Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee
When I came in from lunch, everyone was huddled behind the teller line staring down. I put my coat up, straightened my tie, took a sip of coffee. I walked back to the lobby and they were still there.
“What are you doing?”
“There’s a mouse in here.”
And sure enough, there was a mouse.
At first he was hiding. My coworker had named him Sebastian so we were waiting for Sebastian. My other coworker had crumbled a couple peanut-butter crackers from her lunchbox and left them out to lure him toward a paper cup. The idea was to get him by the cup then catch him, carry Sebastian outside.
I got as low as I could, my tie tangled in the carpet, my nose in old dust, money dust, trying to catch this thing’s eyes below the furniture.
A third coworker came in. She asked what we were doing then suggested getting glue traps. “No, we don’t want to kill it,” someone said, and she responded “Well...” then went about taking customers while the rest of us watched for any skitters from Sebastian.
Twenty minutes went by. I heard: “Look! By the cracker!” and there were two tiny hands taking crumbs off the edges. We were quiet, silent, breathless. Long clear whiskers, a pink nose. Then his eyes, bits of coal left over from the old days when coal made you millions. Slowly, we let him get to know us, and finally we saw Sebastian, a small gray house mouse.
He stuck to the wall at first. He looked up with those eyes and I know he saw me. He’d pick a piece of cracker, or dance here and there, but he kept a good four feet away, too far for me to catch him. Someone said “Just do it!” and another said “What are you waiting for?” but I kept waiting, watching Sebastian, keeping my hands where he could see them. I’d put a bit of peanut butter in the cup and he could see it. When he seemed ready, I nudged it forward.
You know how it ends: he comes out, I catch him, I let him go in soft green bushes, evergreens, and pine straw, and leaves of ever color, a place something small can disappear. But before all that there was a minute – can’t have been longer, maybe not even that long – where everyone was comfortable, even the mouse. He danced right up to the cup and sniffed it. He backed up a bit and stood on two legs. He pistoned one leg to scratch his floppy ear and licked his hands to better bathe his fur. Like a cat, any animal shows they’re comfortable when they clean themselves around you. It was the happiest thing, knowing I could give a bit of comfort to this mouse.
Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin
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The April sun, weak but determined, shone through a castle window and from there squeezed itself through a small hole in the wall and placed one golden finger on the little mouse.Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux