Monday, June 20, 2011
Of mice and mice
I lie in bed listening to rain patter lightly on the roof. My eyes follow laddered slats of wood, the colour of warm butterscotch, up the vaulted ceiling to its peek. The sound of rain crescendos as water shakes loose from the surrounding trees and there’s a metronome drip, drip, drip of water where it gathers at the edge of the shingles. I picture great crystal blobs fattening quickly and dropping down one level of roof to the next.
And then a tap, tap, tap, like a beak against wood. I tell myself it is the rain, but I know it’s not. I wait for it to stop and when it does, I pretend I didn’t hear it. But Chestnut has bolted from the bedroom with purpose.
The scratching comes next and I know it is a mouse.
Living in the woods, surrounded by land left wild, it is no surprise to find mice scurrying around in our walls. We were almost overrun a year ago, desperately pulling down wooden panels where our walls meet the ceiling, uncovering secret tunnels through pink insulation and one large cache of food - sunflower seeds that rained down from the ceiling for a full two minutes like we hit the jackpot on a slot machine.
The first mouse we caught was in a live trap that I carefully smuggled out of the house past the cats and the dogs. I walked up the trail with the green box clamped in my hands, careful to hold it steady as the little mouse cowered inside. I could see the shadow of his body through the opaque plastic trap and I spoke to it in quiet tones, probably scaring it even more, though I thought I was helping.
I released it well up the trail, opening the box and setting it down near the tall grasses where they merged with the big-leafed weeds that spread out into the forest.
The second mouse was caught in a boot. Morgan and I knelt on either side of the woodstove, each with a big orange logging boot in hand, angling the wide mouths towards the mouse where it had curled into a tiny ball in the corner, perhaps willing itself to become invisible.
Each time the mouse made a move towards one of us, becoming a blur of motion, we shifted our steel-toed boots from side to side trying to catch the tiny thing. Soled with metal cleats, the boots clunked and clattered against the tiled floor.
The mouse skittered one way, then the other, back and forth in a frenzy, trying to dodge the roadblocks until it finally dashed into Morgan’s boot. He clamped his hand over the opening then folded it over on itself like closing an envelope. We drove up the trail in the dark, and in the beam of a headlight I upended the boot. A tiny body tumbled out, haloed by the light from the truck. It thudded gently to the ground and rustled off through the grass.
This spring we filled our house with super sonic rodent repellents, tiny plug-in devices that fit in the palm of your hand and emit sound waves that rodents don’t like. We peppered them around our house and so far they’ve worked. We are surrounded by a constant low buzzing, but it is better than listening to a thousand tiny feet scamper through our walls.
The mouse I hear as I lie in bed seems to have found a gap in our clever plan. I slip out from under the covers and tiptoe downstairs to find Chestnut staring up at the ceiling where tiny claws sound like giant picks chipping away at wooden beams. I move one of the sonic devices to the wall where the mouse is and there is a pause in the scrabbling followed by a mad dash scramble across the beam in the wall. It is so loud I can almost see the mouse as it runs the length of the room and squeezes back out through whatever tiny crevice it had squeezed in through and disappears down the side of the house.
Chestnut runs to the window, desperately searching in the darkness, sure it will appear. When it doesn’t he turns and marches towards me. He sits at my feet and fixes his eyes questioningly on mine. “It’s gone,” I say, unapologetically and go back to bed.