It isn't the first mouse I've tackled. It really shouldn't have been that difficult. But this one had got me angry.
Not in a serial-killer way, you understand ("She MADE me!"). It's just that last night, as I switched out my light, I heard the tell-tale sound of something scrabbling about in my room again, and I knew then and there:
(a) that I would yet again not sleep properly that night (and I was right—three fitful hours was all I got);
(b) that I would now be too weary to do my job properly (right again); and
(c) that for this my intrepid little mouseketeer would DIE.
So I spent the day as dazed as you do when you've had three hours' sleep (Margaret Thatcher ran the country feeling like this! I could barely organize my evening meal!), and came home in a foul mood, ready to set him a lethal obstacle course he'd never remember.
The already explosive mouse situation had been exacerbated the previous evening by my catching sight of him ambling along in my kitchen. At least when they've been scuttling around in the dark and then either bolt or freeze when you switch the light on, there's a sense that they know they shouldn't be there—they've been rumbled. But my kitchen lights were ON and I was WALKING ABOUT. This mouse had become so blasé about my presence that it really didn't care whether I was there or not. And, frankly, I resented this.
First, I put down a glue trap in front of his bolt-hole. This is a large piece of solid white card covered in, well, glue. In the middle of this trap I placed some pungent Danish salami, infused with garlic and red wine.
Beyond the glue trap I put down a fresh batch of poison, although this was more a token gesture than a serious attempt at assassination. I had been laying down this particular poison ("for rats and mice who have become resistant to warfarin") in my bedroom for the previous few weeks, and the little sod had been merrily gorging himself on the stuff with no apparent ill effects whatsoever.
After the poison I baited two spring traps with the salami. I also blocked his alternative routes with steel wool (which they can't stand—it's like a wall of razor wire). I was a man possessed.
Then, the booby-traps all laid, I relaxed. I knew I was likely to find something unpleasant in my kitchen in the morning, but I was prepared to psyche myself up to face it. I popped out to the shop to get a drink before I'm Alan Partridge
Five minutes later I came back, walked into my kitchen, and saw the mouse struggling in the glue trap. I can hardly have left the room before he made his crazed dash for the salami. What's more, this meant the dozy git had probably watched me lay the traps for him. How I long for a worthy opponent.
So there we were. Him struggling for his life, and me stood over him cursing the day he picked my flat to scurry about in. Both his hind legs were caught in the glue, as well as the right side of his face. It's particularly gummy glue—it doesn't tear or burn, but the animal is resolutely stuck. So I pulled the strip of card out into the light, and we regarded each other. He was palpitating madly, but then mice always do that, so I wasn't too moved. But when his enormous, dark, baleful eye fixed mine, I began to feel stirrings of remorse.
Then I remembered something I'd seen only the previous evening. Standard cheap American pap—When Unusual Pets You Thought Were Really Nice Turn Out To Have Been Vicious Meat-Eating Predators All Along
, or something—and I'd flicked over to it just as they showed amateur footage from an Australian suburb. A wild kangaroo had boinged into someone's garden and taken an untoward fancy to the family dog. Pest control were called, and five trained experts advanced on the roo with netting and sedatives. It literally punched its way out of the corner it found itself in, but was eventually, and again literally, wrestled to the ground and sedated, all the time howling and growling like a wounded lion. And as I watched it I was suddenly struck with the realisation: that six-foot bastard with a Naseem right hook was nothing more than a rodent. A slight shift in evolutionary history and I could have found myself faced with that
going through my waste paper basket in the middle of the night.
Big and baleful my captive's eyes may have been, but given the chance he'd have been boxing me for my tenancy rights, and we both knew it. The jig was up. His goose was cooked. This mouse's cookie had categorically crumbled.
I'd already made plans for what I was going to do once I'd snared my prey. I was going to throw him out of my window.
Don't start. I'd been through all this already. The glue trap was a last resort in the first place—if your nocturnal visitors have craftily avoided everything else you've put down for them, you catch them alive in a big puddle of glue, and do away with them yourself.
But how the hell do you do that? I haven't been brought up on the Scando hunt-and-fish ethic. (As my Norwegian half-brother once said to me, "Have you ever looked a cod right in the eye just before you slit its throat?") What was I supposed to do? Drown it? Stab it? Strangle it? Smother it with a pillow? None of my options were attractive. But I did reckon that a swift dive out of my bedroom window on to the hard concrete thirty feet below should do the trick. Plus it would give the mouse the most exhilarating ride of its short life.
So I went into my room to open the window. As I switched on the light I noticed an added extra: a simply enormous spider on my wall above my bed. It was easily as big as the mouse I was about to dispatch. It's fair to say that I was pretty fraught by this point—I had already been loudly calling down curses on my unwelcome houseguest, along with his extended family—and I found myself yelling "What the fuck am I, Gerald Durrell?" as I pounded the spider to a pulp with a hefty copy of Damon Runyon's collected stories wrapped in a plastic bag. (I refuse to ruin a perfectly good paperback with spider glop.)
I made sure my light was off for the deed itself, though. The last thing I needed was to be witnessed by someone in a flat the other side of the gardens, framed menacingly against the light as I launched my hapless minion on his mission. What would I tell the court in my defence? "I was trying to make a bat"?
I carried the card with its squirming prisoner into my room, roundly berating him as we went. "It's your OWN FUCKING FAULT! I WARNED you!" I may have said. "If you'd only FUCKING WELL GONE when I TOLD you!" is another phrase that might possibly have been uttered.
I held the card out of the window. I could just see him dangling in the darkness. And I could hear him squeaking.
I want to point out here that I took no pleasure in any of this. I genuinely was angry with him. If he'd ever gone for any of the bait I put in the spring traps, he'd have been killed instantly and painlessly. If he'd gone about his mousing business in someone else's flat in the middle of the night, I'd never have been driven to this. But his own stubbornness led us to this fateful duel of wits, and destiny did the rest.
I apologised to him just before I let him go. For some reason I had a momentary vision of an incandescent Ernest Hemingway standing beside me screaming derisory abuse.
I have to report that the mouse's voyage of discovery was even more brief than I had expected. And anyway, his discoveries mainly concerned things like gravity and acceleration—nothing that hadn't already been discovered by Galileo about four hundred years ago.
But the worst bit was yet to come. The card disappeared into the night, and hit the ground with an impressive clap.
Followed half a second later by a pitiful squeak.
He didn't die! He didn't sodding die! What the fuck kind of übermaus
had I been dealing with? Thirty feet on to solid concrete and he survived! That's got to be over 500ft in mouse years!
I felt awful, although presumably not as bad as he did. The whole point of flinging him out of the window was that I had no more humane methods of disposal at my disposal, and I was trying to avoid inflicting any pain. I listened hard for a good couple of minutes, but if he made any more noise, it wasn't loud enough for an audience thirty feet up. I closed the window.
And that's where I've had to leave it. If he isn't dead yet, he soon will be. I honestly hope he is, though, and that the squeak I heard was just a last gasp of rage and momentary pain; a bony little mouse claw pointed up at the open window in accusation.
So what have we learnt?
(1) Mice will hurl themselves into the very jaws of death just for a nibble of Danish salami infused with red wine and garlic.
(2) Although I'm normally pretty easy-going about spiders, it turns out I really, REALLY hate finding enormous ones in my room.
(3) The first five minutes of that episode of "Alan Partridge" will forever be tainted for me, as it was on in the background during all this. Luckily, the opening bit isn't actually very good, and the episode only really picks up about half-way in.
(4) Apparently I start yelling like Basil Fawlty at insects and rodents when I have been denied sleep in any appreciable quantity.
(5) Mice can't fly.
I'm going to bed.