My old apartment had a great deal of...character. By character I mean quirks that, in retrospect, I see as charming, but during my tenure at 124 w. 13th street, were traumatizing.
There was the old claw-foot bathtub that groaned every time I turned the handles and required I purchase three shower curtains to create a polyvinyl barrier between the iron rich water and the rest of the bathroom. No matter how I tried to position the curtains, water would inevitably cascade out of the tub, thanks mostly to the shower head that was positioned around my shoulders, causing the majority of the water to ricochet off my body and onto the walls, ceiling, floor, then eventually the ceiling of the apartment below.
And there was the weird hallway to nowhere that ran parallel to my apartment and acted as a storage unit for all the stuff I didn't know what to do with, confusing all my guests as they thought they'd entered my closet.
“Just climb over the golf clubs, sidle past the bike, and come on in!”
The cavernous gaps between the baseboards and the scuffed hard wood floor didn't seem to be a problem when I first moved in. But as the temperature began to cool and autumn set in, these shards of open space looming at my toes became welcome entrance for some unsavory visitors.
The first record of these skittering house guests was while I was away at work. I received a call from Annie, who'd been hanging out at my apartment awaiting my return.
Evidently she'd been confronted by the verminous presence in my apartment, and the altercation forced her to retreat onto the futon, where she remained marooned until my return home. The monstrous rodent had shown itself, chased her onto the couch, and held her hostage the whole night through. Something had to be done.
I called the landlord, who after a week, finally left a stack of sticky traps at my doorstep.
I am not a complete pacifist. I eat meat, although not in great amounts. I've been hunting. I am saddened, but not heartbroken when I run over a squirrel in the street. I attempt to alleviate unnecessary suffering in the world.
I am ardently opposed to sticky traps.
The thought of a little rodent struggling to remove its flesh from the gooey surface of that sickeningly pale yellow card is unbearable. Like a miniature wooly mammoth, wallowing in the sticky tar pits, the little furry creature would contort its body, vainly attempting to loose his paws from the adhesive prison. And I'd be the responsible party. I was the one who cast him into the slow, painful death that would inevitably follow.
I discarded the Guantanamo torture traps, and opted for the more traditional, guillotine of pest control, the Victor Mouse trap. Quick, simple, effective. And then I remember something that my mother had once told me.
She lived on a farm as a girl, where mice were everywhere, and crafty. If you put a trap out, with a morsel of cheese or peanut butter, the mice will slyly sneak around to the bait and, with their intricate little paws, remove your ruse and make off with the goods. The key to outsmarting the vermin is in the use of the cereal box.
So, placing an old cereal box on its side, I slid the snap trap into the box, making the only path to the glob of goober pea butter directly over the trap. I then slid the box behind the stove, a high traffic zone for the little interlopers, and headed for bed.
The next morning I arose and groggily stumbled into the kitchen, searching for clarity in my still slumbering brain. As I walked in, I was met with the crunch of an empty cardboard box flattening beneath my foot. The cereal death box I'd contrived the night before lay at my feet, at least 36 inches from its original post. I glanced about uneasily. In the middle of the room was the trap I'd meticulously placed not twenty four hours prior. And clasped in its maw, the creature I'd been attempting to quell.
While rendered immobile, the mouse was anything but dead. I have never heard a rodent spray such a vile torrent of hisses and wails. It seemed that the animal had attempted to pick his way through the gauntlet I'd laid down, resulting in his hind quarters becoming securely fastened to the trap. Refusing to admit defeat, he dragged himself and, evidently the cereal box, across the room, until he could crawl no longer. There he proceeded to thrash against the wood and metal kept him hostage, cursing Victor with all the energy left in his little carcass.
My first inclination was to return to bed and hope that the little beast die during the ensuing REM cycle, but I knew that he would not allow that. The gnashing of teeth would be too much to block from my ears. I knew I had to do the only humane thing left. To rectify the suffering I had brought into this world, I had to finish the job I started.
I looked around for some device suited to bludgeoning small mammals. My options were and old broom, a baseball bat, and a shoe. The broom, I decided, would be too flimsy to terminate the rodent. The baseball bat seemed to be a good option, but the surface area was so small, and I was a bad hitter when I was in my prime, let alone at 7:30 in the morning. It may sound effeminate, but I liked my shoes to much to consider soiling them on an unavoidable mouse slaughter. That's when I spied a metal dust pan. It had a broad face, it was hard enough to provide the crushing blow I needed, and it could be washed fairly easily.
I used the dust pan to nudge the mouse onto a newspaper, so as to avoid bloodying the floor. As he squealed with pain and terror, I bent down, taking care not to get too close to the enraged captive, and let loose a salvo of downward blows in the general direction of the newspaper. Without looking at the carnage, I listened for movement. Hearing none, I delivered a few more slams, then peered over the dust pan I so timidly wielded.
It was done. Laying at my feet was the dilapidated carcass of an innocent little mouse, almost indiscernible amid the blood and newspaper that had co-mingled in the prior destruction.
Dropping my dust pan of death and destruction, I gave up on trying to salvage the rest of that morning. I returned to bed, blocking out the tiny screams that still echoed in my ears.
Those wails must have warded off any other trespassers, as from that morning on, I saw no evidence of rodents in my apartment. That poor animal died so that other scavengers might live. His death rattle served as a warning to all other mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels, and even beavers. For that reason, this mouse did not die in vain.
And for that, I owe him my eternal gratitude.