Druid Hill Foxtrot

Shop Boy was like a deer in the headlights.

Which was sort of odd, since I was the one inside the car.

We’d come to Druid Hill Park in Baltimore — some of the locals call it “Droodle” — to set free yet another mouse unfortunate enough to have taken a spin inside our keep-’em-alive trap. (‘Tis the season.) It was about 1 a.m., and the place was deserted, save for something that Mary swore was moving out there in the gloom.

“I think it’s a fox!” Mary yelled.

Well, she shouldn’t have done that, knowing old nature boy’s, um, leanings.

Yep. I stopped short, mesmerized by our wildlife moment, shifting the truck back and forth until it was parallel on the deserted street, the vehicle’s lights illuminating what was apparently a very well-fed red fox.

“You sure we should let the mouse off here?” Mary asked.

Shop Boy was speechless, simply turning the truck as the fox moved, keeping him in the lights.

All of which looked a bit fishy to Baltimore’s finest.

“Get out of the road,” Mary scolded. “Oh, great, now the cops are coming.”

Sure enough, just as Shop Boy got his vehicle headed in the correct direction, the blue and red lights turned on. And we had some explaining to do.

“License and registration,” Cop 1 ordered, as Nos. 2 and 3 approached Mary’s door. Shop Boy complied. No. 1 pointed his flashlight at Mary in the passenger seat. “Is that Mrs. Mashburn?”

Well who else would it … oh … he thought Shop Boy was out, um, chasing, uh, professional-type foxes.

“We’re here to release a mouse!” Mary chirped. “But we saw a fox!” At this point, I giggled and motioned toward the bed of the truck. Cop 1 shined his flashlight back there, saw our little beastie in his prison cell, rolled his eyes and said sternly, “You know, the park is technically closed,” and trudged off toward the police cruiser.

The other two seemed a bit more amused. “Can we set him free?” Mary pleaded. (God, she’s such a little girl sometimes.)

They were putty. “Aw, feel free, but I don’t give him 24 hours around here,” the big one said.

He doesn’t know our mice. This one had been in the trap a full day already. Mary’d had our roommate, Chris Hartlove, toss the trap into my truck bed, then Mary had piled leaves and sticks atop it to protect the mouse from exposure — awwww! — till Shop Boy arrived to deal with it. “I think he looks an awful lot like the last one. Could it be the same mouse?” Mary asked.

“Nah,” Shop Boy answered, “this one’s way too big to be that little fellow from last time.”

Somehow, she didn’t find this reassuring.

Anyway, Shop Boy put on his rubber gloves, picked up the trap and set it on the grass about 15 feet from the pickup as the coppers drove away. Now let me tell you, this dude must have been stretching his little rodent hammies as he anticipated that trap door opening, because — zoom! — he was on Mary’s feet. She jumped, squealed and almost stomped him. We’re still not sure whether the little bugger simply hopped back into the truck with us. We were laughing too hard to follow him.

A pair of hyenas, scaring the foxes off the mouse’s trail.

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