MIGHTY MALCOLM MEETS HIS MATCH
by Sue Wurster
The saucepan I hurled across the slight expanse of my efficiency apartment clattered against the radiator and rolled up against the bathroom door. The mouse didn’t even blink. I swear it just shrugged its shoulders and yawned. Totally blasé. “Geez!” I thought. “Even the mice in New York are tough.”
Keeping my eye on the creature, I managed to back across the room to the safety of the sofa where I tucked my feet up under the pillows, pulled out my phone, and dialed. Oh, pick up, Deb. Pleeeeease, pick up, I breathed as the phone rang across the hall.
“Oh, thank God you’re home!” I shouted as my neighbor and best friend answered.
“If you’re going to shout, why bother with the phone? It’s not like this is long distance–”
“Deb, listen! This is important. I need to borrow Cleo. There’s a mouse in here!”
Within minutes, Deb—with Cleo in hand—cautiously opened my door. “Is it still here?” she asked, hoping, of course, that the rodent had left the premises.
I nodded toward the radiator where he was maintaining his totally unconcerned cool. If he had been wearing a t-shirt, a pack of Camels would have rested under one sleeve.
“Oh, my God—it’s a mouse all right.”
Deb set her large black and white lap cat down on the braided rug, directly in its adversary’s line of sight, and hopped onto the couch with me to witness what was sure to be a dramatic stand-off.
Cleo pawed the rug, stretched, circled, and laid down for a nap.
“Kill!” Deb urged, extending her long right leg and nudging her recalcitrant feline with her size 11 foot.
The mouse sauntered back to his hole under the radiator pipes.
“What’s with your cat? Hasn’t she ever seen a mouse before?”
“Quite possibly not,” Deb mused. “But, anyway, he’s gone—probably scared off by the threat of Cleo’s mere presence.”
“Oh, right,” I responded snidely. “Did you see the look on his face? He smirked at us.”
“I think he rolled his eyes first,” Deb added.
“What if he comes back? Like, when I’m trying to sleep? What if he–”
“Want Cleo to sleep over?” Deb offered.
“Will you stay too?”
Five hours later, I hissed at my friend who was asleep on the couch. “Deb! He’s on the dresser!”
The clear sound of tiny feet scrabbling across the wood surface was followed by a deep and resonant Clunk!
“What was that?” Deb whispered.
“The wastebasket!” I realized. “He must have gone over the edge and landed in the bin! Quick! Get that cookie sheet from the counter.”
“Uh, this is hardly the time to be thinking about cookies–”
“To put on top of the basket, dimwit!”
“Oh, yeah—that makes sense.” Deb hopped to the kitchenette while I grabbed the basket and braved a glance inside. The mouse was there all right. And at this point, he was not rolling his eyes or smirking at us, but he was also clearly not in the least bit pleased.
“Now what?” Deb asked.
“Malcolm will know what to do.”
In the lobby, Malcolm—our totally intimidating, brawny, former Green Bay Packer doorman and the toughest guy in all of New York’s five boroughs—quivered. He actually trembled when we proffered the basket.
“A mouse?” he shuddered. “…in there?” After we nodded, Malcolm the Giant took an extremely deep breath and, still clearly unnerved, reached gingerly for the bin. Holding it stiffly, arms fully extended, he carried it, like an unexploded bomb, across the lobby to the rear hallway. “Come on,” he directed. We followed.
“Okay. It’s gonna go like this,” he said in the back hall as the theme from Mission Impossible pulsed in my head. “We’re gonna use the alley door–and we’ve gotta be quick.”
When our little parade reached the huge and heavy service entrance door, Malcolm handed me the bin and turned the huge crank to unbolt the old metal portal. “You don’t care about the wastebasket do you?” he asked cautiously.
“Hardly!” I blurted. “And it’s not like I’ll ever use the cookie sheet again either.”
“Okay,” Malcolm breathed. And then, like a massive Scotsman winding up for the hammer throw of a lifetime, he reared back, lunged forward, and let the bin rip into the back alley. By the echoing sounds of metal whacking against cement block and brick, it must have landed nearly a block away. Nonetheless, Malcolm instantly pulled the ponderous door shut, threw the bolt back in place, and crumpled against the jamb, panting like he had just escaped a bloodthirsty, invading Mongol horde pounding down the alley with battering rams.
Once his breathing slowed to almost normal, Malcolm mustered an awkward, even apologetic grin. “Um…” he finally managed, “can we, like, just keep this just between the three of us? I mean, it’s kind of…”
“Don’t say another word,” Deb soothed.
“It’s our secret,” I assured him, crossing my heart.
We beamed in admiration as we led our hesitant hero back to the safety of his front lobby desk.
Marty Kafka’s obsessive deep concern over his apparent muricidal nature brought to mind my own memorable moment with a mouse. Recently, I had to have my house de-squirrel-ized with a trap door under the eaves similar to what Marty describes. That night, I dreamed that, in the morning, I found hundreds of indignant squirrels standing on my back porch, their arms crossed in defiance, staring murderously at me…