I do not recall whether I was acting or directing at the time – much less the name of the show with which I was involved. What I do remember is coming home to a filthy gory mess all over the kitchen floor.
Insert: Flashback Graphics and Sound FX…..
I was living on Fairway Drive in the Ardmore neighborhood of Winston-Salem.
Back in the roaring 20’s, Ardmore was a country club & golf course – Hence street names like Parkway and Fairway. In 1929, my little bungalow was the very last home built by the neighborhood’s original developer and was intended for his mother-in-law.
In 1986 the house was bought by a man to be his dream home. He gutted it to the studs, re-wired and re-plumbed it and generally made it the “cute as a bug’s ear” place it was when I purchased it in 1994 as my own little dream home.
But, as we all know, some dreams can morph into nightmares. And so it goes…
Although, I no longer live there – or own a home – the Ardmore area is still a very “natural” neighborhood, an arboreal dell if you will. Lots of trees, brooks and streams, mostly older homes. It’s what we call a mature neighborhood. As such, it has peculiarities and traits that are accepted as “just the way things are” by those who love to call Ardmore home. Among these: very tiny or virtually non-existent closet space, mud holes for basements that often flood, green algae that flourishes on the north side of the houses and tons of invading four legged verminous creatures.
Most houses in Ardmore either have, or had, mouse problems. At various times, my home had mice in the attic, the basement, the kitchen, the yard…It didn’t matter what I did to keep them out – they always found a way back in.
Regardless of the fact that these little buggers carry diseases and other infestations on their persons, I basically find them to be kind of cute and I don’t like to hurt them. But, sometimes even an animal lover such as yours truly has to break down and do the D-Con and trap thing.
It had been a while since I noticed any of the little interlopers in my home. At long last I had whipped the problem…I thought. My complacency, however, was shattered when I discovered the tell-tale signs of mouse deployment in the kitchen.
On the floor. On the counter. That meant the cupboards too, no doubt.
Each time this occurred in the past, I broke out the Clorox and washed down/sanitized the entire kitchen. Top to bottom. Washing every dish, spoon, fork, pot and pan in the place. Tossed the dishtowels and place mats into the washer/dryer. The hypochondriac in me was terrified of contracting Rabies, the Black Plague or Hantavirus.
Hey, it could happen.
So, I had taken precautions by sealing every opening I could find with expanding foam and wire mesh. Dotting the floor with strategic placements of spring traps coated with peanut butter (mice love peanut butter), lining the baseboards near the frig & oven with sticky traps and D-Con style poisoned bait boxes.
As a practicing member of PEEV, People for the Ethical Extermination of Vermin, I was breaking all the rules and in danger of being outed as a brutal and vicious heartless bastard.
My kitchen was a virtual No Mouse’s Land. The only things missing were the trenches, barbed wire and land mines.
It was quite late when I arrived home from the theatre on the particular night in question (as in the title of today’s blog). I had probably gone out for a few drinks with the cast so the last thing I wanted was to deal with a mouse issue. Yet, turning on the kitchen light there was all the evidence I needed to confirm my preparations had been ignored, scoffed at or generally deemed useless.
The place looked like a war zone all right. Upon closer inspection, however, I discovered the spring trap was missing. Gone too was the sticky trap and there were long strands of brown muck on the floor. There was red muck too.
Just as I was starting to fume, curse and swear, I heard a squeak…More like a squeal. My heart broke. Poor thing. I didn’t want it to suffer. I just wanted it gone.
Deciphering the hash marked tracks – which eerily resembled a Jackson Pollack – it appeared the poor mouse was lodged behind my washer/dryer. I grabbed a flashlight and gingerly peeked behind the washer. There was more brown muck and something resembling a fur ball which indicated that yes, I’d located the target.
I grabbed the broom and dustpan. Since the poor creature was probably on it’s last legs, I’d shovel it up and easily dispose of it in the trash. But I was going to have to pull the washer unit from the wall in order to get the broom and dustpan behind there.
More squeals. Oh, this was just tearing the animal loving heart right out of my chest.
I grabbed the washer and tugged.
Suddenly, a huge black form leaped from the shadows and dashed right for me.
“Sweet Mary!” I screamed, my arms windmilling backwards, like a 10 year old girl who’s just barged in on her teenaged brother busily attempting to go blind. I hysterically crabbed out of the kitchen.
That was most definitely NOT a mouse. Was it a Raccoon? A Possum? A Shetland Pony?
Dragging both the spring and sticky traps as it scurried, the GIANT RAT headed for the safety of the oven and slithered under it. I heard the clatter of pots and pans inside the oven’s lower storage bin.
Holy Crap! Now I understood the “why” of the massive amounts of dried fecal matter and blood which marred my nice clean white kitchen floor.
The Rat had gone for the peanut butter and had been slammed by the spring trap, ran onto the sticky trap and gotten it’s butt and a hind leg stuck and had totally freaked out.
We all know from the old Tarzan movies that a wounded animal is very dangerous, so I was going to need to tread carefully. At the same time I wanted this monster out of my house, I also wanted to put it out of it’s misery just as quickly and humanely as possible.
I starting searching for something to kill it with. Crowbar? Hammer? Frying Pan? None of these were practical. Then I remembered. I’d bought a Daisy BB Gun a while back to scare the neighborhood cats that were attacking the birds in my yard. (I know PETA is already calling.)
Hmmm. That might just work. I could get back far enough so that the Rat couldn’t go for my throat and with a well placed Annie Oakley take it out both quickly and humanely. (I was truly obsessed with the humane thing…though you know really it was well past that point already…Is that the ASPCA at the door?)
I dashed to the hall closet, ripped through the clothes, storage boxes, art supplies, fishing equipment, 47 pairs of old running shoes (I’m a little OCD with running shoes) until I noticed the barrel of the Daisy protruding from of a shelf above my head.
I grabbed the weapon, gave it a little shake and heard the rattle. Ah, it was loaded. Good.
Armed to the teeth, I crept stealthily back into the kitchen The image of Elmer Fudd stalking Bugs Bunny flashed through my mind, but I instantly replaced it with an image of Robert Redford in a scene from Jeremiah Johnson.
The next job was to open the bottom drawer of the oven – without getting bitten – and angle myself into firing position. This was going to be tricky.
BB Gun in one hand and flashlight in the other, I gingerly pulled on the storage drawer with the toe of my shoe….Perhaps I should’ve worn boots.
I angled myself to peer into the dark cavity of the storage bin. Crap-o-lini! I didn’t see it. Was it under the skillets? Poking the rifle’s barrel into the compartment, I nudged a few of the pans around but saw no sign of the vermin.
It was well after 1 AM and I was pretty darn tired. With no end in sight to this debacle, there were dim hopes for a decent night’s sleep.
I was going to have to move the damn oven! Fudge!
Setting my gun and flashlight on the counter beside the sink, I gripped the oven and twisted and pulled.
There was a loud shriek squeal and I stopped. Dear Lord, what have I done NOW!
I grabbed the flashlight, leaned over the back of the range and looked down. No sign of the Rat anywhere. But what I discovered certainly answered my questions on how the little buggers were always getting into my house. There was a hole in the wall bigger than my head. I knew some home builders took shortcuts, but for Heave’s sake! A Rat could drive a Lionel Train or Tonka Truck through that hole.
The sounds of scratching drew my attention to where the Rat was trying to worm its way from where it was sandwiched. Half in and out between the oven and the wall, my home invader was squirming to free itself.
Time to end this hellish night.
As grueling as it was, I had learned some valuable insights.
I learned that BB’s are not really an effective method of swiftly dispatching your target. It took several more shots than I had hoped and I was nearly in tears by the time the Rat had gone to his final reward.
Slipping on a pair of large Playtex kitchen gloves, I grabbed a few plastic trash bags in which to wrap the Rat and then carried it to a respectful burial in my trash can. I took a moment for silent contemplation. Yuck!
Once back inside, I almost collapsed. Oven, refrigerator, washer and dryer were setting in the middle of the floor…. which was still covered in brown and red muck that my battle had not only expanded to virtually every corner…. but also my shoes had tracked through which in turn… Well, you get the big picture.
I lit a cigarette, plopped into a chair and slowly re-charged for the job ahead.
By 4 AM I was almost totally finished with the cleaning and sanitizing. I’d stuffed some towels in the hole behind the oven. Sealing that would be #1 on my “Honey Do List”.
I never had another mouse or rat inside my living area again…My guess is they decided it was a lot safer to stay in the basement and attic.
Thanks for reading,