Scamperings never seem to denote an actual mammal – as if these
creatures were merely proxies for flesh and blood, a scratchy reminder.
Too quick, too small, too shy to feature in creative visualisation, they meet
us on the dark side of starlight, leaving our illusions intact. Laboratory
pups ignore us, as does their mother with her copulatory plug in place.
1st – The Apollonian Mouse
The altar mouse enigma exercises tweedy professors. One theory is this:
Apollo showed mercy in the end, inhaling the plague back into his mighty
lungs, where mice continued to multiply – living memorials, two or
three escaping from his mouth with every rare bombastic utterance.
2nd – The Pantry Mouse
You’d notice a lacuna in cheese but not a handful of grains missing.
Omnivores look like specialists when gourmet fare is taken. The grand cru,
mulched in Somerset with raw Friesian milk and animal rennet, wore its
sackcloth for twelve hectic months. That one bite is all that was edible.
3rd – The Study Mouse
Sexing the pups is not too difficult: just lift the tails of littermates and
compare perineums. When their genes are knocked out like croquet balls,
a marker is introduced, making the study mouse piebald. If you see one
it’s a rescue escape, not a runaway dream of the bourgeois inner child.
4th – The Theatre Mouse
West End theatres are a wildlife haven. In any large, old building where
people drop food, a colony may run and run. Before shows the aisles are
valeted but a trap will occasionally be forgotten, left at liberty to take a
life – better than snapping on a sandalled big toe, a play within a play.
5th – The Dormouse
A kindly old bat couple, unable to clamber in belfries any more, transfer
their fondness to the dormouse, so appealing in the palm. Nest boxes are
spaced an inch from the tree: the mice will enter only from behind. They
roam the south, in search of the magic hedgerow, the northwest passage.
6th – The Hollywood Mouse
There are broad boingggs as a frying pan stops vibrating. The skirting
board hole is impossibly far away. His eyes swivel up to the big jagged cat
– a paralysed panic. His hands are three-fingered: five would have looked
like a bunch of bananas (and cost the studio millions of dollars more).
All six – The Late Romantic Mouse
The empire a Russian exile loved is littered with the stone amputations of
de Chirico. Milo is moonlit absence, a beauty lost in the mirror. Cars swim
through the Forum, silently, to their assignations. Road mice are rare, the
kestrel watchful. Which is more dangerous: black river or green verges?