We have a mouse problem. It began about six months ago. Late one night I heard what sounded like somebody scratching at the walls. Inside the walls. I froze. The scratching got louder. I pulled the covers over my head and tried not to breathe, waiting for it to go away. It didn’t. My wife elbowed me to do something. And so, after changing my underwear, I grabbed a flashlight and tip toed into the kitchen to track down the hell-sent source of the creepy noise. I found nothing, and, thank God, the scratching stopped.
For that night.
It would come and go for the next month, and we decided that unless the scratching was accompanied by bloody handprints on the wall or doors that slammed by themselves, we would do our best to ignore it.
And we did.
Until the poop started showing up. I opened the drawer under the oven to retrieve a cookie sheet one day, and found tons of little black pellets.
While my wife jumped on the computer to order a haz mat suit and flamethrower, I cheerfully pointed out that we now could be fairly certain the scratching sound wasn’t coming from demons taunting us in preparation for stripping the flesh from our bones.
We were all set to go the hardware store to buy some poison and snap traps when the worst possible thing happened: we saw the little guy. He scurried out from the under stove, making a run for a little hole in the baseboard next to the dishwasher. The poor little guy! His little legs spun around so fast he just stood there running in place. Poor critter was scared to death! He was just a little furry brown handful, terrified among us giants.
How could we kill this cute little fluffball? First thing we decided to do was officially name him “Fluffball.” My thirteen year old son Rafael suggested “Pestwad” instead, but we felt this didn’t capture his essence.
We immediately ruled out any strategy that would kill Fluffball or even hurt his feelings. We considered doing nothing at all, and would’ve stuck with that solution had the creature stopped defecating. That was the catch. Shitting on our pans.
Those “humane” drop traps they sell at the hardware store don’t work at all. All we succeeded in doing was giving Fluffball a hankering for dabs of peanut butter.
That’s when we turned to Spunky, the stray cat we took in two years ago. Spunky was just an infant when we found her in the backyard. Her eyes were still closed and she had part of the umbilical cord still attached, she was so young. My sainted wife bottle fed her five times a day for two months, and that was the easy part. She also had to wipe Spunky’s butt with a warm wet tissue to stimulate her bowels. Guess evolution has seen fit that baby cats learn to poop by having their mommies lick their assholes. Ah, the majesty of Nature. Point is, Spunky OWED us one.
I held her up to my face, looked at her sternly, and told her to get rid of that goddamn mouse if she didn’t want to end up re-abandoned in some parking lot somewhere.
Well, of course she, too, proved useless.
Spunky just doesn’t have the eye of the tiger, more like the eye of the bunny. Once in a while she would sit and stare at the oven after we heard the scratching. But she could never wait out Fluffball. Invariably she would decide that licking her fur or lying on the heater vent was infinitely more rewarding.
And then one unremarkable afternoon everything clicked. Not with that stupid, useless cat, but with the mouse. Fluffball made a strategic error: he ran under the fridge instead of the stove. And the way the fridge sits in the kitchen, we could surround it. Rafael and two of his friends were home at the time, so we had extra manpower. There were five of us, including my wife, to block all exits. I grabbed a salad bowl and Rafael grabbed the broom. He shoved the handle under the fridge and shook it violently in my direction until Fluffball made his move. The mouse ran out, right towards me, just as planned, and I….I…I choked. Well, I didn’t exactly choke, but I sort of threw the salad bowl at him, and I swear I thought it landed just right – at least I think it bounced off his tail – but by the time I grabbed the bowl for a second attempt, Fluffball had run out the back door.
I yelled out hysterically that I would pay five bucks to anyone who caught the damn thing.
My wife glared at me. She was pissed.
She had no sympathy for a man who couldn’t trap a harmless mouse. I told her I tried. She told me I panicked. I told her I didn’t scream or jump on the counter. She told me I either caught the mouse, or I didn’t. I was indignant: where was my “A” for effort? Why was she so obsessed with “results?” Isn’t that part of what’s making this country sick? I turned the tables on her and made a bet that she would get an ulcer over this before I would. She made a counter bet that if we could turn the clock back two minutes and have her holding the salad bowl instead of me, Fluffball would’ve been captured.
Before she could cool her disapproving gaze another twenty degrees, we heard screaming outside. Rafael’s friend Will had caught Fluffball! He was holding it up by the tail. All five of us marched the wriggling Fluffball across the street to the park and let him go.
Five bucks was nothing to pay for a little domestic peace.
And then, three days later, it started. Again. The scratching. My wife and I looked at each other blankly, in shock. Apparently Fluffball had a mate, or, worse, perhaps a bunch of little Fluffballs wondering what the hell happened to dad.
My wife and I were beside ourselves. It had taken five months and far too much grief to catch one mouse. Our marriage couldn’t survive another mouse hunt.
And then, yesterday morning, fate smiled on us.
Our younger son Gabriel woke us up at 6:30 with an excited scream. Spunky got the mouse! We jumped out of bed, and, sure enough, Spunky had cornered Fluffball 2. She was toying with the creature. She had it trapped in the dining nook. Fluffball 2 had nowhere to go. We stared in horror as Spunky finally grew bored of terrorizing Fluffball 2 and just snapped the mouse up in her jaw. She trotted around with the damn thing writhing away. I felt woozy. The room began to spin. My wife buried her face in my shoulder. It was all I could to keep us both standing. We both looked away
And then Gabriel yelled again: “he got away!” We glimpsed back just in time to see Fluffball 2 drop from Spunky’s mouth and scurry under the dishwasher.
That night, as we lay in bed reading, my wife and I heard a faint scratching coming from inside the wall. A sweeter lullaby I have never heard. We slept like babies.