One night, many years ago, when I was young and living in an apartment in Waltham, I heard a scrabbling sound. I searched the apartment and had just about run out of places to look when I thought to open the broiler drawer at the bottom of the oven. And there it was, a field mouse. As I remember it, the mouse and I both squeaked and recoiled, but maybe it was only me, it was a long time ago.
I do remember that it was too late to buy a trap that night, so my boyfriend drew a little picture of a skull and crossbones, scrawled keep out on it, and tacked it to the bottom of my bedroom door. The next day I purchased a Havahart trap and caught my mouse, alive and well. On my way to work I relocated him to Billerica and that was the last time I had to deal with a mouse in my own home.
The other weekend, I hosted a writer’s retreat at my in-laws house in southern Vermont. It’s an ideal spot for creating, with cozy nooks for writing and beautiful views for inspiration. It’s perfect in every way, except for the mice. If they stayed out of my way I would share the space with them, albeit a tad grudgingly. After all, this is a country house, in the middle of the woods, and it spends a fair amount of time uninhabited. Someone should make use of it. And there is ample evidence that the mice do. Fortunately, they are quite small so the – evidence – is proportionately small. When, however, a mouse has the audacity to run across the floor in full view of my guests, I have to put my foot down.
Normally, I happily bow to gender stereotyping and leave the mouse trapping to the men. On this particular weekend, though, I was the hostess and the job fell to me. I read the instructions and set a couple of traps. We had no peanut butter, which is what the trap manufacturer recommend using, so I baited the traps with a lovely quiche that my critique partner, Vicki, had made. In the morning, I came downstairs and Pamela said, “Congratulations. You caught a mouse. I left it for you.”
I threw a paper towel over the trap and mouse, and then picked it up by a plastic tab designed for just that purpose. I opened the trash can in the mud hall and held the trap over it. I had no idea how to get the mouse out of the trap. With my free hand, I picked up the instructions and tried to make out the small print. I may have been going into shock because I have no idea how I finally figured it out, but there was a quiet plop as the mouse fell into the can, and the trap lightened. I then gave in to a small post traumatic response. I pulled my chin in and down, shivered and shook my shoulders (you’d recognize the behavior if you saw it). Then I pulled myself together and returned to my colleagues.
Once the horror of what I had done subsided, I felt rather proud of myself. I had done what needed to be done, and lived to tell the tale. When I was young, killing a mouse would have been unthinkable. Now that I’m older it seems quite reasonable. The house really isn’t big enough for all of us.