Sunday afternoon, Doug takes Jack and Jane to the beach to gather rocks, leaving me at home with the babies.
We play happily on the living room floor, stacking blocks and knocking them over and laughing, until I have to go start dinner. When I walk into the kitchen, I see a mouse. In my kitchen. In my sink.
I scream. It darts out of the sink and into the drying rack, curls up under one of my teacups. I stand there, breathing hard and wondering what I should do. I’m not cooking until I disinfect the kitchen. And I’m not disinfecting the kitchen till that mouse is no longer in it.
I look around for a cat. We have two. And of course neither of them is anywhere in sight. I don’t want to leave the mouse to run and hide somewhere, so I stand there in the kitchen doorway, peeping at the mouse inside my teacup and thinking violent thoughts, waiting for Doug to get home.
This is the third mouse I’ve seen inside my house since Wednesday. The first was hiding in Doug’s gym clothes. I heard a startled cry in the bedroom—that was Doug discovering something moving in his clothes basket—and then saw a mouse dash out of our bedroom and under the sofa.
Doug grabbed the wok lid out of the cupboard and handed it to Jack. “Your job is to put this over the mouse, got it?”
Doug and I pulled the sofa out from the wall. Of course the mouse traveled with it. “Okay,” Doug said, “we’re going to have to tip it up so the mouse won’t have anywhere to hide.”
“Sure,” I said. As we each stood on one side of the sofa and prepared to heave it forward, I added, “Is it just me, or does this feel like a re-run of Squirrel Cop?”
“Good thing we don’t have a fireplace,” Doug said.
“Oh, I don’t know. The sofa is such a mess, it might be nice to have it burn up. Then we’d be forced to buy a new one.”
“Ready Jack?” Doug asked. Jack nodded. “On three,” he said to me.
We heaved the sofa over, tipping it till its underside was exposed.
Jane, who was sitting on the dining room table during all this excitement, screamed, “It ran under the table! It ran under the table!”
I looked at the floor where the sofa used to sit. No mouse. “How did it escape?” I asked Doug.
He shrugged. “They’re fast.”
We couldn’t find it anywhere, so Doug again prepared to leave for work, and I headed to the bedroom to clean off the armoir, where the basket of Doug’s gym clothes had been. When I looked down at the floor between the armoir and the wall, there was a thin, dark brown shoelace lying on the floor, the tip of it just showing past the edge of the armoir.
I stooped down to take a closer look. Then I called to Doug. “Tell me that’s not what I think it is.”
He put on his work gloves and pulled on the shoelace. Only it wasn’t a shoelace. It was a tail. A very long tail belonging to a very dead mouse.
“Ew.” I said. “Ew. Ew. Ew.”
Doug carried the mouse outside. Jack looked at me and said, “I thought it smelled like mouse in here.” I closed my eyes. Oh. Dear. God.
Now, as I stand in the kitchen keeping an eye on this third mouse of the week, I shudder. If it was gross to find a mouse in our clothes, it’s far worse to find one in our dishes. I feel unclean. But I keep my vigil, and when Doug gets home, the mouse is still inside the teacup.
He tries to trap it, but it’s too fast. It darts out of the teacup, over the counter, and runs across the floor to hide behind my desk in the adjoining office. We pull the printer table out, and the mouse dashes over Doug’s foot, back across the office, and slams into a wall.
Instead of doing something useful—oh, say, trapping the mouse under the wok lid that’s sitting on the floor by my feet—I stand in the kitchen screaming like Buttercup when Wesley is battling the R.O.U.S. The dazed mouse scampers to its feet and disappears under the refrigerator.
Doug says nothing about my completely unhelpful behavior.
We pull out the refrigerator, but the mouse isn’t there. It probably scampered along under cover of the fridge.
“Well,” I say, “it’ll just have to stay there. We need to eat.”
But of course we can’t eat until I’ve disinfected every surface the mouse has even possibly touched. I run all the dishes in the sink—even the wooden ones—through the dishwasher’s sanitary cycle. I boil my teacups in a pot on the stove. I slosh rubbing alcohol over the counters and scrub them.
“Do you think it’s disinfected?” I ask Doug. “Do you think I killed all the mouse germs?”
He gives me his are-you-kidding look. “You’ve used the nuclear option,” he says. “No germ left behind.”
Doug and Jack spend half of Doug’s day off on Monday ripping the insulation out of the basement ceiling. “Operation Deny Sanctuary,” Doug calls it. They find a couple of abandoned mouse nests. When they’re done pulling the insulation down and carting it out of the basement, I go downstairs to vacuum up all the leftover bits of insulation—and the mouse poop.
I don’t know how many mice it takes to make that much poop. I don’t want to. It takes me an hour to vacuum. By the time I’m done, my chest feels congested and I have a headache. I probably have hantavirus.
For that matter, with all these mice running around, the babies’ colds probably aren’t colds. They probably have hantavirus, too.
After we’ve each showered and scrubbed all the insulation and mouse germs off our bodies, Doug takes a nap. I go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. The mouse is sitting on my butcher block. As soon as it sees me, it darts behind the stove and sits there with its head poking out.
“Shoot!” I yell (only I’m pretty sure that when I actually said that word, there was an i in it, not two o’s).
Doug comes running from the bedroom. We play Hunt The Mouse again. And again, the mouse wins.
But that night, the cats tussle in the kitchen. I haven’t seen hide nor hair of the mouse since.
Game over, man. And good riddance.