Gut Instinct: Tricky Mickey

Oh, if only our mice died so nice.

It was a lazy weeknight, with a computer on my belly broadcasting horror flick Santa’s Slay, when my girlfriend’s scream pierced the night like a steam whistle.

I hit pause—satanic Santa had just impaled a Jew with a menorah—and sprinted to the kitchen. Had hoodlums descended our fire escape? Or was something nefarious afoot at the neighboring assisted-care facility? Narcotics, the elderly and nurses can be a wicked brew.

“What’s wrong, hon?” I asked my girlfriend. She was as petrified as a Pompeii resident. Her index finger aimed beneath the table, empty save for dust bunnies. We surely needed to sweep, but her reaction seemed excessive.

“I just saw a…a…a…” “A ghost?” “No, a mouse.” “So what,” I said, which was probably the worst possible retort.

“So what?” she parroted. “We need to kill it.” “By we, do you mean me?”

“Yes.” As a murderer, I’m a mixed bag. When I lived in Astoria, my apartment was overrun with New York’s twin plagues: mice and roaches. I turned cockroaches into brown paste with a rolled-up Maxim—back then, the lad mag possessed sinister heft. Meanwhile, print media didn’t easily kill mice.

They were slippery bastards, crapping on my canned soup and nibbling the ramen, my main nutritional sources. Few moments are more disheartening than washing mouse poo off your last can of Krasdale-brand tomato soup.

To cure the infestation, my roommates and I purchased stick-’em traps. Basically, they’re plastic rectangles topped with a tacky substance. If a mouse explores said surface—say, to sample the cheddar cheese you’ve cunningly placed in the center—its paws will be as stuck as Flick’s tongue to a frozen flagpole in A Christmas Story. Thus ensnared, you can drown the critter, turn it into a fur Popsicle or enlist an executioner. Ours was called Steve. As a roommate, Steve left lots to be desired—slow on rent, prone to wall-banging sex in his loft bed. But as a murderer, he was top notch.When a mouse was snagged, Steve would shove it in a plastic bag and grab a hammer. One swift tap silenced the squeaking.

“You can throw it away,” Steve would say, giving me the visceral thrill of discarding viscera.

But in my Brooklyn apartment, I’m the alpha male. To eliminate the rodents, I selected time-tested spring traps, which snap necks like toothpicks. I arranged a quartet around the apartment, carefully baiting them with blue cheese from Murray’s and Rudi’s Organic whole-wheat English muffins. Perhaps these were gentrifying mice with discriminating tastes?

After several days, a varmint relented to stinky-cheese temptation. My girlfriend was the first to discover the corpse, leaving me a note and the body. “Mouse in trap,” the Post-It read, followed by a sad face. I tossed the carcass into a trashcan outside and baited another trigger. For days, I mindfully eyed the traps, watching as the food withered and turned rock-hard. Maybe the sight of their expired comrade had served as a warning, like Amazonian tribes displaying their enemies’ severed heads on sharpened sticks.

Then one morning I discovered that the trap beneath the sink had vanished. “Hon, did you throw away the trap?” I asked. “Why would I do that?” “Well, it’s gone.” She came to the kitchen. We commenced searching the dusty crannies, uncovering rusty bottle caps. Then I noticed the trap’s wooden base peeking out from beneath the refrigerator. I poked the trap and it twitched, as if it were alive. Oh, no.

“I’ll pick up the fridge and you knock out Mickey,” I instructed. “No way,” she said, shirking like, well, Dumbo to a mouse. “Well, then you pick up the fridge.” “Fine.” She reached down and, summoning the strength that allows mothers to lift cars off pinned kids, tilted the icebox back. I swept the broom beneath, dislodging petrified carrots and the trap. Inside, a mouse’s left front leg was pinned, cheese smeared across its paw.

“Eek,” it said. “Eek,” I said. “Kill it,” my girlfriend said. Using my metal cooking tongs, I grabbed the trap and took it downstairs to my concrete front yard. I snatched a loose brick and raised it above my head, sizing up the mouse’s skull. It was so small, so crushable, so… cute. I dropped the murder weapon and fell to my knees. I lifted the metal bar. Not wasting a millisecond, the mouse limped forward then boomeranged around and, with a speed and purpose belying its broken leg, accelerated back toward my apartment.