Kim Nelson: Critters

SnowWhite6In the cartoon version of Snow White, little woodland creatures attend to the princess–they help her sweep her little room, get dressed in the morning, and even cook (which would not be very hygienic in real life). It’s charming and adorable. In real life, I’ve found myself surrounded by woodland creatures in a few recent scenarios, but none nearly as charming. I don’t know what draws them to me. I don’t have skin as white as snow, or lips as red as a rose. And yet, I keep coming across little critters.

The first encounter occurred during my bachelorette weekend in Galena, a small town on the Illinois border known for antiquing and B&Bs. On the first night, I gathered together in a quaint cabin with my sisters and two of my closest friends for bonding. And by bonding, I mean getting shit-faced on beer and mini-liquor bottles. When the night ended, we haphazardly threw the comforters off the beds and crawled in, wondering out loud about the strange “rocks and sand” in our beds. Only in the morning and harsh light of day did we realize the “rocks” were acorns and the “sand” mouse poop. Our cabin was infested with critters, and they weren’t offering to do my wedding makeup. Luckily for me, my closest gals are laid-back, roll-with-the-punches types (and maybe most importantly of all, heavy drinkers) so we were able to laugh it off. We were in the woods, after all, and things like that happen in the woods.

You don’t, however, expect things like that to happen in Brooklyn. Just a few months after the weekend in Galena, my sister and I flew to New York for a weekend trip and stayed with her friend in her cute little apartment in Brooklyn. Upon our arrival, we met at a bar near the apartment to have some beers and unwind from the flight. After leaving the bar, we stopped at a bodega to buy some tall boys and generic fritos to continue hanging out at the apartment. It got late, and our friend went to bed in her room, so my sister and I inflated the air mattress that she would be sleeping on while I made my bed on the couch. We were both lying down, still talking, when my sister shot up like a Roman Candle.

“There’s something moving inside the mattress,” she said.

“Go home, you’re drunk,” I said.

She stayed still, and the room grew quiet. All of a sudden, I saw it too, a brief flutter as something in the inside the mattress pushed against the rubber ceiling that entrapped it. We both jumped and screamed, then dissolved into laughter. New York, famous for world class theater, fashion, and art, is also known for world class rats, roaches, and bedbugs. My sister had survived the wilds of Galena and its intrepid squirrels and mice alongside me, and we realized that we finding ourselves in a similar situation yet again.

“I think we’re seeing things. Let me try.” I laid across the length of the mattress, waiting for something to happen. After a few minutes, I felt the soft but sudden movement of something tiny inside scurry inside the mattress beneath me. I screamed and leapt up onto the couch like a cat jumping out of a bathtub.

I consider myself a pretty rugged sleeper. I’ve camped out in a tent in a foot of snow, among angry bison in Yellowstone, and on one rough night in the Irish countryside, slept on two chairs pushed together. Despite all of this, I could not bring myself to spend the night on top of an air mattress that was apparently housing Mrs. Frisby and her many babies. Perched on the couch, we both watched the mattress intently. Sure enough, we both witnessed another whack-a-mole moment of something pushing up against the top of the mattress. Shit had officially gotten real.

My sister ran to wake up her friend, unsure of what to do. We filled in our friend on the goings-on she had missed.

“Do you think a mouse got inside it?” she asked in horror. We inspected the air hole, which was barely the size of a quarter.

“Maybe it crawled inside when it was a baby, then got bigger. Like a ship in a bottle,” I theorized, the tall boy flowing through my veins giving me magical logic skills. After conversing further, we decided that the best course of action was to drag the mattress outside and try to release the mouse. The three of us carried it out onto the sidewalk of Clinton Hill. At this point it was about 2 a.m.  As we opened the air valve and pounded on the mattress in hopes of scaring out the rodent, two women talking by a car asked us what were were doing.

“Trying to get out the mouse inside the mattress,” we explained.

“Oh hell naw!” they shouted. The two of them leaned against the car to watch, captivated. Growing more desperate, we stomped on the mattress like drunken River Dancers, but to no avail. Several other skinny-jean-clad, facial-haired passersby stopped to observe us and ask what was going on.

“There’s a mouse inside!” we’d reply in panicked voices. The pedestrians continued on their way, perhaps wondering if we were some sort of interactive performance art troupe.

After a brief period of stomping, we reconsidered our tactics, as we didn’t actually want to kill whatever was inside but hoped to set it free to live another day of terrorizing another New Yorker who wasn’t us. We stopped and waited, hoping that the mouse would go running for freedom once the coast was clear. Several minutes passed with no grand mouse reveal; we gave up and went back inside. My sister and I both slept on couches.

After two back-to-back critter encounters, I can’t help but think of Snow White through more cynical eyes. What were our little woodland creature visitors there to accomplish as they certainly weren’t hanging out to braid my hair–were they just trying to get to the mini-bottles of Makers Mark we left out when we passed for the night? Was the little mouse trying to stow a ride in a loaned air mattress to a cooler part of Brooklyn like some sort of hipster Fievel? I guess we’ll never know, but in the meantime, I’m getting a rabies shot.


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