Join me this month for stories of our time here in a small German village where we’re visiting with my mom. This series of blogs is named after a post from 2015 (“No Christmas in Germany”) when we spent nine months in Europe but had to leave over Christmastime. Thanks for reading, Bill
Mom was discreet about the mice at first, either self-conscious or didn’t want to freak our kids out. But then the mice turned into rats, and rats are a whole different story. The mice get in through the side entrance (likely the cat flap), where mom used to keep the cat food and litter boxes when our cats lived here. For a while she put traps out, but she’s a catch-and-release kind of person, so the mice go into detention for a while and then get let out, but come right back in, a circular reference. Mom asked, how can you tell the difference between mice and rats?—and I said the size, mainly. Length of the tail. We could look it up on the internet but no one needed that before bed.
And so with the jet lag or us being on different time zones I’ve been getting up between 2 and 5 and coming downstairs in the morning to write. Mom finds creative ways to cover the food so the mice/rats can’t get it: heavy metal colanders to cover the fruit, some elaborate system to cover the leftover pasta involving a jarred candle to weigh down the cover: I stood in the kitchen eating the remains, listening for mice, which have taken to an area by the cookware in the corner.
On our third day we decided our bodies would convert to the +9 hour difference in time. But then Charlotte came in around 2 complaining she couldn’t sleep, and was it OK for her to “get up,” and Dawn said she could get into bed with us, but it’s a Queen, so we were wedged in pretty good, and Charlotte lay there with Dawn’s Kindle reading graphic novels, making percussive sounds with her lips.
I put on the Austin-based electronic/ambient band Stars of the Lid, the same trick I tried when I had insomnia during the latter period working for Starbucks in 2014. If nothing else, it’s soothing to rest to. It goes on for well more than an hour and after it’s done if you’re still awake, there’s nothing more that can be done about it short of alcohol.
It’s then I discovered a sound in the wall like a gear shifting on a cadence of about 12 seconds, just enough time to hear the sound, wonder what it is, then almost fall back to sleep before it triggers again. Likely connected to the heating system, but took on the quality of a snoring giant, kind of nasally from the dust.
Now when I enter rooms in my mom’s house and stop, I imagine I’m hearing a shifting in the shadows, that shuffling sound of rodent claws, or maybe just my stomach.
Tonight is the barbecue/party at the neighbor’s, the Buchel’s, and we’re told to bring some kind of dessert. They’ll be grilling sausages I think and offering Glühwein, and I think the party is outside on the street, weather permitting. Mom’s street (Türkengasse) is cobblestone and slants downwards, where her house sits at the bottom overlooking the playground and modern outskirts of town, where commuters snake back and forth along the A67.
I watch them now as the morning wears on, as it seems like forever before the dark will give up, and think about all those cars going back and forth, why those people can’t just stay home, and work on the internet?
I started the kettle for a coffee and turned it off, decided on a beer instead, the possibility of going back to sleep—but there’d be no room in bed once I’d left it, and beer in the morning carried dark implications. So I put the kettle back on, some ambient music, the heater/blower, and sat by the banquette listening for mice.