Sorry, Charlie

The first house my husband and I purchased was an old two-story farmhouse that was over 100 years old.  Like many older homes, it had its idiosyncrasies, including a small hand dug basement that a tiny creek ran through every spring, window panes with old warped glass that made the outside world look wavy and wonderful, and lots and lots of tiny cracks and crevices for the field mice to enter.

As soon as the weather would cool down the field mice would find their way into our home. Sometimes I knew they were there because I’d find their calling cards (tiny turds) on the counters and in the cupboards.  Mouse poop was one thing I couldn’t tolerate so as soon as I saw any signs of mouse activity, I’d tell my husband Steve to set traps or get mouse poison.

But if they stayed out of the kitchen, they were probably there for a while before anyone noticed them.  One evening as we were watching t.v., one ran right across the living room floor, right between my husband and I who were each seated in our favorite chairs, and right in front of the nose of our German Shepherd, Kelly.  Now, Kelly was a chaser – she’d chase anything that ran – squirrels, bunnies, chipmunks, even birds hopping in the yard.   But when that mouse ran right in front of her, she didn’t budge.  She watched it run and put her head down and went to sleep.   “We have a serious mouse problem,” I said to Steve.

“Serious?   You only saw one mouse, how can you say it’s serious?” he asked.

“Because Kelly didn’t chase it.  Meaning,” I continued, “that she sees them so much she thinks they belong here.  We need to set the traps.”

So we set some traps and caught some mice.  Then one evening, as were sitting in the living room watching t.v. we heard one of the traps snap that we had placed in the kitchen. I got up to check it but there was no mouse in it, just some blood.   Being the jerk that I can be, I said to Steve, “Ooooh, we better be careful, there’s a wounded wild animal in the house!”

I went back to my chair and sat down and a few minutes later, this tiny little field mouse with a bloodied forehead came hopping, like a kangaroo, into the living room.   He hopped right up to our old floor model t.v. and stood there on his hind legs watching Johnny Carson.   As soon as I saw it I curled my legs up under myself on my chair while yelling at Steve, “Kill, it!  Kill it!”   This wounded animal thing wasn’t so funny anymore, now that he was there, right in the middle of my living room watching Johnny Carson.

As Steve got up out of his chair he said, “How do you expect me to kill it?”

“I don’t know, just kill it!”

When Steve approached the mouse, it ran to the corner of the room.  Now trapped, Steve, who was still wearing his work boots, stepped on it, killing it.  Wild animal crisis averted.

Another year, it was Christmas Eve until I knew about the mice.  I had hidden chocolate in my bedroom closet to put in the kids Christmas stockings.  When I got them out of the closet, it looked like a massacre.  The solid chocolate Santa had no head, the snowman, no feet and the reindeer were just crumbs.   I was so upset, but my kids were little, and I figured that they wouldn’t notice that Santa had not brought their usual chocolate pieces. So of course the next day one of them did notice and I said what mothers across the globe say on Christmas Day, “Oh no, Santa must’ve forgot.”

And then one day, one of the field mice decided he wasn’t falling for any of our tactics, not traps, not poison, not even work boots.  We knew he was there in the evening, he would come out from under the kitchen sink and scurry around on the floor looking for crumbs. Between two kids and a dog, we had plenty of crumbs.  We named him Charlie. Every evening, as we’d be sitting in the dining room, eating our supper, Charlie would be eating his, right there on the kitchen floor, in full sight of all of us.  Charlie was smart.  He ignored both the traps and the poison, living there on our crumbs.

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At first, if you approached him, he’d scoot back under the sink and disappear.  But as time went on, Charlie got braver.  He wouldn’t even even wait for us to go into the dining room, he’d just come out from under the kitchen sink and scurry around on the floor running right between us looking for crumbs.  He was fearless.  My son thought Charlie was a hoot. He’d drop crumbs to him on purpose and tiny Charlie would sit on his haunches, looking up at my son, waiting for the next crumb.

One night, when my sister-in-law and her husband were at our house for an evening of board games and beer, I watched Charlie go in and out of the kitchen looking for crumbs. They never noticed him but after seeing him several times (and after drinking several beers, which made this whole Charlie thing seem pretty funny to me), I asked them if they wanted to meet our new house pet.  Of course they did!  So I got up out of my chair and went to the kitchen, grabbed a piece of bread and broke off a few crumbs.  Because they were watching me, they still hadn’t noticed Charlie who was right in the middle of the kitchen floor.  I walked over to him and dropped him a crumb and said to them, “Meet Charlie, our tame field mouse.”  At first they were a bit shocked, but as they watched him eat his crumbs while sitting on his haunches waiting for the next one to drop, they began to laugh and said that Charlie, although a field mouse, was pretty darn cute.

But cute or not, Charlie had to go.  He was after all, vermin. And like all vermin, sooner or later he would leave mouse poop where it wasn’t welcome, or worse yet, he’d procreate and teach his off spring his sly, cute ways.  Since he didn’t bother with the traps or the poison we had on hand, we decided to try a different brand of poison.  A few days after putting the new poison in the basement, I realized we had not seen Charlie for a while, and to be honest, I sort of missed him.

Mouse drawing by Stephanie Sicore

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

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