He was the pinnacle of my birthday gifts the year I turned ten. A birthday card and new shirt are fine, but they are no comparison to getting a pet for a gift. I loved Sammy from the start. He was cool and unusual, and his little pink eyes watched me everywhere I went. Sammy was a white mouse and he had so much energy he never stopped moving. His cage had a wheel that Sammy loved to run in and it made a little squeaking sound every revolution — louder than Sammy could ever squeak himself. It was a great gift and even my mom who objected at first got to liking him. Sammy was a hit with my school friends and I even got to take him to class one day for show-and-tell.
I fed that mouse mostly mouse pellets — but he liked pieces of fruit, vegetables, and other things. He liked carrots and celery, but he wouldn’t touch cheese of any kind. I made him a bridge to walk across and a little wooden house to hide in. Sammy seemed to like his home and I truly believe he smiled at me sometimes. Of course, you can never tell with a mouse. Maybe he was just imagining a giant carrot or dreaming of a girl mouse. I was able to pick him up but only in the security of an empty bathtub with no water. My mom was sure he’d get loose and hide somewhere in the house. She was probably right.
One day a friend of my dad’s came over in his brand new shiny red pickup truck. They had it parked in the back yard and I had an idea — maybe I could let Sammy loose in the bed since it was practically airtight and Sammy couldn’t possibly escape. He could run and jump to his heart’s content. Freedom, fresh air, and the wind in his fur. They told me it was okay.
I placed the cage in the middle of the truck bed and opened the door. Sammy just looked at me for a minute — then slowly and cautiously ventured out. He sniffed this way and that, he looked up at the sky and at the corners of the wide open space. Then he started to run! Only, he didn’t run across the truckbed. He didn’t even go one foot from his cage. He ran around in little circles the same size as his cage. I tried to get him to go left or right, but he just kept going in small tight circles. I even tried pushing him along a straight line but he got mad and bit me for the first and only time. We left him in the truck bed a couple hours thinking that eventually he’d figure it out, but he never went anywhere but in the clockwise trail that was imbedded in his brain.
At the time, I knew why it worked out that way but I didn’t really realize how important a lesson it was. As an adult, we keep going around in the small circles that we are used to. I think it’s even written about in the psychology books and talked about by motivational speakers. I guess some of us can hear about it till the cows come home, but it doesn’t really click in our little mouse brains unless we see it in person. The walls are invisible but they may as well be concrete. It keeps us from trying sports and drawing and writing. It keeps us from asking that pretty girl to the prom or applying for a job that pays twice what we make now. It keeps us running in tight little circles and we may even bite if someone tries to push us too hard. The only thing I can say is, I’ve done the same circle running in life and I try to remember Sammy, but it’s hard. Maybe Sammy was put there to teach me that lesson — perhaps it was divine intervention with an important purpose — but then again, maybe he was just a little animal who wanted a little piece of carrot. Of course, you can never tell with a mouse.