Scuttle, scuttle, scrape.
Scuttle, scuttle, scrape, scrape.
Soft scamper, scamper back across the ceiling and down into the wall behind my head. Curled on the couch in an afghan that cold night, watching a late movie on TV, I heard no other sounds. Winter - the woods of Colorado.
We were young married then - loving, living in, and slowly remodeling the small old cabin-like house on five acres of Ponderosa pines. We shared our home with three dogs. Mostly, we kept them outside, but let them in to sleep during the winter. Their food and water dishes collected around the back door and lately they'd been going through an unusually large amount of food. We thought it was the cold weather...
My eyes followed the noise now - up the cedar paneling, across the new, freshly-painted ceiling panels to the very center of the ceiling. Stopped, riveted on the spot. Waited out the silence, then followed it back across and down. I thought of pounding on the wall to scare the noise maker away, but decided instead to visit the bathroom.
In this tiny, dark room I sat on the toilet lid and waited. I remembered recently reaching into the back of the open cabinet opposite me for some cleaning supplies. I'd been in a hurry and had only been vaguely aware of a small brown pile. Now I heard the rustling sound, quickly switched on the flashlight, and voila! A small, grey mouse stood stone-still in the dark interior next to a huge pile of dry dog food. Whiskers twitching, bright, beady eyes staring, he seemed momentarily stunned. Then, quickly grasping a chuck of dog food half his size in his teeth, he scrambled up the wall and disappeared into a small hole. I listened as the soft-toed scuttle, scuttle, scrape faded away. Needless to say, that particular mouse and his immediate kin never got to enjoy their store of morsels.
We were to have other episodes with mice over the years. When we remodeled our present home and tore apart an old cabinet, we found enough dry dog food stowed away under the floor to fill two full grocery bags. Then, there was the time I took our car in for a tune-up and the mechanic came to talk to me about "...a bunch of dog food I found in your air filter..."
Amazing creatures, these. I have wondered if they really do ever find all that they hide and use it, or if they simply go into "possession overdrive". We are not so different. Many years later, three states and three houses since, we find that we have accumulated an awful lot of stuff. Most of it has more to do with "want" than "need".
We've wondered if any of the subsequent owners of that little house in Colorado have ever discovered and wondered about that pile of dog food in the ceiling. We need not concern ourselves with that - we have our own cupboards and closets to clean out...
'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry."
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."