How can I have nearly reached the age 40 and never had to deal with a mouse before?
And yet there I was a couple of nights ago trying to coax Maggie down from the chair she was standing on in the kitchen, wondering if she had an over active imagination or whether she really had caught sight of a mouse shooting across the floor out of the corner of her eye. The blood-curdling scream that had had me charging into the kitchen expecting to find a severed hand crawling across the worktop, left me in no doubt that Maggie was quite certain about what she had seen.
Maggie has an extreme phobia about small rodents. She has never understood why anyone would keep hamsters, gerbils or especially mice as pets. Bats are probably her worst fear, as they are “mice with wings”, but we don’t have too many of them about in this corner of Southern Scotland. Dealing with an hysterical Maggie is something I’ve not often had to cope with; dealing with a mouse, though, was a complete unknown
The following morning I phoned the local council Environmental Health Pest Control Department. They have a man who works Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and it would cost a £25 callout fee if we wanted to see him; £17 for any repeat visits. I checked the web: mousetraps started at 99p.
Down at the hardware store there were a baffling array of rodent disposal units, ranging from contraptions looking like they were made from little more than a clothes peg and a paper clip, through to boxes the size of a small garden shed that allowed you to humanely trap the beast, then release it unharmed into your garden so it could re-enter your house at its leisure.
Eventually I settled on a pair of plastic, ergonomically designed, easy-to-set, safe-to-use, no-blood-or-odours mousetraps that promised me 30% extra force over conventional spring-loaded traps. A basic but pleasant diagram on the box showed how you could pick up the trap without handling the mouse and dispose of the creature by gently squeezing the release mechanism. So I wasn’t prepared to be woken up the following morning by another blood-curdling scream from Maggie.
Hurtling down the stairs I skidded to a halt by the kitchen door where I could see the mouse (less it’s head and one front paw which were caught inside the trap) pathetically dragging itself in erratic circles across the floor. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The blurb on the box had quite specifically used the phrase “…killing it very quickly”.
I felt sick. I am the product of a society that buys its meat cellophane wrapped. I live in a family that gently places a tumbler over spiders, sliding a piece of card underneath so it can be released unharmed into our garden, able to re-enter our house at its leisure. The harsh realities of nature are something we watch on television with a David Attenborough voice over. Wasps and midges are the only thing I consciously make a point of killing; small mammals are outside my comfort zone. We had even used high cocoa content, fair trade chocolate as bait.
Clearly I had to put this creature out of its misery as quickly as possible, but I couldn’t just stamp on it, or squeeze the trap tighter until I felt a crunch. I stood there for 20 seconds. There was no way Maggie was going to be able to deal with it. It briefly crossed my mind to call my ten-year-old son down – he might think it was cool – but no, I could feel Maggie’s disapproval of that idea without having to mention it. It was down to me and the longer I took to decide what to do, the longer the mouse was suffering.
I’m not sure where the idea came from but drowning it was the only option that leapt to mind. So I scooped up the mouse and trap with a plastic sandwich box and dropped it into a basin of water.
The mouse started swimming.
Using the edge of the box to hold the trap and its contents underwater, all the time praying I didn’t accidentally squeeze the release mechanism, the mouse let out a last bubble of air a short while later.
The next question is whether this was a lone mouse, one of a family nesting somewhere in the house, or the scout of a hoard waiting to invade.