Cancer took our last cat. Home she came in a cardboard box which was soon a few feet under. Pushing up a healthy new crop of yellow daisies, she rested not far from another cat, budgies and rabbit.
That was the invitation for Open House — for Mouse. Being veterans of Rodents’ MENSA, their noses had advanced capabilities of removing food from traps without springing them. Knowing the vital difference between Quick and Dead, they gauged with accuracy their dashes from television to china cabinet and window-seat.
In no time at all, the word “mouse” became all that was needed to drive our dog into a frenzied check-up of all their known haunts. Opening the cutlery drawer or the compost bin, we would stare one in the face. One did a Superman flying feat from the top of the pantry to the floor without the need of cape or underwear.
“Mum, we have a mouse!” I wailed over the phone.
“Don’t worry, the dog will get it.”
Was there just one uninvited visitor? We thought that was all. Then it became obvious our home was a Testation of Infestation. Like a soap-opera, there were daily episodes with different script-writers. They could scrabble in the back of the stove, yet escape undetected in the time it took to find a screwdriver. Was that also the one which frolicked inside the works of the freezer?
It wasn’t the one I found in the drawer of the china cabinet taking a refresher course in Technic Lego blocks: the dog got that (Mum was right). One bite and it was done for! But what an anti-climax for dog: no amount of nudging or saliva produced any inclination on the part of the mouse to continue the drama.
Nor was it the one I found when in desperation I pulled out all of the kitchen drawers. This one was flattened against the backing board, victim of a heedless murderer (Quick-Drawer McGraw, no less) who had shut the utensil drawer so fast and with such force that we now had a very flat, splat specimen of vermin. Considering the degree of dehydration of the cadaver, I’d say that its residence must have dated directly from the cat’s demise.
Our kitchen bench had a receptacle for vegetable peelings, and the mice breeding in the compost heap outside had a time-honoured track across the lawn, up through the floorboards under the dishwasher, from whence a minor mountaineering feat gave the access to these tasty morsels.
In our open-plan living area it didn’t bother them the day I wallpapered the bathroom, to-and-fro-ing so I could use the dining table to glue the paper. I saw them making free with my bench. So I laced the trap with peanut butter and placed it where they would have to pass by.
Looking up from the pasting, I saw one tail out each side of the trap. Since the cover of the trap obscured their view, I was able to creep up on them.
Nearly! Not quite! They sensed me at the last second.
The situation demanded new tactics. I stood there, stock-still. Eventually one twitching nose emerged over the back of the dishwasher. The quivering body followed. A visual scan relegated me to part of the furniture. Over the lip of the bench it came. At last it was far enough into the trap. I extended my arm and triggered it. Ha!
I did a few drops of wallpaper while I waited for it to stop struggling. It seemed a good idea to reset the trap to get the other. Now, if I dropped the dead one on the lawn the dog would retrieve it to ‘play’ with — inside. So I carried out trap-and-all to the compost heap.
“Ha, you not-so-wise bit of vermin! I got the better of you! Thought you were smart, did you?”
It hung limply from the trap, which was wonderfully designed to allow you to dispose of the occupant without ever laying finger on it.
I squeezed to release — and that wretched creature plopped down, promptly scrambling on all fours to disappear into the depths before I had time to imagine its song of triumph.
Damned irony, letting a mouse get the last laugh!
We were not to be out-done. Peanut butter caught several in various locations over the next few days. The very last victim kicked up bobsy-die inside a kitchen cupboard, shrieking and thudding at a decibel level in competition with the TV set.
Was it the same one? I didn’t open the cupboard to ask. Quick-Drawer McGraw wisely waited until morning, to see dead mouse with one foot in the trap that prevented its exit via the waste pipe outlet — a silent testimony to a struggle of titanic proportions.
Either it was the last mouse, or it got the message across loud and clear.