It all started with an entirely different household pest - the ants. The ants and I have been at war lo these many years. Every summer (according to the exterminator) they are driven into our house by either severe drought or severe flooding. Or evidently if it’s day or night, or cloudy or sunny, or if our neighbors bait for ants or if they don’t, or if it’s a day ending in “y.”
The other morning my husband announced that the countertop was suffering a large invasion. He killed what he saw, and went blithely off to work. For several hours, I killed one or two at a time, but they kept popping up on that counter. It looked like they were coming up from behind the stove. So I decided to pull out the stove and see if I could block their entry.
I admit, I had not cleaned behind the stove since we moved in. There were crumbs, and yes, even some hair from the previous occupants’ dog. But it wasn’t too bad. Until.
Until I saw a small roundish lump covered in fine gray fur. The good news - it wasn’t moving. The bad news - how long had it been there? My skin started crawling. You read about that and it seems like a metaphor, but no it actually felt like my skin was trying to ditch my body and depart for somewhere devoid of rodent corpses.
So I sucked it up and did what any competent, modern woman would do - I shoved the stove back and called my husband at work. He promised to remove the mouse when he got home. Unfortunately, my three year old daughter heard me tell him there was a dead mouse behind the stove. When I hung up, she asked me about it. I told her it wasn’t anything terribly scary or bad, it was just icky. And I did a kind of “this is really icky, my skin is trying to crawl off my body” dance to illustrate, mincing my feet on tiptoe and shaking my hands as if trying to dislodge some imagined contamination. She patted my arm and responded with sympathy and understanding,
“Oh Mommy, don’t be like that, it’s just a dead mouse.”
Duly chastened by the superior coping skills of my toddler, I finally decided to do the heroic thing, namely to wrap my hand in three thicknesses of grocery bags (the good sturdy Target ones) and wad five paper towels in said hand, the better to insulate me from any possible sensation of oozing, squelching, or crumbling, never mind actual germs. I told my daughter to stand back, and pulled out the stove once again.
Boldly I peeked into the revealed space. Steeling myself, I leaned a bit closer. And I noticed the mouse’s ear was a weirdly vivid pink. Wondering what grotesque process of decomposition had caused this effect, I looked closer, only to discover the horrifying truth . . . it was a cat toy.
Suffering equally from shame and an adrenaline hangover, I grabbed the dissembling novelty and trashed it. And now I must live with the knowledge that not only am I a lily-livered pantywaist, I am also no smarter than the average housecat.