When droppings began to appear on the stovetop, in the trays beneath the burners, and, on occasion, deposited in the cast-iron skillet, I had to admit we had a mouse. Every morning, I returned with my dog, Cleo, from predawn forays into the dark of the city streets. Before I could enjoy the warmth and coziness of home, I had to confront the night's damage--all over the kitchen, offerings of rodent scat. Our refuge had been invaded.
As a long-time student of Buddhism, a vegetarian, and a self-proclaimed ally of backyard creatures--an aspiring model for non-harming--I was at a stalemate. The mouse had to go. But talk of glue and poison traps made me wince. I refused to take steps to exterminate. Instead, each night, my husband, Patrick, and I meticulously stored all the edibles in the refrigerator, hoping that the now starving mouse would disappear. Yet each morning, we found further signs of our visitor's revelry. As I cooked breakfast for our daughter, Caitlin, and fed Cleo, I cleaned up the leavings.
One morning, when I found droppings in our favorite wedding gift, a wooden salad bowl, I reached my limit. I had to protect the health of my family. We were in danger.
I started my campaign against the mouse with a beeper, whose high-pitched frequency--not even detectable to dogs--was purportedly excruciating to the sensitive ears of rodents. But continued droppings on the stove defied my clever tricks.
Next, I tried Have-a-Heart traps, little plastic boxes baited with tempting morsels. When cheddar didn't seem to have the proper allure, I tried peanut butter. No matter what I tried, I couldn't seem to control this invader from the city streets.
[One morning] when I came back from my walk, I rushed around the house preparing for a trip out of town. Gathering bread and cereal for Caitlin's breakfast, I threw open the door of the fridge. There, amidst the tortillas, something twitched. Crying out, I leapt back. From the shelf, a furry rodent regarded me with dark, beady eyes. Its long, spiny tail quivered. I slammed the door closed.
Unwilling to leave town with this menace in my kitchen, I got on the phone. One answering machine directed me to the next, from the Animal Shelter to the Health Department. On the 24-hour police hotline, I finally got an actual voice. To my plea "There's a rodent in my refrigerator!" an officer calmly directed me to Vector Control. Vector Control (it sounded like a cross between "Ghostbusters" and "The X-Files") turned out to be the county agency that deals with "vectors"--organisms that carry and transmit disease-causing microorganisms.
|When I called Vector Control to come and get the rodent, any pretense of equanimity, patience, or selflessness had been abandoned.|
I finally reached this agency when they opened at 8:00 a.m., but the inspectors were all in the field monitoring an emergency sewer leak. By my third call, I had worked myself up to a pitch: "'No' is not acceptable. I have a 10-year-old and a dog, and I must leave town. This is an emergency!" (any pretense of equanimity, patience, or selflessness abandoned).
"Yes, ma'am," returned the bored voice of a receptionist, maybe paring her nails or stirring her coffee. "We'll send someone out soon's they get in."
By this time, I barely cared what they did with the mouse. As I anxiously awaited Vector Control, I conjured up pictures of the inspectors. I imagined two cold gray men (gray uniforms, gray pot bellies, doughy gray faces, with gray pistols in their holsters). I would hear their great gray boots banging up the wooden stairs of our Victorian house, a pitiless knocking on the front door.
But at 9:00 a.m. sharp I was startled by a single pristine ring. In the doorway stood a statuesque young woman--maybe six-foot-four, with long, dyed-blond hair, arched brows, painted eyes, cheeks bright with blush. I was taken aback. But here she was. She was, indeed, in uniform, a blue shirt with a badge, navy blue pants. I noticed a few insignia of her trade: dangling from her belt, a set of keys (jailer-size); in a holster, a formidable flashlight; and swinging from one hand, a large wire cage. "I'm from Vector Control," she introduced herself, holding out her other hand--all rings, with long, maroon, polished nails.