I have mice in my house. There, I said it.
I hesitate to share any of this with you, because I’m embarrassed by the situation. Obviously, I’ve let my house become a shambles or why else would rodents want to live with me? How negligent have I been that I have not noticed the gaping unattended holes in my house that allowed the mice to easily move in in the first place and begin spreading their germs, or whatever else mice do that makes them so undesirable? Well, perhaps the holes have not been gaping, the mice are quite small, but clearly I am lacking as a home owner as there must be some avenues into my house that I have overlooked, even if the mice quickly place a small bush over the opening each time they come and go, as I suspect they might. Maybe I’m wrong about all this, maybe they just come in when he children leave the door open, which is how the flies get in. The mice and the flies may even be in cahoots (I’ve never liked the flies and wouldn’t put this past them), but none of this changes the fact that I have mice in my house or varmints as you may call them if you have taken your judging of me to another level.
It was a couple of weeks ago that we first heard a mouse in the wall and, like everyone who goes through it, we entered the first phase of mouse elimination: Hoping They Will Go Away On Their Own. This phase has never worked for anyone, but is a necessary step before proceeding to Phase 2: Population Estimation. In this phase you hope the mouse you heard in the wall (some people have the misfortune of seeing a mouse in Phase 1) is the only mouse you will have to worry about, but everyone knows this is absurd, because if you are aware of one mouse you are most likely to have 17, perhaps 400. Indeed, you soon realize there are three generations of mice now living in your house, regrouping and re-strategizing after one of them broke rank and alerted you to their presence through careless scratching or sprinting through your walls.
Phase 3 is setting traps or putting out poison. I was once told the problem with poison is that the hundreds of mice living in your house will all eat the poison simultaneously, a mouse Jonestown, then crawl into the walls to die, only to be discovered by a health inspector from a neighbouring village responding to the numerous reports of an unexplained odor which is causing people to be sick in the streets and the cancellation of schools. No, I’ve decided that I’m more comfortable with a spring loaded trap even when that trap’s primary function seems to be to snap my fingers each time I set it.
So, last week I set out two traps in my basement, each one loaded with peanut butter rather than a piece of cheese which would have been my first choice had I been trying to rid myself of a cartoon mouse sometime in 1947. The next morning, immediately upon waking, I headed down the stairs and entered into Phase 4: Hoping I’d Killed A Mouse/But Really Not Wanting To See A Dead Mouse In A Trap/Really Really Not Wanting To Touch A Dead Mouse.
I checked the first trap. It had engaged, the peanut butter was gone, but there was no dead mouse in it. I checked the second trap and discovered my first dead mouse. I felt awful, but reminded myself that these rodents planned to overrun my house, kill me and my family, and assume our identities. It helped a little.
The second morning I checked the traps and found both of them engaged, but in neither case had I caught myself a mouse. I was certain the loss of one of their comrades the day before would have made them desperate and apt to make a tactical error, but it seemed it only made them more aware of my devious plans, and had avoided the traps. I made a mental note to buy more peanut butter the next time I passed the grocery store.
The next morning, I again checked the traps. The first was untouched, the second engaged, but no mouse! “Curses!” I shouted. “Foiled again!” I added, as I found it easier to go about my business if I adopted the personae of a villain, at least while I was in Phase 4. I thought about getting a cape, growing a wiry moustache, changing my laugh, but something distracted me from these thoughts.
There, on the floor, near the trap, was the mouse! He seemed frozen in place, his little eyes looking straight up at me. I wondered why he was not running away. Perhaps he was awed by his recent brush with death and was thinking how from this point forward he would live life to the fullest, but I don’t think mice are that deep. Maybe he was too full from peanut butter. Maybe all of his training had taught him not to be afraid of me, my villain exclamations having no effect on him. Regardless of the reason, he just stared at me and I stared back.
I wondered what to do. Maybe I could reset the trap, set it down next to him and say something like, “I noticed you didn’t get all the peanut butter – here you go…take your time,” before slowly leaving the room? Maybe I could scoop him up with something and take him outside, but realized that the something was likely going to be my hands and that taking him outside likely only inconvenienced him slightly by making him walk around the house to wherever their secret entrance was. I decided against both ideas. The only option I saw open to me at that moment was to grab something big and/or heavy and crush Mr. Mouse under it.
I thought about how that might change my day.
Oh, it’s a funny story…this morning I was down in my basement, hadn’t even had my coffee, and I bludgeoned a mouse under a heavy book! You know, one of those ridiculously large dictionaries that doubles as an Encyclopedia? Yep, I just crushed him right under it. Boom! You should have seen the mess, nearly got it on me…hmm…anyways, how are you?
I couldn’t do it.
Out of options, I nodded to the mouse, turned around and went back upstairs.
I had entered Phase 5: Failure.
Maybe I’m not cut out for this mouse business.