in january 1998 (and for some time after that) i was a music teacher. i had a big concert, a complicated one, scheduled in the second week of that month.
and on january 8th we had that ice storm. the really big one. and it canceled four days of school just before my concert, four days of rehearsal that i NEEDED. unlike a lot of people around here, i lived in a pocket of rain instead of ice, and therefore had no damage to my home, and my electricity barely even flickered.
but fifty feet higher up and fifty feet lower down it was all ice, so there was no going in or out even if the roads hadn't been closed by order of the state police.
and all i could do was sit and watch, waiting each day for the call that came to tell me to stay home another day. watching all my rehearsal time slip away, hour by hour.
it was an ambitious program, one that required skill and attention. and even though i was given every possible minute in which to practice and every flexibility, i was not happy with the way things looked on that day going into the concert. i was just going to slink off and never be heard from again rather than face the humiliation of it.
but when i got home i found floating in my downstairs toilet (and don't ask me what i was doing in that bathroom; i never use it) a tiny little mouse, shivering and on the brink of death. it appeared to me that she'd been trapped in there for days, treading water.
i have no idea how she got in there.
but i fished her out, the poor thing, dried her off and put her under a lamp to warm up. i put a dish of water near her, a block of rat chow, and some peanut butter. and i watched her. and in a couple of hours she had dragged her tiny little form over and had begun eating.
what a little miracle she was!
and i decided that if she was going to make a recovery against those odds, so was i. and back at school i had just about released the horde of kids into the ramp leading down to the hall and i got up on a chair in the middle of that crowd and told the story of the mouse.
and the kids were so whipped up, they charged down the chute and somehow pulled off the performance i'd intended for it to be.
when i got home, i put the little mouse in a cage i had handy, with food and water and fresh bedding, and although i did not name her (a wild creature), i called her "miss mouse".
...until a few days later -did i mention that the mouse was teeny?- his one testicle descended and i started calling him "mister". i kept him for a while, having decided to nurse him to full health and then release him on the first warm day but when that day arrived and i left his cage outside with the door open, i watched from a window as he poked his head out, put his little paws onto the cold ground, and quickly retreated to the warmth of his nest, pulling the bedding down over himself as if to declare emphatically that he did not wish to go.
twice more, on warmer days, he declined to leave my house and although he never was a tame pet, he was a perfectly acceptable mouseguest and he stayed with me until he died.