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December 12, 1999

Close Encounters of the Soft Grey Kind Part 2: Things Get Ugly


We lost a lot of readers with that word last week. You can talk to people about international war crimes, ethnic cleansing, all sorts of lurid stuff. But when it comes to something like rodent control, there aren't a lot of people who are up for it. Readers were bailin' like crazy. But let's be honest, half the people who called it quits on reading my account of mouse-witz have blood on their hands, too. I can't be the only guy who's had to get Old Testament on an uninvited mouse population.

It's strange how people change when their sanctuary is violated. Rae is usually a fairly non-violent gal whose support for animal rights groups has made her the butt of many a bunny-hugging joke. But let a few yearbooks get gnawed by invading mice and she's now an advocate of total rodent genocide. Death is too good for these vile little bastards. They are evil... dirty... unfit to live. She gets so into the whole 'kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out' thing that we take to making jokes about how many mouse pelts it'll take to make her a coat. Probably way too many. She'll have to settle for gloves. I take a mason jar lid from her counter and tell her that I'm going to need a dozen more to stretch the pelts as they dry. We laugh and she follows me downstairs to check the lines. She says she wants to see how to do this. For next time...

I open the door to the cupboard and comment casually that we are two mice closer to that pair of gloves. Rae takes one look at the two guillotined mice and bursts into tears. She slams the cupboard, nearly shearing my hand off in the process, and screams, "How could you DO that to those poor, cute little guys? What kind of sick monster are you?! How could you let me SEE that?!" I remind her that she asked me to do this; that she wanted to know what I was doing; that two minutes ago she was ordering gloves made from their hides. Did she think they were dying of natural causes? Would it have made any difference how I KILLED them? Besides, these 'cute little guys' were eating her house, running around in the walls chewing at the wiring. She'd keel over and die from the lung-filling hanta virus if she didn't get toasted in a fire first. 'Cute' can be deceptive. Karla was 'cute'.

For the next few days, we talk around what I'm doing in the basement. I spare her a running tally as I empty my trap-lines each morning and leave her with an optimistic, "There probably aren't many more...". And so it went for another week. Then I got the call.

It was 11 p.m. Rae was hysterical. There was something in her kitchen. Crackling, crunching sounds from IN THE ROOM. It was a mouse. Or mice - plural. The survivors were on a rampage...

When I got there, I listened outside the kitchen door and sure enough - there was definitely activity. It seemed to be coming from the stove... under the elements. It was a mouse foraging for crumbs in the crawl space under the elements and making a hell of a racket walking around on the foil Rae had put in there. I sneaked up to the stove and shone a flashlight into the space under the elements. There was a brief scuffle and then silence. Rae started screaming that it was coming out the back but there was no way anything was coming out with her jumping around like that. The only place it could go was the junk drawer below the oven. Sparky's in the Kitchenware Department.

As I look back on the situation, this is where it got dumb. Like General Westmoreland before me I was seduced by technology, convinced that it was necessary against an enemy that was small, very mobile and difficult to reach. A hand-to-hand fight was going to be messy. I had the strength, but he was the master of his terrain. He could disappear in a flash and reappear anywhere. I needed an edge. It was going to be difficult to get a clean kill-shot - nothing to pin him against. Then it hit me. I fired up Rae's Filter Queen canister vacuum and held the hose over my right shoulder like a spear. It seemed like the perfect solution. I'd air-lift the little bastard out of there, most likely alive but a tad dusty. Technology had the answers. The industrial-military complex was on my side.

When I wrenched open the drawer, der maus toppled backwards off the muffin tin he'd been standing on and fell down beside a cheese grater. I thrust the hose down at him and grinned to myself as its gaping maw whined victoriously. But the sound was all wrong... this mouse was tiny... he should have been sucked in effortlessly. But the machine was completely blocked and wheezing dangerously. Something was very wrong here. The mouse rocketed out of the drawer, thumbing his nose at me as he leapt across my lap and headed for the basement steps. I spun around to follow him but Rae let out a scream that scared even me. Startled, I tripped over the vacuum hose which flipped out of the drawer to reveal an oven mitt lodged in its throat. I scrambled to get on my feet thinking that I had the mouse cornered. The door to the basement was closed. I rushed at him as he slowed for the door, realizing that since I had nothing in my hands, I would have to grab him (ie. kill him) with my bare hands. Did I really want to do this? Could I really do this? Would Rae freak at me if I balked? Would I care? All of these questions were answered for me when the mouse hit the dirt Marine-style and disappeared under the door. A quarter inch crack and he weaseled through it in a second. I whipped open the door to see him hurtling himself down stair after stair...lunging...tumbling...coming up running and diving off the next edge. He was in the basement and home in the laundry room before I even started down. This guy was good.

That was the turning point in the the battle. I had met my foe one-on-one on a playing field that was stacked in my favour. And I'd been soundly outclassed. I was left looking dumb and slow - shown up by a tear-ass Speedy Gonzales who not only ran circles around me but left my super-weapon looking hopelessly impotent. I wasn't just battling peanut butter-sucking rodents anymore. I was up against an able foe. That's why things got ugly.

I remarked earlier that I was going to be taking the higher ground in this battle and following certain rules of limited engagement. In my arrogance, I thought that it was only sporting to give the poor bastards a chance. Spot them a few points. Give them a running start. Now the gloves were off. I was back at Pro Hardware choosing from the most powerful weapons in their chemical warfare arsenal. Nothing was taboo now. Slow and dumb? Not for long...

Rae's basement has been peaceful for weeks now. Four packages of Warfarin Single Feeding Mouse and Rat Poison saw to that. Cheese and bacon flavour if that makes any sense. It's single feeding. It's not like they are going to develop a preference. But I guess it's the folks at C.I.L.'s way of saying, "Hey hotshot.. you won't be so fast when you're dying from the inside out; when you're trying to get outside to quench that killer thirst that drinking will only make worse. It's the last supper for you, pal. Savour the flavour."

The packages showed signs of business at first. Two days latter, two emaciated little bodies appeared on her roof. Not a pretty way to go... But it did give me a chance to see how they got in. The crack under the eavestrough that they squeezed in through has now been sealed. Several packs of Warfarin sit in the attic like silent sentries - a welcome meal for anything unlucky enough to get inside. The packs in the basement haven't been touched in weeks. Rachelle is once again the master of her domain.

I haven't seen or heard from her since.

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