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Column: A new office companion

Last winter I ended up with a new office mate at work. Late one night I was alone in my office, working with only the light of my monitor and desk lamp. The snow outside my window glittered in the moonlight. The bare trees threw spiny shadows across the snow.

I was tapping away at the keyboard. Then I heard a clunk. I turned off the radio. I heard another clunk, followed by a scraping. An icy finger traced the length of my spine. It seemed like the noise was coming from the other side of my seventies-style metal desk, in the shadowy corner between my tall filing cabinet and the window.

I leapt up and flipped on the grey overhead fluorescents. The corner was blissfully empty. I exhaled and settled back into my battered desk chair. Then I heard the scraping again. This time it was coming from inside of my desk. I yanked open the big file drawer. Something was scrabbling inside.

A half-eaten bag of trail mix spilled over a box of ballpoint pens and a pile of file folders. My stomach sunk. When I put the bag in the drawer the day before, it was still sealed shut from the store.

I slammed the drawer shut, terrified. The scraping and clunking seemed louder than ever in my silent office. I opened the pencil drawer and slammed it, hoping to scare away the terrifying presence. Everything was silent for a few moments.

Thoroughly disturbed, I decided it was a good time to leave. I wheeled my chair back, kicked off my sensible black pumps, and leaned down to pull on my snow boots. When I raised my head, I came face-to-face with the noisemaker. A brown mouse perched on the window ledge. In his tiny paws was a hunk of trail mix, perhaps a raisin or a brown M & M.

His dark eyes gleamed in the warm glow from my desk lamp. I crouched over my bootlace, frozen in place. Neither of us seemed willing to make the first move.

Then he turned and ran along the ledge. The bit of trail mix skittered into the heating vent. In a flash, he scaled the printer cord and climbed atop the printer balanced on my tallest filing cabinet.

I breathed a sigh of relief. The tension drained from my shoulders. My little furry intruder seemed quite harmless after all. Under his direct gaze, I powered down my computer. I picked up my briefcase and handbag. Still he watched, now calm in my presence.

When I told my husband about my exciting encounter with the petite intruder, he said, "Cool. Now you have a new office pet." I wasn't quite sure I could consider the tiny mouse a pet, cute and harmless as he was. The next morning when I found the little pile of brown presents the mouse left beside the printer, I definitely knew I couldn't consider this intruder a pet. In the interest of office health and safety, I felt resigned to report the incident to facilities management.

My relationship with my new office mate ended shortly thereafter. I'll spare you the gruesome details. It is suffice to say there was a sticky pad, clumps of fur, and a bit of blood involved. I felt like a traitor to my new office mate. I no longer keep trail mix in my desk, or anywhere near my person. And I always keep the fluorescents on at night in the office.