Friday, February 11, 2011
Last week, I was at work. MY WIFE was home, watching TV in the living room. She saw him scooting around the radiator near the front window. She gave me a phone call.
"Ratatooie is back," she said.
[This is somebody else's mouse. Ratatooie is extremely camera shy.]
We had had a mouse in the house before, a few years back. We never saw him, nor did we hear him. He was the quietest most polite mouse in the history of micedom. We only knew he was around because we occasionally saw chewed up bits of paper in one of the kitchen drawers. We also saw little teeny-tiny mouse poops near the stove. If it wasn't for that poop, I wouldn't have cared one way or the other. If he was so quiet that we never heard him, and so secretive that we never saw him, I was willing to let bygones be bygones and let him have as much scrap paper as he wanted. You can't have a house guest pooping in your kitchen, though, so I bought a "catch-and-release" trap.
MY WIFE, not as much of a sentimental dope as I, averred that she was in favor of buying the kind that splatters a mouse's brains all over the linoleum. I was tempted to tell her that it was her fault we had mice. If she wasn't allergic to animal dander, we'd have a cat. I decided it really wasn't fair to lay blame at the feet of someone who couldn't help being wheezy, though, so I compromised - in my head - and, since I do the grocery shopping, a humane trap was bought on my next trip. I set the trap, following the instructions. I caught no mice.
We did, however, stop seeing any signs of a mouse being around. I suggested that perhaps this was a particularly intelligent mouse, and when I set the trap he decided that we were too smart for him and he left. MY WIFE rolled her eyes (which she'll do more of later in this story, I assure you.)
A couple of days later, I discovered what had happened to that mouse. At least, I assume it was the same mouse; we hadn't been formally introduced. I went outside to tend to some plants, and there he was, a stiff little mouse corpse near our cellar stairs. I have no idea how he came to meet his maker, but he certainly had and it made my life easier. I no longer had to consider buying a trap that would kill him, since he was already stone cold dead. Back to our life as normal, without mice!
But then, four weeks ago, we were in the living room together and we heard a noise from the kitchen, some small item or another tipping over on our counter. I went to investigate. I flipped on the light switch and caught an extremely fleeting glimpse of Ratatooie scurrying behind our cookie jar. I moved closer, but he had completely disappeared, down some hole I couldn't locate for the life of me.
(I don't know which one of us first took to calling him Ratatooie, but that personalization wouldn't help matters later. You'll see.)
I retrieved the previously-unsuccessful humane trap from where it had been living in a drawer full of other useless items like old keys from two houses ago and 7/23 hex bolts that fit Eastern European appliances we threw out in 1995. Since it was still somewhat close to Christmas - and since so many of you kind souls had sent me a fruitcake or two - I baited the trap with a little piece of fruitcake rather than the peanut butter I had tried during the former failed mouse hunt. I figured if I liked fruitcake so much, Ratatooie would, too.
As it turned out, I was right. Fruitcake is an excellent bait. This time I caught a mouse. I found this out when I got up in the middle of the night to have a snack - some fruitcake, as a matter of fact - and I saw the trap had been triggered. I grabbed a small cardboard box that was nearby and released Ratatooie into it, being careful to close off any avenue of escape as soon as he was inside.
Now the question was what to do with him.
I had never thought of what would happen AFTER I caught a live mouse. At least, I hadn't considered what to do with one in the winter when there was about three feet of snow on the ground everywhere in our neighborhood. I had purchased the trap during a summer when it was easy to imagine releasing a mouse in some flowery field, where he would see the abundant food supplied by blooming trees full of succulent fruits and hearty nuts, maybe some shapely lady mice nearby giving him a come hither look, and then he would gaze up at me with big brown eyes full of gratitude for not crushing his head, give me the mousy equivalent of a tip of his hat, and saunter off to live his suddenly wonderful life. Instead, I was faced with the prospect of tossing a cute little furry animal into a snowbank to die.
I know, I know. Some of you are like MY WIFE. You see nothing outstandingly cute about vermin. You've got to understand, though, that I was raised on cartoons wherein the mouse was always the hero. Mighty Mouse was on his way to save the day. Speedy Gonzalez rescued entire Mexican towns from evil cats. Pixie and Dixie were always getting the best of Mister Jinx, and... well, hell, as much I really like Tom, I didn't want to croak Jerry.
With all of the vicious snowstorms we had been having, we and our upstairs neighbors had decided to park in the driveway rather than utilize our garage. We did this because it was easier to drive the cars into the street and clean them of new snow rather than shovel the entire length of our sixty foot drive. The garage door was closed, whereas we usually kept it open. So, after giving about three seconds of thought to keeping Ratatooie as a pet until springtime arrived, I decided to do the best by him that I saw as possible at the moment. Holding the box in one hand, I grabbed a Nilla Wafer from our cookie jar with my other hand, carried both out the back door, walked to the garage, opened it, and went inside. I put Ratatooie's box down in the far corner of the garage, slipped the Nilla Wafer into the box for him as a going away present, then shut the garage door behind me and went back into the house. It was cold in the garage, but not windy, and it wasn't full of snow like the rest of the world. My hope was that he'd find a warmish spot to huddle in until a thaw happened. At the least, he'd enjoy the cookie before freezing to death. And I figured that was that.
In the morning, I told MY WIFE that I had caught Ratatooie. She asked me what I did with him. I told her. Remember that eye-rolling thing I told you about earlier? She did it again. And she said, "So, let me get this straight. You put the mouse in our garage and fed him a cookie? Great. Now he'll tell all of his mouse friends that there's a lunatic in the neighborhood who gives cookies to rats."
I became indignant.
"He's not a rat. He's just a tiny little mouse with big brown eyes. Besides, I figure if I give him a cookie in the garage, then he'll get the idea that's where the food is and he won't come back in here."
Her eyes rolled even harder than the first time. I had the upper hand, though, because I, the mighty white hunter, had caught the mouse. Whatever else she thought, our house was now mouse-free.
Until last week, that is, when Ratatooie returned.
(Of course, I'm not 100% sure if this next mouse was Ratatooie. It might have been Ratatooie's brother, or, God forbid, Mrs. Ratatooie.)
So, as I said at the beginning, MY WIFE called me at work. She asked me where the humane trap was. I told her, and she set it.
When I got home, we watched a bit of the Celtics game together. Then MY WIFE went to bed. I stayed up to watch the end of the game. In the fourth quarter, just after Ray Allen hit a three-pointer to give the C's a lead, I heard the trap snap shut. I went over to where it was, by the radiator, and lifted it up. I could tell by the weight that we had caught something, and I assumed it was a mouse. Once again, I had to figure out what to do with him.
Oh, hell, you know what I did with him. I put him in a box, gave him a cookie, and took him out to the garage. After closing the garage door, I went back inside and re-set the trap, just in case there was more than one Ratatooie.
The next morning, there was. I took this one out to the garage, too, with the requisite cookie in hand, and dumped him in the same box that was already there and empty. I threw his cookie in with him and went back inside the house. I don't know; maybe there's only one mouse, and he has getting back into the house down pat and I've trained him to expect a cookie every time he does. Damned if I can tell. The next time I catch one, I'm going to draw a big X on his back in magic marker so I can see if I'm catching the same freakin' mouse over and over.
So far this week, I have not caught another mouse. Fair warning to Ratatooie if he reads this, though: You can only push me so far. I ate the last of the Nilla Wafers myself a couple of days ago, so no more cookies for you, pal!
Soon, with more better stuff.