Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Year of the Mouse, Pt. 2.

Of course we put traps down, humane ones at first; three of them, laden with peanut butter. They go for that, apparently, the cheese thing is a wives' tale. Except he didn't care for it, nor the salt beef, nor the flakes of cod. The locations of the traps changed, under the sofa, behind the surround sound, in the gap between armoire and desk, but the hippy snares always came up empty. He wasn't daft, the whole house was a larder of luxuries. Crackers, crumbs of chocolate, Cheesy Wotsits. Real, killing, neck-crunching traps had the same effect, i.e. none.

During this time of occasional scares and fleeting visits, our luck changed. The stultifying job that paid the bills disappeared in a sink-hole of recession, the sort where companies merge and the least paid and most compliant replace their polar opposites for double the workload and a salary freeze. I pity the fool who took mine, and this without any trace of rancour, I assure you. We got creative and set up a business. Our lives changed. I went back to Uni, we took up golf. Things got good and I, thirty years a corporate wage-slave, didn't have to worry about the rat race any more. The mouse race, however, carried on unabated, all through the winter and into spring. We graduated to poison, little blue pellets of wheat, strategically placed where we knew he went. All beautifully ignored.

The more we succeeded as entrepreneurs, the more I failed as great white hunter. The wife's patience reached its nadir with a bedcovers sortie one Sunday morning while she was enjoying a bacon sarnie and catching up on the soaps. Three streets away, an old veteran heard the shriek and woke from dreams of the trenches, shivering.

"It ran straight over me," she squealed. "This, is beyond a joke."

He was still in the bedroom, somewhere. We lifted the bed to the wall and he scurried out, looking for a bolt-hole. There is nowhere to go though, because I've blocked up every visible orifice that doesn't have a lifeform attached to it. My nails have a permanent coat of Polyfilla. And at last, we have him. This time I go for the mop myself, finding a more convenient weapon in the process, an extension pipe from the hoover. The last place to hide in the denuded room is a small bedside table. We lift it, triumphant. I wait, panting, for him to spill out, the steel pipe poised above my head. My son opens the door to see what the fuss is about and a brown blur shoots out at escape velocity with me at his heels, cursing and clubbing blindly at the carpet. Into the bathroom he scoots, behind the tiniest gap in the bath panel he slips. Damn!

"You should have brought the whole hoover," Carole advises, unhelpfully. "Sucked the little shit up."

"This luck of ours, maybe it's the mouse," I say. "A talisman. He's been with us through thick and thin. It might not be fate to catch him. He's symbolic."

Of all the stupid things to come out with, and the wife's opinion rightly differs. "Symbolic? Some bollocks you talk."

It wasn't a discussion to dwell on, I realised, because I could tell that before too long the neighbours would hear it.

And so came August. Temperatures and redundancies rose, shares fell. Indoors, my mouse-catching had devolved to the half-hearted hefting of tv remotes as he frolicked in the car park of his own private drive thru under the table, waiting for service. Occasionally he would disappear, sometimes for weeks on end and we'd heave a sigh, too scared to mention him by name in case he took it as a roll-call.

Just for a few nights. Till the welfare cheque clears. Honest.
"Have you seen 'you-know-who' lately?"

"No, thank God."

"They have to mate sometime," I say, putting an even bigger foot in it than usual. "Makes sense."

"Oh, so he's coming back with the wife and kids then?"

"Might be even luckier for us, babe," I continue, still sawing at the branch I'm sitting on. "We might win the lottery!"

"It'll pay for the Black Death then, and the lawsuits from the council."

Black Death is rats. I think about correcting her, but it really is time. Time for me to shut up and curb this critter's plaguing of us. He's back, of course, but I think I finally have a plan.

To be continued (with video)...

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