A Mouse Even by Judith Ann Moriarty – The Storyteller

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Twas the night before Christmas and all thru the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.

“Mom, I just saw a little brown mouse in the kitchen,” remarked by daughter. “It ran downstairs when it saw me.” They were probably after the same hunk of snack-time cheese.

The next day I hauled home a big box of those little pellets that snuff the life out of mice. Six boxes placed here and there in the basement, and six boxes eaten bare by the next morning. Six. Wow, either I had one huge Terminator Mouse or a one very hungry one, or maybe a dozen hungry ones. You know what they say..where there’s one, there’s more. My old eyes are really old these days, but on further inspection, yes, I saw their little mouse deposits. I hesitate to call it poop. That’s such a vulgar word. Mouse “droppings” is even sillier.

So now it’s before Christmas and I haven’t seen any mice, but have had a ton of advice from well-meaning folks who know how to rid rodents.

The neighbor who lives in the condo adjacent to mine seemed particularly interested in how I store my bird seed. Actually, I stopped feeding the birds recently, figuring all the seed dropped through the deck spaces and was feeding the mice directly below who then decided maybe the thing to do was get in under the garage door and into the house where the REALLY good stuff is. Popcorn, Cheerios, sunflower seeds. The birdseed rests in a steel canister in my garage. It’s mouse proof. I hope.

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Or mice. You decide. There is no such word as “meeces.”

Another friend of mine suggested using “traps” like the ones she uses to trap insects. “The mice step on this sticky stuff and get stuck,” she said. Can you think of anything worse than finding a half dead mouse with sticky feet? No thanks. It’s pellets or die. I haven’t noticed any odor of dead mice. “They crawl away after eating the pellets. In search of water,” another neighbor quipped. I’m apparently not the only one with mice. I’ve seen the rat and mouse patrol police in the ‘hood. No one around here admits to having ever used an exterminator. I guess having an exterminator sweep thru your home is akin to having leprosy.

Mice aren’t born bad. Nor are chipmunks, hundreds of which I endured when I moved into a small hand built house in Sconfinato, a commune south of Hartford in Washington County. Talk about a battle. One fine summer day, a chipmunk ran into my lower level and my cat took up the chase. The little furry flurry jumped directly into the downstairs toilet with the cat in hot pursuit.

Taking pity on it, I grabbed a butterfly net and fished chippie out, dripping. It made a quick exit when I tossed it out the front door. A quick exit. Oh yeah, one fine terrible winter when I was checking the level of my propane gas tank, I opened the lid, and there they were, six little hairless pink mice, beady eyes shut. I guess the lidded tank was the perfect place to bed down. Did I mention I also had bats in my belfry? They hung upside down on the rafters far above my head, and I wondered why my cats were acting so weird at night. The chap across the street, a former Marine sharp shooter came over to ready, aim, fire, and the bats were history. We did try to get them to fly outside first, however. I also did battle with a wood chuck. The wood chuck won.

One of my kids remembers me baiting mouse traps with peanut butter. Those were in my suburban housewife Brookfield days. The chipmunks were chewing the roots of my brand new bushes in my brand new house in my brand new life as a suburban housewife who sported a beehive hairdo. That alone would scare any chipmunk who happened by.

I feel a terrible guilt about murdering things which after all, have just as much right to the earth (perhaps more right) than I. I try to balance my guilt by remembering the cute little hamsters running on their wheels in our suburban digs. And I also raised an orphan raccoon, a dog, two cats, etc. I’m hardly a murderer of animals. But dang it all, the hamster flipped out of my hands one day and landed on its back. Stupid as I was (ah youth) I rushed it to the vet who could barely repress a smile, though he may have been smirking at my beehive hairdo Marge Simpson style. “The hamster has a broken back,” he said, struggling to contain himself. “We’ll put it to sleep.” He declined to say just how that would work.

This wasn’t half as bad as our neighbors down the street who let the canary out of her cage on the day the local pastor came for Sunday dinner. The little yellow family bird hit the wall next to the pastor’s dining room chair, bounced off, aimed toward the kitchen, and plunged half-cocked into a pot of stew the host was preparing. Now that’s a story worth telling. The bird didn’t live to sing another note. It’s unclear what happened to the pastor Perhaps they just fished the bird out of the stew and went on with the dinner. Sometimes the Lord does move in strange ways.

Bear with me. I have one more episode to tell. When I lived in Milwaukee, I was the publisher and editor of an upscale art magazine, titled Art Muscle. Our offices were on Tenth and National, on the first floor of a building owned by a plumber. I always arrived early for work, and on this particular day, headed to the bathroom to freshen up. The toilet lid was open and when I glanced at the watery depths, there was a HUGE rat floating around. Dead as a rat in a toilet bowl. The story gets worse. You could see where it tried to escape because it left scratch marks on the plastic bowl. I ran upstairs to get the plumber/landlord. He removed Sir RAT and quipped, “Oh, this happens all the time in this area. We’re on a flood plain, and the rats come up through the storm sewers and into the toilets.”

And so ends my story. It could be worse. Hear tell, in New York City the rodents are so plentiful that rats and mice have separate zip codes.

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