I first saw our newfound tenant on a June night. I had been living at my place for just about a year, and we had only entertained human tenants until this evening. A couple of nights before, I detected evidence of our friend: While eating dark chocolate raisins, I found a few pieces with teeth marks. Of course, I didn’t immediately think, Teeth marks! But I wondered, Hmm, I wonder how the dispensing machine did that.
Two days later, I walked into our pantry and saw a mouse scurry across the shelf and into the cereal boxes. I think I screamed. I definitely jumped.
But I was not disturbed. Growing up, I raised rodents. I owned a hamster and two guinea pigs. Mice are cute. My only repulsion is, they’re dirty. They once carried the Black Plague.
I had two new roommates, and I promptly informed them of our third roommate. Foolish was I to assume it was a single new roommate. We didn’t tell the landlord. We simply packed our food away better and in Tupperware. We assumed the war was won, but many battles were to come.
The second battle we lost. While my roommate thought she had packed away her chia seeds, we underestimated our mammalian friend (I guess we’re all mammalian). Stuart Little chewed through the plastic and spilled the seeds across our tiled pantry. These were dark tiles. I went away for the weekend only to return to mice poop. But there was no food? How was Stuart eating? That is when I discovered chia seeds poured across the tiles after I shined a flashlight on the floor.
I vacuumed and swept. We also called the landlord. We placed humane traps around the pantry and kitchen. We caught nothing. We assumed the war was over again.
The war was not over.
Summer set on a seemingly quiet pantry. Stuart seemed to have gone away.
Another quiet night. We discovered mice poop on the shelf. I also saw teeth marks on my cardboard cereal boxes. We found nothing in the traps, which we had not taken up. We informed our landlord and added the additional defense of poison pellets.
Things escalated. Poop materialized on our stovetop. I walked into the kitchen at night to see a mouse sprint across the floor.
My roommates and I strategized. We purchased glue traps. Two nights later, we caught Stuart. And Stewart. And Stephanie. And Steven. Over the course of 12 days, we awoke to new massacres.
The thing with glue traps is, it only catches a mouse. It does not kill them. We recognized this when we bought them, but the problem was big. Something had to be done. Humane traps did nothing. We even put out snap traps, which sat idle.
My roommate shrieked when she saw the first mouse caught. “Cazey! Cazey, come quick!” I wondered if she was caught in the trap. Instead, we found the cute little rodent splayed in the glue.
“What do we do?” she verbalized the thought on all of our minds.
Ladies and gentlemen, PETA, God, I am ashamed to admit my actions on that foggy morning. I scooped the glue trap into a plastic bag and threw it away. I did nothing that is to say. Let us not think of how Stuart passed.
I still was naïve at this point. I thought Stuart was the only one. But then we caught Stewart (different from Stuart!). And Stephanie and Steven. I realized I could not put these mice to pasture and let them starve to death stuck in glue. A friend suggested bashing them in the head. I simplified and whacked them against a wall within a bag. I whacked them a lot. I videotaped it on Snapchat for close friends. My friends still remind me. That is, they ask what the he** is wrong with me. I promise I am not a sociopath.
RIP to Stuart and Company.
On October 23, our traps caught nothing. For the next eight days, we lived in bliss.
On Halloween, terror struck. I came home from a party around 10 PM. My roommate mentioned she heard something coming from the washing machine. I walked into the pantry (where we housed our washer) and heard it too.
“Is it coming from…the washer?” she said.
“Is it inside?” she whispered.
“I think so.” I got behind the washer door. “Get a bag.”
We crouched as I swung the door open. We both grimaced. And found nothing. N-o-t-h-i-n-g.
The door open, handle in my hand, we heard another vibration.
“But where is it coming from?” my roommate insisted. “Is it actually inside the washer?”
I began to place my head inside the washer. Then I saw it! On the ground, stuck between the wall and the washer, a baby mouse stuck to the glue trap tried to crawl away—but kept banging the trap against the wall and washer. That is how violently he thrashed. Outside I sent him off into the next world. I returned upstairs to find my roommate had placed another trap down. Seconds later, she screamed.
“We caught another one!”
A second baby had found its way onto the trap in only seconds. I whirled around. Mice began to crawl up the walls. Swarms and swarms. They stampeded out of the stovetop, washed over the countertops, and scurried up my leg.
I’m just kidding.
There was only that one other mouse on the trap. I also sent him into the world with his brother.
The landlord was called. The army was sent in. We placed steel wool in every crevice. We laid new glue traps around the apartment. I even made a line between the pantry and the kitchen. Spring-loaded traps were added to the armory. Desolation was our aim.
For three weeks, the western front lay silent. The war seemed over once more.
And then, in the Night of Broken Mice, we caught two mice on one glue trap. The mice retreated with daylight, but a resurgent appeared the following evening. The spring traps caught nothing, however. The humane traps caught nothing. I filmed another mouse death in my back alley.
Winter arrived with the promise of cold and the mice’s destruction. Surely, we had conquered them all. We had injured their numbers beyond repair. We heard nothing and saw nothing.
The day before Christmas Eve, they attacked. A mouse ran across my roommate’s face while she slept!
I’m just kidding again.
But we woke to feces on the stovetop and counters. We phoned our landlord while hiding in the bathtub. “Send reinforcements,” we whispered, afraid the rodents could hear us.
I went home for the holidays. The landlord promised to smoke the place out. I returned with hope and optimism. In the middle of the night, I awoke. Something scratched at my headboard. I sat up. Something scratched beneath my bed. Something was scurrying within my walls. Multiple somethings. I started making sounds, inhumane sounds, yelling, grunting, banging on the wall.
The activity stopped.
I returned to sleep.
The next morning, I investigated. Mice poop decorated the floor beneath my bed.
This isn’t real.
I cleaned and placed traps around my room.
I awoke again that night to mice all around me. Within the walls, beneath the floor, underneath my bed. I threw a book on the floor and banged the walls. The activity stopped. I had to do it several times until I was sure they had moved on.
On the third night, I was ready. At the first scuttle, I leaped up and stomped my feet. I continued jumping. I screamed internally, You will not have my house!!! YOU WILL NOT HAVE MY SANITY!
They never woke me again.
They besieged my roommate’s bedroom two nights later. She was preparing for bed when a mouse ran across her rug and into her closet. We tore her closet apart. We did not find it. Soon we found more evidence of mice in our bathroom—which was on the far other side of the apartment. All safety and security had been compromised. We demanded an exterminator attend to us regularly. We brought a cat in for the afternoon. Our landlord said we could not keep one.
Following the exterminator’s visit, the war did seem over. We caught a few stragglers left behind by the troops in the following month, but little other evidence.
In early March, we discovered the lair. As backstory, our third roommate had a job that kept her away from the apartment for many nights and weeks. Our exterminator asked to treat our bedrooms, which we readily agreed to. He commented that our third roommate’s bedroom had considerable mouse activity and we needed to pick up clothes and other messes to better treat the room. Since she was away for work, we started to do this ourselves only to discover a box containing candy and chocolates that had been devoured perhaps recently, perhaps months before—and a trail of feces across the room. This is where the mice lived.
We fled. That is, we dropped the box, we shut the door, and we told our roommate things needed to be cleaned up.
Our landlord soon asked if we wanted to renew the lease. I’ll let you guess how we answered. In fact, I may have written, “We don’t plan to re-sign, but I can’t speak for the mice.”
When we moved out, it had been weeks since we saw our squatters. But I can still hear the Jumanji theme music playing when I walk by my old apartment on Hanover Avenue.