by Mike Todd
“Dude, what’s that sound?” my sister Amy asked from her air mattress in our basement.

I shrugged, pretending not to hear the skritch-a-skritch coming from behind the drywall.  Then Amy turned her truth-extracting eyeball beams on me. She’s had them her whole life, but being a lawyer made them worse.

“Okay, okay, we have mice in the wall. But they just hang out in there. They probably won’t come out,” I said.

She took the news better than I’d expected. After one lap around the room, checking for possible entry points, she climbed back into bed, probably deciding that if a mouse came out to visit, she’d just subpoena it to death.

A few days later, we had to start storing our dog food in plastic bins. Some critters had been pillaging our pantry, burrowing holes into the bottom of our 50-pound kibble bags.  Then my wife Kara moved some old boxes in our laundry room to find that the corner of the room had become something of a rodent rest stop.

“This is so nasty. They carry diseases. We need to get rid of them,” Kara said, with “we” being me, and “get rid of” being used in the mobster sense of the phrase.

“What if I just housebreak them one-at-a-time instead?” I suggested.

In the end, I found myself at the hardware store, reluctantly choosing between various instruments of death, like a gladiator preparing to enter the Coliseum, except less happy to be there.

Poison? Too medieval, plus the unpleasant thought of mice keeling over in random places throughout the house. Glue traps, which just stick a mouse to a sheet that you throw in the trash while they’re still alive? Honestly, if you put down a glue trap, it’s not that you’re a terrible person, it’s just that a non-terrible person wouldn’t do that.

Staring at all the chemicals and devices that were designed to transport cute little critters off this mortal coil, it was hard not to picture the mice in red shorts, holding hands in our basement and singing “It’s a Small World.”

The least awful solution seemed to be the old-fashioned mousetrap. I thought somebody was building a better one. What ever happened to that? Still, if a mouse had come shopping with me and witnessed the disturbing array of other options, I feel like he would have said, “Fine, yeah, just get some of the regular ones. You people are sick.”

That evening, donning my coonskin cap, I set about preparing the varmint traps.  With peanut butter smeared on the triggers, I set the traps and placed them around the house, careful to put them where I wouldn’t catch a dog or a child. We have enough of those already.

In the morning, I approached the first trap with trepidation. What grisly, splattery scene would I encounter, causing me to get nauseous and leave the room whenever the movie “Ratatouille” came on?

As it turned out, mousetraps don’t actually catch mice, but they do make excellent mouse feeders. All of the traps had been licked clean during the night. One of them had a Post-it note stuck to the trigger, with a tiny scrawling that read: “Do you have anything in a super chunk?”

I could picture the mice fluffing the insulation inside our walls, flopping down with their bellies full, saying, “Do you think that was store brand? I think it was store brand.  Would it kill him to give us some Skippy?”

My dad suggested a modification where you tie the head of a Q-tip to the trap with some dental floss, then coat everything in peanut butter, which makes the mouse work a little harder for what is about to be its final snack.

The next night, I tried his technique. The following morning there was another Post-it with the words: “Thank you for the dental floss. It helped us finally get this sticky stuff out of our teeth. We can’t afford a dentist, and this is the next best thing. Please leave more dental floss tomorrow night, and by the way, a little Brie cheese would not hurt!”