by Karleen Bradford
Copyright © Karleen Bradford. All rights reserved.
The Mystery of the Missing Mousetraps
Melody was eating her morning snack. Out of the corner of her eye she saw something dart out from behind the fridge.
She sat up and glared.
A mouse in her house?
But before she could pounce, it was gone. She sat for a moment, thinking about it. Her people had just bought brand new mousetraps. There shouldn’t be a mouse running around the house like that.
She had been very annoyed when Mr. and Mrs. Dawson had brought the traps home. Why would they need mousetraps when they had a cat in the house? But she had to admit she was getting a little fat and perhaps was not quite as quick as she had been.
The traps had worked. She hadn’t seen a mouse since they had been set. No mice had been caught in the traps. In fact they had even stolen the cheese out of some of them without setting them off. But the mice had taken the warning and left for parts unknown.
At least Melody thought they had. Maybe they hadn’t!
Melody began to wash her whiskers. Her mind was working hard. She knew where the people had put the traps, perhaps she had better check them out.
She squeezed in beside the fridge. There should be a trap there.
She went down to the basement and looked behind the workbench.
Nothing there either.
She went back up to the mud room and nosed the boots and shoes aside. The place was a mess. She stepped through it carefully. She had seen a trap there just the night before.
There wasn’t one in the attic, either. She knew there had been two up there. There was something strange going on here.
Then she heard a squeak. A very bold and brassy squeak. A very brash squeak. A small grey face peeked out at her from inside one of Davey’s sneakers.
“Nyah, nyah! Fat cat! Can’t catch us, cat!”
Melody was appalled. Never had a mouse ever been so bold.
“Can’t catch us and can’t find the traps,” the mouse jeered. Then it stuck out its tongue. It waggled its whiskers in a very rude way, and ran right past her back into the kitchen.
Melody was more than appalled. She was upset!
That night Melody heard the people talking.
“The mousetraps are missing,” Mr. Dawson said.
“And I saw two mice in the dining room,” Mrs. Dawson replied. She sounded as alarmed as Melody.
Melody began to purr. But it was not a happy purr. It was a nervous purr.
“Melody will catch them,” Davey said.
“I’m afraid Melody is too fat to catch mice,” his father said.
“Maybe we should be thinking about getting a younger cat,” his mother put in.
Melody’s purring revved up. This didn’t sound good. And then she had a thought. What if she found the traps? If Mr. and Mrs. Dawson set them out once more, maybe the mice would go away again. Then maybe her family would forget about getting a new cat.
The mice must know where they are, she thought. I’ll bet they’re the ones who hid them.
That’s what I have to do, she decided. I have to find those traps. And quickly. Before the family gets another cat Melody sat and stared out the window. Her mind was working hard.
“Just look at that lazy cat,” Mr. Dawson said. “I think we’d better start looking for a frisky kitten today.”
Melody fumed. She wasn’t lazy! She was making a plan!
Slowly the plan began to form. She went back to the kitchen and sat down beside the fridge where she had seen the mouse the day before. Her food dishes were right beside her and they were empty. That reminded her that she was hungry. Maybe she should have something to eat while she waited.
She meowed a small meow at Mrs. Dawson who was working at the counter.
“Fat cat!” Davey’s mother exclaimed. “All she can think of is food.” She opened a can and reached for Melody’s dish.
Melody loved the sound of the can opener. She found herself winding around Mrs. Dawson’s legs and purring a begging sort of purr. Then she remembered. That wasn’t what she was here for! She was here to trap a mouse.
But she was hungry. Now that the food was down there, she might as well eat it.
Davey’s mother left the kitchen. Melody was halfway through her snack when–there! Out of the corner of her eye she saw the cheeky mouse again. It started to make a face at her but Melody pounced. No fat, lazy cat now. She sprang at that mouse like the youngest of cats. Before the surprised mouse could move, Melody was on top of it. But she had no intention of eating it. She had tried that once before and found it quite awful. Full of bones and fur. Yuck. Cat food in her dish was much better.
No, this time all she did was sit on it.
Melody was not only fat, but she had long, lovely soft fur. When she sat on that mouse she looked like a big, hairy pear. She felt the mouse squirm, then it froze as still as could be.
Silly thing, Melody thought. I’ll bet it thinks I don’t know it’s there.
“Mouse,” she said in a stern voice. “I’m sitting on you.”
“I was afraid of that,” the mouse squeaked. Not bold and brassy now. Not brash at all. “Are you going to eat me?” The tiny voice trembled.
“I should,” Melody said. “You certainly deserve it. But no, I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to make a deal with you?”
“Yes. Show me where you’ve hidden the mousetraps and I’ll let you go. But then you and all your friends have to get out of here. And stay out!”
“Okay,” said the mouse. “Sure! Just get off me and I’ll show you where they are.”
“No tricks?” Melody asked.
“No tricks, promise,” the mouse replied But you can’t trust a mouse. No sooner had Melody stood up, but the mouse was off like a flash. Melody was caught off guard. Before she could manage another pounce, the mouse had fled behind the fridge again.
Melody was furious. How shameful to be tricked by a mouse! She looked around quickly. Luckily there was no one else in the kitchen to see. It took her a moment to compose herself, then she began to think again.
Twice she had seen this mouse come out from behind the fridge, and now it had fled back there. It must have a hole there. She squeezed herself into the space between the fridge and the wall and sniffed around. The mouse smell was very strong here. The space was so narrow that her whiskers brushed the sides. That bothered her. She really, really didn’t like bending her whiskers.
She couldn’t see a thing. It was dark back there and she began to worry now that she was wedged in so tightly that she wouldn’t be able to get out. She was just about to start backing up when she heard a noise. A very tiny squeak, and then a quick, shushing sound.
Aha! she thought. There is a mouse back here. And maybe more than one. She made herself as thin as possible and snuck forward just a little bit more. Sure enough, she saw a bundle of sticks and bits of cloth away at the back in the corner. A nest!
The mouse shot out of its nest and blocked Melody’s way. It was not teasing and rude now, but it wasn’t scared either. In fact, it was being as brave as a mouse could be.
“Stop right there!” it cried. “Or else I’ll.....”
“You’ll what, pipsqueak?” Melody taunted. Her eyes began to gleam. Maybe it was time to try a mouse snack again. She forgot for a moment that she wanted the mouse to show her where the traps were. A low growl began in her throat in the place where the purr usually came from. It surprised Melody and scared the mouse, but the mouse just kept on being brave.
“I’ll bite your nose!” it squealed and made a dash for her.
Melody put out a paw and pinned the little animal to the floor. She opened her mouth wide. Then she heard that very tiny squeaking again. She looked up and into the nest. A mass of tiny bodies lay curled up in there. They were not as big as her toes. They were pink and didn’t have any fur at all. Their teeny eyes were tightly shut. One of them was nosing around and it was that one that was making that very small noise.
“Are those yours?” Melody asked the mouse beneath her paw.
“Yes,” the mouse gasped. “They’re my babies and I’ll die before I let you near them.”
The growl died in Melody’s throat. A soft, warm feeling took its place.
“I won’t hurt them,” Melody said. “How many are there?”
“Eleven,” the mouse said. Scared as she was, she could not keep a note of pride out of her voice. “Last time I only had ten.”
“No wonder we’ve got so many mice in this house,” Melody said. Then she remembered what she needed to do.
“I won’t hurt your babies,” she said, “but you have to show me where you’ve hidden the mousetraps.” She made her voice as firm as she could. “And no more tricks.”
“Okay,” the mouse answered. “No more tricks.
Melody lifted her paw, but she kept a wary eye on the mouse. With one worried backward glance at her babies, the mouse led the way out from behind the fridge. Melody followed. The mouse ran across the kitchen floor and into the mud room. She dug in between the boots and the shoes and the mess until she got to the darkest, farthest away corner.
“Look here,” she whispered.
Melody followed her. She did not like mess. She wrinkled her nose in disgust and was careful where she stepped. In spite of that, she trod in a muddy puddle of water that had dripped off one of the boots.
“Oh, dear,” she said, and sat down to lick her paw clean.
“Come on!” the mouse hissed. “Before someone comes! Cats are so fussy and so slow,”she added in a low mutter.
“What did you say?” Melody snapped. Her fur began to rise.
“Nothing. Nothing. Just talking to myself,” the mouse answered quickly. “Come on!” she said again.
Melody made her way over to the corner, still looking at all the clutter with distaste. Finally, she reached the mouse. She looked and saw a hole in the floor.
“We pushed the traps down there,” the mouse said. Again, there was a note of pride in her voice. “We got them all down here and just pushed them down the hole. Even the ones in the attic. They made quite a noise falling down through the wall and they all snapped open so loudly it sounded like fireworks. We were so worried the people would hear.” The mouse furrowed her brow and her whiskers twitched, then her face cleared. “But the cheese all fell out and we had a feast,” she added happily.
“I remember that night,” Melody said. “The family didn’t hear a thing, but I did. I couldn’t figure out what it was and I prowled the house all night looking for what was making that racket.”
“It was us,” the mouse said proudly.
Melody decided to change the subject. She was feeling very foolish. How could she have let the mice get away with all that? Maybe she was getting a little fat and lazy. Maybe she should cut down a bit on the snacks. Then she had another thought.
“How many of you are there, then?” she asked.
“Lots,” the mouse answered. “You’d be surprised.”
This was not good news. She was going to have to get those traps back.
“We weren’t worried about the traps,” the mouse went on, warming to her subject now, “but they were annoying. And a danger to the children, don’t you know. I couldn’t run the risk of one of my little ones getting caught.
“Where does this hole go?” Melody asked.
“Down under the front porch,” the mouse answered.
This was even worse news. Melody hated the space under the front porch. She had gone in there once on a hot summer day, thinking it might be a cool spot, but it had been horrible. Full of spiderwebs and dirt. She had gotten stuck and by the time she got out she had been filthy. Davey’s mother had taken one look at her and screamed. Then–Melody shivered at the memory–she had picked Melody up, brought her back into the house, and bathed her! It was probably the most awful day of her life. But there was nothing for it. She would have to have a look and make sure those traps were there.
“Can I go back to my babies now?” the mouse said.
“Yes,” Melody answered. “But keep out of sight. They’re talking about getting a new cat. A young cat. A frisky cat. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”
The mouse seemed to turn pale under her grey fur. “Oh, no!” she squeaked, and ran for the kitchen. But she made very sure that none of the family saw her.
Melody knew what she had to do. She had done it a hundred times. Maybe a thousand times. She went to the front door and meowed. A loud meow. No one came right away, so she meowed again. Finally Mrs. Dawson appeared.
“You don’t really want to go out, Melody, it’s raining out there.”
Oh, great. If there was anything Melody hated worse than spiderwebs and dirt, it was rain. Normally she wouldn’t have put a paw outside, but today she had no choice.
“MEOW,” she announced.
“All right,” Mrs. Dawson said, but you’ll be back right away, you’ll see.” She opened the door. Melody was out in a flash.
It wasn’t just raining, it was pouring! Melody ran down the front steps and ducked under them. There was a lattice across the space under the porch. Melody paused to take a deep breath. Then she squished herself through one of the openings. It was dark in here, but at least it was dry. She opened her eyes wide to see better.
“Watch it,” said a voice even smaller than the mouse’s.
“Believe me, I will,” Melody hissed, drawing herself as far away from a huge spider web as she could.
“Took me all night to make this,” the small voice said. Melody could just make out the spider at the center of the web. “It is a work of art,” the spider went on, her words running into each other as fast as the web spun out of her. “I don’t want some great clumsy lump ruining it!”
Melody was just about to answer back when she saw something gleaming in the corner. A mousetrap! She looked and saw another one. And another. She had found them! Now, how to get the family to find them? She backed out from under the porch and stopped for a moment to tidy herself up a bit.
No sense in risking another bath. When she was sure that she was clean, she sped back up the steps to the front door.
“MEOW!” she cried, and gave the door a scratch for good measure.
“Didn’t I tell you?” Mrs. Dawson said as she opened it. “Now don’t be wanting to be let out the back door just in case it’s not raining there,” she added in an annoyed tone of voice.
Melody glared at her. She always liked to check the back door when it was raining outside the front door. How else would she know for sure that it wasn’t raining out there as well? But today she didn’t have time for that. Today, rain or no rain, she had to make Mrs. Dawson go out to find the traps. How was she going to do that?
She sprang back into the doorway as Mrs. Dawson went to close it.
“Meow!” she cried, and backed out again into the rain.
“What are you doing?” Mrs. Dawson cried. “Get back in here!”
“Meow!” Melody insisted. “Follow me!” Why could the woman not understand her? Really, humans were so dumb!
Melody had to go in and out three times before Davey’s mother finally understood what she wanted. Thank goodness it had stopped raining by then and the sun had come out.
“I do believe you want to show me something,” Mrs. Dawson finally said.
Duh, Melody thought. It’s about time. She turned and led the way down the steps. She waved her tail as bossily as she could. Melody was very proud of her full and bushy tail. She turned at the bottom of the stairs and looked back.
“Meow!” she ordered.
“Okay, okay,” Mrs. Dawson said. “I’m coming.”
Melody squeezed herself back under the porch.
“You again?” the spider exclaimed, but Melody paid no attention to her.
Mrs. Dawson knelt down and peered into the darkness. Just then Davey ran up beside her.
“What are you doing, Mom?” he asked. “Can I play, too?”
“I’m not playing Davey,” his mother answered, her voice muffled. “Go fetch me the flashlight.”
Davey ran off and was back in a moment with the flashlight. His mother aimed the light under the porch.
“Well, I’ll be darned,” she said. “There are the mousetraps. Good cat, Melody!
“I still can’t figure out how those mousetraps got down there,” Davey’s father said that night as they were sitting at the kitchen table eating supper.
“And how did Melody ever find them?” his mother asked. “That cat never ceases to surprise me.”
“She’s a great cat,” Davey said.
“She sure is,” his father agreed.
“I guess we don’t need another cat after all,” his mother said.
Melody purred. This time it was a happy purr. She set herself to finishing up the extra big bowl of cat food that Davey had put down for her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw two bright little eyes peering out from behind the fridge, but the mouse stayed hidden.
After the kitchen had been tidied up and the family had gone off to watch TV, the mouse crept out.
“Out! Skedaddle!” said Melody. “We had a deal.”
“The rest have all gone,” the mouse said. “Found a lovely barn just over in the next field. It’s empty and there are no cats there at all. I’ll be off, too, as soon as my little ones can scamper,” the mouse said. “Okay?”
“Okay,” Melody agreed.
“It’ll only take a day or two,” the mouse said. “Mice grow fast.”
That last remark worried Melody, but she put it out of her mind.
She could handle those mice. She settled down, curled herself into a ball, and began to groom her whiskers. There would be no new young cat in this house. Life was good.
She purred herself to sleep.