Of Mice and One Scaredy-Cat Woman

Meeces“I hate those meeces to pieces” – Jinx the cat, “Pixie and Dixie,” Hanna/Barbera, cartoon, 1958

I have no love or patience for mice. Anyone who says “they’re more afraid of you than you are of them,” has no idea what complete and utter bullshit they are speaking. I am absolutely certain that there is no way on earth any living creature could survive a fear greater than the fear I have of mice. I have a long history of interactions with mice where they did everything but turn around and thumb their tiny noses at me.

Many years ago, while living in near poverty due to the low salary of my law enforcement husband, we picked our homes based entirely on what was cheapest. As a result, we lived in a number of homes that we unwillingly shared with mice.

The first time we were in a home with mice, we set out poison. One night, while my husband was at work and the children were in bed, theoretically sleeping, I decided to do some laundry.  I gathered up a load, and without turning on the light, I walked into the laundry room. As I took my first step into the room, I felt something soft and squishy beneath my bare foot. I had stepped on a mouse that had been on his death march to the drain in the laundry room after eating the poison. As I ran screaming up and down the hall my children came to the door of their bedroom, wide awake and highly entertained by the sight of their mother having a breakdown. The police dispatcher was equally amused when I called in frantically begging them to have my husband run home to deal with the remains. For months after that my oldest daughter would do a killer impersonation of her mother having hysterics whenever anyone asked her how Mommy acted when she stepped on a mouse.

Due to other problems with that apartment, we moved into another home owned by the same landlord. What a mistake that was! The second home was a duplex across the street from a cornfield. Mice love corn, but when summer changes to autumn, all those mice try to find somewhere warm to spend the winter. Evidently, our duplex was the closest winter resort they could find. The mice in that place were so used to having humans around we could knock on the wall and they would scratch back. The only thing that made living there tolerable was that the mice didn’t feel drawn to show themselves to us humans.

We then decided to move our family into a cute three bedroom house in a nearby small town. The previous tenant had raised exotic birds and didn’t see the necessity of confining his birds into anything as mundane as cages. He let the birds fly free in the house. Since the birds weren’t caged, neither was their food. When we moved in, there was bird food in the carpet in every room. That bird food also served as mouse food for the neighborhood mice.

After years of being able to come and go with no danger, the mice had no fear of humans. I had my first inkling of the brazen attitudes of those mice one night when my then husband and I were up watching late night television in the living room. I happened to glance up and I saw a mouse creep out of a gap by the fireplace and casually stroll to the center of the room. He didn’t scurry or rush. He strolled. We both sat there with our mouths hanging open at the level of arrogance we were watching. After grabbing a snack, the mouse casually strolled back to his hole.

From that point on, I was afraid to walk through the house after dark. I would stomp my feet and knock on walls whenever I moved from room to room in an effort to let the mice know I was coming. That worked fairly effectively for a while, but the mice eventually became accustomed to the noise and barely noticed me. They most certainly didn’t see me as a threat.

After having such a bad experience with poison before, we decided to rely on traps in that house. A flaw in that decision was that once a mouse was trapped, someone needed to dispose of the trap and the resultant corpse. That someone was not me. I am as bothered by a dead mouse as I am a live one. One day a mouse was trapped by his tail and drug the entire trap to its hole. I walked in the room and saw the trap wedged in the wall. I took one look at that trap, gathered up the children and went outside with them. I called for my husband from a neighbor’s house and was lucky enough to get the same dispatcher who’d gotten the squashed mouse call. After the message went out over every police radio in the county, my hero came home laughing so hard he could barely remove the trap.

I assume that since the bird food was no longer there the mice became more desperate in their quest for food. The final straw with those rodents was the day I was sitting on the floor in that house talking to my best friend from college. The kids were outside playing and I could see them from the dining room but I had to sit on the floor to see out the windows clearly. As my friend and I talked my focus was on the conversation and on watching the kids. I most certainly was not on the lookout for small invaders. As I talked I felt something moving on my leg. I looked down and there was a mouse, crawling up my leg as casual as can be. I did not catch that mouse, but my screaming and jumping around may have scared it to death. I was grateful that it was a good friend on the phone who forgave me for the damage I caused to her hearing that day.

I recently moved into an older apartment in midtown. It’s a lovely place and I love the shotgun layout, the exposed brick wall, and all the other idiosyncrasies that come with an older home. However, something happened earlier this week that may be a huge problem for me.

I spent Monday morning doing laundry and cleaning house. In my travels back and forth through the apartment, I looked down and saw something lying in the middle of the living room floor. When I bent down to see what it was, I realized it was a grape skin. Someone had eaten only the fruit and had left the skin in almost the exact center of the room. Since I live alone and I’m pretty sure I eat the entire grape, I’m more than a little concerned about who was bold enough to not only come out and grab a snack while I was obviously at home, but who also felt comfortable hauling their trash to the middle of the room for me to clean up. I am more than a little insulted that a mouse may have moved in expecting me to be their maid.

Walt Disney started an entire industry based on a mouse. Animated mice are depicted as cute, helpful and smart. I’ll let you know if this one starts doing the dishes for me, but I suspect it’s more likely to continue to haul its trash to the middle of the room and expect me to take it out. Anybody got a cat I can rent?

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