Mousetrap (not the game)
We’ve been playing a game of actual mousetrap at our house. This winter provided an unintended door for the mice to come and make our home their home. It bothers me a little but bothers Emily a lot. She said “a snake I could handle… but a mouse… scares me to death.” Let me get this straight: you’d rather have a snake roaming the house instead of a mouse? At least mice are mammals, and predictable ones at that. Eat old cereal, chew through wires, scratch around at night — that’s on the to do list of every mouse. But what does a snake do? Slither and coil? Squeeze everything and eat whatever jiggles at first but then stops? No thanks. I was thinking that at least a snake would take care of the mouse problem, but then we’d have a snake problem, and the only thing that solves a snake problem is either a badger or something with talons. Or a badger with talons. Awesome.
The glue traps work but force you to look the trapped mouse in the eye as he says how could you do this? Vegetable oil will release the chemical bond between the glue and the mouse, which is very humane but ended up, in one video I saw, with the mouse running right back into the house and eating some wires. Now I know that such gentle, curious creatures certainly don’t deserve a morbid death as such, but I also know that the spring traps are violent but quick, and always offer a delicious last meal to the victim — peanut butter seems to be a favorite on our death row. Hardware stores sell all variations of humane traps which always begs the question: now what? I trapped a mouse in a $7.00 plastic tube. What do I do now? At seven bucks… can I reuse the tube? Do I give the trapped mouse to the humane society? The instructions on the back of the box offer no helpful suggestions, only boasting about their humane trapping mechanism that raises a completely new dilemma once it works. If death is your preferred method of taking care of unwanted mice, there’s always those green poison pellets. It may be successful, but where in the house will the mouse be when it dies? Behind the dishwasher? Underneath the oven? In the walls? A decomposing mouse smells even worse than you could imagine. How could such an adorable little creature make such a horrendous smell? We asked the same question when our diaper clad children turned about 6 months old. Sometimes cute comes with a price.
When the trap works, I am overjoyed by my success as a human being but especially as the man of the house. It just feels good to neutralize a threat, just as it always has in the long winding history of men. Consider those wondrous prehistoric days when men trapped their food using crude sticks and smoothed rocks and early versions of cages that looked like wicker milk crates. Masculinity peaks when the hunted is apprehended. The cavemen used to say oogah boogah boogah, which, roughly translated, means we have been successful in our campaign to capture the prey with our advanced trapping methods. When followed by an exclamation point (as in oogah boogah boogah!), the translation is we’re eatin’ good tonight!
No, I don’t intend to eat the mouse. But I do intend to get a plastic glove and carefully place the deceased into a recycled Meijer shopping bag, which is where I bought the trap in the first place. And no, I don’t reuse the mousetrap, and that’s because the mouse guts would probably send a signal of warning to other mice through olfactory messaging that I think I may remember hearing about on an old National Geographic filmstrip from 6th grade. Could I disinfect the mouse trap? Probably, but I’m sure my lovely wife would not it, since the dishwasher is meant mostly for dishes and maybe for a necktie with a soup stain on it, though I only tried that once and ended up throwing it (the tie) away. According to my research, plastic gloves, plastic bags, and disposal in a plastic garbage bin is best when discarding a dead mouse. It turns out mice carry micro-parasites that infest human bodies, which is coincidentally the exact same as how mice infect houses. Though I am a minister, I do not do any special ceremonial service when I dispose of the mouse. Although I am equipped and authorized by both ecclesial and state authorities to do a funeral service for a mouse, I like to leave work at work and just throw it away. If, during mouse body disposal I happen to be whistling Amazing Grace, I assure you it’s purely coincidental.
When I finally managed to lure one to its death via a globule of peanut butter on a spring trap, I thought maybe it would be good to invite my oldest son to join me in the discovery. But would it be a good idea? I was concerned about how he would process this information — seeing a dead mouse that looks quite a bit like the hamsters we sometimes see at the pet store. Would it be shocking? Would it be nightmare fuel? Would he say “there’s a snake behind you, Dad”? I wasn’t sure. But, once he knew what he was about to experience, displaying the kind of boyish curiosity for the horrendous, I showed him the mouse trap with the mouse, well, trapped. He said “that’s a real mouse,” as if he thought I might try to trap a fake mouse to prove my abilities as a man. Not this time. He gave me a high five and then said “his eyes are open.” We then had a talk about rigor mortis in response to how springy his tail (the mouse’s) was. Into the plastic bag and another high five. It was burial by temporary outdoor mausoleum canister, to be transported to eternal resting place on Thursday, which is when I think our garbage day is. I believe the mouse would be happy to be buried with our discarded pizza boxes and other assorted soiled goods, since that’s part of what drew him to live with us in the first place.
The difference between a pet and a pest is a fine line. In a cage, mice are cute. Outside a cage and procreating in your walls, mice are like an Old Testament plague. I guess it’s all about perspective. In Genesis, God gives humans dominion over all the animals. We carry that dominion out today, saying “listen, you can live in my house, but only if I invite you in and give you boundaries. If you can’t abide by those guidelines, I have to execute you via near decapitation. I hope you’ll understand.”
Maybe it’s me who doesn’t understand. Listen, all I know is this: my wife doesn’t want mice in the house, and my job is to make her desires come true. Attention, Mice: you may perceive our warm air and convenient food source as an invitation, but she says you can’t live here, and if I let you live here, she won’t let me live here or she’ll go live somewhere where you aren’t. It’s nothing personal, mouse. Just business. There were vows. I signed something.