My year of playing Tetris in Penn Station was not totally wasted. Me, the joystick, the shapes, the Russian dancers. It was my act of transition, from graduate school to graduate school apartment and hours at a gameless computer (solitaire not counting), and before the internet. Every now and then I got my initials on the high scores screen.
I apply these same skills now to packing up the car for road trips. Tiny under-the-counter European refrigerators tested my ability to see how blocks of butter, sausages, liters of milk could be placed on their sides, each grocery bag unloaded was a completed row of multicolored cubes.
Tonight’s challenge was an enormous pile of firewood in the garage.
I’ve got my gardening gloves on and I’m in a groove. My husband and the dog have gone to pick up my daughter and take her to an appointment. The other daughter has downloaded an app to study Spanish vocabulary. When they get back, I will have shifted the wood. I am like… a pioneer woman.
I am down to the bottom third of the woodpile when I see it.
Some white matting. A swift movement. I have rumbled the mouse.
I prod at the nest with a mop handle. I don’t have a big animal phobia but I don’t like the idea that something is going to jump out at me. I open the garage door so that it can escape to freedom. That would be easiest.
I throw away the nest. Will the mouse come looking for it?
I dismantle its hickory apartment building. Will it go sniffing in search of the exact log it lived on? I’m leaving that log right there.
Longtime readers may remember that my younger daughter once rejected the offer of a particular novel, explaining patiently that she does not like books about animals who defend their territory.
How far will a mouse go? Is my garage his territory? I feel like one of the insensitive human characters in The Borrowers. Oh, where has my thimble gone? I could have sworn I left it on top of the sewing basket… Now whatever is it doing here by the mouse hole?
I regard the remaining logs. The mouse scurries behind them, behind the extra refrigerator that came with the house. Each log I reach for could be the one the mouse is under.
But, you know, this woman’s got a job to do. So I carry on. My husband is very impressed when they return. The pile is one log deep. Who knew I could stack wood like this? My older daughter regards the remaining logs for some time. Under no circumstances is the mouse to be brought into the house, we remind her.
She cuts up fabrics and has this collection of them. One was in the mouse’s nest.
We go back in for jackets. We are going out to dinner.
“I saw them both,” my daughter says when we return. “There are two mice.”
I am back in the garage a second night. This night I am shifting things out of the storeroom and figuring out what we keep and what goes in the skip.
A purple ziptop bag we brought home from Mardi Gras from years ago has been sitting on top of the filing cabinet in the garage for at least a year. I have been assuming it was the extra beads. I open it.
I find some doll clothes. A baby doll. The doll’s shoes. A plastic bag with a juice box, a ziploc bag with some potato chips, a plastic fork, a napkin and a tiny plastic container with cut-up hotdog and ketchup.
It is a running away bag. The giveaway was the napkin. Also the doll.
I am glad that whoever packed it, almost certainly the younger daughter, forgot it, forgot about it and stayed on to defend her territory.
Garages are easier to pack than to unpack.