“Okay Kathy, search the place. Look under the sink. Tear the oven apart. Don’t let a single crumb go unnoticed.” Anna stood at her kitchen door and peered in. “You know how Doug’s mother is. She’ll tear the place apart until she finds something and then, no matter how measly or little it is, she’ll make that horrible, condescending, clucking noise with her tongue like she’s discovered cow manure in the meatloaf, and then – -”
I gave Anna the once over. Her hair. Unwashed. Maybe three days. Fingernails gnawed to the quick. Anna was losing it. This was the third time she’d called me to come down and inspect her kitchen today. I, being her best friend, had dutifully inspected and approved it each time. But, that hadn’t called her down. Yesterday it had been her garage and bathrooms. All had been magazine photo perfect.
“Anna, calm down. You’re letting your mother-in-law drive you crazy.” I gave her a stern look, then shrugged. Nothing I said was going to stop this cleaning frenzy. I pulled out one refrigerator drawer after another. “Look at this, it sparkles.” Then I did a double take. “But, what did you do with all the food?”
Anna beamed. “I threw it out.”
“But, you don’t even have anything in here. Not salad dressing or ketchup–”
“Don’t worry.” Anna waved me off. Then, re-checked her list. “I’ll restock the refrigerator tomorrow. Right before she comes. So everything will look fresh and pretty.”
“Don’t start. I’ll have time. I’ve worked out a schedule.” Anna ripped her fingers through her hair.
She stared at her list again. “Her flight doesn’t land until tomorrow at 8:42 a.m. I’ll hit the grocery store at 5:15 a.m.”
“Okay.” I shrugged. Defeated. I pulled the refrigerator away from the wall, like she’d told me to, and looked behind it. As expected, it was spotless. I gave her a thumbs up.
Anna broke into a little happy dance, then hissed. “She looked back there the last time she was here. Started screaming. Said she saw a mouse. Doug turned into Son-of-the-Year and raced to her rescue. Jerked the refrigerator out and stomped on the mouse–”
“Have you ever thought about going to her house for visits? Then you wouldn’t have to go through all of this.” I interrupted, trying to not let my exasperation show, as I flopped down on the floor and checked for crumbs.
“Turned out that mouse was a little bitty dust ball. But, oh my God.” Anna threw her hands in the air. “She got heart palpitations. Had to take her heart medicine. Laid there gasping for breath. Of course, Doug panicked. Rushed her to the emergency room. But, amazingly enough, before a doctor looked at her, she miraculously recovered.”
I’d heard all this before. A couple of times, but I let her vent, because that’s what friends do.
“Then, for the rest of her visit, she tiptoed from room to room, squealing every couple of minutes. Always sure she’d seen another rat. She told Doug she’d never come here again if we didn’t get our mouse infestation under control.”
I thought about interrupting, but didn’t. Anna was going to freak out. Like always. And, Anna’s mother-in-law would find some speck of dirt somewhere, even if she had to plant it. She was that kind of mother-in-law.
She’d been torturing Anna for years.
That’s when a lightning bolt of brilliance hit. I knew how to save Anna.
The next day, I dropped by. About an hour after her mother-in-law arrived. With a pie. I acted so nice. Sat there and did the social thing for fifteen minutes or so before I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Then, as I went down the hall, I veered off, sleuth-like, into the guest bedroom where I knew her mother-in-law would be sleeping. I pulled a small cage out of my giant Louis Vuitton handbag, and released 12 of the cutest little field mice you’ve ever seen.
I figured, after a week or so, Anna would thank me.
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