When I was little I loved Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Bernard and Bianca from The Rescuers, The Great Mouse Detective, The Witches, hell, to go way far back, The Mouse Twins and the Scary Night. I was of the firm opinion that mice were great creatures. They ate noodles and cheese! They were loyal and clever and they had fantastic adventures involving gorgeous diamonds or magic.
While I enjoyed my fantasy mouse narrative, the real mice of Earth were busy going about their real mouse activities, such as sneaking into our house, leaving their tiny hard rice-shaped turds everywhere, crawling over my sister’s back while she dozed, creeping out from under the couch and across the carpet while I watched TV, and most memorably, dying inside the furnace. The first time I ever heard my dad use the word “fuck” was a few days later, as he tried to locate the mouse’s decomposing body inside the ductwork. My sister and I huddled at the top of the stairs in excitement as increasingly louder clangs and crashes rang out from the basement below. Bang, bang, BANG BANG BANG — and then Dad gagged, and yodeled out a rhyming cadence of fuckity fucks that brought us from introductory to familiarity in the space of five seconds.
(He also offered to show us the mouse. Either I’ve blocked the sitchy from long-term memory, or I only stuck around for the profanity.)
Since then, I’ve been lucky to live in relatively mouse-free apartments and houses. We had a one-mouse infestation in a Duluth apartment, and set out a sticky trap before going away for the weekend. The result when we returned was enough to convince me to never use a sticky trap again. Maybe the result was scarring to the poor mouse’s friends; we never saw another one as long as we were in that apartment.
We had cockroaches like clockwork in Texas, ants in New York and Minnesota, and nothing in South Dakota…until I opened the car trunk and found an exuberant nest of acorns and peanut shells mixed with shredded toilet paper, kleenex, granola bar wrappers, and scarf fibers. (It’s an emergency kit. Or it was before Mr. Mouse got his tiny chewers into it. We live in the northern midwest! Every trunk should have an emergency kit.) I shut the trunk, and considered. How long had it been since I’d cleaned out the car? We had had a couple of long trips with lots of snacks, but surely we hadn’t left that much crumbage for little mousy scavengers, had we?
I emptied out the trunk, and peeked into the back seat. Then under the front seat. Even on the black upholstery, the brown turds stood out like poopy confetti. I tried not to think about the last time we’d driven in the car. (If I wrote here the last time we’d driven in the car? With the baby? I’m just not going to do it. Rest assured that I am disgusting, that A. is disgusting, that our pup is a normal dog who probably liked the mousy odor to the car, and the end, the baby is fine, the carseat is fine, just, argh, goddamnit, gross.)
Long story short: I blocked all the holes I could find with steel wool and duct tape, vacuumed the car, wiped everything down with bleach wipes, and set up two mousetraps. And in the morning, I removed one of the mousetraps, and dropped the sad dead mouse body into the garbage. If I were a mouse, I’d think it was a horror only second to H.H. Holmes and his World’s Fair hotel — first I am lured in with all sorts of delectable mousy goodies, then suddenly there is the delicious scent of peanut butter, and then CHOP with the head.
I also stuck some cotton balls with peppermint essence in a container, and put it in the backseat. So far today, only empty traps. No turds. No shells. Nothing but a clean car that reeks of mint.
Perhaps by losing my fantasy mice, I’m one step closer to my dream of real adulthood. Which makes me realize that despite all my whines and moans about Fake Adulthood! I Don’t Know What I’m Doing, Wah! that I am a woman taking care of what unpleasant stuff she can, and farming out what she can’t. Sounds like an adult to me.
Fake or real, I’ll miss you, Bernard and Bianca. I know that if you two had pooped in my car, you at least would’ve left me a big ol’ diamond in return.