The rapid succession of gradually elevating shrieks from the basement couldn’t have come at a more unexpected time.

Our Friday morning started with a gentle awakening followed by an accepting sigh as I rolled over in bed and looked out the window at the cool and damp Rose Festival weather. As I walked to the kitchen, the smell of bacon, maple and newsprint revived memories of a calmer, less spastic life, where our personal, “adult” choices were not trumped by family obligations, trips to the veterinarian/kennel, and other extracurricular activities.

So, I seem to be able to distinguish the cries of our children as GREEN, YELLOW, and/or RED alert fairly instinctively. That being said, this shrill screech had gone PLAID.

The impossible had happened. Every person’s worst nightmare. A mouse was panicked and swimming, trying feverishly to escape the uncooperative and slick concavities of our basement john. Well, third worst nightmare, I guess. Finding a snake in the toilet would be the worst, followed closely by finding a DEAD rodent.

As I came to the paralyzed self awareness of, “I have NO idea what to do,” I did what every resourceful, practical and supremely confident man would have done in that situation:

I asked my wife what I should do.

(Well, we aren’t married yet–June 17th is the wedding– and I hope this hasn’t done anything to shake her confidence in me as a competent hunter-gatherer. But, after heading purposefully out to the garage looking like I “had this one under control” I stood there for 5 minutes pretending to look for the right tools for the job, when really I had no apparent clues.)

I had to kill it, right? Right? I don’t want to take the chance of a repeat performance at midnight some night when a drowsy visit to a rodent infested bathroom might end up in an unfortunate pressure washing of the toilet seat, toilet paper and walls. Right?

I plucked the sopping varmint from his lavatorial demise and plopped him into a clear storage container, through which I could view him(her?) coughing up water and coming slowly back to his terrestrial senses. I popped the lid on the box and stood there and just stared at my pitiful quarry, wondering what on earth to do next. Should I have just flushed? Damn, I don’t know, do you?

Anyway, any parent who has seen every single talking animal movie, including Stuart Little, will tell you that their view of the animal kingdom’s inability to communicate in near perfect English has been challenged, thanks to Doctor Dolittle and Mrs. Frisby’s adventure. I half expected the little guy to roll over, stare me in the eye, and say, in a perfect Liverpudlian accent, “Thank you, Friend. Good day to you, sir!”

He did not. He just laid there, quietly, staring at me, wondering…what was going to happen next.

I had NO idea. I just knew that I couldn’t kill him. I was emotionally and constitutionally incapable of the carrying out the death sentence of a creature who was living in the moment and responding only to his animal instincts.

As I pulled the bush away from the fence at the neighborhood field and dumped the little creature out in a shaded patch of moss and dry leaves, I had a hope that everything would return to normal for him. And I had a vision of him scurrying back to his underground neighborhood and home, out of breath, and gasping , “You’ll never BELIEVE what just happened to me!” He would be met with equal parts empathy and disbelief, I am sure.

My visions of the entire situation was more than likely much different than his, but probably made us both feel equally disoriented and helpless.

My kids seem nonplussed at the notion that a 6 inch rodent can enter our home at will through the plumbing. I am forever tainted by the experience. But, next time I hear those shrieks from the basement, I will know exactly how to handle it. Sturdy, determined and purposeful, I will march downstairs and take care of business.

Unless it’s a snake. I hate snakes.