What splendid whiskers you have.

The train home was so crowded that I decided to stay on the platform and wait for the next one. The result of this was that I also missed my normal connection for the express bus and found myself waiting outside at the bus stop beside a locked bus waiting for the driver to come back from a break. I didn’t really mind the waiting: certainly as someone who has experienced what it is like to drive in rush hour traffic in LA, I couldn’t begrudge the driver his break. My phone was nearly dead, so I spent the time staring into space and letting my mind wander. In the distance, down the bike path, I saw a second cluster of people waiting for a different bus. As I watched, a tiny, scurrying mouse ran out from one of the plantings that ran alongside the path. It ran to the center of the path and seemed to sense my gaze and froze. For a moment I thought I’d mistaken what I’d seen: that it was actually a leaf being blown by the wind and not a mouse at all,  but then it turned and scurried back to the planting with such deliberate intention that it was clearly more than just the wind. 

This was actually the second mouse that I’d seen that evening. The first had been a wee timorous beastie that I’d encountered immediately after exiting the train station on my way to the bus. It had been investigating a scrap of some discarded food item when I’d rounded the corner a few feet away. I’d been taken with the encounter: I might’ve expected a rat, but this was clearly a mouse about the size of my thumb. The creature ran to the relative safety of a nearby curb and tucked itself into the corner of the wall where it met an electrical box where I lost sight of it in the shadows. 

So I might be forgiven for having mice on the mind. 

As if to drive this point home, I peeled my eyes away from the planting where the second mouse had disappeared to look around at my fellow commuters who were also waiting for the bus nearby. A flicker of movement caught my attention from the corner of my eye and I glanced down to see a third mouse scurry out from a patch of wood chips to forage near the feet of a man wearing headphones. What were the chances? The third mouse ran boldly up to the man’s boot and I waited for it to disappear up a pant leg or to run across the toe of the boot and for a general outcry of surprise to ensue, but nothing happened. The mouse, evidently having failed to find anything worth foraging, retreated to the wood chippings and scurried along the bike path to where a strawberry had been discarded at the foot of a chain link fence. 

For a minute, I wondered whether I had actually encountered three mice within the span of one hundred yards and fifteen minutes. I’m not sure I’d ever seen a mouse in the wild before this, and now I’d seen three. Maybe I’d only seen one mouse but seen it three times? The third mouse seemed to cover a good amount of distance with short bursts of speed- perhaps it had run the whole length of the path in the time I’d been standing there? I looked back down the path in time to see the second mouse emerge from its planting for another foray. Not the same mouse, then. 

I had to wonder if this encounter(s) was of some hidden significance that I couldn’t immediately see. What was bringing the mice out in such numbers that I should catch sight of three of them in such rapid succession? I had to imagine that if I was catching sight of one, than there were many more that I wasn’t seeing. Was this their normal territory or were they being displaced because of the construction going on on the other side of the tracks? How long would it be before a hawk or snake discovered this smorgasbord? What omen, if any, did this portend? Perhaps I will never know.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on January 8, 2017.

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