At first I thought I was being awakened by raindrops on the window. But when I looked out, the sky was full of stars. Maybe it’s a moth caught under the storm window propped open to let in the cool night air.
I lay back, appreciating the breeze off the river. The light tapping was now scurrying — a mouse in the wall: clickclickclick, silence. Clickclickclick, silence. It was close to my bed.
I turned on the light. It was 1:15 a.m. Clickclickclick. I got out of bed. It scurried across the floor. I screamed. It was not a mouse. It was bigger with a furry gray tail.
Where did it go? I shook the rack of blankets in the corner where it had scurried.
Oh no! Did it go down the hall? If it escaped the bedroom, I’d never find it. I looked around upstairs. Listened. Silence. I closed all the other storm windows I had propped open. My visitor must have crept into my bedroom over the windowsill from the roof.
I went back to the bedroom. Clickclickclick. Thank God it was still there. I slammed the door and picked up a little wicker wastebasket. I shook the blanket rack again. It scurried out. I plopped the basket over it, covering the thing with used dental floss.
Now what? I could hear it scratching under the basket.
A pile of plastic-covered matted photographs lay on the bed in the next bedroom. I selected one I didn’t particularly like. It looked big enough. I slipped it under the basket.
The animal scratched.
I ran downstairs, opened the front door, turned on the porch light and unhitched the spring holding the screen door. I did not want to fumble this maneuver.
I returned to the bedroom, slipped one hand under the photo mat with my other hand tight on the top (really the bottom) of the basket. I carefully lifted my prey, carried it down the stairs and out the front door.
There! Scram! I threw the basket off the porch.
No action. I peered into the basket. It was clinging there — my first good look at the petrified little creature — a gray baby, perhaps an orphan, not yet red like its six elders I recently transported to my favorite squirrel relocation haven on the dump road.
Go. You’re free now. Have a nice night.
Slowly it crept out of the basket into the herb garden and sat there, staring at me looming over it in my nightgown, backlit by the porch light.
I picked up the basket and waited until it slowly made its way into the front yard where it disappeared into the darkness.
It really was cute.
Kathryn Olmstead is a former University of Maine associate dean and associate professor of journalism living in Aroostook County, where she publishes the quarterly magazine Echoes. Her column appears in this space every other Friday. She can be reached at email@example.com or P.O. Box 626, Caribou, ME 04736.