It’s as if my house knows I’m leaving the country for nearly two weeks. Why? Because things are going wrong. Very wrong.
It started when my son Chris came over to help me clean out the basement a little over a week ago. I had seen mouse droppings and a tiny mouse carcass earlier this summer and without backup, I wasn’t about to shift the boxes and random stuff that took up residence down there when I moved in four years ago. I should toss it all, I suppose. If I haven’t used something, or even missed its existence, in more than four years, why keep it, right?
At any rate, I’m not an expert on mice, having had little experience with them over the years. I am, however, confident that I am not a fan. I’m pretty sure I’d shriek like Lucy or Ethel and charge up the stairs if I encountered a live one.
Happily, that didn’t happen. Chris and I made it through most of the basement detritus (keeping most of it – sigh). I innocently swept up the icky remnants of what I was sure must be long gone tiny tenants. Surely those creatures were simply trying to escape a harsh Ohio winter, right? But since fall is technically here – despite the warmer-than-normal temps – I thought I may as well put a gentle little trap baited with a dab of peanut butter in a corner of the basement. Just as a precautionary measure.
Maybe 48 hours later I awoke to the sound of a repetitive knocking in the middle of the night. In my befuddled state, the mouse trap never came to mind. The dogs were cuddled next to me on the bed and were briefly interested, but quickly settled back into sleep. Squirrels on the roof? A poltergeist? The noise stopped, and I went back to sleep, too.
It wasn’t until Saturday that I thought of the trap. Since it’s the kind that doesn’t kill mice, I thought I’d better go see if some little guy was trapped inside. This would mean putting the entire trap inside a garbage bag, inside a box, inside a larger garbage bag, and driving it to another county for release. But I was game. I think.
As it turned out, I didn’t have the opportunity to test my courage. The top of the trap was pushed halfway off and the bottom was obviously empty. That’s when I saw a mouse standing on its hind legs no more than six feet away from me. It wasn’t moving. I gulped and quietly backed away to see what it would do. The mouse looked just like Beatrix Potter’s Mrs. Tittlemouse, so I will call it “her.” We stared at each other cautiously. Suddenly, she tried to leap up the wall but couldn’t get purchase. When Mrs. T darted my way to hide behind a box and a dresser, I screamed like a little girl and ran upstairs. If she couldn’t jump up on the wall, I figured she’d be stuck in the basement until I found Chris or someone else brave enough to go down and set a less friendly trap.
Fast forward to Sunday night. I’m happy in my recliner, boys snoozing on my lap, watching my buddies the “Property Brothers” dealing with asbestos embedded in some poor schmuck’s popcorn ceiling. That’s when I notice Mrs. Tittlemouse – or a friend or relative who looks exactly like her – casually saunter into the living room. She stopped near the doorway, took in the domestic scene, then nonchalantly turned around and strolled back into the kitchen. After I pushed my jaw back up into place, I dumped the dogs from my lap and sent them to the kitchen to investigate. Mick likes me to think he’s a brave hunter and Rich is a terrier, which is a breed that goes after rodents. Neither of them made a peep. I’m trading them in for a cat.
Trying to find an exterminator on a Sunday night is a losing proposition. However, I was lucky – I think – to get Randy from Terminix to come out this morning. $1,500+ later, when I get back from vacation this house will be sealed tighter than Grant’s Tomb to prevent further assaults from critters. Furthermore, the Terminix warriors will be on call for three years in case any varmint dares attempt to storm the bastions.
But wait. Am I really that bent out of shape about leaving town because of a little mouse or twelve? No. There’s more.
As I led Randy to the basement to scout for tiny revolving mouse doors flashing neon “welcome” signs, we encountered a leak of a different sort at the bottom of the stairs. It seems that my hot water heater has chosen NOW to begin leaking.
It’s not enough that I have to wash clothes and towels and bedding before I leave. It’s not enough that I would prefer to leave town freshly showered and shampooed. In the end, I don’t see how I can, in good conscience, walk away from a mouse-infested home with no hot water for my dog sitter and son to deal with while I’m sipping Bushnell’s and tapping my toes to a twinkly-eyed fiddler’s tune in a pub in Northern Ireland. I mean, it’s not like I won’t go, but . . . .
So now I’m not-so-patiently waiting for a contractor to call me back about the water heater.
Normally, in the final days before I’m due to travel, I worry about coming down with a cold (I AM a bit sniffly, now that I think of it) or getting a UTI (the ultimate annoying traveling companion) or breaking a tooth (I had to have a crown repaired hours before I left for the airport for a trip to Italy one year). I’m not a hypochondriac. I’m not even superstitious. But things do have a way of getting complicated before I leave town.
I just turned the calendar page to October and there’s a black cat featured in one of the fun, seasonal photos. Man. Let’s hope bad things do not come in three’s, okay? When I get to JFK Wednesday evening I’m definitely turning off my phone and hiding out for the next ten days or so. Slainte, y’all.