SCURRY
By: S. Sadie Burbank

Grandma, Grandpa and their little white dog Riley, loved to go on vacations. Grandma liked to go to Las Vegas, Grandpa liked to go anyplace where he could do some fishing. Riley didn't care where they went as long as he could go too.

Grandma got her way a lot so they went to Vegas fairly often. Vegas was Riley's least favorite destination because it meant that he would have to stay at the "puppy resort" as Grandpa liked to call it. Riley didn't think it was much of a "resort" because Grandpa wasn't there to give him cookies just for being cute. Grandpa was good at giving out cookies and Riley was good at being cute. They were a match made in puppy heaven.

The last time they went on vacation they went to Vegas so this time they decided to go back to a place they hadn't been to for a long time. It was the Middle Fork of the Feather River. It was near the little town of Graeagle, up in the Sierras, not far from Tahoe.

While they were making the reservations on the Internet Grandma said, “These had better be some great cabins for the price they're asking. I can't believe how things have gotten so expensive since we were there the last time.”

“After all,” Grandpa said, “wasn't it nearly 30 years ago?” “Thirty three years to be exact,” replied Grandma. “My gosh, you're right, it has been that long,” exclaimed Grandpa. “Well don't worry about how much it costs.” “We can afford it if we cut back on a few other things, like trips to Vegas.” Grandpa grinned when he said that. He knew that Grandma would never be willing to “cut back” on trips to Vegas. But before she could suggest alternative cutbacks, he said, “Anyway, it's just for a few nights. And most importantly, they allow pets.”

Riley started wagging his tail as though he understood that he was the “pets” that would be allowed. Riley was a very smart little white dog.

Not long after that Grandma, Grandpa and Riley started off on their trip to the river completely unaware that it would become a haunting memory..

Grandma drove the silver Odyssey while Grandpa performed the duties of navigator. Riley kept watch from his pet restraint in the seat behind Grandma. He was really watching Grandpa more than the road, because one never could tell just when Grandpa might think a cookie was a good idea. Even better, Grandpa might start to feel sorry that Riley had to sit all alone in the back seat and let him come sit on Grandpas' lap.

Riley even thought about whining for sympathy but knew Grandma was wise to that ploy and would argue that he belonged right where he was.


They cruised north on State Hwy 89 enjoying the late summer scenery along the way. Grandpa slipped Boney James into the player and cranked it up a little. Grandma wasn't too fond of jazz but she did like the sax and Grandpa really liked it a lot so she decided to try just one more time to appreciate the sounds.

“I'd forgotten how far it is to Graeagle,” complained Grandma, after they'd gone a few more miles, “my butt is getting sore. I think I'll stop at the next likely looking place. We can stretch our legs and you-know-who can take a walk too.”

“You-know-who” swung his head around to look at Grandma for a second and then back to look at Grandpa who said, “Do you want to take a little walk, Riley?”

Now, it's pretty hard to jump up and down when you are in a pet restraint, but Riley did his best. “Guess that's a yes from Riley,” Grandpa said. “First chance you get, better stop.”

Just then they saw a sign advertising the “Graeagle Mountain Frostee” that was just a few more miles up the road. Grandpa said, “Hey! Lets hang on a little while longer and we can get a Frostee while we're at it. It's been a long time since breakfast.” “Good idea,” said Grandma, “I hope they have chocolate.”

They did have chocolate and even though chocolate is bad for dogs, Grandma let Riley have the bottom of her cone where the ice cream hadn't yet reached. Everybody felt refreshed as they got back on the road toward town. Soon they saw a little sign that directed visitors to the “Downtown District”. “I had no idea that Graeagle had grown enough to have a “Downtown District,” said Grandma.

“The last time we were here there was just a little bit of town on each side of the highway and a few cabins scattered along the river.” Grandma was muttering to herself about how much the world up here had changed in the 30-odd years since they had last visited, when the Feather River Cabins came into view.

They registered and were given keys and directions. After they found their cabin they pulled up and parked. Grandpa said, “You know this cabin looks familiar to me, I think we stayed here before, the last time we were up here.” “Oh, I don't think so Honey, Grandma pointed out, “These cabins don't look as old as that

Grandpa persisted, “Maybe, but it looks familiar to me; all the pine trees and the cabins and the river down there.” “There are pine trees and cabins all along this river,” Grandma teased. Grandpa agreed, “You're probably right, it just feels familiar, you know, kind of de-ja vu-y.”

“Well, ‘de-ja vu-y' or not, we had better get unpacked. That is if you want to eat dinner sometime before midnight.” Grandma said with a giggle as she picked up a bag of groceries and started for the ramp leading to the front porch. Grandpa hooked Riley up to his leash and they went up the ramp to unlocked the the cabin door for her.


As Grandma followed Grandpa she said, “I like the ramp. It makes carrying things in from the car much easier than stairs.”

Stepping through the front door they noticed the furnishings were pretty fancy for a cabin. With all of the creature comforts that they liked best, the kitchen was a family room design. A big dining table and chairs were near the full sized fridge and stove. Along the opposite wall sat a futon beside a fireplace. A TV hung high in one corner where it could be seen from anywhere in the room.

There were the usual smaller kitchen appliances including a Mr. Coffee and a nuker big enough to cook a turkey. The cupboards held everything needed for cooking, dining and cleaning up afterward. All they had to provide was the food.

The kitchen door led out onto a wooded deck where a barbecue stood beside a small table with two chairs.

A hall led from the kitchen past the master bedroom where a king sized bed topped with an extravagant hotel style pillow topped mattress beckoned them to relax. Across the hall was the spacious bathroom with a steam shower and Jacuzzi. Big windows offered the illusion of bathing in the forest that surrounded that side of the cabin.

Grandma looked out one of the windows and guessed that, at the right time of the evening, a quiet observer just might spy a deer or two munching on leaves and green shoots.

Squirrels and chipmunks could be heard chattering, letting everybody know that the outside was their territory and arguing between themselves about who was boss. Riley didn't care who was the boss of the outside as long as it was understood that he was the boss of the inside.

In general, things were just the way Grandpa and Grandma liked them, homey and comfy, quite and beautiful. A place where a person could feel at one with nature and could come to expect a certain peaceful response from their surroundings.

Late on their last afternoon at the cabin however, something happened that they did not expect, something that was not homey and not comfy, oh no, not at all comfy!

They had gotten up early that day to go fishing and had spent most of the day at the river. When they got back to the cabin they decided to get some rest before dinner and were relaxing on the futon.

At first Grandpa thought his tired old eyes were playing tricks on him, so he tried to ignore the scurrying that he thought he saw in a corner of the kitchen floor. It was late in the day, the sun was setting and the light in the kitchen had not been turned on yet, so it was possible that what he saw was no more than a shadow.


Grandma hadn't seen anything, she was watching her favorite TV shopping channel and wasn't really paying attention to anything else. Riley, had spent the day barking at the chipmunks who live near the river so he was too pooped to do anything except lie on the floor and snooze. Grandpa thought that was just as well, because if Riley had seen what Grandpa thought he saw, well there would have been a terrible ruckus!

Suddenly Grandpa shouted, “There it is! I thought I saw something scurrying over there!” Grandma looked at Grandpa to see where “over there” was and saw that he was pointing toward the corner of the kitchen where the refrigerator stood. Then she saw it too! She saw the scurrying just like Grandpa had said, only this time the scurrying was slow enough that the scurry-er could be seen as well. It was a little brown mouse.

Grandpa jumped up quick as a flash, grabbed Riley off the floor, put him in the bedroom before he even had a chance to wake up and closed the bedroom door. “Don't want him having a snack before dinner,” he said as Riley started to bark in the bedroom. Even though he still didn't know what was up, Riley figured he probably ought to bark anyway, just in case.

Now Grandma had lived on a farm when she was a little girl and she had seen a lot of mice, inside and outside so she was not really scared of them. Grandpa's house was near a fruit orchard when he was a boy so he had seen his share of mice too and he was not really scared of them.

Grandma and Grandpa were pretty sure that Riley had never seen a mouse before but they didn't think that he was really scared of them either.

Still, there was something about mice that Grandpa and Grandma and Riley just did not like.

Maybe there is something kind of scary about the “scurrying” that a mouse does. The fact is that if a mouse would just walk into a room on all fours and squeak a little bit and then walk over to his hole and go in, nobody would mind all that much. But no, mice have to scurry. They scurry into the room, they scurry around the room and they scurry out of the room. It must be all that “scurrying” that scares the wits out of even the bravest of folks.

Maybe it is because a mouse is so quick about it that makes folks wonder a little if he might not get confused while he is scurrying around. He might just forget which way was which and maybe he just might decide to scurry up somebody's leg or something. Maybe that's why folks don't like mice.

Then there is also the fact that they leave little mouse poops everywhere they go. They can't help it, it just comes out of their little mousy bums all of the time, wherever they are.


They also like to nibble on just about anything they can get hold of. They don't even care whether or not it is food. They will nibble on papers and blankets; all sorts of stuff that folks just don't want to be nibbled on by anything, especially a mouse.

Whatever the reason, folks, including Grandpa and Grandma and Riley just do not like mice!!!

So naturally the mouse had to go and you know what? He seemed to know that he had to go because he started scurrying around the kitchen looking for a way out. Unfortunately he wound up under the refrigerator which was totally not the way out!

Grandpa ran to close the bathroom door and open the front door. He grabbed a broom that was on the front porch while he was there. At the same time Grandma hurried to open the door that led to the back porch.

It all seemed very logical to Grandpa and Grandma. The inside doors were closed while the outside doors were open. All the mouse had to do was see his way out one of those doors, maybe with a little help from Grandpa and the broom, and all would be right with their world. So they sat down and waited for the mouse to come to his senses, come out from under the fridge and go home.

Funny thing was that it never occurred to Grandpa and Grandma that the mouse already thought he was home.

Meanwhile Riley, who was unaware of the specifics of the “Mouse Evacuation Plan”, was barking loudly and continually; emphasizing the irrationality of waiting for a mouse to become logical while an illogical dog was barking his brains out.

It kind of made the event one of those “one day we'll look back on this and laugh” moments.

By now the sun had set completely and the kitchen was pretty dark except for a light over the sink and one over the stove. Grandma wanted to turn on more lights but Grandpa said it would scare the mouse and he would never come out to leave. So they left the lights like they were but Grandpa got them each a flashlight. He said they could shine them on the mouse if he showed his face.

Grandma thought this was dumb because a flashlight in the face would probably scare the mouse just as much as a kitchen light but she was not in the mood to debate the subject with Grandpa.

Just then the mouse came halfway out from under the fridge and sat staring at Grandpa and Grandma, big as you please. Grandpa shined his flashlight on him so he could see him better.

Well just as Grandma thought, mice are as afraid of a flashlight shining in their face as they are any other light. The mouse abruptly turned and scurried back under the fridge.


Grandpa was starting to get hungry so they decided to close the outside doors, turn on the kitchen lights and make dinner. If the mouse came out and wanted to leave, they would just have to open the door for him.

Grandma had no sooner started to get the pots and pans out to cook dinner when guess who ran from under the fridge to under the stove? A decidedly bad idea given that dinner was going to be cooking on that stove at any minute.

Grandma was tired of the mouse running the show and decided that he would have to watch out for himself because dinner was going to get made, by golly; mouse or no mouse.

It's not really clear just exactly where the mouse was during the cooking and eating of the dinner but Riley was allowed out of the bedroom, and for a few minutes anyway, things went back to the way they were “BTM” (Before The Mouse).

Once, just after dinner while Grandma was clearing the dishes to the sink, she saw the mouse run from the fridge to the stove, again. “Guess he must not have liked the stove while it was hot,” she told Grandpa, “He must have run away from it and we just didn't see him.” “Yep,” agreed Grandpa. “He must have”.

“Oh dear,” thought Grandma. She knew that tone of Grandpa's. It meant that he had all but given up on getting the mouse to go home before they did.

They were leaving for home the next morning and it was a long drive back. Grandma usually did the driving and she did not want to do it on the lousy night's sleep she knew she would get if that mouse wasn't out of the cabin before bedtime.

So after the dishes were done, Grandma told Grandpa “Let's get him out of here” and opened the outside doors to both porches. Grandpa suggested leaving the lights on so that, by contrast the porches would look like good, dark hidey-holes to the mouse and he would run to one or the other and be gone. It sounded good.

The mouse did not get the memo.

Grandma tried banging on the stove and the fridge, alternately, figuring to scare him out from whichever one he was under. Cupboard doors and drawers were opened and slammed shut and a generally loud racket was made by all, even Riley who had been put back in the bedroom. He did his best to contribute to the noise level by barking louder than ever.

All of which only served to scare the mouse out of his wits and drive him further into his hiding place. Realizing this, Grandma and Grandpa sat down to rest and think, like a mouse.


Well I'll tell you one thing, Grandma said, I'm not taking that little sap sucker home with us! I am going to start packing up the kitchen right now and we can put everything in the van so Mr. Mouse can not hitch a ride tomorrow in any of our groceries. Grandpa agreed with Grandma's logic and so they began doing just that.

It was decided that tomorrow's breakfast would be leftovers that could be nuked and eaten on paper plates. Everything else that they had brought from home was carefully looked over and packed away into the van before anybody got a chance to hop aboard.

By the time they had finished packing, Grandma said, “I'm convinced that the mouse must have either snuck outside without us noticing; or he's decided to hunker down for the night. Either way, he will not be a bother to us any more tonight”.

“Hee hee hee” the mouse giggled to himself.

Grandpa however, was not as sure that they had seen the last of the mouse and he decided to stuff bath towels at the base of the bedroom and bathroom doors and under the stove. The theory was that the mouse would have to come out from under the fridge because that was the only place that didn't have a towel stuffed under it.

Grandpa, Grandma and Riley, (who had been allowed back out of the bedroom) sat down to watch TV and wait for the mouse to make his move.

It didn't take him long.

They watched very carefully for about 15 minutes and sure enough, all of a sudden…zip! He scurried from under the fridge to behind a bag of plastic bottles ready for the recycler. Grandma watched very closely for about 10 more minutes and was absolutely positive that he had not moved from behind the bag.

So Grandpa, brave soul that he is, for scurrying things really do bother him, went over and poked the bag with the broom handle while Grandma watched to be sure the mouse either stayed put or ran to the outside door but neither thing happened.

Grandma was certain that the mouse had not moved from behind the bag before Grandpa poked it and just as certain that she had not seen any movement after it was poked. She walked to where Grandpa stood and gingerly picked up the bag.

The mouse was gone.


He could not have just disappeared into thin air. Where had he gone?

Grandpa noticed that the sheet rock wall behind where the plastic bag had been had a hole in it. It was only a couple of inches deep, smaller around than a nickel and went nowhere but it was big enough for the mouse to squeeze into. Mice are very good squeezers.

Grandpa quickly grabbed the kitchen towel off the sink and poked it up against the hole with the broom handle thereby blocking any way to retreat back into the kitchen.

Grandma said that she thought the broom handle was to big to poke the towel into the hole as effectively as something smaller, something as small as say, Grandpa's finger.

Grandpa was most definite about this being a really bad idea, since he was pretty sure that the mouse, if he was there, would not be happy to have a finger poking the towel in further and would surely bite that finger! As it was Grandpa's finger, he refused to do it, brave soul or not.

Since she was very sure that the mouse had indeed gone into the hole, because she had not see him go anywhere else, Grandma took a butcher knife with a very sharp point and used it to poke the towel in nice and tight so nothing could get past it in the night. Then they closed up the cabin and went to bed. They were pretty sure the mouse couldn't get to them in the night but just as an added precaution, they left the towels stuffed under the bedroom door.

They all four fell asleep.


EPILOGUE

Packing away the rest of their things for the trip home went relatively quickly since they had, of course, packed most of it the night before. Breakfast was, as planned, quick and easy. The last chore before leaving the cabin was to remove the kitchen towel from the crack in the faux brick wall.

Now Grandpa was fairly sure that the minute he pulled the towel out of the hole the mouse would uncharacteristically stomp out into the kitchen and wave his fuzzy little fists in outrage at having been imprisoned all night long in such a barbaric way.

Well, we all know that would not happen because mice don't stomp, right? Remember?

We agreed a while back that if only they would stomp, most of their problems would be over, right? Right.

So, even though Grandpa was a little apprehensive, he bravely grabbed the towel by a corner, yanked it free and flung it into the sink with one quick move. Stepping far back, just in case.

But there was no irate rodent attached to the towel. Nor was he squished into the hole in the wall with blood oozing from a horrible knife wound. In fact, he was,as usual, no where to be seen.

Just in case you think he might have been in the recycling bag all night after all, rest assured that Grandma asked Grandpa to put the bag on the front porch before they went to bed.

Although the mouse could have at one time been in it, he would have gotten out of it before Grandpa checked it again in the morning before breakfast.

There was nothing in the bag but plastic bottles.

Everybody piled into the van and after a brief, farewell look at the river, they were headed home. A couple of times on the way back and once again after they got home Grandpa thought his tired old eyes were playing tricks on him again.

He just ignored the scurrying he thought he saw and didn't say anything to Grandma about it. He didn't want to worry her.

the end

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