A STATE OF MIND: Night of the Marauding M. musculus

By Larry Floersch

So, I was sitting there the other day contemplating the existential implications of Søren Kierkegaard’s magnum opus Either/Or when I heard a news report on TV that the mouse population is booming this year.

That caught my attention. I consider one mouse in my house to be a population boom. The thought of herds of them roaming the halls is more than I can handle.

Biologists say the boom is because of an abundance of seeds, but being a person who loves B-grade sci-fi films such as Night of the Lepus, in which rabbits that had undergone genetic alterations grew to the size of Winnebago motorhomes and attacked 18-wheelers hauling lettuce from fields in Arizona, I tend to think this population explosion of mice is being caused by something in the water or maybe the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. So far, there have been no reports of mice the size of Volkswagen beetles. So far.

In my experience, your average mouse has the intelligence and sense of humor of a college freshman. I know this because of my deck shoes. A few years back I went into our entryway to slip into my favorite deck shoes, but there was no room for my feet. The toe box of each shoe had been stuffed with lentils. I had fallen for a variant of one of the oldest freshman dormitory pranks in existence. In effect, I had been “short-sheeted, er, short-shoed” by a mouse. I swear that, from inside the wall, I could hear the high-pitched giggles of the culprit and his friends rolling over each other in laughter like Chip and Dale.

The source of the lentils was traced to a plastic bag in the pantry, which had been gnawed open, so I made plans to go to the hardware store to purchase a supply of old-fashioned mouse traps, the kind with a spring and a wire bail that whacks the mouse across the neck and has a trigger mechanism into which you poke some cheese, bacon, or peanut butter to lure the mice to their demise. Having the mentality of college freshmen, mice crave those foods more than seeds.

Wiser members of my household counseled me to protect my karma. At the hardware store, I found something modern that promised to drive the mice from the entire county. It was an electronic device that supposedly produced a sound that only mice can hear and find unbearable. I plugged it into an outlet on the kitchen counter and waited for the mice to flee. Judging from the crumbs, confetti, and tiny paper hats littered beneath it the next morning, I could only assume a mouse with geek skills had rewired the device into a boom box, and it and its friends had partied all night, streaming music only they could hear.

I then bought some California-style traps that capture the mice so they can be released at a distant location to live out their days at someone else’s house. These traps were made of plastic and looked like miniature versions of those rectangular steel boxes biologists use to catch grizzly bears, which they bait with backpackers. The idea behind the trap was that when the mouse ran into the box to get the bait, the trap would tip on an axis point and release a door behind the mouse to prevent it from leaving.

The traps worked well enough, but the captured mice, being clever and, like all college freshmen, really into music with a heavy beat, quickly learned that if they moved back and forth in the plastic box in a tango-like fashion, it would produce a loud “CLICK” and “CLACK” sound on the wooden floor as the box rocked back and forth. Multiply that noise by three or four traps in a quiet house at 4 am and you get the picture. Once again, I could hear muffled high-pitched giggling. But my karma was intact.

How then, to control the burgeoning mouse population? I have two proposals, but both will require diversion of some of the funds intended for Trump’s border wall.

The first proposal appeals to the common sense and intelligence of mice. Given the current economy and the fact that mice reproduce so quickly, adult mice who have outgrown dormitory humor must know that if these population trends continue, their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will be forced to live with them until they pay off their student loans and save enough for homes of their own. Therefore, the government should make funds available to the Church & Dwight Company to produce tiny mouse-sized condoms. These would be distributed free of charge to all mice that want them so they can plan when and if to have offspring.

I know there are those of you out there who are opposed to the government spending money on family planning of any kind, even though it would be in the national interest. So my second proposal would appeal to the college freshman mentality and dietary preferences of mice and takes its cue from The Night of the Lepus. My recollection is fuzzy, but I think in that film the world was saved when the giant rabbits ate romaine that came from a farm near Yuma and died of E. coli poisoning.

Under my second proposal, instead of spending government funds on family planning, we buy the mice all the cheese, bacon, and peanut butter they can eat. Then we just sit back and wait. Pretty soon they will start dropping dead of cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. But our karma will be intact.

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