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Seven Hills

Boston-area exploration, travel notes, crafty things, and other Somervillainy.

Monday, December 11, 2006

My First Mousetrap

The Somervillain is most definitely a city mouse. I grew up in urban Chicago, and first started taking the public bus alone at the age of seven. (When I was six, an older girl was paid 25 cents a ride to accompany me to and from school every day.) Cockroaches I am familiar with. Silverfish, yes. But household pests of flesh and blood are new terrain for me.

During the last few years my father lived in rural New York, and after he died this year I became responsible for his house. Just recently we finally felt ready to put it on the market. While we were elated by how quickly it sold, that also meant we were immediately plunged into the process of getting ready to vacate, i.e., many hours spent in a country hamlet three hours from the seven hills of Somerville.

I knew my dad had some trouble with mice in the fall and winter (he liked to tell me tales of "Joe vs. the Mice," kind of like "Joe vs. the Volcano," but much, much smaller), and my understanding is that this is pretty much par for the course when you live in the sticks. Still, I was hoping we might "squeak" by without any trouble from the vermin before the closing.

Things were going pretty well for awhile, but then the signs of furry company began to appear. A paper bag of flour gnawed to pieces in the pantry, little rice-like grains of turd along the baseboards in the kitchen. We got rid of all the foodstuffs not safely armored in cans and felt pretty proud of ourselves, until one weekend I left a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop overnight. It was still sticky with deglazed steak au poivre when I went to bed that night, and in the morning it was thoroughly peppered with tiny poops. Who knew mice pooped so much? Do the poops rain down with every morsel that passes their little mousey lips, or is it even more constant than that, a Hansel-and-Gretel trail following them where ever they roam?

Now that it's finally gotten colder out here, I suspect that Friend Mouse is staying inside even more. It seems that even if I only leave the kitchen for five minutes, when I return there is new evidence that he/she has paid me a visit. A solitary turd in the pan under the dish rack. A scattering behind the wine bottle. A fresh one laid saucily in the Kleenex I thoughtlessly left on the counter just moments ago.

Still, in spite of all this, we hadn't actually seen the mouse itself until today. (I like to think there is only one Mouse, and not Mice.) Today was apparently Mouse Sighting Day, at least for my stalwart boyfriend (who is equally if not more unhappy about the presence of small critters in the home). First, while I was on the phone in the kitchen, he walked in, stopped short, and said, simply, "Whoa." Kind of like you might say "whoa" as you watched a comet crashing into earth, and found all other words had escaped you. Friend Mouse had just made its debut, zipping behind the refrigerator.

Then later in the afternoon he took my dad's old car, the one that's been sitting unused in the driveway for several months, down to the gas station for some attention. When he returned he told me I would be happy to know my "new car" came with an extra feature - another mouse! It had been driven out of the car's innards by the unfamiliar experience of a running engine and skittered around on the passenger side before disappearing again.

A family friend stopped by tonight, and when I mentioned the car had a resident he told me I should put a trap in it. As it happened I had just thrown away my dad's reusable mousetrap earlier in the day, thinking the mouse wasn't going to be my problem for much longer, but now, chastened, I dug it out of the trash again. It was covered in coffee grounds. Our friend had offered to set it for me, but then other people dropped by and he got distracted and drove off, leaving the grim task to me. Luckily there was still an unopened jar of peanut butter in the pantry. The only thing I know about mice is that they really like peanut butter.

I know the trap is effective - it already went off once when I set it on the roof of the car while I opened the door. I reset the spring, then placed it invitingly on the floor, at an angle. I feel sad for the mouse, but better that it dies this way than taking us both down in a fiery crash after startling me in heavy traffic on the Mass Pike. And now that I've gotten past my initial resistance to setting the trap, slathering on the peanut butter, and above all making a pointed effort to snuff out a little rodent, I'm sort of curious to know what's happening out there. Did the trap catch it yet? Is that the snap of hinges I hear, or just someone slamming a door? Is it working? And if so, did the mouse get one sweet taste of peanut butter before the fanged jaws sprang shut?

I find I'm looking forward to going out to check on the car tomorrow almost as though it were Christmas morning. What will I find there, under the tree? "Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house ..."


At 12/12/2006 4:26 AM, Anonymous scamper said...

Certainly a rite of passage! I'm glad you witnessed the beast of lore before you vacated...

At 12/12/2006 9:21 AM, Blogger Chrissa said...

Ack! I caught one. Let's hope death came quickly.

At 12/12/2006 9:51 AM, Anonymous Claverack Weekender said...

I've used the "humane" traps in the past. The mousey sticks in the box and can be freed (preferably far away!) by pouring oil onto him. I prefer extra virgin olive oil with just a pinch of oregano!

Note that mice do not travel alone, there are probably a several more hanging around....

At 12/14/2006 9:39 AM, Blogger RBG said...

An entertaining read! Glad I'm not the one dealing with the constant mouse poop, though! We have mice at school, in the studio buildling, but they must be savvy to the traps - I see them set here and there in the corners, but still the mice skitter around. They're so cute! Of course, it'd be different if I lived in that building, I'm sure.

At 12/14/2006 1:16 PM, Blogger Christina said...

I remember when we set a few with cheese (cheddar) when I was growing up, it wasn't long before the mice had learned to snatch the cheese without disturbing the rest of the trap. I have to say, I was kind of rooting for them, but that's probably because I didn't actually see one scurrying across the kitchen ...

At 12/14/2006 1:16 PM, Anonymous Julie said...

We have occasional mice visitors in our office (particularly when food is left out or I've huffed a sandwich at my desk and haven't been too diligent with the clean-up.) I've returned to work a morning or two to find turds on my desk and on top of the microwave. Maybe its time to look for a new job.

As always your blog rocks.

At 12/15/2006 4:20 PM, Blogger Chrissa said...

Funny tales (tails?) of cheese-snatching and mice in the workplace. Come to think of it, we had a mouse problem at one of my jobs for awhile - any snack left on the desk overnight drew many appreciative nibblers. I usually think mice are cute, too, but I'm sorry to say, no offense to this particular mouse, but it wasn't the cute kind. More like a junior rat. (I hope it's not rattist to say that.)


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