I can’t relate in a family newspaper my very first thought as I slipped on that icy stoop at JPeg Ranch and crashed precipitously into the large stone behind it. As I felt my left kidney complain about the cruel blow, my mind was in the pure reaction mode. Contemplation of the irony involved arose only after I realized I was not dead. Peg later said I must have actually landed on my head as there appeared to be no lasting damage.
But as the Good Book says, “In the beginning …” Last Friday morning’s near rendezvous with mortality began about 5:00 a.m. when I was shaving and heard Peg shriek, “Jim, get down here!” As I had experienced that tone for years I went ahead shaving thinking she probably had some task in mind for me that might be able to be avoided if I feigned deafness.
Peg stormed into the bathroom with the same attitude I remembered my drill sergeant had in basic training. “There’s a mouse in the sticky trap behind the commode in the laundry room!” I figured this was not going away but held out a glimmer of hope the mouse may have managed to escape and, therefore, so could I. I made no reply.
“You (why me?) need to get that thing out of here right now! And take it out to the burn pile. Do not even try to just throw it in the trash until the trash men come next week.” She is always at least one bad decision ahead of me.
Gentle Reader, you may recall that last Friday we still had the frozen remnants of ice and sleet from Mother Nature’s assault. Most of it was melted but some had re-frozen. Unfortunately for me the clear, invisible ice still covered the path out to the burn pile and most importantly the deck and steps leading to the path. Hold that thought.
Resigning myself to my spousal fate I checked behind the commode and found one fairly normal sized mouse looking at me with what appeared to be a respectful appeal for clemency. I picked up the trap and mouse with my left hand and headed out the three-season porch to the deck. Everything looked okay to me so I stepped down off the deck onto the large white stone step which also looked clear. Well, it was clear, clear ice.
Faster than the falling stock market I ended up crashing on my left kidney into the stoop and wishing I’d pass out. I didn’t. I first processed the similarity between the excruciating pain I was currently feeling and the only slightly more exhilarating level brought on when I broke my leg skiing. Once I finished cursing the darkness I began to contemplate why I had not just released the mouse and let it slip on the ice. Instead the mouse pulled away from the now crumpled trap and as I helplessly watched it looked back over its shoulder with an expression that appeared to me both sardonic and sarcastic. It did not hang around to offer aid or comfort.
After about ten minutes of writhing on the ice-covered ground and trying to figure out how I could parlay the situation into some advantage against Peg, I struggled my way back into the house seeking sympathy. Peg said, “I do not see any blood and, more importantly, where’s the mouse?” That was when the poem by Robert Burns, Ode to a Wee Mousie, came to mind. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”, or in my case, Peg’s best laid plans for me.
Oh by the way, not only was Peg about as sympathetic as a traffic cop in Alabama when you have an Indiana license tag, but when I went to see Dr. Lee he took one brief but professional look and said, “You are not dying, it’s only an ugly bruise. But if you want me to, I’ll call Peg and tell her you cannot do any chores until Spring.” Unfortunately, he was only kidding.