"I have something to tell you, and you're not going to like it."
I looked at my husband uneasily, wondering what on earth would prompt such an ominous statement so late in the evening.
"I just saw a mouse in the kitchen," John said, visibly bracing himself. We had only been married six months, and he was still learning my reactions to sundry unpleasant subjects. Mind you, I am a calm, reasonable, practical person who is known for keeping a level head in a crisis. I froze. John nodded the dreaded confirmation. My face crumbled.
"But I keep a clean house!" I wailed. I ran into the kitchen, only to discover that the culprit had vanished. Guilt and self-condemnation flooded me. A jumble of thoughts tumbled through my mind at random: I didn't sweep enough. I didn't mop enough. My airtight containers were too old. I should get a bread container instead of having an open breadbasket. I should hang our fruit from the ceiling. I should erect a barricade around the house and fortify it with sandbags and mouse traps.
John attempted to calm me down. He endeavored to reassure me that it wasn't my fault, that where we lived was rural and naturally there were more mice than anywhere I had lived before. When he saw his tactic failing miserably, he switched gears and helped me barricade the kitchen door with a towel for the night so the mouse wouldn't attack me in the bedroom in the wee hours of the morning. Us against the mouse. I did not sleep well that night.
The next morning, the kitchen showed no evidence of a mouse, and I naively assumed the mouse had left us alone. I decided I had overreacted about the day before, and there was no true danger lurking in the kitchen. John and I went to bed in a peaceful and relaxed state of mind with the kitchen door wide open. If I may say, I sleep like a log. I have been known to sleep through storms, loud college roommates, and midnight trains. However, that night I awakened after midnight to the sound of scuttling in the kitchen. I lay in bed, hoping I had just heard something outside. I had almost faded off to sleep when I heard the scurrying again. I sat bolt upright, waking up John.
“I think the mouse is back!” I whispered.
“Hunhhhh…” John mumbled weakly.
I got out of bed and started walking to the kitchen down our L-shaped hallway. A few steps into the dark hallway with the kitchen still around the bend, I heard more scuffling. I then acquired a solid case of what upper academic circles refer to as the “heebie-jeebies.” In an act of aggressive boldness and confidence surely destined to frighten the mouse straight back to the lair from whence it came, I waved my arms frantically in the air and did a crazy dance while yelling “booga-wooga-wooga.”
John leapt out of bed, sure I was being attacked. He tore down the hallway, prepared to assault the intruder who would dare to threaten his wife. He thundered up behind me and practically yelled in my ear, “Are you okay?!!”
I was thereby obliged to admit that my ludicrous behavior was prompted by a tiny rustle in the kitchen. Yea, verily, it was a great moment for all modern, independent women everywhere. I reluctantly confessed to my husband my sudden terror of a tiny four footed creature that weighs less than a quarter pound. John reassured me I was still a valid human being and a noble representation of woman-kind. He also shut the kitchen door and wedged the towel underneath while I hid back in the bedroom. I vowed to remove that mouse from the face of the planet the next morning.
There are times in life when you discover you are lacking in a certain skill set. While I know that we humans have been battling mouse and rat invasions since the beginning of civilization, I personally had never actually had to do battle before. I scrounged my memory for any scrap of wisdom my mother could have shared with me while I was young and oblivious. I vaguely recalled her mentioning that peanut butter worked far better than cheese at catching a mouse. So I picked up six mousetraps and a jar of peanut butter. John’s only comment when he got home was “Don’t you think six is slightly overkill?” I informed him that puns were not appreciated in dire circumstances such as these.
I eyed a newly purchased mouse trap warily. It was the spring-loaded kind with the drop bar of death. I could easily deduce that you put the peanut butter on the little plastic tray that was designed to look like Swiss cheese. The tricky part was actually pulling the spring-loaded drop bar back and propping it in place with this ridiculously tiny stick that somehow was attached to the "Swiss cheese" tray. I realized I could get myself seriously hurt trying to get this trap set up right. I pondered my option of making John set the mousetraps. No, I was a modern woman of the 21st century, and I was going to prove it to the world, or maybe just to myself. Yes, I decided, I could do this on my own.
With rather more timidity than I was willing to publicly admit, I eased the drop bar back and slid the prop stick into place. The prop stick slipped loose, I screamed and let go, and the mouse trap clacked together in the air and fell with a rattle that matched the current state of my nerves. After a few meditative breaths and a firm pep talk, I tried the contraption again. The next attempt was successful, and I slid the first trap under the hutch in the corner where the mouse was last sighted. I prepared another trap and hid it behind the oven, just in case my mouse was a wide roamer.
I told John where the traps were while he helped me barricade the kitchen door once more that evening with a towel. I kept the covers over my head just in case the mouse could sneak past our Maginot Line and blitzkrieg me in bed. That night I dreamt about giant mice and slamming doors.
The next morning I put on boots and crept into the kitchen. I checked the first trap by the oven - it was empty and still set. I tiptoed over to the second mouse trap under my hutch by the trashcan. There was a tail!!! I did the I'm-so-grossed-out dance. I inhaled a few calming breaths, got as close as I dared, and peered once again under the hutch. There lay the mouse, caught in the drop bar of the trap. I was flooded with emotions. Triumph: ha, got you! Vengeance: die, mousey die! Remorse: I just killed one of God's creatures. Relief: No more mouse in the kitchen. Then the reality set in. Moribund mouse. CSI-esque blood splatter pattern. Oh, Husband, where art thou?