Born to make mouse populations tremble. Of whom Mother Mice tell tales to make their kitts wary of the world beyond the nest.
“Oh, he was once a kitten, too,” Mother Mouse begins, “But not like you. Not sweet and dear and destined to harmlessly scamper into people’s pantries and dig holes into their boxes of pancake mix and run across wide rugs and make people jump and shout for joy.
“No.” Mother Mouse lowers her squeaky voice as best she can, “Steeler was born in mystery, he lived on the streets as a kitten, and one day a person took him into her home. She provided him with toys and when she saw he would “play” (here she made admirable air quotes, holding up her nimble paws) – he would play only with the mouse-shaped toys, she bought him more!
“And now he lives with two people in a fine home and hunting down your third cousins forty five times removed.” She cocked her head, as if her shiny black eye saw a family tree on the floorboards above the nest. “At least I think it’s the Chewchewsqueak clan who’s in their house. Let’s see, your great-great uncle moved from barn living into the house when they stopped having horses and he was my mother’s cousin’s uncle’s brother’s cousin ….” And to the soothing sound of her genealogic murmuring, the kits would fall asleep, but dreamt nightmares of Steeler.
It’s all true. Though I have forgotten how I found Steeler, I could never forget him because he was an intelligent little creature from the start. I called him “Blue Tom Longtail” because he was the steel gray that older people here call blue, he was a tom, and he had a tail about an inch and a half longer than any other kitten in the world. When I put out all the cat toys, he played only with those shaped like mice. In fact, he dug out from somewhere an old “mouse” covered with rabbit fur that I hadn’t known was still around.
One day, I saw him carry the knitted mouse toy over to his food dish and lay it down. He sat between the food and the toy and I watched his small head turn from one to the other several times. It was clear he was confused and trying to think through, “This is shaped like a mouse, but it’s not food. This is food, but it’s not a mouse.”
He seems to have straightened out this problem because where he now lives, with two kind humans who rechristened him for his color and their favorite football team, Steeler catches mice before the humans even know there is a mouse in the house. He has come into his own – Steeler, Mouseketeer!