FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 18, 2012 –
I was talking to a friend the other day about my hope of taking a little weekend trip this spring out into the Southern California desert, the goal being to spend at least one night sleeping out under a blanket of stars.
“Don’t they have rattlesnakes out there?” my friend asked with concern.
“Well,” I explained, “I plan on sleeping in the bed of my pickup truck and rattlesnakes are more into slithering than climbing. But if I do use a tent, I’ve already promised my daughter that I will make sure it’s hermetically sealed.”
“I hate snakes,” said my friend. “The only good thing about them is that they eat mice, which I hate even more than snakes.”
“Why is that?” I asked with interest.
“Well, I guess it started back when I was teaching and the teacher I shared my room with was always leaving boxes of sugary cereal around, which he loved to snack on. So of course it wasn’t long before there were mice everywhere, including running back and forth under my desk while I was sitting in it.
“But I have a more recent example for you from just last week. I was sitting very quietly in my living room, no loud and obnoxious reality TV shows on, no music playing in the background, and I had even turned my cell phone off because sometimes I just need to completely decompress after a noisy and much too busy day at the office. Then, with the whole house wonderfully still, all of a sudden I heard the patter of little feet up in the attic.
“My husband was out of town, but men are never there when you need them anyway. I immediately knew what the problem was because we have had it in the past. So I very reluctantly got up off my very comfortable couch and went out into the cold garage in search of some of those newish kind of mouse traps which are very easy to set that my husband had purchased the last time we had mice in the house. When I finally found them, I baited two with some very enticing extra-crunchy peanut butter, which I’ve been told mice will kill for – or rather be killed for.
“Then, also very reluctantly, off to the attic I went. But having no interest whatsoever in seeing – much less confronting – a live mouse, I slowly shoved the baited traps just inside the attic door and scampered back down the stairs. It wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, since no one wants to think of themselves as an assassin, even if it’s just vermin you’re sending to the other side. So I was in no hurry the next morning to go up to the attic to see how things had turned out. But since I had to get some Easter decorations down from there, I had no choice. And sure enough, there were two squished mice, with their lifeless eyes staring up at me.
“I simply couldn’t deal with it at that moment, so I left everything untouched and got ready for work. But once at work, I made the very big mistake of telling a co-worker about my ordeal, only to find out she is a vegetarian, which to her apparently means all vermin should be treated kindly and shooed out of the house with happy wishes. Maybe she thought Cinderella’s dress-making was going on in my attic or something, but she was very unhappy with me. Plus she kind of hinted around that I could have at least removed the poor mice from the terrible devices which had killed them and given them a decent burial.
“Anyway, later that night I dressed for the mission. Along with a baseball cap to hold my hair back in a tight ponytail, I put on a leather jacket, my hiking boots, and rubber gloves, the goal being to carefully protect myself against any grieving or angry mouse relatives or friends I might encounter. I also put on sunglasses, even though it was dark out and I was indoors, so that I couldn’t see any of the messy details. Unfortunately, I immediately saw details, and one of the dead mice looked suspiciously like a lactating female, which meant I had probably destroyed a perfectly happy family. It also meant that I would probably have to soon return with more traps to snuff out the babies.
“I was beginning to feel like a mass murderer. Plus the hard part was still ahead – getting the corpses out of my attic. I had a shovel with me, but that was mostly in case any other mice tried to rush me. To actually pick up the dead mice, I used two long corn tongs, and the whole time I was doing it, a scream kept building up in the back of my throat. Then I had to get them – and the corn tongs that of course could never be used again – into a plastic bag, which I finally managed to do.
“I triple-bagged everything, raced down the stairs and into the backyard, and dropped the whole awful mess into the garbage can. Then I let out the scream I had been holding inside for fifteen minutes, only to scare the bejesus out of my poor neighbors.”
“That’s quite a story!” I told my friend, who still appeared to be quite shaken even though the events she had described in such detail had happened over a week ago.
“So,” I asked, “have you heard any more mice up in your attic?”
“No, not yet. But my husband thinks we should get a cat.”
“Now that’s a good idea.”
“But I’m allergic to cats. I guess it would probably be okay if the cat was only around for a few days every now and then. Do you know any place that rents cats?”
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Copyright News-Ledger 2012