’TWAS a few weeks before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring...
Except for that (bad word) mouse. At least one, possibly a whole bunch more, because, as the old saying goes: If you see one mouse in your house, you probably have enough to stage your own European soccer riot.
Regular readers, assuming they are taking their prescription medication, will recall my house was once famously infested with legions of scurrying mice.
This is likely because we live next to a park, which is where hordes of mice gather at this time of year to discuss their plans for the Christmas holidays.
First mouse: "You going anywhere this year?"
Second mouse: "We were thinking about spending the holidays in Doug's basement."
First mouse: "Great idea! If you're lucky, that cupcake will still be sitting on the floor under the ping-pong table."
So, yes, we used to have mice. We had so many mice my son and his girlfriend, instead of staying in the basement on their own, would come upstairs to watch TV with my wife and I in the den. Fact: You have to have a lot of mice in your basement before young people are willing to make a sacrifice of that magnitude.
For the last few years, however, we have been officially mouse-free, because we finally dug into our piggy bank and hired a professional pest-control person, a lovely young woman armed with poison and traps and a near-magical skill for eradicating unwanted Christmas guests.
Once the mice were gone, my wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, decided, out of an abundance of caution, to hide hundreds of traps in random locations around the basement, because you can never be too careful, right?
I soon became extremely reluctant to venture downstairs, because it was like walking through a minefield:
My wife (shouting): "HONEY! COULD YOU BRING UP THE LAUNDRY?!"
Me: "Yes, dear, I'll... (sound of several traps snapping) AIIIEEEEEE!!!"
I am mentioning all of this because, just in time for the festive season, they're back.
My wife informed me of the return of the rodents via the traditional manner -- she sent me a text message. This is true. There I was, last week, preparing to go onstage at the Centennial Concert Hall in front of hundreds and hundreds of cultured people to portray "the sleeping cowboy" in Manitoba Opera's spaghetti western version of Don Pasquale, when my cellphone squeaked in alarm.
Here's what my wife's text said: "Found dead mouse in trap behind door in storage room!"
Sporting a sombrero and several pounds of makeup, here's what I texted back: "Just going onstage. Set some more traps."
Here's her reply: "NO!!! MICE ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!!!"
Of course, she was right. Under the division-of-labour agreement in our house, my wife takes care of home repairs and lawn maintenance; whereas my duties include operating the TV remote control and removing spiders and mice, whether alive or dead.
So, after spending a couple of operatic hours pretending to sleep, I bravely returned home and, as you have already deduced, forgot entirely about the deceased mouse in the basement. The next day, my wife called from work to see whether I'd fulfilled my contractual obligations.
"Did you get rid of the dead mouse?" she demanded.
Fortunately, as a veteran husband, I know how to handle tense situations like this. "Of course I have!" I snorted in what I hoped was an indignant manner. "The fact that you even had to ask deeply offends me."
After hanging up, I scuttled downstairs to extricate the flattened rodent via the standard five-step method:
1) I found a garbage bag big enough to hold a mature cougar;
2) I armed myself with a pair of iron fireplace tongs;
3) Using the tongs, I carefully nudged the mouse corpse into the garbage bag;
4) With one hand plugging my nose and the other clenching the bag as if it contained nuclear waste, I trundled outside and dumped the offending item in the trash;
5) I spent the next hour unwinding in a hot bath with a tumbler of single-malt Scotch.
So now that the Season of Joy is here, we are doing a lot of waiting at my house. My wife is anxiously waiting to send me another alarming text message.
And I'm patiently waiting for Santa, because he needs to bring me some new fireplace tongs.