It all started at dawn when our cat Jezabel brought a live mouse into the house and turned it loose in the living room, which for the remainder of the day was off-limits to human habitation.
“I’m not coming down until you catch that damned mouse!” said Anne. Which is a problem because, unlike Jezabel, I’m not a cat. So I opted to seek refuge in my garage man cave, while Anne bolted herself in the upstairs bedroom. By noon she was growing faint, as the temperature had soared into the nineties and the air conditioner was on the fritz. On Tuesday I had called the guy who installed it, but the call had gone straight to voicemail. Around midnight Kenny had got back to me, and I had sleepily described the problem.
“Sounds like a faulty capacitor,” said Kenny. “I’m in the middle of another job. I can send my son over to have a look at it in the morning. Will you be home?”
I assured him that we’d be home, albeit on runaway rodent lockdown.
We waited all day, Anne barrackaded in the upstairs bedroom, me in my man cave, Jezabel and her mouse in the so-called “living” room. But Kenny Jr. never showed. Around midnight, Kenny Sr. called again, in regard to a text message he’d retrieved from his inbox.
“My son said he called you this morning,” said Kenny Sr., “but the lady who answered the phone said her AC unit was working just fine. So, he cancelled the service call.”
“That was not my wife,” I said. “It was just some lady.”
Meantime, another system had gone down—our connection to CenturyLink. So not only was I stuck in the man cave, I couldn’t surf the net, nor could I watch cable TV. In frustration, I switched to an antique device called an antenna, which brings in a handful of channels that broadcast magenta-tinged sitcoms and crime dramas from the Sixties and Seventies. I marveled at the bizarre tonsorial and sartorial fashions. What’s up with the gigantic Windsor knots and bushy sideburns? Why do the hair styles remind me of French poodles? Why is everyone smoking?
I switched to a movie, “Looking For Mr. Goodbar,” in which a young Richard Gere struts into a smoky dive where poodle people play poker. At the bar, he sidles up to Diane Keaton, who inexplicably is sitting alone, and dazzles her with a line: “You come here often?” Incredibly, it works, and after just three commercial breaks the pair have relocated to an apartment papered with bullfight posters. Gere is leaping around the room like Jezabel toying with her mouse, wearing nothing but a jock strap. Yes, a jock strap! Try to find one of those nowadays—they’ve gone the way of the buffalo and the carrier pigeon. Start bouncing on the bed while wearing a jock strap and Diane Keaton will gather up her things and flee in terror. Dear God, I’ve been picked up by Alex from “A Clockwork Orange!”
Cut to still another commercial message. Has you or a loved one contracted mesothelioma? Have you had a hip or knee replacement that failed? If so, you may be entitled to a settlement. Or, at the very least, a free back and/or knee brace, compliments of Medicare. Operators are standing by to take your call.
Throughout the day I was on the phone to CenturyLink’s hotline, speaking with one helpful technician after another. Is my modem plugged in? Are the lights blinking? WiFi or Ethernet? But nothing we tried seemed to work. Then, midway through the umpteenth ineffectual diagnostic test, the phone phone line abruptly went dead.
This morning I awoke at three a.m., tiptoed into the darkened house and switched on a light. There on the kitchen floor lay the accursed mouse—dead or alive, I couldn’t tell. It wasn’t moving, but it was in a most lifelike pose. Had it just come back from the taxidermist? Quickly, I scooped it into a Tupperware container and made a mad dash out the door to the driveway. Into the trashcan went the rodent, down came the trashcan lid with a bang. On came the motion-activated security lights. Luckily, none of the neighbors saw me standing there, wild-eyed and naked except for an old jock strap. Other than myself, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.