I’m not scared of mice, but my daughter, Abby, is, which is odd because in China she had a mouse-ish sort of pet for years, actually a Russian Dwarf Hamster we bought from a street vendor in Suzhou. Abby gave it a home with every delight a mouse could desire. In return it bit her, grew too lazy to use its wheel, and so fat it had to chew a new hole to get into its plastic house. Fearing it was lonely, she revisited the street vendor to procure companions, but it killed every one. The third one, poor little Rosie, actually breathed its last in the palm of her hand. Still, she was not afraid of it and Hami the mouse lived on, stinking up her room in great peace and harmony.
Fast forward to a few of months ago. It’s been a long day, and I’m warm and luxuriating in my comfy bed, just about to turn out the light, when in the corner of my eye I see what might be a tiny dark orb streak across the floor. Maybe a mouse, maybe not, I don’t really want to know, and my bed is sooo warm. In the silence I barely hear the faintest scrabbling from under my bed . . .
This is the part where a good person would put on her big girl pants and go on the hunt, but I am not a good person and had no intention of chasing a mouse in the middle of the night when I could do it just fine in the middle of the day. I said nothing to anyone, figuring I’d quietly take care of it myself. Abby saw it first.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAA MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAHHH
Abby assures me the screaming is entirely involuntary. I believe her, but the mouse turned out to be mice, and by the end of our ordeal a few weeks later, I suspect Porter and I had suffered hearing loss.
I am the oldest of six girls, and when I was young and my parents were away, the ballyhoo came roaring from the basement: Mouse! Mouse! MOUSE! It never occurred to me to be afraid. I casually picked up a hammer and went downstairs where I cornered the offender in a closet, and quickly dispatched it with my sisters at my heels. Perhaps word got out in the mouse community because, until recently, I had never encountered another mouse in any house I stayed in, which is saying something, considering the amount of time I’ve spent in third-world countries.
I don’t actually hate mice, but running free in my house they become disease-carrying vermin, and vermin have no rights. Abby is wired differently; this I already knew. Growing up, she always wanted to play pet shop, and when she fell, she said she fell on her paws. I only have one daughter, and I was desperate for the chance to indulge in a doll or two, but she was never keen. Finally, I took her to the toy store, flinging my arms wide and telling her she could choose any doll she wanted. After much deliberating she picked a $60 Cabbage Patch Doll, which was a tad pricey, but like I said, desperate.
“Why did you pick that one?” I asked, heading for the register.
“I want the dog.”
The $60 doll had a little plastic dog that probably accounted for 25 cents of the cost. I gave up my quest and we went home with a $5 stuffed animal. She never did take to dolls, but her attachment to creatures remains legendary, even when they scare her. I blame my father who I have seen with my own eyes carry a spider outside rather than kill it. He inherited this trait from his father, the kindhearted Arthur who made the world better merely by existing.
I proposed my solution to our rodent problem, simple and cost effective.
“No hammers,” Abby said, a little hoarse from screaming. “It could suffer.”
She didn’t have another solution, so she attacked it the way she attacks everything, research. By day she called out every time she walked up the stairs, “Mouse, I’m coming, better run!” and by night she read all she could on fantastic mice and what to do with them.
While the kids were away for a couple of days, I put out traditional snap traps, baited with peanut butter. Somehow the peanut butter vanished, but the mice remained free. My sister, Roni, says we’re taking the dumb ones out of the gene pool; I think she’s onto something.
Abby was appalled when she discovered the plot. “I’ve ordered humane traps,” she said crisply, “and then we can either drive them to an abandoned building at least five miles away, or have them euthanized. I will pay for it.”
The traps arrived, then suddenly the big moment.
“We got one!!!”
Abby, Porter, and I scrambled to the kitchen, and there was a good two or three minutes of “Wow” and “Look at that,” but then we sort of stood around, shifting from foot to foot. Turns out it’s a fearsome thing to have a live mouse. Caught between horror and pity, Abby couldn’t bear look at it or let it out, and she couldn’t bear to leave it in the cage. Traps aren’t necessarily sprung at convenient moments. What happens if it’s late, and cold and wet, and you’ve forgotten to go scouting for appropriate abandoned buildings? The Humane Society will euthanize mice for $5 each, but they weren’t open, so she began calling 24-hour veterinarians.
“I still have a hammer.”
Porter and I drove it to a school field in Farmington, which worried her because, “They’re house mice, not outside mice.”
Porter and I gave her the stink-eye.
The next mouse went to the same place, two more went to a park in Salt Lake, and one to Bountiful City Park, five in all. We haven’t seen or heard evidence of any others, so either they’ve adopted a leave no trace policy, or we are once again mouse-free.
Abby couldn’t bring herself to touch the humane traps she ordered and paid for herself, but she was with me for three releases, including the one to Bountiful City Park, at night in a cold drizzle. I believe leaving the mouse in the rain has haunted her ever since because every time we pass that park, she calls, “Hello, mouse, I hope you’re alright.” For Christmas I gave her a little Lenox figurine of a happy mouse living its best life with a slicker and a little umbrella, hoping to make her feel better.
It’s not easy to love thine enemy, but I think Abby has mastered it.