First things first: I don’t advocate cruelty to animals in any way. I’ve been a vegetarian for over half my life, I’m strongly against hunting and the like, and tend to avoid leather and other animal-derived products.
That said, over the past year or so, I’ve come to hate mice with a vengeance. Because they keep making appearances in our home.
Quite how, I’m not too sure, as we live in a second-floor flat, and since the first sighting I’ve gone round stuffing any possible entry points (around water pipes and the like) with steel wool, or that squirty-insulation foam stuff. We’ve invested in supposedly-mega-effective ultrasonic noise emitting things (which made no difference at all), sprinkled peppermint oil so liberally round the place it smells like a Trebor factory, and of course, put down poison; I’m not happy about the last as it means killing them, but the fact is, they’re uninvited, and pests – and besides, the mice take their revenge from beyond the veil by dying in far-flung corners of the flat, so I start and go ‘yahh!’ when I find their lifeless little corpses. Oh yes, it’s quite charming.
Anyway, yesterday, my lovely wife spotted a mouse, which ran into the kitchen and under the fridge. I thought I’d seen one on Sunday night (but hadn’t been sure – it had been late and I was tired, and it could have been a shadow seen out of the corner of my eye), and so I got my torch and some bits of wood and cardboard (one of them a vast replica cheque – don’t ask) and blocked off as well as I could around the fridge. I also got the vacuum cleaner.
Yes, you read that right – but what else was I going to do ? I wasn’t going to stamp on it (if nothing else, they move with incredible speed), or try to bash it with a broom, though this latter’s mainly because I don’t live in a Tom And Jerry cartoon (and for the full effect I’d have to convince Mrs Soanes to jump onto a chair and start screaming, and she was busy doing other stuff).
I shone the torch down the back of the fridge, and saw definite movement – slow and casual, but definitely something living and not just part of the environment; one of the problems with hunting for mice in dark corners is, like watching a spooky film, you find yourself jolting at anything, such as when your torch casts a shadow. It’s quite the cardio workout, but trust me, you’re better off going for a run (which, in fact, was what I was planning to do yesterday evening before Mortimer Mouse came to visit). Anyway, there was definitely something there, so I lined up the cardboard and wood pieces and slowly started to move the fridge away from the wall.
A foot or so out from the wall. Nothing.
A couple of feet out, rotating the fridge on one corner and lifting as I went. Nothing.
I asked Mrs Wife to come and help me, and as I tilted the entire fridge forward she held the doors so they didn’t open and spill all the food and drink onto the floor. Nothing.
“I don’t get it,” I said. “Unless it ran somewhere else – like under the cooker – while I was looking away, it should still be under the fridge. But I’ve moved the fridge right out from the wall now, so…”
“I know,” she replied. “It doesn’t make sense. Unless it – ahhhhhhhhh!”
She pointed, and I looked. Almost casually, the mouse was making its way around the side of the fridge. The little… blighter had clearly moved to stay under the fridge as I lifted it, and only now was it deciding to emerge. And then with a sudden burst of speed, it ran into the cardboard barrier I’d put up.
I don’t know what m’lady did at this point, but I’ll testosteronily admit that I surprised myself at how fast I grabbed the vacuum cleaner and switched it on. To do this, though, I’d had to turn around, so had lost sight of the mouse. Where was it ?
There it was – trying to climb up the side of my oversized cardboard cheque (I said don’t ask, all right?), and I swooped in, the vacuum cleaner on full power.
“Gotcha, you [expletive deleted]!” I shouted with frankly unseemly volume.
And indeed I had got it – we have a very nice vacuum cleaner (much like this one ), which actually has a clear drum to allow you to see inside, and there amidst the grey dust, I could see a small brown mouse. Still alive, but twitching nervously – I understand that mice have a very high resting heart rate, and I can’t imagine that being sucked along a tube about 200 times one’s body length at speed would have calmed it down at all. All things considered, if I was sucked along a 1200 foot tube when I wasn’t expecting it, I reckon we’d be looking at loss of bowel control at the very least.
Still, the mouse was clearly still alive, which I felt better about, though it was startling to realise something so small was the cause of so much disturbance and irritation – though I’d imagine those of you with children are all too familiar with that notion.
“What do you think I should do with it?” I asked.
“Well, we don’t want it in the flat,” replied Mrs Wife.
“No,” I said, “but I’m reluctant to put it in the bin outside the building, it’ll probably just come back in. I mean, I don’t know if they’re that clever, but…”
“… no sense in taking the chance.”
I thought for a moment – mainly trying to figure out what to do, but also wondering if my manliness in catching the mouse had impressed her. Probably not, I decided, as it had involved the use of a vacuum cleaner, which is not entirely butch.
Inside the drum of the vacuum cleaner, the mouse was still alive, moving around in the dust.
“I know,” I said, “I’ll take it down the road, find a bin, and empty the cleaner into it. That way, the mouse isn’t likely to come back.”
“That sounds okay,” she said and nodded, “but you’ll look pretty weird walking down the street carrying the vacuum cleaner… then again, you have no shame.”
I do have no shame, that is true. And so it was that last night I walked about half a mile through London’s glittering East End, carrying a vacuum cleaner (and occasionally lifting it up to have a look and make sure that the mouse was still moving). My life, I was reminded, often takes me in unexpected directions.
I did exactly as planned – I found a bin, and emptied the drum of the cleaner into it. And as I did so, I heard a scrabbling sound, so I’m pretty certain that the mouse was still alive. Granted, I don’t know if he’ll survive if the bin is emptied into a dustcart, but I like to think that like Fox Mulder leaving Krycek in a silo, or Johnny Alpha leaving Nelson Bunker Kreelman in a time-loop, survival isn’t an impossibility.
And I walked back home with the hose of the vacuum cleaner slung over my shoulder, trying (and not always succeeding) to resist the temptation to whilst that ‘oo-ee-oo-ee-ooo-wah-wah-WAH’ music from the old Clint Eastwood films. I ignored the stares from people I passed – for, as the laydee said, I have no shame.
But enough about my evening; how the jiggins are you?