Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Man Vs. Wild

I have squished more than a few bugs in my day, and even conquered the monster cockroach-like water bugs of the South, but I never considered myself much of a exterminator, or even a hunter of beasts.  For years, I had no reason to combat the wild, as I, like most of you, do not have to kill to obtain shelter and food, unless the supermarket is unnaturally crowded with idiots.  Rarely do I test wits with a creature from the outside, but I found myself doing just that last week, when a mouse chose to camp in our apartment.

(Above: A reenactment of the mouse's first visit)
Contrary to popular belief, not all New York City apartments are crawling with mice, rats, roaches, or obnoxious sports fans.  Believe it or not, this mouse that first visited us a couple months ago was the first one we faced since moving to the city in 2004.  We were stunned when we saw it scurry across our dining room and into a closet.  At first we thought our eyes were playing tricks on us, but as we opened the closet door, we saw it sitting in the back, staring at us.  A quivering, scared, defenseless little mouse.  Or so we thought.  Having never dealt with a mouse before, I grabbed a small bucket, thinking I could easily drop it on the thing, much like the way it's done in the board game "Mouse Trap."  I naturally felt that the expertise I received from playing that game when I was ten would help me in real life.  What I was to do once the bucket fell onto the mouse is anybody's guess.  The board game didn't go that far. 

Surprisingly, the plan didn't work.  As the mouse darted out of the closet and over a bunch of boots, I gracefully flung the bucket down sideways and watched it bounce away as the mouse ran freely in the opposite direction... and under Kyle's bedroom door.  We gasped.  This mouse broke a sacred barrier, and it now deserved what was coming to it.  No more sympathy.  We barged into Kyle's room, turned on the lights, and looked in every basket and in every corner for the thing.  Kyle groaned as we clanged around everywhere.  Despite our rigorous search, the mouse somehow escaped, and we were forced to give up.  I did not sleep well that night.  The mouse had won round one.

We were better prepared for its next visit, which happened a couple days later.  The mouse once again scurried across the dining room, and under the closet door.  I pulled out some glue traps we had bought (the humane traps, unfortunately, had attracted ants), and placed them along the door.  We waited on our couch in the next room and watched as the mouse ducked its head out from under the door and sniffed at the bait.  Just as we were about to pop the champagne to toast our victory... the mouse evaded the traps!  It ran back across the dining room and disappeared again, having won round two.

We didn't see our visitor again for a good month after that.  I had hoped it was gone for good, but that was foolish thinking.  It is too hard to resist the free buffet offered each night on the floor of a two-year-old's home, and a little more than a week ago, the mouse came back for more.  Once again, we laid out the traps, and once again it ran off, towards our apartment's hallway.  We assumed it fled out our front door, since there's a hole by the bottom edge of it that leaves us vulnerable to very small crooks.  The mouse had won round three.

I then realized that the mouse had initially entered our home through a quarter-size hole in the dining room wall that had been created by previous tenants.  I clogged it up using aluminum foil and duct tape, the two tools that can be used to combat all kinds of problems, from leaky dams to scalp itch.  Of course, at the time I was not aware that, in blocking the hole, I was trapping the mouse INSIDE our apartment.  Apparently it hadn't left that closet as we had assumed. 
Two days later, as Jennifer was working late, I sat on the couch and spied the mouse running from the hallway and back into the dining room closet.  It then ran from the closet and back toward the now-blocked-hole, pausing once to look at me and blow a raspberry. That finally pushed me off the edge.  I grabbed a broom and stood in the dining room, my mouth foaming and eyes wide, ready to attack it once it crawled past me.  But this mouse was too smart and cocky.  As I stood there, it still managed to run by, and even stop to insult me once again... crawl crawl crawl - PFFFFT!- crawl crawl crawl... before disappearing back into the hallway, perhaps into the pantry there.  I doubled up the useless traps there and waited with the broom.  It did not show its head again, and eventually I put the broom away and went to bed.  For the rest of the week I would plot the mouse's demise.

This past weekend, as the family took a brief trip to Massachusetts, I tried a new scheme using the traps we had.  As I laughed and rubbed my hands together maniacally, I placed the glue traps in new locations.  I also left two humane traps in the hallway, positioned in the most attractive way possible, and away from any location where there were traps before.  Somehow, someway, by some miracle, it worked!  When we came home late Sunday night, one of the humane traps was closed, with the critter inside it.  I was giddy with excitement as I put the trap into a bucket and brought it a few blocks outside so that it could be back with "nature."  Far away from our apartment, next to a tree alongside the road, I opened up the trap and watched the little thing fall to the ground and wiggle around.  I walked away immediately, denying it any chance to mock me again.  This time the last laugh was mine.  HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Okay, maybe my obsession became a bit out of hand, but it paid off at the end.  I fought the beast that had intruded our home, and won.  The mouse is gone, and our child is safe.  You can be sure that mouse won't show its face around here again.  This apartment ain't big enough for the both of us.

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