I think about this as I enter the dark place again, wearing MC Hammer gardening pants, Playtex Living Gloves and a ski hat....

I put on the equivalent of a Hasmat suit to navigate the horror of my crawl space, for the second day in a row, in order to check on the new mouse traps, purchased on Sunday, to see if I’m any closer to getting rid of the rodents who are trying to enter my home through the air conditioning vents. I hear them at night, chewing away. I have read The Count of Monte Cristo, and so I know that they are patient and determined – it might take years, but they’ll chip away until they break through the Chateau d’If of my crawl space and into the free world of my home. The sound of their gnawing is like nails across a chalk board at 3:00 a.m., and I am like a crazy old woman, beating at the heating vent with a shoe in the middle of the night, yelling “get out of here!” – as if they will respond “oh, we are not welcome here, let us leave immediately.”

Conventional rat traps and mouse traps, slathered with peanut butter, have not worked. The food is gone, the traps haven’t snapped, and I’m essentially feeding them. So I’ve resorted to Plan B: glue traps in various sizes that were guaranteed to cement the rodent in place until discovered by mummified sight or smell. Since peanut butter hadn’t worked in the conventional traps, I decided to enhance the glue traps with cheese. All I had was Parmesan Reggiano. One trap also has a pair of scissors stuck to it - off to the side where I dropped and was unable to detach them. I’m sure it looks weird to the mice, but if they’ll eat an a/c vent, surely they won’t be put off by scissors.

I think about this as I enter the dark place again, wearing MC Hammer gardening pants, Playtex Living Gloves and a ski hat, crawling on my belly through dirt and turds, and expensive fromage. The first trap, near the access door and in between a couple of plastic bins, is gone. The second nearest trap, sitting on a ledge and in an area where I can walk if bent in half, is also gone. I find them both, side by side along the foundation, sans either mouse or cheese - but one with scissors. Thanks, Lowe’s, for the absolutely-they-will-work glue traps and the two trips into the crawl space inhaling Hanta virus air it took to find that they absolutely-do-not.

When I stumble out of the crawl space, muttering dark things about no-good traps, there is an elderly woman walking up my driveway to deliver the neighborhood newsletter. She tries hard not to stare at my bag lady state of dress or the scissors stuck to the glue trap, although her eyes bulge in horror intermittently and I experience how it must feel to be more obviously challenged than I really am. I explain that I’ve been setting mouse traps in the crawl space, and to her credit she refers me to Do-It-Yourself Pest Control on Chamblee Tucker, where I can purchase some kind of poison that causes mice to run outside to look for water. I don’t want dead rotting mice in my walls or crawl space, so this sounds like a good option. I wonder if she knows more than the Lowe’s guy. If she’d had a ten foot stick she’d have used it to hand the newsletter to me, but as it were, she popped her shoulder out of the socket to make her delivery before running back down the driveway to tell all her neighbors about the crazy new Board member covered in cobwebs and mouse crap. Whatever.

My cell phone rings as I’m stripping off the Hasmat suit at the back door, and it is the arborist telling me that he can take down the giant leaning oak in my back yard for $2800, or he can trim it for $798. I’m about to point out the obvious when he adds that it’s the oak in the front that needs to come down. I didn’t even call about this tree! It’s big and beautiful and in my heart of hearts I know it has been ailing for years. It reeks of rotten vinegar and stale beer in the warmer months, which apparently insects find irresistible, adding to the deterioration of the trunk where they take up residence to live like Shrek in the equivalent of a farting mud pool. Its necessary demolition will run $2100.00 if I want the stump ground up, too. I thank him and hang up and the phone rings again. It’s the landscaper calling to tell me he’s happy to blow all the dead branches from the roof (caused by the giant leaning oak in the back), trim the ivy and clean up all the pine straw and dead leaves from last fall - for $450.00. My cell phone battery picks that moment to die – I only get about an hour out of each charge now and need to replace it. So I stick it in the charger - I’ll call him tomorrow right after I sell a kidney on the black market.

I can hear my toilet running all the way from the back door and run to turn off the water at the base. Turning the water on and off each time I need to flush the toilet is getting tiresome, but is easily fixed. While in the bathroom, I empty the bucket of water that’s filled from the leaking tap of the tub during the day. This, too, is on the fix-it list. I try to not think of the hot water heater as I pass it on the way to the bedroom. It leans precariously like the Tower of Pisa there in its little closet, and is on the list of replacements for when the plumber fits me into his schedule. I flip on a lamp that doesn’t come on and remember that half of the electrical outlets in the room have stopped working. The electrician and plumber are a package deal. I was trying to be polite when I told them I was in no great hurry.

Dressed in slightly more acceptable public attire, I hop into my car to head to the store, figuring at this point I can barely afford a $5 bottle of wine. But I am determined. Halfway down the street I remember the plastic flower pot that rolled under the car while I was cleaning out the storage shed on Sunday, because it’s apparently stuck on some underpinning of Nissan Maxima, scraping loudly down the street, alarming dogwalkers and a half dozen mums with baby strollers out for an afternoon cruise in the cold.

I spring for a $20 bottle of Chardonnay, and a big stick (for bad customers, says the clerk) to prod the grating plastic bucket from beneath my car. In the twenty or so minutes I’ve been gone, the cell phone has completely charged – I’ll get another half hour out of the battery now, yippee. I turn on the lights I know to be working, call Lynn to complain about the day, uncork the wine, remember that someone left me a glassful of Hershey’s Kisses at the university today, and how much better my back feels now that I’ve discovered the mother of all secrets to no more back pain: the gym. I turn on the awesome digital TV gifted to me for Christmas, along with the new flat antenna that picks up digital signals without the need for cable (because who can afford cable with so many trees and light sockets and leaning hot water heaters) and am excited for a new episode of LOST, because I am easily amused and because somewhere, in a parallel reality, mice live outside, trees are healthy, nothing gets stuck under the car, cell phone batteries last for years, lights work and toilets flush.

Besides, I’m allowed a bad mood every now and then. And, tomorrow is another day - during which the mice will dine on the good cheese. I need another pair of scissors. Dammit.


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