Wood Mouse

Of Mice and Me

There were early signs, like small black droppings scattered in various corners of the basement, but it took irrefutable proof for me to face the truth. It came on a sunny Saturday morning when I lifted a new bag of dog food and kibble started flowing out onto the floor: a half-inch diameter hole had been patiently cut into the thick plastic material by tiny razor-sharp teeth. “No worries, problem easily solved!” I boasted while pouring the dog food into a laundry basket made of 1/16” hard plastic. Three days later, in the exact same spot, I was scratching my head and staring at a circular doorway perfectly chiseled in the sidewall of the plastic container. I raised my clenched fist to the sky and hereby declared war to the foolish mice who dared defy me.

At the hardware store I studied and evaluated the technologies available to the 21st century man for rodent warfare. Poison? I pictured an agonizing mouse gasping for breath, foaming at the mouth, its little body shaken by violent spasms… no, thank you. Glue trap? There is one major flaw: once the offender is caught with its feet stuck on the trap it’s still alive so you must kill it yourself… no, thank you. Good old snap trap? Quick, clean, instant painless death… why not? I bought a set of 3 and returned home to prepare for battle. I laid the traps one by one around the mice Eldorado (the dog food stash). Instead of classic cheese I used pieces of kibble.

The next day at 7am I walked down the stairs in slow motion, still trying to wake up. As usual I entered the basement while the dogs ran out and waited for their breakfast on the other side of the garage door. I turned on the lights and walked towards the stash of premium dog food. The first trap had worked great: mouse #1 had probably died instantly and was lying with all 4 legs spread flat like roadkill. The crime scene on the second trap was more gory: mouse #2’s deathbed was a dark red pool of its own blood. And the third trap was … gone! I closed my eyes, rubbed them and took a second look, but there was no mistake. The previous evening I had laid three traps and this morning there were only two of them left. Behind the door the dogs were getting impatient, with Biela jumping vertically: I could see her face appearing and disappearing through the window as if bouncing on a trampoline. This one must have worked as a circus dog before we adopted her. I disposed of the two dead bodies in the trashcan, fed the pooches, and started my day.

At 6pm it was time to feed the dogs again. After they ran upstairs, waiting for me to go up and let them into the house, silence settled in the basement. A faint scratching sound caught my attention. It seemed to come from behind the washing machine. I moved the appliance, armed myself with a flashlight and a hammer, took a peak in the dark corner, and discovered the missing trap. Mouse #3 was a tough guy: his arm and shoulder were caught in the trap but he had managed to drag himself (and the trap, which probably weighed more than him) halfway through the garage. It was not a pretty sight. I had to put an end to his suffering. The hammer came in handy.

***

The doorbell rings. It’s Mary, she saw my ad on Craig’s List and came to see the couch we have for sale. I open the garage door and let her in. We bought this convertible sofa for our first house, in Redwood Shores. It was the perfect accent piece to bring warmth into a huge living room with vaulted ceilings. When we moved to a smaller place in downtown San Francisco the couch made the living room look busy so we replaced it with a more slender one. Before Mary’s visit I carefully dusted the sofa and made sure there were no stains whatsoever. She sits in it and finds it very comfy – no doubt she’s going to buy it. Mary asks me to show her how it unfolds into a bed. “Very easy: just remove the cushions and lift this handle.” Suddenly her face turns white and her smile vanishes. What did I do wrong? “Rat droppings!” she screams with a look of disgust. I turn to the couch, assess the situation, and reply: “Actually they are not rat droppings, they are mice droppings. We had a few mice in the garage but I got rid of them. I’ll clean up the sofa real good and I’ll give you a good price.” Mary fumbles an excuse, walks out of the garage, gets in her car and disappears, never to be seen again.

 

Epilogue

I hear a scratching sound. The one-armed mouse is wearing a long dark trench coat with the hood over his head. He wanders endlessly in the basement, scratching the floor with the hook that replaces his missing limb. In a falsetto voice he repeats: “I knoooow what you diiiiid last summeeeeeeer!”

 

Cedric, 6/3/12

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This post is also available in: French

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