Hub and I have both heard the hushed whispers behind cupped hands among family members. Muffled speech that sounds like “..mumble, mumble… get off to bed.” Hub disagrees. He says he overheard something totally foolish like, “Why don’t he stand on his head?” or “His face is so red!”
Still, either way, how can we ask? When people speak behind cupped hands just out of reach of your hearing, with eyes shifting furtively from the confidant’s ear to the one sidelined from the discussion, we know of whom they speak. And so how can we, meaning Hub and I, graciously suggest that the secret be shared with us, knowing that it is a secret about us?
But as it happens, an incident outside of all this revealed to both Hub and I the secret so often said behind cupped hands, that we puzzled over. The understanding came as a result of three small mice living on our back deck.
Now D.O.G. Dog ( first name pronounced Dee-oo-gee; second name pronounced ‘dog’) always insists on eating his meal outside on the deck late evening. And when he’s done and comes back inside, the tiny mice that live on the deck come to collect scraps in, and around, the bowl. Then, if we turn on the deck light they scamper into the shadows of a chair leg, a rail, or even the dog dish. But luckily for us, with a tiny solar light on the opposite end of the deck they are still visible.
Or what often happens, as they freeze in a shadow, they forget to tuck their tails in and those wee tails make their location easy to spot. It is too cute how they hide and then take quick peeks over, above, or to the side to see if the humans are gone, and all is clear.
The mice are very small, although they do have fur, but Hub and I have come to the conclusion they are orphans. We never see adult mice only the three wee ones. They work hard. They briskly gather up every wee scrap in and around D.O.G. dog’s dish and rush it away to their cache for the long winter ahead.
Now with a move from outside to inside only inches away, Hub thought the wise thing to do was put the live-mouse-trap out on the deck. He caught one mouse a couple of days ago but when he opened the tin box, he was so overwhelmed with guilt at splitting up motherless babes, that he immediately let it go.
But despite that, we solidly agree, the tiny and timorous plan is to ultimately move inside, and to prevent that, drastic action must be taken. So after that first catch and release, Hub left the trap on the deck while he debated for a few more days how to resolve the problem, in the kindliest way.
Tonight he caught another wee mouse. He peeked into the trap while the mouse peeked out. Again remorse overcame him, but not enough to let the little rodent go. Instead he cut a nice piece of cheese to tuck in the trap until morning. The plan now was to release the mouse in the woods, come morning.
Later that evening as we relaxed in the livingroom, I said to Hub, “Poor little fellow. He’s probably so scared, so lonely, so choked, that he can’t even eat his cheese. Maybe I should get some lint from the basket beside the dryer in the basement, so that he will at least have a soft warm nest to relax in, in that cold tin box until morning.”
Hub said, “Don’t talk to me about that. Don’t go there.”
He watched TV in silence for a few minutes then said, “Roberta, you should have seen him, looking out of the narrow openings in the trap box and begging me to let him go. He had his little paws on the bars and his little nose pressed out through a slot.”
Hub left the room and shortly after I heard the back door open and close and in a few minutes he came back to watch TV. “What were you doing, just now?” I asked.
“Oh,” he said, “I just took that little mouse out in the woods and turned him loose.”
‘Yeh, sure he did, and probably made a wee path of cheese crumbs so he could find his way back to the deck and his other siblings!’
So now Hub and I have suddenly realized that when you’re hiding food (so the birds won’t steal it) in a pit every afternoon for a fox, and you’re keeping the bird feeder topped up because of the painful guilt you suffer if you don’t. And if you’re cooking gourmet and variety meals for the puppies, and tracking the comings and goings of three orphaned mice, and keeping dryer lint and shop shavings in separate containers so they can be dispersed in the woods for those in need – review these actions and it quickly becomes clear what secret is being shared behind cupped hands.
Not ‘stand on your head’ or ‘get off to bed’ or ‘his face is red’ – what they’re really saying is….
“They’ve gone soft in the head!”