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the worst roommates

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 27, 1997.

The house where I live has mice. Apparently more than one. I woke up one morning - way too early in the morning - at what I thought was some large person stepping on a bag of squeaky toys for infants. Then, I realized it was a bunch of animals. Then, as sleep lifted, a bunch of animals right next to the wall by the bed. Then, a bunch of small animals holding a 12-step program between the walls next to my bed. Then, an epiphany.

What I had previously thought was the new puppy’s unfortunate toilet habits on my rug was now revealed as the unfortunate toilet habits of a den of mice in the insulation in the wall by my bed. Why, we wondered, were mice coming inside now, in high summer? Clearly there was lots to eat outside. We concluded it must be the rain and moisture, and that if we normally lived in holes in the ground, we’d probably seek shelter as well. Well, so much for identifying the problem. Now for the solution.

The owner of the house, who lives upstairs, is a strict vegetarian and does not believe in killing animals. Any animal. Flies, for example, are trapped in a small plastic box against the counter, contained by a piece of paper underneath, and released out the door. I am not making this up. It is the only catch and release fly program of which I am aware. The belief system at work here is sometimes hard for me to fathom, coming attached to no religious underpinnings, just this annoying respect for life.

In any event, I was not about to succumb to my normal instincts, which was to move my bed and layer the visible floor with as many mouse traps as McGuckin’s had available after plastering the perimeter of the house and garage with the majority. And a BB gun for any mice that were foolish enough to show themselves, or survived the rat poison I am perfectly willing to lather on the floor itself. I am a simple man, who deals in simple solutions. However, living with the Mahatma precludes such violence. We got a live trap for mice.

A live trap is just that. Like a lobster trap, the animal putters in, apparently after emptying his bladder between the walls next to my bed, and cannot get out. Then, the children take the trap forty feet from the house and release the mouse. The mouse, after fathering six or seven broods en route, is back with slipper and cigar by morning. Hey, we don’t talk problems, we talk solutions.

So now, after establishing the penultimate pointless routine and wasting much good cheese in the process, we have in effect provided the mice with a travel feature that expands both their horizons and bladders, because the stench from the wall by my bed is becoming untenable, and I say this after walking eight miles and working for eight hours in a factory and not always hitting the shower before sleep. Previously the most pungent critter in the room I inhabit, I now take a distant second to the mice. And the dog after he finds something dead to roll in by the lake. I hope that’s what it is, anyway.

I could pursue the war surreptitiously and hide the poison, but it is hard to imagine anything worse at this point than a bunch of rodents dying and biodegrading within the wall next to my bed. It also hasn’t helped that the new puppy, member of a supposedly ferocious breed, looks upon the mice as friends, always willing to be chased around the floor in an amusing fashion, apparently with frequent breaks for the rest room.

I am, at this point, perfectly willing to drop the pinkish grey little animals live down the disposal without breaking rhythm chewing a ham sandwich, but every time I become murderous, I stomp upstairs only to be confronted with the smell of baked tofu and to see that little plastic box on the counter, waiting for the next flies, who are all, in any case, descending to my room. I have done research to see if there is an organic, all natural rodent trap that catches mice and allows them to be sent to Singapore to be caned or canned into soup broth. Not yet, but I’m looking.