Maybe the box spring fiasco was an omen. Last Friday when I was in the living room minding my business, there was a little mouse minding mine too. I gasped, he scurried. I assume it was a he. My gender biased imagination tells me a female mouse sticks to the countryside where she’s welcome.
After seeing the mouse I did the same thing as a woman on Lifetime who finds out her husband has cheated. First, I was in denial. I didn’t see that. This isn’t happening. Then I was at peace. Okay, I’m fine. I can get through this. I’m strong. Then things got real. I’m going to kill him. I’ll wait until he least expects it, then I’ll give him what he deserves.
We called the exterminator. Calling an exterminator on a mouse is like calling a mother on a disobedient child. When they come, you better run. Far, far away. When I told my sister about the traps the exterminator put down she said, “Well, what happens when the mouse gets caught? Then what?” I hadn’t thought that far.
And later that night the mouse did run…right into the trap. My roommate woke me up in the middle of the night (or maybe it was 8 a.m.) and I thought there was a fire. “I think I saw the mouse!” she said. “Come check.” This really meant: I definitely saw the mouse and I need you to be afraid with me. I tiptoed to the kitchen. “Yep, that’s him.” We called the building manager and I went back to sleep forcing happy thoughts. I even tried to personify the mouse to make him more human. I imagined him saying, “I just wanted some cheese. It won’t happen again.” I don’t recommend this method. It doesn’t really help.
When I got to work I couldn’t wait to tell my boss the latest. She had mice at her old apartment and didn’t say anything at first. She didn’t want to complain because her husband had worked so hard to get them the apartment. She decided enough was enough when her three-year old grabbed one by the tail and said, “Mom, look!”
I explained everything to her. The good news was I caught him, the bad news was I was too afraid to move him. She was more concerned about the means by which I caught him. “Awww he probably died of fright first. They are always very afraid.” Not too afraid of my kitchen. I was glad she didn’t use the “they’re more afraid of you than you are of them” line because that never applies to me. Trust me, I’m 100% terrified. Then she told me the sticky traps are really bad for the mice. Wasn’t that the point? I personified the mouse enough to sleep at night, but not enough to the point where I cared about his general well-being. “Robin, can’t you just pick up the sheet and toss it?” Do I look like the Orkin man to you?
If I had a mouse in Georgia, I probably wouldn’t say a word. I might be embarrassed. Here it becomes a round table of people exchanging stories and methods. There was my friend who stuffed 100 cotton balls doused in peppermint oil behind her stove. The friend who saw one “dancing” in her fireplace and the friend who said he came of age when his dad made him pick one up in their New York home at the age of seven. I guess I always thought mice lived in abandoned homes in squalor and filth. In New York City they’ll live anywhere with four walls. It’s almost like they absorb the temperament of the people here. They can be afraid on the inside, but bold and resilient on the outside. They are proving, like all of us, that they belong.
Later that night I was tucking Emma, the girl I babysit, into bed. “What should we read?” I asked. “Horton Hears a Who?” “No, let’s read Stuart Little.” Life is funny. We read the chapter where Stuart searches for his friend Margolo. Stuart looked cute in his pants and sweater and for a second I wished I could personify a mouse the way E.B. White had.
When I got home the building manager picked up the mouse and tossed him in the trash. My roommate and I thanked him profusely. I maybe even said I love you. “Wow,” he said. “I wish this was all it took to get praise these days!” He walked in looking like a middle-aged man who had a long day of work. He left looking like Clark Kent. And ya know I’m glad the mouse ended up in the trash. I think he’d like to go out that way. Lying happily in a trash bag full of cheese, crackers and cookie crumbs in a place devoid of exterminators and screaming women. Yes, I think he’s quite alright. I am too. Tonight, we’re both resting in peace.