Bernie had only lived here three weeks, but had already settled in quite comfortably. There was just enough room for him to feel snug and not so much space as to be intimidating in its need to be filled up. The windows displayed fantastic views of gorgeous sunsets, his favorite time of day. Although there were those on this planet who were “morning persons,” he definitely was not one of them. He liked the silence wrapping around him at night, and felt freer to explore nooks and crannies that had perhaps been undiscovered or used by previous tenants without interfering Peeping Toms hindering him.
Occasionally, his mother or siblings would visit and stay awhile.
“You’ve sure expanded your palate—no wonder you look like you’ve put on weight!” quipped his undiplomatic sister, Blondie.
“Wow, Bernie, you’ve really got it made here,” brother Butch eyeing the food-laden kitchen counter.
Oh-oh. Bernie could sense the temporary sleepover becoming a permanent stay if he wasn’t careful. His mother, a typical overbearing parent, couldn’t resist handing out unwanted advise and admonishments.
“You can’t be too cautious, dear. Last night I was in the pantry for a midnight snack when I thought I saw a snake slithering under the door. Are you sure the landlord has the proper building inspection permits?”
“Don’t get in a tizzy, Ma. I’m a grown-up now, remember? I’m safe here, it’s better than being homeless, and I’m as snug as a bug in a rug. I don’t fancy going through another move so soon, anyway.”
“I know you, son. You have a penchant for getting into trouble when you become too curious for your own good,” her parting shot at the end of her first visit.
Much as Bernie enjoyed time with the family and even though he only had a few months left to live, he could only stomach their company for so long before he pined for a more solitary existence. He looked forward to his noiseless activities while others were fast asleep. He had discovered a lot of hidden treasure along the journey, an added bonus.
“It is SO good here!” Bernie thought for the hundredth time, “I could stay here for the rest of my days!”
But the more complacent he became, the more careless his normal instincts abated—much like a window shade being slowly pulled down, concealing the danger of the outside world. For, since no one seemed to be aware of his poaching, he was bolder and his nocturnal escapades went beyond the usual pre-set boundaries. He had already rummaged through the bedroom bureau drawers, hiding under the massive king-size bed only briefly. He stuck up his nose at the bathroom, but made a feast in the raggedy davenport and matching chairs in the parlor. And, he had wrecked havoc on a bag of garbage waiting for the weekly pick-up service in the back mud-room foyer, scrounging through it haphazardly for anything the least bit edible, forgetting that he was no longer needy.
The kitchen was, naturally, his favorite, but became rather boring as time ticked away. Bernie, forever the adventurer, was curious about a latched cabinet in the corner of the pantry next to the kitchen. On its top was a pie cooling rack, tempting crumbs scattered helter-skelter around it, some even dotting the floor beneath. These were addicting in themselves. However, Bernie prided himself on being one to “go for the gusto,” “to go the distance”, much like catching the proverbial ring from a fair’s merry-go-’round. So, he worked and worked at the cupboard’s latch, nibbling his way around with his sharp teeth until the door sprang open, revealing a repast fit for royalty! There, on the first shelf, was a pie covered in whipped cream that suspiciously smelled like peanut-butter fudge, his absolute, number one favorite dessert of all time!
After sampling the edges and keeping the best ‘til last, Bernie stopped to contemplate how he wanted to proceed. He grinned from ear to ear before plunging headlong with a dive that would rival one from Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis.
“Oh-oh!” the little mouse’s curiosity had finally gotten the best of him, his mother’s prophecy ringing in his peanut-butter fudge-covered ears.
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