Web Toolbar by Wibiya Shelby Rebecca: Thanks, Mouse!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thanks, Mouse!

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." -Ernest Hemingway

There was a company take over a few months ago. In the shuffle, 950 jobs, including my husband's, were outsourced to India. During the transition period, while the new people in India were being trained, they kept the call center open here in North Highlands. They required employees to be at work at 5:30 am. So, my husband started getting up for work at 4:00 am.

One morning I'm woken up by John screaming, "Oh my god, Oh my god!!!!!"

I ran out to the kitchen and my big, manly husband looked like the elephants on Dumbo who were running from Dumbo's mousy friend.

"There was a mouse on top of our stove!" he screamed.

"Where'd he go?" I asked.

"He went under there," he said, pointing to the hole that goes under the stove top from the burner.

It took us a few minutes to get brave enough to pop the top of the stove up. But, when we did, the mouse had vanished. He'd only seen the mouse because he was up in the middle of the night. How long had this been going on?

I've had mice in my house before as a kid but, as an adult I've never had to deal with this. My immediate reaction was to clean. And I did--for days--for weeks. I tore my house apart like a kid dumping toys out of a bin.

I sent John to the store to get a live trap because, as a vegetarian, I don't believe in killing animals. So, I put peanut butter inside the trap and placed it under my rolling hamper in the coat closet.

I ripped every thing out of all the closets. I completely stripped our office clean of the clutter that had accumulated in there while I was student teaching and writing my children's novel. Everywhere I searched I found evidence of a mouse. He'd made a home out of my linen closet. He'd nibbled my shawl in Elise's closet and made a comfy nest. He'd been on top of our refrigerator. But where was he coming into the house?

Like a good detective, I put baking soda on the floor in the kitchen and on the stove. Every morning there'd be new tiny foot prints but I couldn't figure out where he was coming from. It was time for expert help.

I called the office at The Arbors. The Old Big-Boss' Daughter answered and must have gotten much satisfaction from my admittance that a mouse had taken residence in my home, "I've worked here for two years and I've never heard of anyone having mice in their house," she said, snidely.

A few days later, an exterminator came to help. I wasn't going to be here when he arrived so I told John, "absolutely no poison, and no sticky pad. I've signed I-don't-know-how-many petitions against those sticky pads." If you don't know why this is wrong, click here.

But to my amazement, the only thing that man had in his arsenal was poison and sticky pads. :-( 

He said,"The Arbors are filled with mice. That field over there has millions of 'em and they're hungry so they come to the houses to eat." Hmmm, so there, Big-Boss' Daughter.

But, what was I going to do?

The pamphlet he left us said that mice droppings can kill young children. It said they pee all over your house and leave oily marks on your walls as they scamper around at night while you sleep. Dr Greene said they harbor the plague. Let me repeat, THE PLAGUE!

I did the unthinkable. I went to the big-box store and bought kill traps. The kind that are round and slice the little buggers in half but you don't see it because it's black. I put peanut butter in there and placed one in each room.

After a week and a half, I'd washed every single item in my closets and had placed all of my blankets and linens in those plastic storage bags that get shriveled up by a vacuum cleaner. I'd cleaned every room of my house, including under the beds, behind the dressers, on top of the refrigerator. You name it, I cleaned it.

Then, one morning I opened the cabinet under the sink. That little mouse and his friends had made my cabinet their secret hide-out. Aha! This was the mothership! There was a hole near the back wall. That's where he was coming in. So, I took everything out, scrubbed it with hot water. My Active Ion was zapping germs left and right.
That same day, John came home with these plug-ins that deter mice because they cause an ear-deafening sound to travel through the electrical wiring of your house. Humans can't hear it though--only mice and maybe squirrels, or skunks. I plugged two of those in. One in the back and one in the front of the house.
I'd check the traps daily. No mice.
I'd check the closets. No mice poops.
Then one day I decided to check that live trap under my hamper. I shined a flashlight on it and, to my surprise, I could see a skinny tail and a fat body in the chamber.
"John, there's a mouse in here!" I said. "I'm going to go let him out."
As I trotted out to the field behind our house that used to be a golf club but has now just become Weed City, I was wearing big yellow dish-washing gloves in case he tried to bite me.
I found a hole in the fence and ducked under it. Once in the field, I could see old dressers people had dumped, an old suitcase, some broken toys. But, spread out among the junk were pictures. My immediate response was, Oh, that's sad. I wonder who lost their pictures out here.
Because I'm nosy, I started looking at them. I'm holding this live trap with a mouse in my yellow hands when I see a picture of someone sky diving. Oh, I did that too! I thought.

Me skydiving, 1999

As I looked closer, I realized That's me!

I walked around and found pictures of: my cousin on her trip to California in '96; my Grandma Dottie and Grandpa George (who passed a way); my Great Grams, may she rest in peace, in her long house gown she wore up into her 90's; my first car--a red camero parked near the fence behind our four-plex in Atwater; John's senior-year picture; my friend Devone when she was pregnant with her oldest daughter, Karris.

How could this be?

Then it hit me. About a month before, John found the door to our shed wide open before he went to work. He had checked inside and nothing looked disturbed so he bought a new lock in an attempt to make it harder for anyone to break into it. But we'd paid it no mind since then.

I was standing vulnerably on a mountain of weeds with this captive mouse deciding that someone had stolen my old beauty college case full of pictures when John and Elise came out to make sure I was okay.

"John, help me pick up these pictures, they're ours," I said, matter-of-factly.

"What?" he said, shocked looking at hundreds of our photos strewn about like garbage.

I bent down and opened the top of the live mouse trap. Inside was a sweaty, gray mouse. As he trembled and turned to face me, I saw terror in his eyes and two white front teeth sticking out innocently.

"Go," I said, kindly tilting the trap to the ground.

He jumped out and hopped in the air three times before he found a little burrow to hide in.

I stood there taking in the moment. Elise and John were picking up pictures while I was on top of a weed hill getting poked in the foot. The look on the mouse's face was stuck in my brain. It was as if he couldn't believe I'd let him go.

Looking in the direction whereI saw him hide I said, "Thank you, Mouse!"

Some of you may be thinking, thank you? But, yes, if you think about difficult times hard enough, there is most certainly something to be thankful for.

In this case, I now have a sparkling clean and organized house. I have a system installed to keep mice at bay in the future and...I found the pictures that were stolen from us.

If that mouse hadn't moved into my house, if John hadn't lost his job and had to work earlier than usual, if I hadn't had a heart and placed a live trap, my irreplaceable pictures would have been ruined this winter out in that field. I never would have found them.

To some, that might be a small type of accomplishment, but not to me. To me it was a miracle.

So, I say, Thank You, Mouse!

I'd love to hear other stories like this. Something bad happens to you and then you realize you are better off after all. Share away!


  1. Amazing!! It's moments like this that make you believe that acts of kindness - to humans, animals, insects, etc - NEVER go unnoticed! Karma, Karma, Karma!! Great story, Shelby!

  2. That's a very cool story Sis. Well Done!