My high school Biology teacher had a repertoire of anecdotes, and it was clear which were his favorites. There is one story he told half a dozen times throughout the year, whenever the situation called, ever so faintly, for a yarn about the dissection of common household pets.
Back when he himself was a Biology student, his own teacher told the students (all boys) on the first day of class that they’d spend the whole year preparing for one a major dissection lab assignment, the culmination of their high school science education. On a deeper level, it would represent a coming of age, for each student would be asked to supply his own specimen. “Gentleman,” the teacher said, “go out and procure yourself a cat.”
In a way, that is exactly what I did.
On the day after the Mus walked in on me in the bathroom, I went out and procured myself a mouse trap.
I hoped it wouldn’t come to that. I resisted the idea as I crouched on the bathroom floor, still wrapped in just my towel, head cocked to peer after the flashlight beam I shined under the sink. I resisted the idea when the dust layered there distracted me. I resisted the idea as I collected the vacuum cleaner and assembled the hose extension. A mouse trap was the farthest thing from my mind as I jabbed the power switch and aimed the hose.
But then, that slim furry body shot out from the corner under the sink, veered halfway under the toilet, and darted under the radiator, hovering just beyond the end of my vacuum hose the whole way. I wasn’t aiming for it, I swear.
Caitlin said the pitch created when my shriek combined with the moan of the vacuum probably scared the mouse to death, but I made up my mind right then.
I selected my weapon the way I choose everything else: I shopped online. Home Depot offered some intriguing options. Poisons and traditional, Tom & Jerry style mouse traps, as well as contraptions called Havahart traps were all possibilities, but to be honest, I was less concerned about the humanity of the demise than I was about my own sanity. I did not want to face this creature again, dead or alive.
So that left the mouse trap supreme, the Boss Level equivalent of small rodent extermination, the well reviewed Victor Electronic Mouse Trap, Model No. M252. Powered by four AA batteries, this baby is equipped with two metal plates that deliver a 4500 volt shock when the electric circuit is closed. It also features a status light that blinks when an intruder has been apprehended and a hinged lid that flips open for quick disposal.
I spent $19.99 on this mouse trap. Plus tax.
And I bought batteries, too.
At home, I poured a glass of wine and spread a dab of peanut butter on a Cheerio. The wine was for me, the peanut butter was for my little friend. I set the trap near the bathroom radiator, where my target was last sighted. One review on Home Depot’s website reported results within the hour. I put my feet up while I waited.
Twelve hours later, I woke to a blinking light. Three hours, two phone calls to my parents, and a cup of coffee later, I stood over a tall garbage can wearing boots, long, green rubber gloves and my coat, with my house keys in the pocket. I squeezed my eyes shut and hummed at the top of my lungs as I picked up the little black box, loosened the top, and turned it over above the garbage. I was singing so loudly that I couldn’t hear anything land in the trash bag, so I gave the trap a vigorous shake, just to be sure. Without breathing, I tied up the bag and Baywatch-ran (you know, high knees?) down to the curb to dump the body.
I mean, to dispose of the evidence.
I mean, to take out the trash.
That night, my roommate and her boyfriend and I made dinner together. They got back to the building with groceries before I got home from the liquor store, and Caitlin had forgotten her keys, so they went to ask our super for the spare set. The super opened her door and before Caitlin could say a word, said, “I know just what you’re looking for, you don’t even have to say it!” and handed Caitlin a shrink-wrapped package. Bewildered, Caitlin wondered, what do you think I’m here for? and looked down at the rat poison in her hands.
Apparently, other tenants have noticed the mice, too.
“Actually, we’re just looking for your spare keys,” Caitlin said. “But yeah, how ’bout those mice? You know, just yesterday, Em went out and bought herself a trap, and she caught something this morning!” Like, next I might go out and catch myself an urban squirrel. And then I’ll go after a park raccoon. And next thing you know, we’ll have a wall covered in stuffed game heads.
I set the mouse trap again that night, but it was empty in the morning. I did have one more sighting. I was sitting in the dimly lit kitchen a few evenings later when a mouse came out from a tiny gap in the baseboards. It stopped short in the middle of the floor, rose up on its hind legs and leaned toward me, and then scampered under the oven, apparently uninterested. It was as if it said, “Oh, it’s just you. I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.”
I moved the trap into the kitchen that night and the mouse had the nerve not to be caught dead in it. That’s the last I’ve seen of them. I can only assume the rest have all been poisoned by my neighbors.
I really hoped to eliminate more than one mouse in my $20 trap, even if only to reduce its cost per use. With every catch, I could have cut the life cycle expense in half. But for now, that one mouse rings up at $20, and I guess that’s not a bad thing.
Now that I think about it, I never did find out for sure if that cat dissection story was true.