"Ohgahd! Heww! Yukk! Uhhg!"
That's a direct quote.
My wife got out the bowl of dog kibble from the cupboard and uttered some improvised phonemes of surprise and disgust.
"What did I do wrong?" I asked, since this question often saves a lot of time.
"There's a dead mouse in the dog food."
Ah. Well, better than a live one. A dead mouse can be thrown over the fence into the front yard, where Nature Will Take Its Course.
I have hurled any number of expired fauna over the fence, and they are always gone in a day or two. I've yet to see a buzzard carry off a frozen squirrel, but they probably work at night.
A live mouse has to be caught and released, so you can tell yourself it's heading off to a cozy burrow out of a Beatrix Potter illustration, where it will put on clothes and have tea and not spread plague.
There's something about the sight of a mouse that gives a quick jolt — a flash of furtive fur that barely registers before it disappears into a solid wall.
"Uh-oh," you think, "we have mice."
Well, you've always had mice. Everyone has mice. You spend your whole life ignoring your mice, until they're stupid enough to show themselves, and then you bring the full weight of modern technology against them.
I went to the big-box hardware store to investigate anti-mouse remedies. The conversation (slightly embellished for your entertainment) went as follows.
"Well, you got your glue strips," said the clerk.
"Those are inhumane and cause needless suffering," I replied. "Do you have them in large size for people who steal Amazon packages off your stoop?"
"Aisle 6. Have you considered summary execution for your mice? There's always the classic — a mousetrap," he offered.
"Nnnooo. I've seen studies where the mice can get the cheese without triggering the mechanism, and it actually snaps shut on the cat's paw, which swells up and turns red and emits visible lines of pain."
"I see," he said. "And these studies might involve researchers named Tom and Jerry?"
"Yes. It's quite a large body of scientific inquiry," I replied. "Studies also indicate I am more likely to step on them at night while walking around the house holding a candle and wearing a nightgown, complete with cap."
"Again, I think you're confusing cartoons with actual time-honored vermin control methods," he said.
"Perhaps. But a mousetrap seems a bit too French Revolution, you know?"
"Well, the guillotine took the head clean off. With your mousetrap, the head stays put. Maybe you want an ultrasonic repeller?"
"You mean those high-tech devices that emit a frequency we can't hear, and it drives mice away? Like those convenience stores that play classical music to keep idle youths from congregating? Although I don't think there's anything inherently alienating in the modalities of Mozart. It's more likely the cultural assumptions the teens have about the music. It's not like you can make a 14-year-old lose bladder control by playing the Jupiter Symphony. Is that how the mouse-repeller works? It plays a frequency that mice culture regards as anathema?"
At this, the clerk pauses to gather his thoughts.
"It plugs into any outlet, and we recommend buying two," he says helpfully.
"No, they're too expensive. Might bother the dog. I'd come home someday and find him distraught because he can't google 'tinnitus.' What else is there?"
"Can't go wrong with poison."
"Actually, I can imagine a variety of scenarios in which one could, in fact, go quite wrong with poison."
Eventually the clerk (and now I can quote him with complete accuracy) said, "I use these," and pointed at some packets of all-natural mouse repellent. Personally, I regard "all natural" as meaning "good for the planet and probably doesn't work," but I bought it anyway.
And what was it? Mint.
Packets of mint you would place in the corners of the room. Apparently mice hate mint. Who knew? No one ever gets close enough to check their breath.
I ran through the options: not cruel, does not leave a corpse, unlikely to be stepped upon, does not play the mouse version of Mozart, smells nice. No contest.
And it worked!
I didn't see any evidence of mice in the basement storage area again — because they all moved to non-minty areas of the house, of course.
So now I'm considering laying down a ribbon of toothpaste along all the baseboards, strewing crushed Altoids everywhere, and generally mintifying the house to make the mice leave.
Meanwhile, I check the kibble container before I feed the dog, because once you find a dead mouse somewhere you expect it every time you look again. It's like finding a dead goose in your car's glove compartment.
Don't you hate when that happens? And here you thought they all flew south.