Suddenly, silently, without warning, a dark shape slides into the open door, oozing behind the bookcase and disappears. I sit gaping - what was it? Did I see something or not? Was it a trick of the light, an aberration of my eyesight?
Not the light. The sun, just coming up behind where I am sitting, is making its usual dignified way through the slats in the shutters in long bars of light. Nothing furtive about that, and certainly not black. Was it something? Did I dream it?
Could it have been a mouse? It seemed long and sinuous, like a snake. There can't be any snakes here. How would it get up the stairs? There are only 15, but quite steep. I sometimes have a problem myself. Anyway it was definitely black. Are there black snakes? Black adders? Is that a snake or a television comedy?
It seemed more the shape of an otter. I haven't seen an otter since we went to the Hula Valley National Park, where we saw families of them down by the river. Of course we have a river in Nahariya, but it hasn't filled up yet for the winter and the dry inhospitable summer bed doesn't even attract frogs. So not an otter.
An illusion? That would have appeared very likely, except that this vision was repeated as I sat, still bemused, waiting for enlightenment. Together with a kindly neighbour we looked under beds, cupboards, under and round piles of books. Nothing! We both agreed that I had had hallucinations.
My friend Freda called to inform me that there is never only one mouse. They are very gregarious animals. Family minded. Having found a desirable residence they move in, bringing wives. They are not monogamous - siblings, in-laws and eventually a lot of little micelets all ready to be instructed about tasty tidbits and how to avoid traps and poison. So far they have eaten six items of my underwear, a small piece of carpet and gnawed their way through the side of a plastic container of hand cream. Well it is good news that I am not hallucinating, but a mouse or mice are not welcome.
"Guaranteed," my opposite neighbor says, bringing in highly recommended mouse catchers and setting them round the house furnished with luscious lumps of the best cheese. This, we are advised, must be positioned in the middle of a polystyrene platter, especially fashioned for this emergency, to which the mouse will be stuck and can then be disposed of or dispatched. By whom? I am a lifelong supporter of non-violence. All living creatures have a right to a space on the earth that we all share. I wouldn't dispose of even a mouse - on principle - even if I knew how to go about it.
But if they have rights, then so do I and I do not wish to share my space with a mouse. That is my choice. I will not invade his space - wherever that is, under the cupboard or in a farmer's barn. And by this principle, it will not come into my stationary drawer.
Trustingly, we try the sticky platter option. There is a luscious morsel of cheese on display. The mice ignore this but our idiotic dog puts her silly paw firmly in the middle and then goes around dragging this platter like an oversized clubfoot. It takes several people a long time to catch her, persuade her to keep still while this white polystyrene platter - which has the adherence power of cement - is detached from her paw. Not all of it can be removed, so she is left with a sort of white slipper that does not enhance her appearance.
The debate on the disposal of trapped, quivering creatures becomes academic as none of the polystyrene platters - or even the cheese - seems to have any appeal for the intruders. Time for drastic measures, and Avi comes to put poison down. This, he claims, is a very humane way to ensure their exit. They eat the poison, then they don't feel well and crave fresh air, so they go outside and fall asleep never to wake up. "But how do they get out?" I want to know.
Doors and windows are closed now, and anyway we are at least three meters off the ground. "Same way as they got in" he assures me cheerfully. "They claw their way up the wall and then flip in through the minutest crack or space, on top of a window hinge, under a squeaky door."
For a week I start at every scratch, jump at every shadow. I feel great empathy with the mayor of Hamlin. We clean everything twice, boil utensils and knock on shoes before venturing a foot inside. A lifetime of trying to close doors quietly is abandoned. I shut every door with a slam that reverberates through the flat like a bomb, or an adolescent in a tantrum. "Do this twice a year, and you will be free" is Avi's professional advice.
"How did I manage to live here for 30 years, and never saw a hint of a mouse in all that time?" I ask.
"Ah," say Avi cheerfully as he leaves, "You didn't SEE any!"