Posted by She Said
You all remember Stella, right? Yes, such a charmer that Stella. She gets so many looks, waves, and huge teeth-baring smiles from strangers young and old, you’d think I’d be jealous that Greg gets to drive her around and not me. Oh, Stella. Stella, Stella, Stella. She’s fantastic. Until she’s not. Like for example when she turns from charming VW camping van into the PET CEMETERY.
You see, Stella has had (note the tense) a stowaway, a little mouse that would chew up the rolls of toilet paper, receipts, or the fries Greg would drop when he secretly snuck away to McDonald’s (and he thinks I don’t know). It would leave droppings in the craziest imaginable places, places that seemed impossible for even the tiniest of mice to squeeze into.
At first this wasn’t such a big deal to me. Greg would often tidy up any evidence prior to my seeing it, with the intention of me being as comfortable in Stella as possible. He didn’t want me all freaked out about hantavirus while the four of us were sleeping, eating, and living inside her during our numerous camping trips. I just tried to think of this little guy as a cousin of Stewart Little. A cousin I didn’t ever have to see, clean up after, or think about.
Until I met him.
Our first encounter was during our first camping trip of the summer. Greg, the kids, and the family we were camping with had all taken a little day trip to a local brewery (‘cuz nothing says camping like getting to fill a growler with local brew!). I had decided that too much fresh air, combined with a night sleeping in very close quarters with Greg, marathon snorer, meant I needed a nap. A luscious, quiet nap. Oh, and that nap was truly spectacular. That is until I heard something nibbling on something. I slowly aroused from my decadent slumber to see Stewart’s cousin staring back at me from the front of the van. I quickly sat up and watched him freak out and run away to the front of the passenger seat. I ran to the front of the van to see where he was hiding, but he had already disappeared. I could not for the life of me figure out where he could have gone. No wonder Greg could never catch this guy; he was freakin’ Houdini reincarnated as this mouse.
For a few weeks and several more camping trips (that I didn’t go on), Hantavirus Houdini kept hidden.
Apparently, the little guy is attached to me because the next camping trip I went on? Yeah, he showed up. He left his little markers everywhere – tiny pieces of toilet paper – taunting Greg, who apparently was a stowaway-hunting pirate in a previous life.
Greg had been booted to a tent so the rest of us could sleep and so his snores would scare away the bear that had lately been making an appearance right in our campsite. (Totally worked, by the way! Snorer-1, Bear-0). Braedyn had finagled his way to a sweet spot on a bed in the trailer our friends were camping in, so it was just me and Emily in Stella. Oh… and Hantavirus Houdini.
On our third night camping, Greg had had quite enough of this mouse, so he set a trap in between the front seats and then went off to scare the bears away from his tent. Emily and I had quickly fallen asleep and were snuggled up against each other for warmth. It was once again a blissful sleep. Until…
I popped up in bed and I instantly knew what had so abruptly woken me. Only it was completely pitch black and I couldn’t see to make sure. I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to confirm my suspicions. I thought, screw it, I’ll know for sure in the morning. But then, what if Houdini just set it off but wasn’t actually caught? What if he was PISSED? Would he venture to our bed and find something else to nibble on? My mind quickly raced through eleventy zillion different ways Houdini could get his revenge on us in that confined space. My mind was racing, and then I heard it, and my mind went completely quiet. There it was again. It was the sound of something moving around on the floor of the van. It sounded like something being dragged.
Oh, dear gawd. I scrambled to find any light source I could, and upon finding one, I shined it upon… a trapped Houdini. Apparently the real Houdini never practiced getting out of a mouse trap that rested just above his hind legs, because I’m certain if he had, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. He’d still be taunting Greg.
Instead, he was fully trapped. And still alive. And dragging himself around by his front legs. I shined the light on him a little more and his top half of his body turned away from me and tried to claw the carpeting on the back of the driver seat. I turned off the light and sat there, unsure of what to do.
Surely he’d just die, I figured, so I curled back up under the covers. A few minutes of silence passed, so I figured I could just let Greg deal with the corpse tomorrow.
Oh, holy fuck. No! It didn’t die! Or maybe it did, and it was coming back because we were camping on top of some ancient burial ground. I turned on the light, fully intent on getting rid of Hopeless Houdini. I had to get him out of the van. I armed myself with my shoe. Then a cup. Then my shoe. Crap, I couldn’t get close enough to him to push him outside. Or was that not the right thing anyway? Would the bear think I was offering up some appetizer for him, luring him over?
I did what I had to do. Turned the light off, crawled back into bed, and pulled the covers over my head.
Please make it stop!
Then came the silence. Fifteen or so minutes had to have passed as my senses were on high alert, just waiting for…
Oh, hell no. I truly was living in a pet cemetery.
It felt like hours inched by, riddled with silence and sounds of life. Until the sounds of life finally and completely stopped.
The following morning, I acted as a human shield, quickly shifting my body between Truly Dead Houdini and Emily. I didn’t need her learning that she slept in a pet cemetery the night before.
Next time, I will take my chances with the bear and sleep in the tent. Greg and Houdini’s ghost can be BFFs.