Mus Musculus Domesticus
When I came back home that night, after a short visit to the pub, I saw the door of the cage had come down. Before I looked into the cage to verify he was really inside I put a cigarette into my mouth and tried to light it. My hands were shaking so badly it took me several times before it was lit.
My nervousness subsided slightly and I walked to the cage, bent over it and looked through the glass plate.
The cage had been made out of an ordinary oranges crate. It had two small compartments. At the bottom of the partition panel a small square hole had been sawed. A thin thread blocked this hole and was running upwards and then to the front. Fastened to this thread was a heavy lead door, hanging above a bigger square front entrance. The cage was covered by a glass plate.
When the thread behind the smaller opening was gnawed through the lead door would fall down and be held in place by two small slats. In such a case no escape was possible.
I saw him crouching down in the right corner, close to the lead door. He was incredibly small, looking more like a little heap of dirt, and I wondered how he could have made our lives so miserable for more than a month.
He had been the third one in ten years time who had come to settle in our old house.
"Again I have found some mouse-droppings", my wife had said to me. She hated mice. They disturbed her clean household, tried to enter the cupboards and after some time a sickly smell would permeat all the rooms in the house. So she ordered me to destroy him.
When the first one came I quickly found out that an ordinary mouse-trap didn't work. So I tried poison and after two weeks no more droppings were found.
The second one took up residence two years later, and with that one I needed two extra pots of poison to get rid of him.
Seven years we lived on comfortably without any unwanted furry visitor, and then the third one arrived.
He was smart, fast and loved the high quality oats I laid down every night in a little heap in a corner of our kitchen. The poison he took into the bargain. Every morning the heap was gone, and every day my wife found those horrible mouse-droppings.
"When will it be dead?" she asked in a desperate voice after ten days.
I decided to feed him bigger heaps, hoping to speed up the process.
In the next weekend the third pot of poison was empty and I had to wait until monday to be able to buy another one.
During that night he succeeded in penetrating one of the cupboards and he made short work of the flour.
In icy silence my wife cleaned the mess and I took vows to give the beast still bigger heaps of poison.
After almost two weeks I had to accept that this animal probably was immune to poison and that I had to use a quite different weapon. I started to study possible ways to kill or catch mice.
In a couple of days the kitchen and the little shed in the back of our garden had been transformed into a kind of alchemistic laboratory.
While my wife was busy in the kitchen, frying bacon, I was grinding glass in the shed. Afterwards I mixed the fat of the bacon with the grinded glass and that delicious blend was put down on the same spot where before the poison had been.
Instead of that blend a box of cracknels was gnawed open and the contents partly eaten, and it took my wife quite some time before no more crackling could be heard when walking on the kitchen floor.
For two more days he fed dutifully on the high quality oats and then the next experiment started. I cut a sponge in many dice-like parts, and then my wife fried them lightly in butter.
The next morning the floors of the kitchen as well as of the living room were strewn with hundreds of very tiny fried sponges.
After my wife had sucked up everything with the vacuum cleaner she discovered at the bottom of the fridge's door the tiny hole in the rubber insulation band. With horror and her eyes full of hate she threw the gnawed meat and butter into the garbage can.
I skipped all experimenting and put down four ordinary mouse-traps, the lips of them loaded with the delicious oats.
The next morning all four were clean of oats and still in working order.
"Sucked up probably", my wife hissed.
Another solution had to be found, and very quickly at that. I didn't dare think about the moment a second one would settle down in our house.
And then I visited my uncle and he lent me that home-made trap, the former oranges crate. He told me to submerge it when I had caught the mouse into it. Quite simple it would be.
In the evening I installed the trap, putting a little heap of oats in front of it, a bit more in the first compartment and the biggest heap in the second one. I left the house and when I came back there he was.
"I don't want to have anything to do with it", my wife told me the next morning, and she left the house to do some shopping.
I put the crate down in the back-yard and thought about the problem how to kill the beast. Nowhere in the house could be found a bucket or tub big enough to contain the crate.
I lit a cigarette, which seemed to help. Suddenly I got a perfect idea.
Under the sink I found a big grey plastic garbage bag and when I spread it out in the back-yard I saw it would contain the crate lengthwise. I only had to take care the glass plate would not move when filling the bag with water.
First I shoved the crate horizontally into the bag. Then I connected the garden-hose, laid it down next to the bag and turned on the tap.
I sat down on my heels next to the bag and carefully I righted
it, while pressing with one knee against the glass plate.
I put the hose into the bag and kept the top of the bag pressed around the hose. Slowly the bag was filling up. In a couple of minutes it was almost completely round. I suspected the water had reached the top of the crate and I removed the hose and looked into the bag. I was startled and cursed.
The surface of the water was about five centimetres under the top of the crate and clearly I could see through the front hole the mouse, swimming rounds. The two little slats had come loose by the water and the lead door had moved sideways. Ten seconds more and the beast would have been out of the cage.
Quickly I put back the lead door at its proper place and while I kept the glass plate steady with my knee I let the bag fall down. The water streamed out of it and I looked around to see what to do next. Behind me, against the wall, I saw a brick. I reached for it and put it against the glass plate. Then I closed the tap.
I lit another cigarette and thought hard about my next move. Obviously water wouldn't do the trick, but then what?
I thought about the shed and what was in it and suddenly I knew. The gas-burner! Instead of water gas, which would suffocate him quickly and cleanly.
Five minutes later I heard the soft sizzling of the gas, filling up the bag the same way as the water had done before. I kept the top of the bag tightly wrapped around the gas-burner, and the brick was keeping the glass plate at its proper place.
I had to think about that animal, while the bag was filling up. I imagined how he would panic, how he would climb higher, until he couldn't go on any further, and then how he would slowly suffocate and in the end fall down.
I felt tension rising and automatically I reached with one hand for my pocket and took out a cigarette and lit it. After a couple of deep sucks I calmed down and saw the bag had gotten the shape of a big balloon.
I closed the tap of the gas-burner and took it out carefully, while I kept the bag tightly closed.
I waited a while longer and then I was sure the mouse had to be dead. Not even a human being could have stood this ordeal. But first I wanted to check if I was right. I imagined he would probably be lying on the partition panel.
I opened the bag with two hands and bent forward to look inside it.
The only thing I remembered afterwards was a dull bang which sounded like the one you'll hear when lighting a gas-oven.
I came to my senses lying in a white quiet room. Above my face I saw the frightened eyes of my wife.
Only after several long minutes I was able to think clearly and then I could ask what had happened.
"I found you lying unconsciously in the back-yard", she said. "All over your face, hands and legs was blood and everywhere in the back-yard was lying glass and splintered wood. I've called the ambulance at once. You've been lucky, the doctor said. No eye nor hand lost. What were you doing with that gas-burner?"
I didn't tell her about the cigarette, but in her eyes I saw she knew.
"No", she said to my question, "nowhere I've seen that mouse. Maybe it has been blown away by the explosion. Perhaps into the neighbour's garden."
The day after she didn't look at me when she visited me in the hospital and said at once: "Again I've found mouse-droppings in our house. I had trouble to remove them from the tiles in the kitchen. They were wet and sticky."