22nd April


Something was eating the poison in the woodshed, lots of it, after it had lain untouched all winter. One morning I discovered that the bait, which I’d put into jam-jar lids and placed at various points around the shed, had been either eaten or scattered across the floor, and all the lids moved behind what was left of the winter stack of logs. This was a distance of some ten or twelve feet. A mouse, a whole team of mice, wouldn’t be capable of doing that – even if collecting jam-jar lids was normal mouse behaviour.

The timing didn’t make sense either, although Eddie, my neighbour, said he’d once lived in a farm cottage so cold the mice used to leave at the start of winter and return in spring, like retired Brits with apartments on the Costa del Sol. Four mornings in a row I replaced the lids and replenished the bait, but whatever was eating it seemed immune to the poison. Eddie helped me pull the logs and everything else out of the shed, and we searched for corpses, a nest or some entry route, but found nothing, not even any droppings. Well, there was one round pellet – evidence of nothing really, except maybe constipation. I trawled the internet for images of different kinds of shit – mouse, rat, squirrel, bat, hedgehog – and none of them matched, in shape or quantity. Given how much bait was being consumed, I’d have expected heaps of the stuff.

‘A fox?’ Eddie suggested.

‘No way in or out for a fox,’ I said. ‘Anyway, we’d smell it.’

‘Well, all you can do is keep putting the bait down,’ he said.

‘I hate the idea that I might be killing off a hedgehog that’s just woken
up from hibernation,’ I said. ‘Or somebody’s cat. It’s weird. Why would any animal move all the lids like that? What’s the point?’

Eddie shrugged. ‘Maybe tomorrow you’ll open the door and a huge rat will be standing there, wearing armour made from tin lids. And he’ll be very, very pissed off.’

We both laughed, but Eddie laughed loudest and longest. He could afford to. He wasn’t going to have to open the door.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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