The Thing Is with Steve Canavan

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On Sunday – and this is a sentence I’m fairly sure I’ve never written before - I hit myself in the face with a dead mouse.

Let me paint the picture.

We have a cat Percival who, prior to Mrs Canavan and I having a baby, was the centre of our lives.

We doted on him; feeding him fine food, playing with him, and once, as a treat, taking him to the theatre to see a touring production of Les Miserables (he was particularly taken with Empty Chairs at Empty Tables and hummed it all the way home).

Then we had a child and kind of forgot about him.

Indeed, recently I was in the kitchen attempting to change my daughter’s heavily-soiled nappy while simultaneously wiping vomit from her mouth and arguing with Mrs Canavan about whose turn it was to do the dishes, when I saw a small depressed looking shape banging its head on the patio doors and holding aloft a sign saying ‘Hey, remember me?’

‘Mmm, that cat looks sort of familiar,’ I muttered.

“I can’t be sure but I think might be ours,” Mrs Canavan replied.

‘When did we last feed it?’ I asked, ‘I recall giving him some Felix a week ago last Tuesday but not since.”

‘Oh, he’ll manage another couple of days,’ Mrs C said and we resumed hostilities about the pots, while our skeletal-looking cat limped forlornly away, tears streaming down its cheeks.

So you get the picture, Percy has very much been an afterthought since the baby arrived. But seemingly aware of his sudden relegation to status of second favourite child, he has launched a bid to get back in favour by going on a killing spree.

For the last five months – and he must think this impresses us - not a single day has passed without me opening the front door to find something deceased on the doorstep and Percy perched nearby, murderous look on his face and blood dripping from his whiskers.

His spate of homicides has been truly phenomenal. On the doormat in the last week alone, we’ve had a dead bird, the head of a vole, and the corpse of a middle-aged man in his early 30s. Percy looked particularly proud of himself after the last one and with good reason; the guy was at least six foot so it must have taken quite an effort to finish him off. On the downside, it took me absolutely ages to get the body in a bin-bag and bury it in the garden.

So, on Sunday, it was with little surprise that I swung open the door to find Percy with a smug look on his furry face and a smudge of red liquid on his teeth.

I glanced down to discover a large bloodied mouse on the mat, a mouse that a few hours previously had been living a happy life with his wife and children but was then pounced upon by our brutal pet and mauled to death, before being plonked, with no dignity at all, on our doorstep.

I couldn’t be bothered to go back inside, put my marigolds on, and begin the cleaning process, so instead I picked up the doormat, balancing the dead mouse in the middle, and walked a short distance to some long grass across the road.

My plan was to hurl it in the undergrowth, so I held the mat to one side, then swung it forward, with the intention that the mouse would – like a shot put leaving the hands of a bulky East European on performance-enhancing drugs at the Olympics – disappear far into the distance and never been seen again.

But partly because I mistimed my swing, partly because the mouse’s sticky leaking intestinal juice had pinned it quite firmly to the mat, instead of hurling the deceased animal forwards into the distance, it came off at the wrong angle and – to my utter horror – smacked into my cheek, before falling to the ground at my feet.

I stood stock still for a moment, shell-shocked and unable to speak, then began gasping and pawing at my face, as if I had just been hit by a sniper.

Trying my best not to projectile vomit, I part ran, part staggered back into the house and limped to the bathroom where I spent around 35 minutes scrubbing my face with extra strong detergent and screaming hysterically in the direction of the bedroom where Mrs Canavan continued to read her book without so much as glancing up.

Afraid I was about to perish, I went on the internet and #Googled – and this is a search I’d wager may never have been typed in the history of the world wide web - ‘hit in face by mouse recently killed by cat – what diseases could I get?’

The first site that came up was called Pestworld (if you’re looking for the ideal present for a loved one, they have some cracking subscription offers), which informed me that ‘mice are known to spread more than 35 diseases’. This wasn’t an encouraging start.

I read the first one, a condition called Hantavirus, which may sound like an idyllic sandy-beached island somewhere off Jamaica but is actually a severe respiratory disease “which can be fatal” and “has a mortality rate of 38 per cent”.

As I read I swear I felt a sharp pain in my respiratory area.

The second result was – unbelievably - Bubonic Plague. My god, I was about to bring the whole of the UK down (which, if President Trump had still been here, might not have been such a bad thing).

Shutting down my computer and with hands trembling, I walked into the bedroom where Mrs Canavan was still reading her book.

I told her I was going to hospital because I’d got a dead mouse on my face and had almost certainly contracted the plague.

“Wait until Tuesday and if you’re still alive, you’ll probably be OK,” she said. “Now pipe down, I’m on a good chapter here.”

I reluctantly took her advice not to seek urgent medical assistance and have now made it to Thursday.

Aside from being suspiciously short of breath after beating Malcolm and Andrea in the mixed doubles at badminton last night, all seems Ok. However, if this column doesn’t appear in next week’s paper, you’ll know why.