Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Everybody Wants To Be A Cat

I've always found the "cat-blogging" thing to be a little silly. But today I find myself sympatico with our feline friends. But no matter how much I might laud the virtues of those impish lions of indoor suburbia, PETA would NOT be happy with me today.

I got out of bed after the wife and kids had already bustled out the door on their way to an early doctor’s appointment in Maplewood. Awaiting me was a note from the wife: “Please throw away the broom. There is a mouse stuck to it.”

Unusual way to start the day. I had images of the tiny creature skewered messily upon the stiff bristles. We could call it a suicide when the ASPCA arrived to investigate. Perhaps the mouse, suffering from depression sparked by seasonal affective disorder, saw the broom as a convenient way to free himself from this veil of tears. Plausible. But in reality I assumed the wife had smacked the little vermin this morning and was either too grossed out by the blood, or shielding the kids from seeing the same, to properly dispose of it.

But as I approached the broom, I noticed a wiggle from a mysterious square of black plastic propped up against it. I then cautiously raised the broom to find a very live mouse stuck to not one, but two glue traps (the mysterious piece of black plastic was one of them), as well as to the broom.

Two dark little eyes stared into mine as I tried to figure out what etiquette called for in this situation. I decided on the husband-as-automaton course. I walked outside to the outdoor garbage bin, and threw the whole mess in there.

No merciful sharp blow to the head to end its misery. The tiny rodent can lie in the garbage, shivering to the end and pondering the cruel fate that lead it to seek warmth in the house of someone who HATES mice. Well I suppose pet mice are ok. You need something to feed the pet snakes.

And why do I hate mice so much? Because I was once too stupid to hate mice, and it played a key role in the saga my wife and I call “The House of Plague.”

The House of Plague started off innocently enough. One might have even expected it to be a charming and romantic memory, being the first place my wife and I (fiancé at the time) lived together. I had just graduated from college, while she still had one year remaining. Both of us being seriously tired of navigating through two separate sets of roommates whenever we got together for a romantic evening (nothing spoils romance faster than a hairy roommate walking through the room wearing only boxer shorts and scratching places best left unmentioned – and don’t get me started on MY roommates [ba-da-bum!]), we decided to scandalize our families and move in together.

The place we selected was far off campus, in one of the old neighborhoods in town; a renovated- many-times house from the late nineteenth century. It wasn’t very large, but had been converted to have one apartment downstairs, and another upstairs. We had the downstairs apartment.

One evening we turned on the light only to be startled when a mouse quickly scurried out of sight. My wife immediately started talking about traps and bait and poison. Psshaw! Said I. One tiny little mouse? He’s actually kind of cute. Let’s buy the kind of traps that don’t kill, and set him free.

And so we did. We bought a few mouse traps which had doors configured to spring shut when the mouse came to take the bait, safely locking in the mouse for later release. We baited them with peanut butter and waited. And waited. And several days later we had not caught a thing. Now and then we did see the little critter scurry away, or hear him in the walls. He sure seemed to be getting more active. But no matter what bait we tried, or where we placed the traps, we couldn’t catch him.

And then one evening we heard our friend the mouse scurrying above the tiles in the ceiling of the living room. In two places at once. We turned to one another with the stunning realization that we had not been seeing the same mouse over and over. We had been seeing different mice (that would probably cheese-off PETA as well – they all look alike to me). Our house was infested with them.

After a frantic week of more traps – including the traditional killing kind – still failing to get a victim, I walked into the kitchen one evening, turned on the light, and the biggest mouse I had ever seen was sitting on the edge of the wastebasket. He was so big I actually wondered if it was possible to have both mice AND rats at the same time. He lazily turned to give me a dirty look, slowly hopped down and sauntered over to a hole in the wall to get away. I’m convinced he was merely bothered by the light. He certainly wasn’t remotely frightened of me. The mice were becoming convinced that this was their house, and they weren't all that thrilled with our presense anymore.

The next day we went nuclear – at least as nuclear as you can go in terms of battling household pests. We bought D-Con rodent death crunch with new improved flavor, or something like that. It was poison. But it was a special kind of poison that tasted great to mice, and left them enough time alive to go feed their little babies the same stuff before keeling over. Like Jonestown, only tinier and squeekier.

The morning after the first night we left it out we found evidence that some of the mice had gone for it. We left it out longer, but perhaps didn’t need to. We didn’t see or hear from the mice again.

However, there is a downside to killing mice this way, as we discovered. You see, dead mice tend to smell bad when they decompose behind your walls. Did I mention this house had no air conditioning?

There is a further troubling aspect of decomposing mice and their associated stink. Flies pick up on that stink. Flies like it. And flies are even smaller than mice, having no trouble finding the tiny holes the mice used to make their way back to those stinky decomposing mouse corpses. Flies like to lay their eggs there so their whole family can enjoy the great stinky feast. And so they did.

Sometime later, I returned home in the middle of a bright and sunny day. I noticed the kitchen seemed awfully dark. We didn’t have curtains for the kitchen window, so the sun ought to be shining in. Walking in to investigate, I discovered that the kitchen window was completely covered by thousands of tiny black house flies. Standing there in shock I noticed a few more flying out of a little hole near the baseboard.

Two or three cans of RAID later; I realized that these were the new baby flies resulting from the larvae that had feasted upon the rotting mouse carcasses in the walls. I sealed up the hole they emerged from and HOPED they wouldn’t find another (they didn’t seem to).

After we finally moved from the place, we also discovered several dead, rotten mouse corpses in boxes of our clothing in the basement. We had lost other items in the basement when it flooded (told you it was the House of Plague. And I haven’t even mentioned the kitchen deluge from the upstairs bathtub overflowing). So the mice even managed to spoil that little salvage operation long after they were dead.

I summary, mice and I do not get along well together. Had God graced me with superior night-vision, cat-like reflexes, and sharp claws, I would hunt them for sport. I root for Tom rather than Jerry. I apply extra WD-40, lest a squeeky hinge even remind me of a mouse.

And a further warning to rodent-kind: I'm the softy on the mouse issue in our household. Perhaps you might try wintering with the neighbors instead.


Blogger Army of Mom said...

Bravo my dear man. Your BEST post yet. The husband and I were in stitches at so many of the comments.

I still like the tiny little mouse Jonestown.

6:49 PM  

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