Last night, one of my worst nightmares came true: there was a mouse in the (garret) house.
Why it decided to come all the way up to my attic unit rather than stay in the lovely warm laundry room basement I do not know. Perhaps my landlord dragged it in yesterday when he raked a path of scattered leaves straight to the front door.
Hannah was napping in the garret living room, over by the window, on what has become her and her little brother Sam’s bunk bed. Sam was nowhere to be seen.
It was 9:15 p.m. and I was sitting in the living room, unable to find anything good on network television to help unwind my PTSD-ridden mind before bed. I decided to work on revising the chapter-by-chapter outline of Hannah Grace, the book, and had just begun to really focus when an odd crunching sound broke my concentration.
It was coming from the garret kitchenette. Because Hannah was asleep by the window, I thought it must be Sam. He tends to graze on Hannah’s kibble in between his kitten-formula meals. At four months old, Sam recently lost several baby teeth, and so I can distinguish between Hannah’s and Sam’s kibble-crunching sounds.
This crunching was different.
I left the living room for the kitchenette, where I saw Sam on the floor by the pantry, his head sticking deep into the bottom corner where I keep some old boxes. I thought perhaps he had found something to chew on; lately, he’s begun teething and, subsequently, he has become addicted to drooling on and hole-punching anything paper: a box of tissues, my bills, the Petco receipt for 54 cans of kitten food, and my students’ composition papers.
“Sam,” I insisted, thinking he was chewing on some packaging, “No.”
Sam retracted his head from the pantry, looked at me quizzically, then raced away. I went back to the living room, where I saw him become interested, momentarily, in a mouse toy on the floor, and then, uncharacteristically, he abandoned the living room quickly and quietly.
A few moments later, I heard the strange crunching again. Hannah remained asleep, unfazed. I left my chair and tiptoed towards the kitchenette.
There, I saw Sam sitting squarely in front of the refrigerator with a dead mouse at his feet, his adult incisors taking a bite out of its crunchy hind.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I sounded like an alarm. “Ohhhhhhhhhhhh!”
Sam stopped, mid-bite, and looked in my eyes as if waiting for my gratitude. He met my sense of horror with a sense of accomplishment, and licked his lips. Then he jumped over the mouse and left me to pick up the pieces.
Feeling as if I might vomit, I considered my options. Regular readers of this blog may recall my post this past August about the garret landlord (“Mr. Fix-It”) and will understand my decision not to ask him for any help. I decided to take mouse matters into my own hands.
I told myself I just had to get through it. Looking at its innocent ashen face, putty-like gray body and tail, I knew I couldn’t just throw it in the trash and it was too late to go outside to the dumpster, where there would surely be live mice, if not rats and criminals, lurking.
Scorning the garret and my landlord, I put on plastic gloves, took a grocery store bag from under the sink and wadded up a half a roll of paper towels to make a broom-like scooper, which I used to brush the mouse from the floor. I tied the handles of the bag, opened the garret door, and threw it. It tumbled, like a murder victim, down the stairs, landing at the back escape door of the two unfriendly men who share the unit below me.
As I imagined the mouse coming back alive, climbing the stairs and haunting me in the middle of the night, I inspected the pantry, in which I had found a quarter-sized hole last spring. At that time, Hannah had been sniffing quite heavily and insistently there. I had plugged it with steel wool and duct tape. When I examined my work last night, I found it secure. However, I saw that part of the floorboard had come away from the wall, leaving a nickel-sized gap where I imagined any mouse could enter. I spent the next hour scouring the garret, filling its voids.
I wondered if the mouse had been leftover from last spring. Had it been dead in the pantry for months? Was that why it “crunched” upon Sam’s contact, or was any mouse crunchy? Or, was this mouse a part of a family, whose goal it was to chase me out of my home? I had not seen any signs of chewing or mouse droppings and hoped, as my friend Steve assured me, it was just “a rogue mousie” or “a past tenant.”
I tried to wash my hands of it all, and returned to the living room, where I found Hannah and Sam sleeping as if nothing had happened at all. How could they be so calm and content?, I wondered. I worried momentarily that perhaps someone had put mouse killer in the house and the mouse ate it, and in turn Sam was about to die himself: “Oh hello, PTSD,” I thought, “I remember you….”
This morning, I tentatively approached the kitchenette, fearing a replay of last night’s sight, but, to my relief, there was nothing. This afternoon, I tiptoed to the basement, where the two washer-dryers are located, and stole three sheets of Bounce to try my college friend Kristin’s offered remedy: mice hate the smell of fabric softener sheets.