OK. Someone tell me just what is so scary about a little, itty-bitty white-footed mouse. What is it? Is it the beady little eyes? Sudden, quick movements? Wiry little tail? What?
I get home from work one night two weeks ago and am making myself some hot chocolate on the Coleman camping stove, heating water in the tea kettle. Yeah, I don’t live an ordinary life.
Our propane ran out a week prior, and I didn’t have the money to get more until payday.
Not the most efficient operation, but for me, it’s a guy survival thing. I open a window so I don’t accidentally gas myself on carbon monoxide fumes.
So, I just finish heating water, and my wife heads into the pantry to get some pasta to cook for dinner at 11 p.m. The pot of water I put on the other burner was ready for noodles.
I’m just about to pour hot water into my mug and I hear this bloodcurdling scream, followed by heavy loud gasps for air, and words that normally form sentences when used correctly, but they’re very sharp and staccato sounding when just used by themselves in between gasps.
It sounds like my wife is getting murdered.
There goes my heart rate, down goes the tea kettle, out comes the hot water, and before I can react to the scalding, out hops my wife into the dining room and kitchen, terror written all over her face.
She’s utterly rigid, so I’m naturally wondering how she can hop, and spit out words at the same time. They don’t make sense, but I know she’s literate.
Granted, she just finished reading a new horror novel, but it can’t be that scary. There’s no blood on her, she hasn’t cut herself.
“What?! What is it!?!” I ask, heart pounding, fearing the worst.
It takes her a good three minutes to say the word “mouse.”
Ah. She wasn’t being murdered. There is no giant slobbering demon in my pantry. Granted, white-footed mice, like white-tailed deer, are hosts for Lyme disease ticks, but that was the least of my worries that night.
I get the story bit by bit when fright unwinds, like freezer ice leaving trout defrosting in the microwave.
When she switched on the light, and turned to get the container of pasta from the second shelf, there was a mouse staring back at her, and it sprang at her.
“No, dear. The bad mousey was not attacking you. It’s just as a-fraidy-cat of you as you are of it. Call it mice fright. It’s like the deer in the headlights thing, honey. There, there. You’re safe now.”
We go through this every now and then. You can’t take a city girl out of Massachusetts and expect her to live amongst Maine critters in the semi-wild East Dixfield country of a Jack London novel tempered by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
“Get it! Just get it! Get that thing!” she tells me, now sitting shivering atop the back of the dining room chair on which she’s crouched.
In her panic, my wife left the pantry door wide open. The mouse could be anywhere. You should have seen her face when I told her that rodent-sized bit of logic.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to sleep until after going on a late night mouse safari through every room of the house, every light on at 1 in the morning – my neighbors must think I’m a nut case – lifting furniture and checking under it, saying, “Here mousey mousey. Come to your second worst nightmare.”
Judging by all the thistle seed-sized mouse scat on the shelf, Stuart Little’s cousin was living for days off a bag of wheat flour.
I set some traps, then went to bed trying to sleep despite my wife tightly clinging to me.
“I just know the cat’s going to catch it and bring it up here on the bed,” she says.
Well, the cat remained useless as a mouser, but nearly a week later, one peanut butter-baited trap caught the largest field mouse I’ve ever seen – says something for wheat flour.
So, I’m hooting and hollering and doing the end-zone victory dance in my jammies, and trying not to bang my elbows, and my wife hears the commotion.
“I got the bad mousey, babe! It’s a big sucker!”
Like a useful cat, I bring the deceased out to show my wife, and what happens? Another loud shriek.
“I don’t want to see it! Just get it out of here!”
“Well, I’m comin’ out then.”
“Wait! Let me get off the porch!”
As I’m headed for the front door, the corner of my left eye catches a wife blur speeding around a hallway corner, hands over her eyes.
Ah, life in the country. Get used to it people.
When not trapping fearsome rodents in the pantry Terry Karkos is a Sun Journal staff writer based in Rumford.