gravity. Flushed alive down the toilet? Placed in a bag onto which we lower a brick? Onto which we lower a brick from a great height? From a great height fast? Deposited alive into the council’s blue compost bin where it can feast until collection day?
In the end we put it in the car (still in the same box) and drove it to Buckinghamshire. It swayed about in the boot next to our picnic of smoked fish and jersey royal potato salad. When we released it, it looked dead. It lay on the ground unmoving, until it was prodded gently with a blade of grass, only then did it lift its legs and make its way into the shady hedge.
So the other night when I heard a little shifting and snuffling in the living room I assumed it was a mouse in search of – whom? – its mother? – its mate? – a sibling? I found my six-year-old son. He was standing in the dark looking guilty.
I know that stance – even in silhouette.
“What are you doing?”
He was holding his arm carefully behind his back.
“What have you got?”
Sigh. Repeat question. Repeat answer. Sigh a bit more.
Then slowly his hand emerged holding the phone.
“What are you doing with the phone?”
“Come on – are you calling someone? – who are you calling?”
There was a long pause as he considered his options. Finally he decides that the truth will set him free.