(10 points for the first person that can correctly identify the reference in the title. Ben, you can’t participate.)
Our house is a relatively new one. It was six years old when we bought it, back when they were still building at the far end of the subdivision. Much as I like to think of myself as a handyman, my skill set is fairly limited; I can’t do plumbing or electrical, I hate drywalling, and I don’t lay flooring very well. I love old properties, I love the character that they have, but at this stage in my life I just don’t want to manage the upkeep on a century home.
The upside is that I don’t generally have to do much in our house. The foundation is good, the walls are all relatively plumb and square, and the fixtures are only just now starting to age. Yes, I know, it has all the individuality of a gray brick, but that’s a small price to pay for an up-to-date electrical panel.
The last two days, however, have shaken my belief in my little gray brick and its impenetrable sense of stability.
Yesterday, I saw a mouse.
It was inside the house, not out in the fields where it belongs, foraging for… whatever it is that mice forage (weevils?). Mind you, there aren’t many fields in my neighbourhood, but all the more reason for it to not be there. We are not field-adjacent. We are highway-adjacent, which means that we should only really be dealing with the occasionally invasive truck tire or poorly secured mattress.
Also, the mouse was dead.
I suffered that strange moment of indecision I can’t help but feel when seeing a dead animal. Do I poke it? Stomp it? Check that it hasn’t tied itself to the pin of an army surplus hand grenade in a defiant act of interspecies terrorism? Were it seemingly dead and lying outside, I would feel no such compulsion to firmly establish its state, but there it was on the top step of my basement stairs, little back legs stuck out like it had just belly-flopped from some invisible diving board. I could pretend not have seen it, let my wife “discover” it hours later, and yell “Finders keepers!” at her when she invariably demanded me to dispose of it, but that doesn’t seem manly. Or ethical.
Instead, I gave it a poke with a pencil. Definitely dead, or an extremely sound sleeper. I grabbed a pair of gardening gloves, picked it up by the tail, and gingerly carried it out the trash can. Problem solved. When I told my wife about it, she insisted I buy a dozen mouse traps, poison, ultrasonic deterrents, and a pack of terriers to make sure that the problem was promptly and aggressively solved. I pointed out that the one mouse we had seen in five years at the house was already dead, but I promised to get at least a few traps for appearance’s sake.
I took Abby with me to Canadian tire to find a few implements of rodent destruction. She, as always, wanted to carry anything that I picked out, and I had a strange moment where I had to consciously remind myself that there was nothing inherently dirty or repellent about new mouse traps. I actually caught myself saying, “No, sweetheart, you can’t carry these because they are yucky.” Conditioning is a marvelously powerful thing.
I returned home, armed my death machines with chunky peanut butter (again, chiding myself for rejecting the idea of using a kitchen knife to gob on the bait because mouse traps are “icky” and the knife would be forever tainted), and laid them out in what I could only hope would be attractive mouse avenues and byways. Job completed, I returned to my vermin-free existence, safe in the knowledge that the basement had been made virtually mouse-proof.
That’s when I saw the second mouse.
It was also dead.
Two dead mice in two days? With no evidence of living ones anywhere in the house? No droppings, no tracks, no nibbled foodstuffs? Just two already expired little rodents, both lying out in plain sight on my basement carpeting? Really?
My wife and I brainstormed how this could happen. Was the air in our basement (where my office and Abby’s playroom are located) so toxic that mice wandered in and just collapsed where they were, choking to death on radon, asbestos, mold, and the angry spirits of long dead Six Nations chiefs? Were they driven in by the torrential rain we’ve had in the last week, half-drowned and desperate for a refuge from the storm? Is a larger, deadlier creature roaming the basement and killing the mice for sport, then leaving them out for us to find as it marks its territory? Was it a mutual suicide, a horrible and heartbreaking story of forbidden love between warring rodent clans that e’er hated each other and could never allow these star-crossed lovers to live in peace?
Now my wife has sworn off using our basement in any way. I keep pointing out that the mice always seem to be dead when we find them, so at worst she might step on a corpse or two, just like treading on little furry Easter eggs scattered by a deranged and rabid bunny. I’m investigating terrier breeders and paranormalists in the area, as any good homeowner would.