Friday, January 02, 2004
Happy New Year!!
My resolution this year is to avoid extraneous sources of guilt, such as making resolutions that I don't intend to keep. Figure *that* one out.
It is now imperative that I set down for the public record the following story, so if something really dreadful happens to us, the medical examiner won't be mystified and the neighbors will be forewarned. First, the prolog, by Lewis Carroll...
"Mine is a long and a sad tale!" said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing.
"It IS a long tail, certainly," said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse's tail; "but why do you call it sad?" And she kept on puzzling about it while the Mouse was speaking, so that her idea of the tale was something like this:--
The McMouse Story
It began when the weather turned colder, probably in November. Mark saw the mouse first. He said several things rather loudly when he saw it scurry across the living room floor. I saw it second, running along the baseboard in the kitchen. We surmised that it was getting into the walls via the return vent in the breakfast nook (as we continue to call the room with all the plants, even though there are far too many plants on the table for any actual breakfasting to occur). (That return vent, incidentally, has no cover on it, because it's in the basement with about half of the old lumpy paint removed. We've lived here for eight years. Things happen slowly around here. Shut up.)
We debated what to do with Mr. Mouse, but were having an ethical dilemma. It didn't seem right to just kill it, because all it wanted to do was stay warm and have dinner. I looked for a humane trap, but apparently Osco doesn't share our ethical views. We let the matter slide. We were busy with other stuff.
Shortly before Christmas (actually, it was Chanukah), I made some questionable chocolate gingerbread, and spent a companionable afternoon in the kitchen with the cozy smells of baked goods and the cozy crunching sounds of Mr. Mouse, who was luxuriating under the bottom drawer of our cupboard and most likely eating dog food. We resolved again to get a humane trap, but we never quite got around to it. The holiday classic, "O Chanukah Mouse, O Chanukah Mouse, why must you be so crunchy?" reached number one this holiday season.
Mark looked under the back porch and discovered that something had torn a hole in the birdseed bag, and birdseed was everywhere. Clearly, Mr. Mouse had more than one source of food. Libby spent much time nosing around the porch and the bushes, but that didn't necessarily mean anything because we get all sorts of critters in our yard. We tried to get the dogs interested in mousy smells in the house, but if we're not holding milkbones in our hands, they just don't get it.
I bought traps, plastic ones that are really easy to set and bait. They don't have the oomph of traditional traps, but I was too afraid of real ones to attempt to use them. We baited the traps with dog food and set them under the porch and near the vent. We then left for Michigan for several days, fretting about the monsters we'd become. Not to worry, because we caught nothing.
As time went on and Mr. Mouse continued to defy us, we gradually felt more annoyed and less guilty about taking the little bugger out. The risk of piles of baby mice in our house was just too great. I said to myself, What would a good ecologist do? The answer was to take away the habitat. If there's no handy food and shelter, the mice would move away, perhaps next door. So, I finally looked under the porch to see what was going on in there. The birdseed was everywhere, a terrible mess. There was also a brown paper lawn waste bag, partially full of grass clippings, that I hadn't thrown out yet, and piles of dry leaves that had drifted under the walls of the porch. Oh, and lots of scrabbling sounds of tiny toenails on paper, and a tiny grey mouse leaping out of the top of the bag and running under the porch wall towards the air conditioner. I may have said something like "Aiiiiieeee!", which most of the neighbors probably heard. I armed myself with a broom, gloves, and a plastic bowl, and prepared to do battle.
I prodded the bag a few more times, not wishing to be surprised by a second mouse while carrying the bag away. It turned out to be a wise decision, because a second mouse did eventually get tired of being poked with a broomstick, and it too scrabbled out the top and did a flying squirrel leap towards the far wall. I may have said "Aiiieeee" again, I am not sure. Ask the neighbors. I poked the bag several more times, then hauled it out to the middle of the yard and left it there. I then cautiously cleaned out the storage area, swept up most of the seed, and basically shut down the bed and breakfast. I left instead the two plastic traps baited with peanut butter. Grimly defiant, I was sure this would end our problems. I swept the leaves out from around the air conditioner as well, and was slightly surprised when a greyish chunk of construction debris jumped up and ran into the garden. "Aiiiieee," I believe is what I told it. I chased the mouse all the way to the brush pile in the neighbor's yard, which is a perfectly good place for a mouse if you ask me.
The next day, I checked the traps. They were *gone*.
Over the course of the next two days, we each saw Mr. Mouse in the house and think we also saw him outside, running between the bush and the potting bench two different times. He was not wearing a trap larger than his body. However, we're not sure that what we saw today was a mouse, and are now worried about smallish rats. What was under the porch living in the paper bag was definitely mice, but the other critter(s) seemed bigger and maybe browner. I really really really hope we're mistaken. As I write this, late on January 2, with Mark off in Utah where the rodents can't find him, there are two "real" traps and two glue traps arrayed both indoors and out. I can't stop thinking about them being there, especially the one in the house. I am convinced that I or the dogs will trip it and lose toes. I have the babygate protecting the trap, and the dogs can't reach the ones outside, but I still worry.
If any of these traps disappear, I think it may be time to call in a professional. Or sell the house. It's the car spiders all over again, I'm telling you.
The tale is not over. In the meantime, I wear heavy shoes in the house at all times.