On the plane down to Mexico, Natalie brought up the subject of mice. The day before, she had found one streaking across her kitchen floor. This led to an exchange of mouse stories - recent sightings, methods of eradication, the amount and extent of their droppings - each of us determined to out-poo the other.
Ron was unusually quiet but he had a lot to contribute, and I knew it. What could he be hiding? Over the next few days, I tried to get it out of him but he refused to share. I prodded and prodded and finally he broke. And now that he has, I wish that he hadn't.
You see, like most people, I pride myself on being healthy. Country life promotes it and - some might say - demands it. The air is clean, the nights are peaceful, and there is always a back forty somewhere that needs plowing.
My cupboards are a tumult of quinoa, couscous and oat groats, sacks of chia and flax, tubs of deep green spirulina, unopened jars of probiotics and vitamin D, tofu recipes long since freed from a magazine, crumbled pistachios, hemp hearts, goji berries and an archival collection of curative teas.
But most important of all, I drink water. Not just the water from the tap, a whore-some idea if there ever was one. Our water comes all the way from Penticton in five gallon jugs, the purest water money can buy. Okay, it costs a buck fifty, but never mind. Each morning, in my bathrobe, I take a huge swig of it, innocent as a baby.
Back and forth, throughout the day, I diligently drink water. It empties from the jug into a ceramic canister we keep in the closet, replaced frequently and thoughtfully by Ron. I use water for my morning porridge. I add it to a cup of juice. I boil the pasta in it. I even brush my teeth with it. Every evening, I fix myself a soothing cup of tea.
So, here's the thing. Ron has just admitted that, one day last summer, as he was removing the empty jug, he caught a glimpse of something brown floating in the canister. He thought it was a leaf. When he leaned in to remove it, he saw a mouse in there. Doing the back float. Tiny arms and legs akimbo.
Delicate flower that I am, he knew better than to call my attention to it. Quietly, he picked up the canister, hightailed it out the front door and threw the contents, mouse and all, over the fence. Then, he busied himself for quite a long time, sterilizing everything thoroughly.
Now, take a deep breath. Ask the obvious question. How did a mouse get in there in the first place? Here's my best guess: one of our spare jugs was sitting in the basement without a cap. A mouse fell in, drowned, and was transported upstairs unnoticed. Ultimately, it was upended into the ceramic canister. And a lot of mouse water got consumed.
So, now you know the truth about me and my quest for perfect health. I can no longer be the poster child for your wellness campaign. For now, I'm left with a kitchen full of unpronounceables, with nothing to show for my progress except for a furry mumble on the tip of my tongue and a recollection that once I craved Jarlsberg.
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