It was a fabulous morning. The sky was brilliant blue, the sun mild, sneaking its way up past the mountains to the east. The wind sang a delicate melody in the trees as the birds chirped out a dissonant harmony.
While taking my daughter to work at six AM, she discussed her day, "I am going to get off at noon, come home, separate the mice, have a bite to eat and then 'caterday.' You up for that?"
"Sounds like a fabulous plan, Bri."
"I really want to get those mice separated into their big tanks. They will have SO much more room and won't get pregnant again!"
As a bit of explanation, my daughter has a pet Ball Python. He eats a mouse about every other week. So, after she got him several months ago, I purchased two feeder mice for him. Unknown to me, one of the mice was pregnant. She had ten babies a few weeks later.
Bri separated them but one of the males got out and visited the female cage. You may have heard how promiscuous rabbits are. Well, they must have learned from mice. The one male got six of the females pregnant over the course of a single night.
And so, four of the females had babies that survived; about 19 babies in all. One momma mouse had only three. Bri called them the 'chill' mice. Momma was calm and enjoyed human contact as did her kids. "These," she said, "I am keeping as pets."
In all, the 'chill' mice were three females and one male, including the mother.
Prior to today, each mother and her litter were in different containers. The males and females needed to be separated so that they didn't procreate further; as they were coming close to sexual maturity.
My daughter had two nice aquarium style containers prepared; one for males, one for females. They had fresh bedding, new ceramic food dishes, exercise wheels, and just about everything a mouse destined to be snake food could want.
On the way home from work she seemed excited about her mouse chores, making sure it was the first thing she did; and it was, even with her work clothes on. After the procedure was complete, she called me in from the garage to watch the shenanigans.
The males, as males of most species do, were sniffing butts and fighting for dominance. Honestly, they were not a lot of fun to watch; running around, eating, drinking, fighting...
But the females! They were fun. Many would dig under the bedding and hide. Bri would scoop up a bunch of bedding in her hand, let it tumble out and there would be three or four mice running around on her hand.
Others females were running on their exercise wheel, the mommas knowing how it worked, but the babies would grab on and twirl around as their mommas' ran. We sat there for nearly an hour guffawing and belly laughing. They seemed to be having the times of their little mousey lives; running and jumping and making mistakes and trying again; and eating and drinking and generally being great entertainment for two humans.
After a bit we decide to break from the laughing and retire upstairs for 'caterday.' 'Caterday' is one day of the week we spend looking at goofy websites such as icanhascheezeburger and the like. And more laughing for about an hour commenced.
When were were both exhausted from laughing our brains out, I put my baseball cap on and head down stairs. My plan was to run to the store for groceries and then make dinner. There was a delay.
I look over to see what silliness the female mice were doing now, only to be faced with a horror. While we were upstairs laughing together, the sneaking sun became furious and made its way through the window, through an open spot in the shade and into the tank. Seven mice were dead and four barely holding on.
I grab the tank, pull it to the shade and sprinkle the still live mice with water. Just an hour ago they were clean white mice, living it up; playing and running and exchanging mousie stories. Now they were dead or barely living. They were burning up. We did what we could with the living ones; the last one to die, expired in my daughter's hand.
Only one ultimately survived; 'chill' momma. And even though she survived immediately, the next 24 hours will likely indicate whether she survives longer. Bri has already said that should she live, she will certainly not be snake food; she has earned a long mousie life.
Perhaps there is a lesson here. Perhaps we should play more, and not care whether we fail or succeed so much, and keep trying when we do fail, and maybe after falling off the wheel a dozen times, try it one more time.
One never knows one's last day or hour or minute. Play, enjoy life, hop on the wheel.