Squalor Victoria

Posted in Life, Random on September 6th, 2008 by Tom

So it’s nearly 4 AM (at the start of writing!), and I know I do a bad job of getting sleep, but I’m finding it hard to care, following the evening I just had.

I noted, ever so briefly in the last entry, that we had a mouse problem. To bring everyone else up to speed: This little dude went to TOWN pillaging the food that Ethan and I left from the summer. He was a thorough little bastard, and did a number on the food, as well as pooping like… everywhere.

So we realized we couldn’t leave any crumbs, and had to put dishes away ASAP so he didn’t feast on / contaminate our leftovers. Yet still her persisted. Finding the little things that weren’t secured too well, eating crumbs we didn’t even know we’d left. All the while leaving generous portions of gifts for us to clean up: It was starting to drive me crazy.

Just earlier this week, we had a breakthrough though. Ian was eating his oats when he heard a noise from the pantry (bookcase-type-thing in the girl’s kitchen where we leave most of the food). Upon closer inspection, the mouse revealed himself! He dropped down and gave Ian a cursory glance before bolting behind the pantry, never to be seen again.

Later on, Ian related this story to the rest of the house, and he and I set to investigate further. Upon Ian’s discovery that there was a small hole in the wall behind the pantry, we moved the whole food-shelf-system to the middle of the room in order to patch the hole… with duct tape and a left-over chunk of a 2×4. Deducing that perhaps the peanut butter cup wrappers (early evidence of one of the mouse’s favorite treats in our food stocks) ended up in the girls bathroom (directlya adjacent to the kitchen) via a connection of holes, Ian and I set to investigate further.

There we discovered, beneath the cheap, crumbling base of the vanity, another entryway to the mouse’s network of byways through our house. This one was more difficult to patch, so we tabled it for later. We spend the remainder of the afternoon using Ian’s plexiglass-board and some expo markers to organize the information we had obtained and plan for future actions.

Later that evening, we got our second shot: Leah roused me from sleeping through my political science reading assignment to inform me that she thought she’d heard something in the pantry. I got up to investigate, and happened upon the mouse, perusing our foodstuffs, with my own eyes! I had Leah go get Ian. I needed backup. Charlie was not going to go down easy, I could tell.

[We call him “Charlie” after the American armed forces’ nickname for Viet Cong soldiers. Also it’s fun to say “Charlie’s in the treelines,” about anything of a generally adversarial nature.]

Ian came down to find me poised with a plastic bin to try and catch the mouse. He quickly grabbed a box to follow suit, but before either of us could really make a move, Charlie dropped down to the floor, and made a break for a corner. “Surely, we’ve got him,” I think, when no sooner does Charlie slip out under the back door and make his escape. Ian and I, though disappointed a little bit, promptly seal off this entrance/exit. At least we were making progress.

These actions gave us our only mouse-free day. For 24 hours, we were Charlie-free, and it was pretty beautiful. Ian and I made regular updates to the Board, representing all available information and our plans for future action. People just kind of shook their heads, as they typically do when Noble and myself are plotting something. By and large though, our campaign against the mouse was supported by our fellow housemates, given their vested interest in not eating mouse feces, a mistake I may have made earlier in the week… much to my chagrin.

Yesterday, and Charlie-encounter ended in his escape through yet another door, which was also promptly sealed off to prevent escape. Now we come to today. It began with yet another encounter between Ian and the mouse early in the morning. Clearly, we must have been getting to him, if he was forced to scrounge while there were people around. Charlie panicked as Ian began to corner him, confidant that all of the mouse’s exits had been cut off.

To no avail, he once more evaded detection. This evening, Ian and I had just gotten back late from doing some exploring with friends, and were literally getting ready to turn in for the night, when Leah came in with another mouse report. We investigated, Rob with us now as well, armed with the plastic bucket from earlier. We proceeded to all (mostly Rob and Ian) chase Charlie around the kitchen, watching in awe as he scaled easily to the top of our pantry/bookcase thing, only to escape AGAIN.

Ian convened an emergency strategy session, where we discussed constructing better perimeters to contain Charlie in any future encounter. As we began construction, we stepped out for just a moment, and the mouse made his move!!! While we were right there, taking advantage of our half-constructed fence, instantly probing its weak points, clever bastard that he is.

It was, I believe at this moment, that we declared war. I went back to the planning bored, sketched my idea for a trap, and began gathering materials:

-1 bucket.
-1 pair scissors taped shut
-2 audio cables, tied together
-1 plate of leftover cake icing

By using the scissors to prop up the bucket open-end-down, and tying the cords to the scissors, I could slide the cake plate underneath the perched bucket. When Charlie came to feast on the sweet, sweet icing, I would pull the scissors out from a distance, dropping the bucket over him, and trapping him hopefully. Ian and Rob set out to strengthen the perimeter so that when the chase was on once more, he would have nowhere else to run.

And so… we turned off the lights and waited in the silent darkness for Charlie make his move once more. Except we were playing for keeps this time. Someone was going home the winner of this test of wills, and Ian and I were hellbent on it being us. Charlie quietly creeps out to get some icing from the cake plate. I hesitate; pulling the string too soon could alert him and give him time to escape, particularly if he stuck to the periphery of the plate like he was doing. Soon a sound spooked him though, and my chance was gone.

Ian decided to move in to get the lights back on, so we could see him, now confident that he had nowhere to run. But run he did, to one of the last places he could hide: in a small nook under a single cabinet, from which there was no escape, we had him cornered, but inaccessible. Quickly, we created a NEW perimeter, a component of which was the bucket from earlier on its side with the cake plate sitting in it. We hoped this would give him no other option but to be lured into it, upon which we would promptly stand it on its end, trapping Charlie at the bottom.

We even placed a small mirror by the entry to Charlie’s last refuge. At the correct angle, and with a little help from the flashlight, we could literally see him when we poked his little head out to confirm we were still on the hunt. Fool that he was though, he was not patient enough. Our trap-perimeter complete, we turned out the lights, manned our posts, and tried to remain silent. Ian would use the faint light of the flashlight to maintain a clear view on Charlie’s position, while I would keep a hand on the bin, ready to flip it upright.

Many times Charlie ventured out, only to be instantly alerted to our presence by tiny little noises. In my confusion, I misread Ian’s signal once, and flipped the bucket up without Charlie in it, breaking the line for a moment, scrambling to replace it and maintain the perimeter. After several tries, Ian and I got our communication narrowed down to a single hand signal, and maintained complete silence. We both strained against our fatigue (it is 2 AM at this point) to maintain focus. I am crouched uncomfortably, wanting to keep my distance in case Charlie overcomes our barricade, but still needing to be ready at a moments notice.

My legs ache, and I’m getting tired. It’s had to keep still for so long, and at this point I’m starting to feel bad for not calling Laura. I’d tried to explain to her the direness of the mouse situation, but I think perhaps she gets a little sick of indulging my little… eccentricities, such as this one. This thought nags on my mind for a mome-

Suddenly a small shuffle-

-Ian’s thumb jabs earnestly, but still with restraint, into the air-

-I recognize the signal, pull hard on the bucket handle, flipping it upright.
As I do this, I can see through the dim light a small brown lump slide down the edge to the now-cake-filled bottom. I throw a box on top to seal the open end of the bucket, and the celebration begins.

Ian makes a very inappropriate sexual gesture while I triumphantly shout for Charlie to “suck… ON… MY… NUTS!!!!.” It was rude and amazing in the best way. High-fives and words of congratulations were exchanged. I have seldom seen Ian and myself more self-satisfied at the outcome of one of our crazy plans. I couldn’t believe we’d done it, after all that, Charlie was now our prisoner.

Which sucks for him, I suppose, but for god’s sake, he’s literally been shitting all over our food. It’s kinda hard to feel bad for him. I still did cringe a little as I heard him frantically trying to scale the slick plastic walls of his new prison, however. Maybe he’ll get something out of it? Maybe he will be the mouse-people’s John McCain. He’ll get out of this one day and go home and run for the Senate and grow all super old and have this badass war story to tell.

The plan is, at present, to release him in Thousand Hills State Park tomorrow.

I’m really tired now, so edits to this will follow along with relavant photos to the spectacle that has been this crazy, crazy Charlie hunt.