I Am Become Death, Destroyer of Tiny Little Worlds
The woman who is loaning me her house is, as you might expect, a deeply sweet person. But this is a fault when it comes to wild animals. There was a wasp in the kitchen my first night here, and she said, "Oh, they never bother anyone." Which is not true: it bothered ME by suddenly thudding to the counter five inches from me while I was assembling a sandwich. Then it flew away and I couldn't find it anywhere. Made me nervous every time I used the damn kitchen.
The next day I noticed that the silverware was kept in a sealed wooden container, and that this container had mouse droppings on it. "You have mice?" I said. "Yes," she replied. "But I can't kill them. I promised my grandkids." These kids apparently even adopted a rat as a pet, feeding it under the patio. Then my friend paused significantly. "Of course, you didn't promise anything..."
I nodded and thought, What the hell. I'll just live with these creatures like everyone else does. The wasp in the kitchen landed in the sink the next day, and I was able to splash it with water (immobilizing it), and then--with nothing else near to hand--I sliced it in half with a butcher knife. (Which is overkill, because wasps are really tiny in the middle.) Then I flushed it down the drain. ("Oh, you shouldn't flush things down the drain," said my friend. "We don't have a septic tank, so everything gets clogged.")
I don't mind living far from civilization as long as I have a car (which I do) and a reasonably nearby town (check). But I object to being in an honest-to-god modern-ass house and living like I'm camping. So between the mouse turds and the wasps in my exercise room, I finally decided I'd had it. I drove to Hudson and bought a can of wasp spray along with some mousetraps. Spray in hand, I went back out to the patio...and there were FIVE wasps milling about. I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed--it's a bit like trying to hit a knocked-out person with a seltzer-bottle stream in an old comedy--and after all that, I only managed to take out three of the bastards. Apparently, wasp spray gets used up rather quickly.
So I drove BACK into town and got two more cans of wasp spray. (Interesting fact: driving 8 miles and back, under current gas prices, costs $5.30, which is about 30% more than the cost of a subway ride.) Back to the patio--MORE wasps, because it was now approaching sundown and I guess they gather then--and this time, with a more practiced hand, I got them all. Final death toll: 8 wasps. And I've still got about half of that second can left, plus the third one--which I've nicknamed "Whoop-Ass"--still unused.
I actually got two types of mousetraps: there's the traditional type everyone knows (four to a package), and a little thing called the Mice Cube, which is ingenious: it's a mouse-sized plastic rectangle, like a short squarish Habitrail, with a simple flaplike door on one end. The doorflap is light, and moves easily, but it falls at an angle. So the mouse can easily poke its way in, but once it's past a certain point, the door falls and can only be opened by pulling (which a mouse can't do) or by tilting the trap on end (which is how you're supposed to let the mouse out). I bought both because I've never mouse-hunted before, and didn't know which would work. (I could have gotten a glue trap, but those seem needlessly cruel. Better to die swiftly than to starve to death while struggling.)
So at about nine o'clock I set one of each mousetrap. Then I took a shower. At 9:30 I came back and discovered that both traps had sprung. One dead mouse in the mousetrap, one live one in the Mice Cube. And I'd just turned around for a second! I call that an infestation.
I realized at this point that I hadn't actually considered the gross part: how to carry a dead mouse and free it from a trap without actually touching its mite-ridden corpse. With no gloves I could see, I put two socks over my hands and carried the trap and mouse (Eww! Eww!) out to the nearby field. (I now believe that every mousetrap should come with a long pair of tongs and a hungry neighborhood cat.) I expected the mouse to be limp and floppy, but it was stiff, which probably lets you establish an exact time of death on Rodent CSI. I let the other guy just sit there, banging away at that clicky little plastic door. I didn't want to touch a live mouse, and it was so dark out that I wasn't sure I'd be able to see where it was flying to if I flung it.
I reset the traditional mousetrap before I went to bed, just in case there was a third mouse. There was; I found it this morning, stiff as the other one. So I just now took it and its living kinsman out to the road. I dumped the one body (and there goes another pair of socks, straight into the laundry) and let the other go free.
I admit I feel a little bad. It must be baffling for mice to have a steady source of food and comfort suddenly turn lethal overnight. But of course you can't give mice warning signs and tell them they've got ten days to pack up. If I had my choice next time, I think I'd prefer to buy a whole slew of Mice Cubes and just let them all go free a few miles down the road where an owl could see them. In the meantime, though, I'm keeping both traps primed. And today I made a sandwich very calmly, secure in the knowledge that I wasn't going to get stung in the back, nor would I contract the bubonic plague. It's a pretty low bar to set for happiness, but these days I can't be picky.