I hadn’t had much experience with home invaders until I moved into the top floor of a house in East Vancouver with a couple of roommates several years ago. It wasn’t long before we discovered we had other flatmates: mice.

At first it was just the occasional visit, in the cupboard below the kitchen sink, or where we kept the pots and pans. As unwelcome as this was, it was no big deal. Or so we thought.

Being compassionate folks, we first tried live traps. You know, catch the mouse, release it outdoors, hope it will move on. Very humane, environmentally friendly. Also, extremely naïve.

We subsequently escalated to your basic hardware-store mouse trap. That worked reasonably well for a while, when we bothered to check the traps, insert fresh bait, and reset them. But, we concluded, some of the critters had learned to spring the traps safely and simply enjoy the snack.


Ultimately, we couldn’t keep up as there was clearly a population explosion underway. We wondered whether the problem originated with the elderly tenants on the ground floor, but we weren’t on friendly terms after all the loud parties we’d hosted, so we never bothered to check with them.

Nor did it occur to us that maybe our own spotty housekeeping might have been responsible for attracting the rodents to what must have seemed to them a veritable buffet. You know, bits of this and that left on the kitchen counter after cooking, dirty dishes left too long in the sink. Near the end of one of the aforementioned parties, a baseball game broke out featuring a stale baguette and an empty beer can. We figured we’d vacuum up the breadcrumbs in the morning.

They say if you see mice during the daytime, you’ve got a true invasion on your hands. Well, we sometimes saw mice crawling up the drapes, others scurrying between the TV and the couch. Once, while one of my roommates was eating her toast for breakfast, she spotted a mouse climbing out of the toaster.

And their droppings were no longer confined to the kitchen, but could be found as well on the bedroom shelves where we kept our shirts and sweaters, ruining them with the resultant stains.

We decided then it was time to go nuclear. We set out in strategic areas very environmentally unfriendly dishes of poison pellets, which, in theory, would have the mice seeking water, preferably outdoors someplace, which would ultimately prove fatal. Or so the instructions said. The pellets were being consumed, but the problem wasn’t solved. We’d been overrun.

Truth is, I don’t know how this story ended, as about this time Dianne and I moved in together in another part of the city. As excited as I was about my new relationship with the woman I would one day marry, there was also considerable comfort in being done with rodent roulette. Relief, however, was brief.

Shortly after moving in, while washing dishes after dinner, I detected movement out of the corner of my eye. When I turned, I spotted a mouse in the middle of the kitchen floor. Cursing, I fired at the mouse the spoon I was washing, and even though I missed, the mouse toppled over dead. A heart attack?

Fortunately, we had only infrequent sightings after that, as we opted for preventative measures this time, like wiping down kitchen counters, washing the dishes promptly, keeping the foods mice favour in sealable containers, and generally keeping the place clean. The strategy wasn’t entirely foolproof; while I was working late at the newspaper on Saturday nights, Dianne was often accompanied watching Hockey Night in Canada by a mouse that seemed to dwell in the living room fireplace. Luckily, it appeared not to have any friends.

Living now in the country, we’ve learned to come to terms with our surroundings. If we enjoy the birds and the bees and the butterflies, we’ve accepted that mother nature’s package includes mosquitoes and wasps — and the squirrels who evade every attempt to keep them from our bird feeders. This means that in the fall we set a couple mouse traps beneath the kitchen sink, as without fail a few mice attempt to bunk with us for the winter.

We have a cat, but Feist is no mouser. When we have had a mouse scurry across the kitchen floor, he doesn’t bother to chase it, but simply looks up at me, perplexed, as if to say: aren’t you going to do something?

He doesn’t realize I’m not much of a mouser either.

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