Tag Archives: mice

Shrieking Shopper


On Sunday night I did my duty as security guard for the mercantile. I pulled my van between the mercantile and the rentable yurt behind it. I hung my curtains immediately, and no one bothered me.

On Monday morning I woke up early and went into the mercantile before 6am. I used the WiFi to check Facebook and schedule a couple of short blog posts. While I was standing behind the counter messing around on my laptop, I glanced across the room, and under shelves holding t-shirts I saw a mouse butt disappearing into the shadow.

animal, apodemus sylvaticus, brownGet out of here! I shouted at the creature. You don’t live here!

I don’t know if my words influenced the rodent of if it was just the vibration of my yelling that sent it on its way. I didn’t really care why it left; I was glad to see it go.

On Tuesday morning The Big Boss Man handed me three boxes of rodent poison. I put on latex gloves, pulled the cover off each tray, then placed the trays full of poison pellets behind and under lockers and shelves.

The Man is really sad about killing the mice. I’m not too happy about the murder of mice myself, but I haven’t come up with a another effective solution.

Possible Solution #1: Let mice live in the mercantile.

Problems with Possible Solution #1: Mice will shit and piss everywhere. Having shit and piss all over the mercantile would be gross and unsanitary. Also, mice would chew merchandise and use clothing to make their nests.

Possible Solution #2: Catch mice in a live trap.

Problems with Possible Solution #2: Mice caught in a live trap must be released miles from their home, or they will soon return to the original location. I doubt The Big Boss Man is going to drive mice miles down the road looking for a place to release them humanely.

Possible Solution #3: Get one of those devices that (allegedly) emit high frequency sounds that (allegedly) drive rodents away.

Problems with Possible Solution #3: I’m not sure those devices even work. The devices need electricity to work, and one might use more electricity than the store’s solar panels transmit to battery storage. Such a device might cause the store’s generator to run at night, interfering with the quietude of nature and possibly annoying campers.

Possible Solution #4: Get a cat to live in the store.

Problems with Possible Solution #4: Some customers will be allergic to cats and have a bad reaction when they walk into the mercantile. The cat will sleep on stacks of shirts, leaving fur and allergens behind.

Later on Tuesday morning, an extended family from Missouri walked into the mercantile. The boy child was about six, and the girl child was probably ten. Both had blond hair and round checks. The mom and dad seemed wholesome and spoke to the children and each other calmly. This branch of the family—parents and kids—wore matching t-shirts in support of the girl’s friend who had cancer. The grandparents came in a little after the rest of the family.

Grandpa sported a mustache and wore a ball cap and a t-shirt from a Christian fishing event with a quote from the Bible on the back. (Of course, he had on pants too, but there was nothing remarkable about them.) Grandma had permed her thin brown hair and wore glasses and simple, casual clothes appropriate for a walk in the forest. I suppose I’m old because the grandparents seemed closer to my age group than the parents were.

The members of the family were lingering, seemingly looking at every single item in the mercantile. I stood behind the register and daydreamed while I waited for someone to bring up selections for me to ring up.

Suddenly Grandma screamed! It was a high-pitched, scared scream, not angry yelling. Probably a better word for the sound Grandma emitted is “shriek.”

Everyone in the store turned to look at her.

I’m sorry, she gasped. There was a mouse!

She said she’d picked up a t-shirt and as she lifted it, a mouse fell to the floor, then scurried away. She was apologetic, obviously embarrassed, and still terrified. She wouldn’t even go back to the side of the store where the mouse incident had occurred. She handed off the mousy t-shirt to the other clerk and picked out a shirt from a shelf as far away from her rodent encounter as possible.

I identified with her discomfort. I would have shrieked too if a mouse had fallen out of a t-shirt I was considering for purchase. I probably would have left the store and never returned.

I felt for the poor little mouse too. It had probably just eaten some poison and was looking for a softly comfortable place to die. Instead of finding a peaceful death, it was shrieked at and dropped to the floor. I hope my own passing is less eventful.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-apodemus-sylvaticus-brown-button-eyes-208977/.



I knew I was behaving like a stereotype, but I couldn’t help myself.

I was standing on the living room couch, shrieking at the top of my lungs after seeing a mouse skitter across the floor.

animal, apodemus sylvaticus, brownI don’t know how it happened, but at some time during my 16 years of life, I’d developed a fear of all things rodent. I didn’t think hamsters and gerbils were cute (although for some reason I could tolerate guinea pigs). I didn’t think mice were cute either, and rats were straight-up deplorable.

Once when I was about twelve, my family was leaving my grandmother’s house late in the afternoon. My grandmother lived on the outskirts of a small town surrounded by crop fields. She had a huge front yard, and I don’t know how many acres in the back. There was plenty of room for wild critters to live all around her.

On this particular day, as my family was about to walk out onto the back porch to say our lingering good-byes, we saw a horrible site. In the utility room accessible only from the porch, rats come pouring out of a metal trash can close to the door. I’m not exaggerating when I say “rats.” These animals were not mice. These were pointy-nosed, long tailed rats. There was not one thing cute about them as far as I was concerned.

I may be exaggerating when I say rats were pouring out of the trash can. In my first recollection, there were at least a dozen rats jumping one after another from the trashcan and running around helter-skelter as if they were trying to desert the proverbial sinking ship. But could there have really been twelve rats in my grandmother’s utility room? I know there was more than one rat, more than two, definitely more than three. I know I must be correct if I say there were between three and twelve rats running willy-nilly in the utility room and on the porch.

My grandmother kept a clean house, but she said she’d been having problems with the rats in the utility room. I think my uncle hadn’t been around to burn the trash, so the rats had taken over the trash can. My grandma moved the trash can into the utility room thinking the rats wouldn’t venture in there to get the garbage. WRONG! The rats had no problem going into the utility room to get to the trash. They must have made their move into the can while we were in the house visiting. When they heard us near the back door, they rushed out of the can in search of better hiding places.

I had never seen a live wild rat in real life, but I was certainly terrified by these. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was terrified. I was not just uncomfortable, not just bothered, not just scared. I was losing my shit. I was acting bat-shit-crazy. I was unreasonably, illogically terrified. I was immediately screaming, sobbing, bawling. I refused to leave the house and walk five steps across the porch, down the concrete steps, and across the carport to the family car. I simply refused.  My father had to carry me—still sobbing—to the car. I was too old—and certainly too big—to be carried, and my dad was not accustomed to indulging such foolishness, but he must have known I wasn’t going to leave if I had to rely on my own two feet.

The fear I felt was primal and deep. I was not just a little scared. I had moved into the realm of phobia.

(More than three decades later, a friend said maybe my fear of rodents was some sort of ancestral memory left in my DNA by people who had avoided the Black Death by avoiding rats due to a fear of them. This theory makes as much sense as any other reason I’ve come up with.)

On the day the mouse was in the house, I felt the same primal fear. I was afraid, and I wanted to be as far away from the mouse as possible. I didn’t weigh my options, consider my choices, then decide the sofa was the place to be. No, there was no careful thought process. I simply jumped up on the couch and began shrieking.

What was I afraid of? The only concrete fear I can name is the concern that the mouse was going to run up my leg. Is that even a thing outside of slapstick comedy? Has any mouse anywhere ever run up a human’s leg? Does flight ever bring a wild animal into closer proximity to the flailing, screaming bigger creature? Doesn’t the concept of “flight” necessitate movement away from danger?

In any case, there was no good reason for my fright.

It’s just a little mouse, said my annoyed mother.

It’s so cute, said my animal-loving sibling.

I’ll set a tramp, said my practical father.

I stood on the couch long after I stopped shrieking, long after the mouse had hid itself somewhere safe. My family didn’t understand, but to our reptile brains, sometimes the tiniest thing is really the biggest and most important.

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-cute-little-mouse-301448/.

Mouse in the House


It was Sunday. When I arrived at the parking lot at 11AM, I discovered my co-worker wasn’t there and hadn’t been there all morning. Since he hadn’t been there to clean the parking lot restrooms, I had to do it. Having to clean those restrooms does not make me happy. Being surprised by having to clean those restroom makes me really unhappy, grumpy even.

I was bustling around, just trying to be efficient and get everything done as quickly as possible. While I was cleaning the restroom on the left, a man entered the restroom on the right. He stayed in the restroom a normal amount of time, then exited. A boy, probably his son, went in after him, also stayed a normal amount of time, then came out.

I was out of the restroom I had been cleaning and was sweeping the sidewalk when the man spoke to me. He had an accent, maybe French. He asked me if I knew there was a mouse in the restroom he and the boy had used.

I expressed my displeasure mildly. I did not scream or curse. I was thinking Why? Why? Why? I should not have been required to deal with a mouse. That mouse should have been my co-worker’s Sunday morning problem, not mine.

I heard the boy say, She’s scared.

How does he know I’m afraid of mice? I wondered at the moment. Am I acting afraid?

(Now I wonder why he was speaking English.)

Then I realized he meant the mouse was afraid.

Before I went into the restroom, I heard the boy say something something feeding. I didn’t know what in the world he was talking about until I walked into the restroom and saw in the front corner not just a mouse, but a mamma mouse nursing three babies.


I took this photo of the mouse family. Notice the mouse shit all over the place.

I don’t like mice (or rats or gerbils or hamsters), but what was once nearly a phobia is now an aversion. I don’t think those rodents are cute or sweet or precious. I think they are vile and disease-ridden. They shit everywhere and make people sick. I worry that one is going to run up the leg of my pants in a moment of panic. (The critter’s panic would quickly become my panic if it ran up the leg of my pants.)

So when I saw the nursing mouse, my thoughts were more Ewwwww than Awwwww. The babies were not tiny and transparent as I once read baby mice described. They were big, probably one-third the size of their mother. Their eyes were still closed. and they seemed to just hang limply from their mother’s side.

The boy was right; the mamma mouse did look scared. Her eyes were huge. She looked resigned to bad things happening, as if these big children suckling from her were not only getting milk from her body, but also stripping away all of her hope. I could almost feel sorry for her, almost admit she was kind of cute, in a sad sort of way, but then I saw the mouse shit all over the floor and the shredded toilet paper they’d probably slept in the night before. I knew I was the one who was going to have to clean it up. I wondered if I’d get workers comp if I caught plague  or hantavirus from the little mousy family.

As I swooped in to pick up the shredded toilet paper, a tourist lady came over with her cameraphone to photograph the mouse family. She couldn’t stop exclaiming over how cute they were.

Oh sure, they’re cute, I said, until they give you the plague.

That thought seemed to sober up the tourist lady pretty fast.

I decided I should get my camera out of the van and take a photo of the mice too. I knew I’d write about them, so why not post a photo as well?

My van was nearby, so I wasn’t gone long. As I was returning to the building housing the restrooms, an new guy was walking up.

Don’t go in the one on the right, I screeched at the young man. There’s a mouse in there!

(I don’t know why I didn’t let him go in there and run them off.)

He said he’d heard about the mice. He wanted to take a photo too.

(Is any animal exotic if it lives in the National Forest?)

He said, Oh, they’re so cute.

Oh, sure, I said, until they defecate all over the place.

I sounded as bitter as I felt. I should get hazard pay for dealing with rodents.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to remove the mice from the corner. I had a broom and a large, blue dustpan. Should I use the broom to sweep them into the dustpan? Should I try to push the edge of the dustpan under them and scoop them up? While I didn’t like them, I didn’t want to hurt them. I’m not keen on hurting living creatures, although I will defend myself. Removing mice from a building hardly seemed like self-defense.

Because the door to the restroom was propped open, there was a large gap near the floor between the door and the wall  When I moved toward the mice with the dustpan extended, the mamma mouse fled through the gap, babies still attached to her nipples. It looked unnatural and grotesque. I guess I’ve never seen a mother run with suckling infants hanging on to her with their mouths.

I was relieved to see them go.

(I know the title of this post is misleading because the post is actually about four mice in a restroom. I opted for poetic license, since “Mouse in the House” sounds better than “Mice in a Restroom.”)