THE MOUSE CAPER
By Sharon Prater-Pope
One afternoon in September, I opened the kitchen cabinets to check supplies and discovered that a mouse had enjoyed a feast during the night. He had gnawed holes in the flour and sugar bags. The smaller meal bag top had been shredded, and a little heap of meal lay on the shelf.
The weather had turned cooler, so I was not surprised. Just irritated. Living near fields, woods, and barns guarantees that uninvited guests will move in every so often. Mice are a common problem and evicting them an unpleasant task.
I removed the undamaged containers from the cabinet and set them on a table. The ruined bags remained untouched. I baited a trap with cheese, placed it on the shelf next to the meal, and went shopping.
Thursday morning I didn’t check the trap until I had coffee, sure that the mouse had been caught. Finding one dead is one thing, but finding one caught by a leg looking at me in terror and pain, is almost unbearable. No way can I finish one off. I have been known to take trapped mice outside to free them in a safe place, realizing that they couldn’t defend themselves.
They did not, however, have to fear the cat. He wouldn’t be bothered to swat at a mouse if it was nibbling on his nose.
I was disappointed; the trap was empty.
That night I became aware of noises coming from the dark kitchen, but the sounds weren’t coming from the cabinets. I tip-toed into the kitchen and tried to discern where the sound of crackling cellophane was coming from.
It was coming from the breadbox on top of the refrigerator. This was a first. A small cabinet door over the fridge was ajar. I gently removed the cereal boxes beside the breadbox, which was bulging with snack foods. The front had been left open.
Carefully pushing the breadbox back also closed the cabinet door. The noise stopped for a moment, then resumed. I removed the bags of cookies and chips cautiously. Again there was loud silence. A box of microwave popcorn remained. Grasping the end of it, my heart pounding, I nervously wiggled the box.
The mouse shot out from behind the popcorn and out of the breadbox. He almost overshot the edge of the fridge, and would have landed on me, giving me cardiac arrest, but he managed to stop. He perched vicariously on the edge of the fridge, and we were eyeball to eyeball, both of us shrieking. Turning quickly, he scampered up onto a box and frantically tried to find his escape hatch, now closed. Trembling, I tried to decide what to do, while he sat on the box motionless. I couldn’t bring myself to kill him with the broom.
Sensing his terror, I felt sorry for him. He looked like a Beatrix Potter character with his brown fur, bugged eyes, large ears, and the long whiskers bracketing his wiggly pink nose. He was adorable. He was also destructive and germ ridden, so I had to do something. I moved. So did he. Out of sight.
Not finding him again, I baited two more traps. After setting one on top of the fridge, near the breadbox, and the other on the counter top, I went to bed.
Friday morning I bravely checked the traps before coffee. All were empty. Either he was the one mouse that could resist Velveeta cheese, or he had a very high IQ.
I saw nothing of Mr. Mouse Saturday morning, and I ached to clean everything, but there was no use until he was gone.
He wasn’t. When I took the cat food from under the sink, Meow Mix went everywhere. Mr. Mouse had eaten from the bottom of the bag.
Then I noticed that he had eaten the cheese from the trap on top of the fridge without throwing it, and he had left me some tiny black “presents.”
He was laughing at me!
I took the trap from the counter top, placed it under the sink, and re-baited the one on top of the refrigerator.
Sunday morning I wondered what else Mr. Mouse had gotten into. I hoped that he was an orphan bachelor and didn’t have a family with him. I didn’t have to wonder long. There were droppings in my skillets and my silverware drawer. I was already tired of cleaning everything before it could be used.
This meant war!
Poison was an absolute last resort. There wasn’t any anyway. I re-baited the traps with fresh cheese, moved one to the top of the meal bag, and added one to the cookware cabinet.
Monday the little rascal had managed to evade four traps, while still making his presence known. I was frustrated.
Then it happened.
That night I heard activity in the cabinet. Shortly, a loud clack was followed by scuffling, scratching, then silence. I cringed at the sounds and refused to look.
Morning revealed three empty traps. Working up courage, I opened the cabinet of the fourth trap. There, on top of the meal bag, was Mr. Mouse, with the metal bar clamped on his neck, his open, accusing eyes staring right at me. His caper was over. I felt a little guilty.
Taking the trap outside, I released Mr. Mouse’s lifeless body at the cat’s feet. He did not hesitate, but picked the mouse up and went strutting off like he was the greatest hunter in the jungle.
No signs of mice for a few days allowed me to begin cleaning everything. The cabinets had separated from the wall just enough to allow mice in. Being an engineer’s wife, I rolled tin foil, stuffed it in all the cracks, and covered them with duck tape to discourage any more mouse capers.
Everything was back in place when my husband arrived home a few days later. He found the silver lined cabinets hilarious. But necessity is the mother of invention isn’t it?
Sharon lives in rural TN with her husband, Jim, and the seven cats and various wildlife that share their large yard. She attended community college, completed the Long Ridge Writers Group creative writing course, wrote the newsletter for the art guild that she belongs to for four years, and has had works of fiction, non-fiction, and art published. "Magic light" mornings, her cats, music, and life in general inspire her writing and artwork. Contact Sharon.