Bait

November 2000

It is unfortunate for mice that Halloween occurs as the weather grows colder. A case in point: Last night, as I was fetching a log for the fire, a mouse flew by my feet into the shelter of our basement woodpile. He was cute, and I often identify with mice, small, timid, trying to get by. But at the same time, I know it is him or me.

There seems to be a mouse freeway running from that corner of our basement up into the kitchen drawers. The last mouse built a nest in our utensil drawer on a Saturday afternoon. Two drawers down, he pooped on the hand towels. Even if he wasn’t going to chew the insulation off our wiring and burn the house down while we slept, he was asking for it.

Mice and I go way back. While in the service, I was naive enough to use cheese for bait. Cheese only works in old cartoons. The following morning, the unsprung trap was cleaner than when I bought it, spit-shined by a laughing rodent.

Since then, I have learned. At my last job, I was known to the mice as The Butcher of Clinton Street. One co-worker was horrified at my harvest, and brought in a more humane appliance, a “catch & release” trap. I said, “When you release the mouse, do you think it packs its bags and boards a bus for the Midwest? Of course not; it’s back inside before you can close the door and turn around.” She sniffed at me, and set the trap. That was on a Friday. By Monday afternoon, when she remembered to check, the mouse had indeed been spared a violent death; it had died of thirst.

I much prefer the sudden and unexpected, and I never miss. No cheese for my traps. No free lunch for the delicate and deft. For me, it’s Milky Way. Which is why mice have it hard here when the weather gets cold and I have leftover trick-or-treat booty from Halloween.

A Milky Way drives them wild. A mouse that can be a maestro with cheddar, loses his head with a Milky Way. It’s chocolate, it’s caramel, it’s nougat, it’s sticky, it’s sweet, the aroma alone clouds their minds and judgment flies out the window.

Speaking of Halloween, Lucy the Goose dressed as a witch. She was garbed as Uncle Sam for Election Day, and is now wearing a yellow slicker to ward off the fall showers.

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