There is a guy who helps me with home repairs. He helps other folks in the area too, when he isn't being a ski instructor. So during the summer and especially in the fall, we catch up on the new furnace filter and the gutter clearing and all the other stuff one does to keep a home humming along. He has helped me for so many years we have become friends and he knows my home and its workings better than I do.
"We need to fix the skylight in the upstairs bathroom," he might say. "I noticed there is moisture getting in around the edges." He never suggests something unneeded or excessive. As a woman who lives alone, I have grown dependent on his handy works.
A few weeks ago he told me he was pretty certain I had mice. I looked shocked. He backed up a bit. "Maybe just a mouse," he restated. He explained that this time of year, when food gets scarce and the weather changes, they tend to come inside. He assured me that the finest homes he cared for in the best neighborhoods all had them.
I asked what the indication was I had such a creature afoot. He asked when I last looked in the space under the sink in the downstairs bathroom. I must have looked rather blank.
"You know where you have those things that heat up for your neck or back or whatever?" Well, they are filled with birdseed, right?" I nodded.
Horror took over my face.
I investigated the heatable pillows and there were tiny holes in them. The seed came spilling out. We discussed little boxes with cheese where the mouse could enter and then be relocated later back into the wild. My friend said that was lovely to think about, but he had never seen those damn things work. We needed a trap. He returned the next day with many traps. It seemed excessive, but he suggested rarely is there one mouse and rarely are they in one place. I was shocked.
When he left, I decided to fix my favorite comfort food meal and went to the pantry to pull out a giant baking potato. When I got it in the kitchen I dropped it in horror. The potato had teeth marks. Someone, something, had been gnawing on it before me. I realized the bathroom was just steps away from the pantry. My mouse had been making the rounds.
After screwing up my courage I re-entered the pantry and looked at the obvious places. The grandkids' cereal box showed no signs of entry but I threw it out anyway. The cookies were unopened and appeared untouched. I picked up the net bag with the organic potatoes and a few slipped out onto the pantry floor. I saw, to my horror, that two tiny potatoes had little gnaw marks on them. The bag went in the trash.
I put on the tea kettle to try and calm my nerves. A mouse in my house that only seemed to eat potatoes? Clearly, it was one of my Irish clan back from the dead to haunt me. Superstitious people (during Halloween time) can come to no other conclusion.
After the clean-up of the bathroom and pantry and setting of the menacing traps, there were days of a truce in the house. I figured we had scared the mouse to other haunts, or least to the garage.
Then, while catching up on a favorite scary television show -- no, there were no vampires involved, just terrorist spies -- I thought I saw movement on the floor coming out of my open bedroom closet. I decided I was just imagining things, given the nature of the show I was watching. Then I saw a quick movement again and I was fairly certain the downstairs mouse had become the upstairs mouse. He darted back into the closet space again and I decided to let him return to whatever hole he had popped out of. I ignored him.
Which worked for the rest of that show. In fact, I forgot about him altogether and got lost in a sweet story of revenge. Which is why, when the crazed mouse with the giant eyes came out of the closet and we linked stares, I screamed, he dashed around the room, and I felt trapped on my bed, afraid to put my bare foot down. Eventually I did run downstairs, grabbed a few of the set traps and put them all over my room. I was awake as long as I could be. Then I sternly told the mouse I needed to sleep and he needed to sleep and we had better declare a truce.
Which we did. Have done for days. The traps mock me as I move them around. I have placed the potatoes I bought in the fridge, not the pantry, and used my stern grandmother's Irish voice in dark corners of my closet and garage. But just because I have not seen my mouse doesn't mean he isn't waiting to show up when I want to see him the least. Like any Irish relative would any day, even a Sunday in the Park ...
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.