Years ago, when we lived in New York City, we had a mouse in our apartment. I know, I know. No one has a single mouse.
By Annabel Monaghan
Years ago, when we lived in New York City, we had a mouse in our apartment. I know, I know. No one has a single mouse. But people like to think of it as just one mouse, so that they can hold onto their sanity and sleep at night. They like to think that they are evenly matched, like Tom is to Jerry, and that there’s a possibility of an even fight. In our case, only one of us held onto our sanity.
One Saturday night, my husband (aptly named Tom) and I put our 2-year-old son to bed and sat on the couch watching that mouse scamper across our living room at irregular intervals. I lost interest and went to bed around ten, only to be awakened at midnight by a crashing sound in the kitchen. I raced out to find Tom in the midst of the battle of his life. He had taken our son’s wooden blocks and had constructed a low wall along the doorway to the kitchen to prevent any escape. In his hand was a long pole that hours ago had been our broom, but had now lost its bristles and was just a javelin with a sharp nail at the end. In an effort to spear Jerry, Tom had toppled his low Learning Express wall and was now quickly rebuilding it.
What this scene really needed was a loincloth and some face paint. For the first time I saw Tom as a hunter, overcome by bloodlust for a four-ounce mammal.
I marveled at this side of him. Tom is a guy who is rarely without a collared shirt and a belt. He wears a suit five days a week and refuses to go camping. His idea of being outdoors almost always involves a carefully manicured fairway or a drink with an umbrella. But he’s originally from rural Canada and has an uncle who kills all of his own protein. I wondered if there was a latent mountain man buried somewhere in there. A mountain man in a Brooks Brothers loincloth. I’m not sorry to report that I went back to bed and never saw how the battle ended.
When we moved to the suburbs, we met a whole new, larger variety of critters. The first week that we lived in our rental house, we devoted ourselves entirely to managing the garbage. Our apartment in the city had come with a no-questions-asked garbage chute that went directly to an incinerator. The whole idea of bins and pick up days seemed like a lot of work. We dutifully pulled our garbage cans to the curb the night before pick up, only to find them toppled over in the morning with all of our (now clean) chicken bones strewn on the driveway. We bought lids, but the next week the critters removed our lids and scattered our garbage again. Our solution was to just keep our trash in our kitchen until garbage morning and race it out to the curb at the first sound of the trucks. After all, we weren’t going to be in that house for very long and we’d find a more permanent solution when we bought a house. We lived with garbage in our kitchen for three years.
When we finally bought a house, we bought one in the woods. And I mean the woods: raccoons, deer, possums, coyotes, hedgehogs, and flying squirrels. With an invisible pounding of his chest, Tom outsmarted them by buying a large plastic garbage can holder with a heavy lid. And on the very first night, those critters lifted that heavy lid like it was a bride’s veil. We spent the next morning scraping trash off of our new driveway.
It was at this point that Tom went into extreme fight mode. He was quiet, pensive, and prone to pacing as he constructed his plan. All he had over these critters were his opposable thumbs and the directions to The Home Depot. He ended up drilling a hole in the side of the garbage can holder and rigging it so that the receptacle could only be opened up by a padlock and key. Take that, critters!
We lived in peace for five years until recently when the raccoons opened our lock, lifted our lid, and scattered our garbage with renewed enthusiasm. For years we’d be leaving the key in the padlock for the convenience of the garbage men. I mean, come on, it’s not like the critters could turn a key, right? Wrong. They’d cracked the code, stumped the chump. I smell evolution.
Tom’s back at Home Depot now. I am trying to imagine what he’s going to come back with. A combination lock, maybe? A small fox with large ears and tiny paws could probably crack it. Maybe he’ll come home with a retinal scanner or a thumbprint reader. Or it’s possible that, with the aid of the right government agencies, we could have a system installed with two keys that have to be turned simultaneously to release the garbage. They’d be placed farther apart than the wingspan of the average raccoon to insure “Two Raccoon Integrity.” That actually might just do the trick. It’ll be years before they get organized enough to crack that.