Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

We’ve had a mouse problem for a long time. When Bonkers The Cat was around and was still full of piss and vinegar, he did his part to keep the mouse population under control. Boo would play with the mice that Bonkers chased out of the corners, but I don’t think she ever went looking for mice and hasn’t lifted a finger (or toe, whatever) to catch any since the Bonkers left the scene more than a year ago.

So the mice have had free run of the place for months, and have staked their claim to every part of the house that they can colonize. Most recently, their efforts to take over the house have reached as far as the kitchen, where they are now into the many drawers under the kitchen counter, for reasons that are a little hard to explain. They were in the space under the sink before, because that’s where the kitchen trash can is and they could filch all sorts of goodies from it, but now they’re not satisfied with just grabbing the food and going.

It seems that now they’re wandering around in the drawers where My Darling B keeps the various implements of kitchen magic, and it causes her no small amount of distress when she reaches for a knife or a skewer and finds those disgusting little calling cards that mice leave behind wherever they go. She’s had to clean out two of the drawers at least twice in the past six months, and last night we took everything out of all the drawers so I could set out traps and start the chore of running every single one of the magical kitchen implements through the dishwasher to give them a two-hour-long power wash followed by twenty minutes of intense sterilizing heat.

Now I have to figure out how to mouse-proof as much of the kitchen as possible, as well as how to delete the mice. I’ve already got traps under the sink and I set out traps in the drawers overnight, but no luck so far. I think I can block off easy access to the space under the sink, but mice can be determined little buggers so I’ll have to keep setting traps for the foreseeable future.

As for long-term measures to rid our little red house of the infestation, I’ve proposed getting a more dedicated mouser to patrol the darkest corners. I swear I heard B say no to that proposal before, but when I brought it up last night she said that she thought I was opposed to getting another cat. I suppose I might have and don’t remember it, but if so, I don’t know why. If we’re going to have furry animals padding around the house, a kitten or two sounds better than allowing the mice to take over.

How Boo will react to the introduction of a kitten or two is more or less a foregone conclusion. She’s not whatever the cat equivalent of a people-person is. I think she tolerated Bonkers only because he was already established as the house cat when we adopted her as a kitten. When he eventuallyl grew so old and feeble that he couldn’t hold her back if she wanted to swat him off the top of the hill, she didn’t even bother pretending to tolerate him after that. Any other cat who wanders near our door gets hissed at, and she prowls back and forth growling with her puffed-up tail in the air for a half-hour afterwards. She’s not going to take it lightly if we introduce some young whipper-snapper to the house.

Luckily, I don’t care all that much about hurting Boo’s feelings because the way I see it, she’s falling down on the job. There are mice to be caught and the only cat on the premesis is totally unmotivated about catching them. More than a dereliction of duty, that seems like a betrayal of her species. And if Boo’s feelings get hurt, well, I’m not even her person. She comes to me when she wants to show somebody how she can claw the rug by the front door into a big jumbled ball, but when she wants to sit in a lap for hours, she goes to My Darling B, the woman who picked her out at the shelter and brought her to our home.

overrun | 7:00 am CST
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Monday, April 20th, 2015

The lawn mower didn’t start when I pulled the trigger on it yesterday. The blades were very hard to turn by hand, so I thought that maybe the bearings on the motor could use a touch of oil, and that meant I would have to take the engine cover off. I had wanted to do that last year, because somewhere under that engine cover there was a mouse generator. Every time I used the lawn mower last summer, mice would erupt from the openings where the handle connected to the deck. Sometimes they would run up the handle straight at me. I would finally get to see what a mouse generator looked like. Well, I’ve seen one now and I never want to see one again.

There’s a lot of room under the engine cover. The motor itself is about the size of a soup can. I thought it would be a lot bigger. All of the deck space that wasn’t taken up by the motor was filled with bits of trash, fur, lots of mouse turds and two mummified mice. Yuck. And it was all glued in there somehow. I don’t even want to know what glued it all together. None of it fell out by simply upending the lawn mower. I had to dig it out with a stick, then use the shop vac to get it all out of the cracks and crevices. When I was done, I washed my hands in scalding water, twice.

mummy | 7:38 am CST
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Friday, December 5th, 2014

There was a little mousie beside Boo’s litter pan this morning. I could hear him making an odd squeaking sound that I thought at first was coming from a bearing on the furnace motor that needed oil, but the longer I listened to it the more obvious it became that it was an irregular sound, not in time with the turning of the furnace motor. When I cocked my head to see where it was coming from I thought it was behind me, but when I turned around it seemed to be over by the litter pan again. I leaned slightly off to one side and could clearly see the tail and butt-end of the mouse cowering under the lip of the litter pan, apparently hiding from me.

He was still there when I came back from the work bench with a tin can that he pretty much just let me plunk on top of him. He didn’t even try to run away, and after I dumped him into the clear plastic box that we used to take live mice away to the swamp where we released them, he just sat there, not wanting to move. One side of his face looked sort of bashed in. Probably he’d gotten whacked by one of the traps in the basement but somehow managed to not get actually trapped. He obviously wasn’t going to survive, whether or not I released him outside, so I, ah, disposed of him, not without some misgivings. I don’t have much sympathy for mice that invade my house, but I hate to see anything suffer.

wounded | 4:04 pm CST
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Friday, October 24th, 2014

B and I have declared unrestricted warfare on mice. All mice, wherever they are, but particularly here in our little red house.

Before our declaration was submitted to the order rodentia, we were trying to expunge only the mice from our house by live-trapping them, then releasing them into the wild, where they could rejoin the circle of life. This was all B’s idea. She was opposed to killing them because, I guess, it would make her feel guilty, or she thought that karma would come around to get her, or something. I don’t feel all that much guilt about killing mice, and when I released the ones we caught in the house, it was always in the hope that they would quickly become breakfast for a snake. But I’m all about keeping B happy, so I went along with the no-kill traps, for as long as that lasted.

The best live traps, I love to point out, are little grey plastic boxes with a hatch that closes behind the mouse after it’s lured inside by a dab of jelly or peanut butter or whatever you stick in there. I say they’re the best only because I trapped one hell of a lot of mice with them. They’re also the absolutely worst kind of trap, because right after the mouse realizes it can’t get out, it almost immediately pisses itself, then shits all over, then scrabbles around in the shitty puddle of piss until it’s fur is a pasty, matted coat of shit and piss. And then, if you’re a husband who’s trying to keep her gentle soul of a wife happy, you have to deal with a shit-covered mouse that reeks of scared piss. Yuck.

But that time has passed, now that we do not live-trap mice. The moral shift occurred when B was cleaning out her gardening shed at the end of the season and learned that about forty-two gojillion mice had made their collective home in there. The one moment in particular that turned her to the Dark Side was when she pulled a roll of chicken wire down off a shelf and not only did dozens of mice scatter into the corners, raising a cloud of the mouse shit that had been deposited on the shelf over the course of the summer, but a couple dozen more mice leaped out of the roll of chicken wire and ran for cover, scaring her half to death. As B usually live-blogs most of her gardening, she immediately updated her Facebook status to, “I officially hate mice now.”

After that, she wanted me to kill ALL the mice I could catch. Inside or outside, it didn’t matter. If I had told her that I could speak a secret word that would cause all the mice in the world to drop dead, I think she would have begged me to utter it. Since that day she has never quite as bloodthirsty about killing mice, but she still wants me to get rid of them by whatever means necessary, and to that end I have laid traps all over the basement. Two or three times a week, I tramp up the stairs and out the front door with the corner of a trap pinched between two fingers to drop the tiny carcass in the garbage can. If B is anywhere within eyeshot of my path, she makes an ewww face, but she also asks what the score is now. I keep a running tally on the blackboard in the stairway. We’re up to seven since the tenth of the month.

And Boo is still doing her part. She will sit at the base of the stairs every night after lights out and wait there until a mouse skitters past, then give chase. Unfortunately, when she manages to catch one she’ll bring it upstairs to play with it, and if it’s an especially fun mouse with lots of get up and go, she’ll bring it to our bed, apparently so we can share in the fun. This usually happens at about three or four o’clock in the morning. If I could teach her just one thing, it would be that she’s welcome to catch all the mice she wants, but to keep them in the basement, or at the very least out of our bed, thank you very much.

death to mousey | 5:25 am CST
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Sunday, September 14th, 2014

The moment we heard it, we recognized the sound Boo was making as the “I’ve got a mouse for you” announcement. She’s getting better at catching mice; we’re getting better at understanding her communicating with her.

She didn’t hesitate to jump up on the bed and deposit the mouse, dead this time, at B’s feet. I scooped it up and took it out to the trash can while B heaped praise on Boo’s newfound skill as a mouse catcher. I don’t know why Boo is suddenly so determined to catch every mouse in the house, but I’m really very happy that she is. Now if only we could train her to drop them in the toilet and flush.

mouser | 9:01 am CST
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Saturday, September 13th, 2014

We were sitting up in bed reading last night when Boo came to the door howling in the weirdest way. I thought she might have been sick until My Darling B said, “Yah! She’s got a mouse!”

She did have a mouse. She was carrying it in her mouth and didn’t want to let it go, but wanted to let us know she had something for us. Hence, the weird noise. I climbed out of bed and started to try to figure out how to take the mouse away from her, but she was way ahead of me. She jumped up on B’s side of the bed and dropped the mouse at B’s feet.

B has an irrational fear of mice that makes her jump and squeal just like women and elephants do in old cartoons. I’m sure than if she wore petticoats, she would gather them up around her knees and jump on the nearest chair. When Boo dropped the mouse on the bedcovers, B yelped and jerked her feet back because her little gift from Boo definitely wasn’t going to use the “play dead” strategy. It started scampering all over the quilts right away, looking for a likely escape route. I grabbed a sock I’d discarded beside the bed when I climbed in, put it over my hand and started chasing the little booger around. It didn’t take long to catch, and while B heaped praise on Boo for being such a good mouser, I chucked it into the neighbor’s yard across the street. I sure hope he’s not reading this.

jumpy | 4:35 am CST
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Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

As I was saying, the biggest thrill of the weekend was the mouse that came up the stairs into the kitchen on Sunday night. I’m not kidding. Don’t judge us. We don’t get out much.

The little booger literally came up the stairs. I’m almost one-hundred percent certain of this because when I turned on the lights to go downstairs Friday night, there on the second-to-the-top step was a mouse, frozen in mid-step. Hm? Where was I going? Me? I was, ah, just going to the bathroom! Yeah! That’s the ticket! The toilet downstairs is backed up, so I was going to use the one upstairs, if you don’t mind! Yeah! What? You do mind? Well, then, heh-heh-heh, I guess I’ll just go back downstairs and piss in the corner again. See yah!

When I spot a mouse in the house, my reaction is just a little manic. I hope nobody ever records it, because I don’t want it to be immortalized on YouTube for the rest of recorded human history. But here’s what it sounds like in print: “I SEE YOU! I SEE YOU, YOU LITTLE BASTARD! I’M GONNA STOMP YOU! YOU CAN RUN, BUT I’M GONNA GET YOU!” It goes on like that for pages as I scramble around, huffing and puffing until I have to stop to catch my breath. I’ve never caught a mouse this way. Really, there’s probably nobody who spends more energy on not catching mice than I do.

But if I have a cat as my wing man, then I can get things done. Boo spotted the little invader Sunday night after it tried to sneak under the stairway door into the dining room. She happened to be ambling by, headed for a bite of kibble from her bowl, which was probably what the mouse was thinking of doing, too. Boo let us know what she’d found by leaping into the air, scrambling back and forth across the floor, and finally sticking her face in the crack between the base of the oven and the linoleum, snorfling up more air than a Hoover vacuum cleaner. Subtlety is not Boo’s way.

When we went looking for the mouse to see if it was, indeed, trapped, My Darling B spotted it between the oven and the fridge before it scurried to relative safety behind the oven. So we worked out a way to catch the little vermin: I would sweep under the oven with a stick while B made sure that Boo wouldn’t wander away. Her attention span can be a little short sometimes.

But it didn’t take long to flush out the mouse. One or two quick sweeps with the stick and the mouse popped out from under the oven like it was shot, straight past Boo and through B’s feet. That’s when she squealed like a girl and jumped back three feet. I thought that was something that happened only in cartoons. Her reaction wouldn’t have surprised me more if she’d lifted the hem of her petticoat, jumped up on a chair and squeaked, Eeeek! A mouse!

The mouse made a hairpin turn to the right and I thought at first that it headed for the stairway door and the safety of the basement, but for some reason it went instead into the living room where Boo chased it back and forth across the floor like two of the Three Stooges. Whoo-woo-woo-woo! and Why I Oughta! would’ve been the perfect caption to the photo I didn’t get a chance to take, because I chased after them, making sure that the mouse couldn’t find another hiding spot. I had to move one piece of furniture away from the wall so Boo could get behind it, and twice I had to play goalie, slapping the mouse back into play with my foot when it tried to run for the hallway, but Boo did most of the work, finally pinning it down by the front door, the perfect place for me to slap a plastic tub over it. It was late and I didn’t want to keep it overnight, so I suspended our usual no-kill policy and that particular mouse went on permanent sabbatical.

Boo can move pretty fast for such a tubby cat. She’s usually the epitome of a princess-like cat, mincing across the floor in carefully measured steps, but when she saw that mouse, she went batshit crazy, and she scrambled across the living room like a maniac. It was hard not to be impressed.

yelp 2 | 6:07 am CST
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Friday, July 11th, 2014

So no mouse this morning, or yesterday morning, or Wednesday morning. One mouse Tuesday morning, none Monday. I guess the mouse problem in the basement is not nearly as bad as I thought it was. Either that, or I caught all the dumb ones, and the smart ones have figured out how to take the bait without springing the only traps that have, up until now, always caught the mice. Wait, I’m gonna go check …

counting | 6:46 pm CST
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Sunday, July 6th, 2014

I’m trying to find the best way to dispose of mice. We have what seems to be an entire legion of mice in our basement. I forget how many Roman centurions that is; let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it’s a hundred. I have no trouble at all believing there are a hundred mice in our basement. Their turds are everywhere. I see them scurrying along the edges of the rooms. I put out four mousetraps just before the lunch hour this morning, and when I went down to my basement lair in the early afternoon, I noticed that two of the traps were sprung. So in just five or six hours, I caught two mice without hardly trying.

By the way, don’t waste your time buying those old-fashioned mouse traps with the blocky wooden base and the spring-loaded wire that snaps your thumbs at least once while you’re trying to set it. Likewise, don’t bother with the modern update that you squeeze open like a spring-loaded clothespin. I tried those and they’re not mousetraps; they’re mouse feeders. I bought a couple of each kind of mouse trap, just to see which ones would work best, and slathered the triggers with peanut butter. Mice love peanut butter. They can’t get enough of it. Our mice licked the triggers clean on all those traps without tripping them. Houdini would be proud of them.

But there’s one kind of trap that’s like a gray plastic box open at one end with a little hood that drops down over the opening when a mouse goes in. I’ve caught more mice with those traps and I would recommend them over anything else I’ve tried, except for one thing: When a mouse gets caught in them, the first thing the little bastard does is piss himself. Then he shits all over the inside of the box and pisses some more. It’s like he’s trying to make the biggest, most disgusting mess he can possibly manage, and he does a pretty good job for such a tiny little mammal. If I didn’t have to clean up that mess every time I caught a mouse, I would whole-heartedly recommend them to anybody who asked. Not that anybody has ever asked.

Anyway, back to the problem of disposal: These are live traps. Forget about suggesting poison. I’m not using poison. It’s not that I’m opposed to killing mice. I would have used the spring-loaded traps that snap them in two but, as I’ve already pointed out, they’re shit at catching mice. But poison isn’t an option. We have two cats. And besides, I just plain don’t like poison. I don’t like handling it, I don’t like it laying around, I don’t even like the smell of it, but most of all, I don’t like the thought of dozens of little rodent corpses decaying in the farthest corners of our basement. Yuck.

So until somebody comes up with a killing trap that our mice won’t visit like a smorgasbord, waddling away fat and happy after stuffing themselves with peanut butter, I’m using live traps, which means I have to dispose of live mice. Right now, what I’m doing is taking them down to the marsh and setting them loose, where they’ll make a nice meal for a snake or a salamander or something. But that’s not something I want to keep on doing. The marsh is a ways down the road and besides, sometimes I just don’t wanna. Doubly don’t wanna after the snow flies.

My Darling B suggested that I leave them in an open container in the yard for the neighborhood cats to finish off, but it turns out that mice are seriously athletic. You would not believe how surprisingly high a tiny little mouse can jump. An open container would have to be at least three feet deep, maybe deeper, I’m just guessing here, to hold them for more than a minute or two. So that idea, as good as it is, is out until we can find an aquarium half as tall as I am.

I wonder if a pet store would take them, to feed to the snakes or whatever else eats mice?

mousey | 4:43 pm CST
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Friday, April 11th, 2014

My Darling B has a whole new attitude about mice since she opened her garden shed and discovered they’d pooped and peed on just about everything in there. Before she was on Mother Nature’s side, making me trap them live so we could release them in a nearby city park, but now that she has to hose down everything that was in the shed and throw out all her gardening gloves, her ideology has gone from bunny-hugger to “Kill Every Stinking One Of Those Little Poop-Machines!”

I knew she’d come around eventually.

changeup | 1:59 pm CST
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Monday, November 5th, 2012

The other night, B opened a kitchen drawer and discovered that the mousies in Our Humble O’Bode have been going to the trouble of climbing all the way up to the top drawers to run around on the utensils and chew on the corks. She didn’t find an actual mouse, but she did find a whole bunch of their little calling cards in the corners of the drawer.

Up to this point she’s been absolutely humane when it came to the treatment we gave the mice we trapped under the sink. They all had to be caught live in traps that wouldn’t hurt them, and we had to let them go in the park, but since she found out the dirty little buggers have been dancing on her kitchen utensils, she’s done a complete one-eighty.

“I’ll kill the next mouse I see!” she promised as she emptied the drawer of every knife and tong to clean it out.

I looked up from the paper I was reading and asked, “Does that mean I can just kill them from now on? Do I still have to bother with live traps, or walking down to the park to let them go?”

She didn’t want to agree to that, but she wouldn’t say I couldn’t do the little buggers in. “Don’t tell me what you do with them,” was all she would say.

So I guess I’ll feed them to the cats from now on. I know a certain tabby who loves an occasional fat, tasty mouse.

rodentia | 9:33 pm CST
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Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Bonkers wanted up in my lap. I was blogging. I said no.

He sat and pouted for a while until he fell asleep sitting up. When he jerked himself awake, he sauntered off toward the dining room, probably to slop water from his bowl all over the floor. He’s getting good at that.

Several minutes passed in near-silence as I tapped at the keys of my laptop. Then, from the dining room came the sounds of a cat getting into trouble. He might have been on the table, trying to get the lid off the butter dish, or he might have been scrounging through the basket of empty bottles, trying to get at a rinsed-out tin of cat food that still whiffed faintly of whatever that nasty brown stuff is they make cat food out of. Either way, he was clearly up to no good.

I jumped out of my seat and made it to the dining room in three giant steps. Bonkers was hiding under the table when I got there. As I stepped to one side to get a look at him, he ran to the other side of the table. He was definitely hiding something he shouldn’t have had, but if I moved, he shifted to a spot under a chair or the far corner of the table where I couldn’t see him. I started pulling the chairs out from under the table and finally he ran into the living room with me in hot pursuit.

That’s when I saw the mouse’s tail. He very definitely had a mouse’s tail dangling from his muzzle. I ran back to the kitchen to grab a mason jar that was sitting on the counter and came back to the living room with it. Sooner or later he’d drop the mouse, and I needed something to trap the little monster. If I didn’t, the damn thing would disappear into the woodwork.

No such luck. For the mouse, that is. When Bonk dropped it and I took a step forward with the overturned mason jar in hand, he deftly snatched it up again and took a step or two away from me. “C’mon, drop it,” I urged him. He turned his head away, ignoring me. He began to gnash on it.

“Aggh! Mouse getting eaten! Mouse getting eaten!”

I’d been shouting mostly out of shock to nobody in particular, but the alarm brought My Darling B out of the spare room where she was watching cat videos on the internet to witness the carnage. She clapped her hands over her mouth to stifle a scream when she saw Bonkers choking the thing down.

Two bites, three, maybe four more and it was gone. He swallowed the damn thing whole, licked his chops, then paraded around the room meowing loudly. “That’s right! I’m the cat! I’m the big, bad mouse-catcher! Suck it, mousies! I’m gonna getcha!” And so on.

Mouse is a dish that’s best eaten live.

mouse is a dish that’s best eaten live | 12:42 pm CST
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