Back when the boys were quite little, we had a very, very wet spring and summer--quite a lot like the one we're having right now. Everything was soggy and waterlogged, and it seemed like all manner of creepy crawlies and varmints came out. Especially annoying was the influx of a skunk family who wandered up our driveway each night, left a scented greeting, and departed by dawn. Naturally, our neighborhood was blessed by a robust stray cat population, so altercations were frequent and fragrant. (Our bedroom windows overlook the driveway--did I mention that?)
It was also the Summer Of Spiders, and I felt as if I would never get rid of them. Or the Thousand-Leggers. This was The Time Before Cats as well, although I doubt seriously if EmilyCat or TravisCat would have been much help. Travis whined terribly when he encountered any bugs near his food dish, and Emily simply couldn't be bothered.
But I digress.
It was after dinner one day when we were in the living room. Sam suddenly pointed into the kitchen and said, "Kitty! Hi, kitty!" Sam was only about two, a toddler who had been slow to talk, and one of those kids who called all men Daddy and all drinks Juice. Anything, therefore, which was small and furry and walked on four legs was a Kitty. Horrified, I asked him to clarify. "Sam, what did you say? Where is a kitty?" He smiled excitedly and pointed into the kitchen. "Kitty in there!" he said.
"Rick," I said, sick and dreadful. "Something is in the kitchen." Somehow, I was able to make the boys stay in the living room while Rick went out to investigate. In short order he was back. "Nance, it's a mouse. I see where it went. It's behind the dishwasher now. I'm getting the BB gun."
I felt like I was in a bad action movie and that Rick was suffering a Sylvester Stallone delusion. What in the hell was he going to do to a mouse with a BB gun? And behind the dishwasher? "Rick!" I yelled, but it was too late. He had grabbed the gun, cocked it, and was going in.
"It's in the space under the counter, in the insulation. I can see it!" he said. I heard the gun pop, cock, then pop again. "Got it!" he said. "I really got it." There was a pause, then, "Where the hell did it go?" I heard him open the cupboards next to the dishwasher and rummage around, heard him open the drawer, and then a strangled yelp. "Dammit!" There were the sounds of a brief struggle, then his footsteps on the basement steps. Moments later, he came up and into the living room, smiling and triumphant. "Got him!" he said. "But I'll get some traps in case there are more. I hit him, too. He was bloody. He jumped out of the drawer and ran downstairs. But I got him."
Rambo's victory was short-lived, however. And the mouse was probably just a scout or the recon team.
A day or two later, I heard the snap of the trap behind the trashcan in the kitchen. I was home with only Jared and Sam, but I wasn't afraid to dispose of a mousetrap. As I walked over to the can, I was surprised to hear more noise. It sounded like the trap snapping over and over again. How could that be? I wondered. With trepidation, I slid the kitchen can away from the wall and took a look.
What I saw was huge, a mouse on steroids with its head caught in the trap, trying desperately to free itself by shaking its head back and forth, knocking the wooden trap on the tile floor each time. The thing had its mouth open, revealing sharp yellow teeth on top and bottom, a pink mouth open in a silent scream as it writhed right and left, right and left. Horrified, I swallowed my own scream, mindful that Sam and Jared were around somewhere, and I slid the can right back into place and tried to think of what on earth to do.
Rick was quite a ways off on a job site, and no way was I letting that thing back there until the end of the day. But I could not bring myself to touch it. I immediately thought of my colleague's husband Lou, who lived one street over. He was the dearest and kindest man, and he used to walk over to deliver his famous homemade soup to us. He would know what to do, and he would be my Knight In Shining Armor! I called Carol and explained the situation. "I'm sending him right over!" she said. "Lou will take care of everything. Don't worry about a thing, Nance," she said.
In moments Lou appeared through the yards across the street, carrying a paper bag, gloves, and a whisk broom. I wanted to kiss him. The Giant Mouse was still flopping, making noise behind my kitchen trash can. He took a moment to reassure me and then went to work while I stood in the next room. In less than a minute, he had taken the creature outside to my garbage cans and came back inside to talk to me.
"Nance," he said worriedly, "that's no mouse. That's a river rat. You need to tell Rick. Somehow, that came up from the river and got into your house, maybe through your basement or something. He needs to find where and take care of it. And you need bigger traps."
Rats. Can you possibly imagine? First bats and then rats. I was ready to burn the place down. I think that's exactly what I told Rick when we...discussed it later.
We avoided that eventuality by finding the old sump crock with outside access and plugging it up, ending our rat problem. And Rick remained fully clothed throughout.