I have a mouse.
I’d say that I have mice, but the idea of there being more than one mouse bothers me so much that I find myself rounding down: I have a mouse. It seems to live in the basement under my apartment, and to infiltrate my territory through the spot under my radiator.
This is no ordinary mouse.
My insistence on there being only one mouse has led to some leaps of faith on my part. Earlier in the winter, the trap under my radiator caught a mouse; I found it affixed to the glue-board, too dead to skin, a week or so later when I returned from vacation. The singleness of mice in my apartment therefore demands, since there is and can be only one mouse, that the lab escapee which plagues me now should be in fact the same mouse, reincarnated, through some sick karmic joke, in the same form and the same location, this time with an understanding of traps and how they are to be avoided.
How else can one explain the present mouse?
When first I heard the skittering that signaled the new mouse’s arrival, I jumped out of bed just in time to see its tail disappear under the radiator. I countered by putting down traps around the radiator, good, strong snap-traps. I baited them with delicious peanut-butter, and went to sleep. Half an hour later, I was awakened by skittering.
Keep calm, I told myself. He’ll go for the peanut butter eventually. Then I put on my earphones and went back to sleep.
I bounded out of bed the next morning, eager to see if my traps had borne mousy fruit. They had not.
Over the next few days, I tried to let the traps be, telling myself that if any of them went off, I’d notice. It was no good: every time the wind blew outside, or a twig crackled, or a car drove by, I’d awake, certain that this time I’d gotten him. And every time, the traps lay empty. Meanwhile, I lay in a shallow sleep, waiting for the *SNAP* that would mean victory. Every night, I’d hear the mouse – or imagine I heard it – moving around below my lofted bed, scorning my peanut butter-baited traps in favor of delicious wire insulation, or lint, or whatever the fuck mice eat. Every night I lay above, growing ever more repulsed at the very idea of having a mouse in my apartment – it hadn’t seemed so bad at first – and wondering if, horror of horrors, there might be more than one mouse. Every morning I awoke more tired than I’d been the last morning. I developed dark, serial killer-looking shadows under my eyes, and when I looked at the traps, it was with a hateful, murderous intensity.
Then one evening, I looked over at them and saw that the spring triggers had been denuded of their peanut butter bait. The little fucker was mocking me!
A couple hours later I heard him scurrying around behind my bookshelf, across the room from his wonted radiator. I climbed out of bed as quietly as I could, picked up a heavy book, I guess to bludgeon him with, and crept over to the other side of the room.
The scurrying and rustling that I’d thought was coming from behind my bookshelf was, in fact, coming from on top of the table next to my bookshelf. The mouse was futzing around with my old papers. I flicked on the light and, quick as a wink, the mouse darted off the table, shimmied down the electrical cord of the lamp next to the table, and scurried behind my shelf.
What kind of mouse scales a fucking electrical cord?
I had to kill it.
I pulled out everything from the area on the floor around my bookshelf – my chair, my wastepaper basket, the table, a couple t-shirts – and raised the book – the Complete Works of Bai Juyi – in preparation to strike. At that very instant, the mouse shot out, ran over my foot, and covered the 20 feet between the shelf and the radiator in a second and a half, too fast for me even to throw the book at it.
That did it. This was serious Jerry the Mouse shit, and I didn’t know whether to feel like Tom the Cat, or like the cartoon human who stamps his foot, shakes his fist, and yells “OoooooooOOOHHHHH!” at the sky in inarticulate rage.
I moved everything, including my rug and my spare chair, off the floor. I got two more spring traps that promised to work without bait. I got glue traps. I got two more regular spring traps, loaded them with peanut butter, and then took an LED book-light, clamped it onto the side of my bed, and shone it on one of the traps like a spotlight, in case the mouse didn’t get the idea. From my parents’ house, I procured little satchels of poison, and used them to cover what few gaps remained in my perimeter of death around the radiator. No “humane traps” for me: I was going for traps of the inhumane sort, and if there had been any devices for, e.g., boiling captive mice alive, or teeny little mouse-sized thumbscrews, I’m sure I would have gotten those as well.
The mouse didn’t come back last night. I’d like to think that he died in a neighbor’s trap, or simply got tired of the pickings in my building and decided to mosey his little mouse ass on elsewhere. But I know better than that: he’s somewhere in the basement, or in the backyard, or in another shadowy corner of my apartment, watching me set my traps, noting their positions, calculating the angles necessary to evade them, rubbing his little mouse paws and cackling little mouse cackles to think of my hubris in assuming that I will be the one to prevail.
I can almost hear him.