I awoke to the sounds of a massive whump and a guttural moan coming from my wardrobe. No moan like that had ever been, or was ever likely to be, heard in that bedroom, either in or out of the wardrobe. It could only signify the last living moments of the mouse.
There had been hints of the presence of rodents for a couple of weeks. I had heard the telltale scratching sounds while in my room, but I had been unable to triangulate their location. I reported the noises to my mother but, as she had not heard them, my tale went unbelieved. Until the day she opened the corner press to see a mouse darting away into the darkness. A stainless steel trap was set, using an infinitesimal scrap of cheese as bait, and a big space was cleared for it in the middle of the shelf. I wondered if a neon arrow with ‘TRAP’ emblazoned on it in flashing lights might help. If any creature was stupid enough to stick its head in that thing, it probably was better off dead.
But I think it was my own fault that the mouse managed to migrate down to my wardrobe. I was having a restless nights and got up to make a cup of tea. I met the dog on the way to the kitchen, and he picked up a biscuit to eat in my room. I sat up in bed for a while, reading poetry and drinking my tea. My light and the dog’s biscuit probably acted like a lighthouse operated by sirens to the mouse.
The next morning, I heard some very loud rustling in the wardrobe and knew instantly the mouse had moved in. Fortunately my mother had a couple more traps available. She decided the best places to set them would be (a) right where I get out of bed each morning and (b) where I have to step when pulling the curtains or opening the window. I had visions of myself dancing around some morning soon with a throbbing big toe caught in one of the traps, like in the cartoons.
I was stupid enough to think the mouse would kindly stay in the wardrobe during the day and walk into the trap at night, so as not to disturb me any further. But when I saw it run out from under my bed, double-back, and jump over the trap left waiting for it, I realized just how hard it was going to be to get rid of it. I could not face sleeping in my room that night, thinking of smells, disease, droppings, mouse urine, little sharp teeth. I slept in the spare room with the dog to mind me, despite his inabilities as a mouse-catcher.
The next morning, everybody in the house went to see if there was a dead mouse in the traps, only to walk away disappointed. All the traps seemed to attract that day was the dog. I’m not sure what it says about his level of intelligence that he would be attracted to mousetraps when the mouse jumped over them, but I spent the rest of the day shooing him away from them.
I didn’t do a very good job though. I had closed my door, but hadn’t pulled it tight, and the dog was able to sneak in at some point. I found the door wide open and could hear no sign at all of the mouse in the room, so began to think it had escaped. I slept in my own bed that night, after plugging in a sonic mouse repellant at the head of my bed. But I woke up to hear the mouse scurrying around the floor once more.
This was the day the dog decided to stick his nose into one of the traps. Fortunately he didn’t get caught, but that night I thought it best to put the rebaited trap inside the wardrobe. This trap would definitely not be sitting in the middle of a cleared space; the problem in fact may be in not having enough space for it to close on the mouse if it did set it off.
But that was the night of the whump and squawk in the wardrobe. I felt as proud as if I had caught it myself, until I remembered the lack of space for the trap. What if it hadn’t been able to close properly? If the mouse wasn’t killed, there was no way it would try sticking its head back in another time. But when I gingerly opened the wardrobe door, the mouse was lying there motionless. Strangely enough, it wasn’t actually caught in the trap but was lying underneath with the trap upside down on it. Perhaps it nearly got away, but wasn’t quick enough.
What struck me the most looking at the mouse was how incredibly long its tail was. It was maybe three times the length of its body, hairless and very thin. It belonged in horror films – just looking at it made my skin crawl. I found its paws fascinating as well. They looked like miniature hands, and were as scaly and hairless as its tail. They were the perfect instruments for climbing up walls and onto beds.
I used the fire tongs to dispose of the mouse, first showing it to the dog, who examined the dead body in a very contemplative manner. He always becomes solemn when faced with a dead creature, even if he had taken great joy in chasing that creature when it was alive. Perhaps we should not be so quick to dismiss the ability of animals to reflect on life and death.
But I slept soundly in my bed that night without a single twinge of guilt over the violent murder that had taken place in my wardrobe.