|For a few nights last
week, at around three o'clock in the morning, I had
been rousted from my sleep, or at least my trying to
sleep, by a mouse, if not maybe two or several mice,
scampering overhead in the attic. The sudden patter
of their little feet dashing always the same route
above the ceiling over my bed annoyed me. Even if it
was just one mouse that was making the ruckus, it was
probably on a dare from several more goading mice
hiding safely in the shadowed corners.
I intended for the incorrigible racer and his
cheering squad to meet with a surprise. No, I would
not have locked Jazzbender, our cat, into the attic,
although Ms Keogh, my more significant other, did
suggest it. Instead, I had laid out some live traps
along the daredevil's route, one to catch their
champion and three more to collect the cheering squad
when they crept out of the shadows to investigate.
This was not a case of man against nature. Rather, I
was working as nature's agent to redirect some
freeloaders back into the food chain. They would be
caught alive and expelled from civilized life to
which they were making no contribution, exiled to
wandering the wilderness.
We've had mice before. It was never a serious
problem. We used these very clever live traps made in
France. They are plastic boxes that tilt back and
forth on a ridge across their bottom. You put bait in
the rear of the box. The mouse goes in for the bait.
The weight of the mouse shifts the box to the far end
and gravity drops the door behind the mouse.
We haven't used them much because Jazzbender has
proved himself an excellent mouser. The trouble is
Jazzbender can be gruesome in his methods. He has
woken me from sleep by chasing his half-meal-half-toy
into the bedroom. I have also had the distasteful
chore of cleaning the bathroom after Jazzbender had
used it for a chamber of horrors. It was a horrific
crime scene, puddles of blood on the floor and
splattered part way up the walls. I didn't realize a
mouse's body could hold so much blood. Then I found
the mouse, still alive! I left him to expire in the
This was no ordinary mouse I was dealing with. When I
went the next day to recover the four traps, they
were all sprung, not one held a mouse, yet all were
missing their bait. It was then we understood that we
were dealing with a mouse of exceptional
intelligence. We named the villain Archimedes.
My first attempts were baited with some of
Jazzbender's cereal. I speculated that Archimedes had
developed some technique of rolling the food out of
the trap without climbing all the way in. This
allowed part of his body or tail to stick out and
keep the trap door from closing all the way.
I switched the bait to slices of cheese that would
stay stuck to the rear of the trap. Again Archimedes
succeeded in eating all the cheese. Maybe he was a
very large mouse, or could he be a rat or squirrel?
After consistent failures and running low on cheese,
I went out and bought a larger trap. This was a steel
cage with trap doors at either end.
Ms Keogh followed me as I carried the new trap to the
attic. She inspected the area and declared Archimedes
as definitely a mouse. She pointed to the droppings,
so teensy-weensy that I would have never noticed
them. Still, I decided to use the new and bigger
Following the first night using the new trap, I
discovered the cheese missing, the doors at each end
closed, but the mouse missing, too. It was my
mistake. I had not engaged the release mechanism
correctly and the doors did not close completely.
Archimedes left a few hairs where he squeezed under
one of the doors. The next time I set the trap with
more care. It was hard to do. To my astonishment,
Archimedes was consistently defeating the trap,
getting away with the cheese, yet not springing the
doors to snap close.
I had no idea how he was doing it, removing the
cheese without setting off the hair-triggered
mechanism. The mechanism consisted of a thin metal
plate which would launch the trap regardless as to
which way it was tilted. It was so delicate that I
had difficulty setting it, usually having the trap
close on my forearm several times before I finally
got it right. I was almost out of cheese.
I had devised a further complication by which I hoped
to improve the trap's effectiveness. I guessed that
the cheese was drying a bit before Archimedes arrived
and in so doing it lost some of its stickiness, maybe
even becoming a bit stiff. With great care,
Archimedes had maybe been able to remove the cheese
from the precariously balanced plate without the
plate swiveling. This time I had placed a small
bottle on top of the cheese. It happened to be a
bottle of Ms Keogh's nail polish remover, but I
selected it only for its weight and shape. With
extreme difficulty and many attempts, I finally left
the trap with the small bottle atop cheese.
Archimedes could not move that cheese without
knocking over the bottle, which most assuredly would
set off the trap.
It worked like a charm. Last night I heard the crash
of the trap's two doors slamming shut even as I heard
the bottle tumbling. I rushed to the attic with a
flashlight only to discover Archimedes had escaped
again. I could see where Archimedes had been eating
the cheese. Most of it still remained. But the trap
was simply too big. The doors, even though they had
closed entirely, yet Archimedes was able to squeeze
out from under one of the closed doors. He left more
hair this time.
I returned to the attic with three of the original,
tinier, plastic traps. I took what was left of the
cheese and divided it between the three traps. It was
a lot of cheese. I was hoping to appeal to
Archimedes' greed and make him careless. I was also
hoping to make him fatter and slower, more likely to
just get stuck.
This morning, I went up to the attic and found two
traps still opened, but emptied of cheese. The third
trap was closed. I took up the sealed trap and rushed
down to the forested creek, away from any residences.
I opened it and shook out the contents. This time the
trap was not empty. Archimedes fell out. Success!
Unlike any mouse I released before, he did not land
sprawled out, looking weak or scared. He landed on
all four feet, in a low stance and ready to run. We
locked eyes and I spoke. "Hail, Archimedes,
well-met and respected opposition. So, I've caught
you at last." I would have carried on my one-way
conversation longer, but I had turned my head for a
half second and when I turned back, he was gone. I
briefly spotted the rear of him as he zipped into
thick grass a couple of yards away.