Tuesday, August 18, 2009

No Good Deed

The goddamn mice got my chocolate.

I love dark chocolate. The good stuff, 70% and more cacao content. Yeah, I’m a fucking chocolate snob. Deal with it.

It’s expensive stuff. Thank God for Trader Joes. I don’t know who’s legs they’re breaking, or what chocolate baron they have compromising pictures of, but by some dark art they manage to sell fucking awesome chocolate at a price that won’t send you into cardiac arrest.

The problem is the nearest Trader Joe’s is 20 miles away, so I can’t get there as often as I’d like. So whenever I’m in the area of a Trader Joes, I stop in and stock up.

I keep my stash in a box in the iShed, which is a large, shed-sized closet in our bedroom. Around mid winter this year, I went to retrieve a bar from the stash when I made a horrific discovery.

My chocolate supply had been savaged. Half of my precious bricks of chocolate had been gnawed to fuck. Scraps of paper and foil wrapping were everywhere. It was ugly and there was only one explanation.


I salvaged what I could of the chocolate, and got ready to deal with the little bastards. Now ordinarily, one would just set a few traps, kill the little fuckers, and be done with it. Problem was, ever since we’d gotten a hamster (our beloved Ozzy, now sadly passed) we’d felt a lot closer to the rodent world. It didn’t seem right to kill Ozzy’s cousins, even if they were relatives of the no doubt in-bred, banjo playing and savage variety.

When we’d had mice in the house when I was a kid, my dad would always build a simple humane trap, a flat piece of wood balanced over a garbage can. The mice would walk out on the wood to get at bait positioned on the end, the stick would over balance, and the whole thing would drop into the garbage can., We’ d find the mouse the next morning, drive it off somewhere, and let it go.

I tried to build my own humane trap, adapted from my father’s design, and came up with the stupidest, most goddam complicated things you’d ever seen.

Night after night I carefully set and baited it, yet no results. I’d come out in the morning to find the trap either un-triggered, or triggered but with no mouse in the can. This went on for two weeks, with me constantly refining my design, yet meeting the same results. I could almost hear the little fuckers laughing at me in their high, squeaking voices.

Enter a soundman friend of mine who advocated using the Have-A-Heart trap. I did some online research, decided to give it a shot, and looked for one in my local Home Depot and hardware store. Nothing.

I called around. The nearest Have-A-Heart available was at a store 15 miles away. I was committed, drove the 30 freaking miles to spend 20 bucks on a trap. The price of a soft heart.

The war began.

That night I followed instructions and set the damn thing. Sure enough, success!. The next morning I found a deer mouse cooling his heels behind the mesh prison of the trap. Who was laughing now, I wondered.

Our hamster, Ozzy, had been the cutest little rodent in the world, but this creature, which we named “Dinky” was anything but. Some online research revealed this was a deer mouse. Deer mice are not cute. They’re actually uglier than sin, well most sins anyway. Dinky sported huge, bulbous eyes, a flat almost shark-like snout, and grotesquely large feet. Its fur stuck out in all directions, as if the little bastard had just stuck its tail in a light socket.

Still, we had him, and we were going to do right. I drove Dinky and the cage out to a nearby public park and let him go.

Over the next few days, we captured three more of them. They all got the same treatment, taken to the woods and set free.

Superbowl Sunday approached. We had inlaws coming down, so I had a lot of cooking to do. Coming back from a shopping trip on Saturday morning, my wife surprised me with interesting news. She’d been in the bedroom when she’s spotted a deer mouse climbing in the venetian blinds. She even had a picture.

While everyone else went out to do something fun, I stayed behind to cook Chile, the traditional superbowl meal.

Suddenly, the mouse went running by in the living room. It was a tiny one, a baby, a dinky Dinky. I ran after it, in vain, but then set the trap figuring maybe I’d get lucky.

Dinky Dinky was clearly lost, because he was running all over the place trying to find his way back to the nest. I spotted him a number of times, darting from bedroom to living room, from living room to my son’s room. I kept setting the trap in different spots, with no luck.

Finally, as I was putting my Chile on the stove, the little SOB ran right into the kitchen.

Now the kitchen was where we let Ozzy romp. Since hamsters love to escape and love to chew on walls, I’d protected the kitchen by placing wooden boards over any hole she might be able to get through, as well as over spots in the wall where she liked to nibble. I’d also closed off access to the area under the stove and the fridge.

So when dinky Dinky ran into the kitchen, I chased him into a corner by the fridge. He tries to go behind it, but was foiled by my protections. I had the little shit cornered.

I grabbed an empty pasta box and threw it down. The thing, seeing a possible way out, ran right in. Ha! Got him.

Like the others, he was driven away and set free.

But I was getting pissed, there seemed to be an unending supply. And in case you’re thinking the same mice were just coming back, I was following trap directions to the letter and driving them at least 2 miles away before releasing them.

I went on a mouse hole Jihad, finding any crack or seam one could get through and stapling wire mesh over it.

I set the trap Sunday night, assuming it would be empty Monday morning. To my shock, we not only had caught a mouse, we’d caught the biggest one of all. This thing was huge, easily twice the size of any of the others. This was it, the “boss” as they say in the video game lingo. I knew this had to be the last mouse.

I left the thing in its trap. We were going to release it later, when it suddenly started squeaking. This was something none of the others had done. Shane, my son, goes to see what’s happening and suddenly exclaims. “Oh my God, it had babies and it’s eating them.”

Thus the size of this large Dinky was explains. Not the big daddy, but the big momma. Five dead, pre-born baby mice lay on the tin floor of the cage, a sixth stirring weakly but clearly not going to make it. Momma mouse, with an insane gleam in her eye, was chewing on something red and bloody. A 7th baby, or maybe the placenta. I’m hoping for placenta because the other option just doesn’t seem right.

My wife freaked, and insisted I get rid of the horror at once.

Into the car and off to the park we went. The weather had turned cold again. When we got to the park, I set up a little nest for the momma mouse in the crack between some rocks. I even stocked it with Ozzy food. Yeah, I felt bad for her.

Then I opened the trap to let her go. Now the Have-A-Heart traps open at both ends, and for some reason, I opened both ends. Rather than hop out the far end into her new nest, momma mouse leapt out the close end, right into my open jacket.

She clawed her way up my shirt as I recoiled. I tried to shake her loose, but she found my sleeve hole and ran up into it.

I jumped up now, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to gesticulating and cursing a bit at this stage. I ripped the jacket off, and shook the goddamn creature out of my sleeve.

She didn’t want to go, hung on gamely, but finally relented and dropped softly to the snow. But instead of running away, she just sat there, staring up at us, the saddest expression I’ve ever seen a mouse convey on her face.

We’d trapped her, she’d delivered her babies prematurely, killing all of them, and now we’d taken her from her warm, cozy home out into the middle of nowhere. Worse, when she’d managed to find another warm place to nest, my jacket, I’d kicked her out of that as well.

At last she turned and ran off, ignoring the nest I’d built for her.

I’d gone through all this so I wouldn’t have to kill the mice, so I could feel good about ridding my apartment of pests. I didn’t feel good. I felt like shit. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

The only bright spot, my anti-mouse efforts worked, and she was the last we captured. Thank God. I don’t know how much more being humane I could have taken.