“T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a…”

“Mouse-EE!” sing-songs my niece, Flambeau.

Something scurries over my foot. Oh, gawd. A mouse ran out from under the  couch —this same couch which we are sitting on — and disappeared into a crack in the baseboard..

My gentleman friend Lust is sitting on the couch too, eating potato chips and listening to the story and checking text messages all at once.

He leaps up and stares all around “MOUSE!? “WHERE?”  All his hair—neck, nose and ears— is  standing on end.

This was not how I had planned the evening. Flambeau’s mama, my sister-in-law Gloriosa, and her husband Proteus, are at their older kids’ Christmas recitals, and Flambeau is sleeping here at my apartment in her own little portable crib.

Me and Lust were hoping she would fall asleep soon, and, and we could have us some hot toddies and watch The Price is Right. It ain’t which you call romantic for most people, but talking about money always gets him excited.

The whole mood changes as soon as she says “Mouse!”

Now we live in the French Quarter. (Lust owns my apartment and also the Sloth Lounge, which is in front of it). You live in the Quarter, you expect pests.  Guys with big smiles who say they know where you got your shoes; guys with big megaphones who say they know who God hates; drunks; rats; roaches; Falcons fans— Lust puts up with them all.

But not mice.

I got to explain. Lust ain’t been the same since his Traumatic Experience. A mouse scurried out of his pantry and up the inside of one of his legs and down the other. He was in his underwear at the time. I don’t know exactly what the mouse scurried over when he went from one leg to the other, but I am afraid to ask.

I told Gloriosa  about it and she said to spray peppermint oil along the baseboards to keep mice away. I did, but it also made me hungry, so after a while I quit.

Lust don’t believe in no pansy peppermint oil.

He believes in the Jaws of Death Mousetraps.

He rushes out for his Jaws. When he gets back, he’s got duct tape wrapped tight around the bottoms of his pants legs so no mice can run up there.

He sets out the Jaws – they look like dentures for a small dragon – by the crack where the mouse disappeared. Then a furry little blur zips out, and dodges right past them.  I quick slam the potato chip bowl over him. Lust slides a piece of cardboard under the bowl. We got him trapped.

The bowl is clear plastic. And the mouse, instead of trying to get out, just sits up and looks at us, with its tiny front paws together. He is actually pretty cute.

 “Now what?” I ask Lust. “Flush him down the toilet?”

“The little (mumble bad word) would stop up the plumbing,” he growls.

“Stab him? Shoot him?” Lust ain’t up for any of that.

I remember the time my mother-in-law Ms. Larda caught a rat in a bucket that had a lid. Her boys Leech and Lurch decide to put a hole in the lid, run a hose from the exhaust pipe of her car into the bucket, and gas this rat. Which might of worked if she hadn’t forgot to put her foot on the brake when she started the car. She drove into the garage, toppled the bucket, and the rat, being no fool, shot out of there. He’s probably in politics now.

Flambeau pokes a potato chip crumb under the bowl. “Mousy,” she says. We watch the mouse eat it.

Then Lust says, “I’ll hire him.”

So now Mousy lives in an aquarium in the Sloth Lounge. Customers can buy mouse food for 50 cents a tablespoon, drop it into her tank and watch her delicately eat it.  She has her own exercise wheel and a empty tomato juice can for privacy.

And at my place, the baseboards now smell like peppermint. .