Sunday night, I was sitting at our dining room table, half watching the football game between the Manning brothers and wholly reading James Dickey’s Deliverance. It was about ten o’clock, and the moon was out, and there was enough light from the kitchen window to cast a shadow on something odd on the floor.
Because I was so engrossed in the novel, I’d left the TV on mute. Usually my wife and I watch something together as the weekend draws to a close, some movie or television show on DVD, and we’re in and out of the kitchen, opening the fridge, filling a glass of water. Not to mention that the TV is blaring with the raucous sounds of Hollywood: cars blowing up, machine guns firing, the swell of violins as lovers kiss. But my wife was out of town, so It was an unusually quiet night.
The thing on the floor didn’t move. It was round, like a grape. But I didn’t have any grapes, and besides, this was bigger, though not much bigger. I walked toward it, and then saw what it was. A mouse. Duped into the unnatural silence of this Sunday, he must’ve come out early for his night-time roaming.
I screamed. Not a primal scream, nor a squeal, but an appropriate expulsion of vocal energy for everything I was feeling at the moment: surprise, disgust, and in a way, betrayal.
We live in a house built back in 1844. It used to be a general store on New Jersey’s Morris Canal back in the early 1900’s, so there are enough cracks and holes in the building’s structure for a critter to climb through. This was not the first time I’ve seen a mouse in our house, but those times, it was either already dead (once, when our cats got off their lazy asses and actually earned their keep) or safely tucked inside a plastic green house (a humane trap). So although I was aware that little creatures canvased our house at night when we were asleep, the idea that we were sharing the same space didn’t quite jibe in my mind until I saw this guy scurrying about. Once the moment of shock passed, I did feel betrayed. It was as if we were unwilling roommates who had agreed to keep to our proper schedules to stay out of each other’s way, and now here he was, breaking the contract. I almost wanted to throw my hands in the air and tell him, “Excuse me, but do you mind?”
When the mouse heard me, he ran. His clawed feet click-clacked on the floor in a continuous stream like a tiny typewriter, and he darted for the space between the shoe basket and the cupboard. Not his finest hour, as all I had to do was lift the basket to find him. Which I did. And there we were again, exasperated human versus tiny mouse, face to face. Like all the other mice who visit our house, this, too, was a deer mouse, nocturnal animals blessed with huge black eyes so they can see better in the dark. He was no bigger than my thumb, but seeing this uninvited rodent literally cornered was vexing. What now? How was I going to get him out of here? A broom would’ve worked, but it was outside, then I realized, stupid me, the back door is right there, I’ll just swing it open, and the mouse will feel the air, smell the air, love the air and run out on his own accord.
Except the mouse was stupid like all mice, and ran across the floor and under the stove. A few seconds later, I saw his tiny nose stick out from the gap, but when he sniffed my presence, he disappeared again.
Seeing that I had no choice but to bring out the humane traps, I opened the trap door to our basement to retrieve it.
Word of advice: if you have a humane trap, make sure you don’t set it, leave it in the basement, and forget about it.
I screamed again, louder this time. Discovering the dessicated carcass of the mouse in the trap was like experiencing the the oldest trick in the horror movie book: the victim (a young girl, of course) is being chased by the masked killer, runs to the closet where the gun is, and when she yanks on the door, out falls the bloody body.
Luckily, we have two traps, so I at least managed to set that one, though from experience, you need two to catch these guys, because the mice are so light that they don’t trigger the weight-rigged trap until they’ve eaten the second bait.
In the morning, I was hoping to see the little guy encased inside the clear green walls, but the peanut butter and cracker was untouched. Maybe I scared him away. Which was fine. Because he sure scared the hell out of me.
Unfortunate Update: The following afternoon, I glimpsed the mouse, just a quick whip of the tail as it once again ran under the stove. So the battle between man and beast continues. Sigh.
Reading Update: I did finish Deliverance, and even saw the movie tonight to complete the experience. The movie’s good, but the book puts it to shame. There’s no comparison, really — the close first person narration can go to places that the camera just cannot. And the film emphasizes Lewis (Burt Reynolds) to its detriment. Understandably, he’s the flashiest of the characters, but this is Ed’s (Jon Voight) story, and you just don’t get enough of it in the movie. Read the book.