Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No holiday from the battle with vermin

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If you are going to draw a line in the sand, I strongly recommend you draw it in your kitchen.

That's what we did, because you never know when an uninvited guest is going to squeak past your defences and help himself to the shortbread cookies your wife has foolishly left out on the counter.

I probably should not share this with you, but our kitchen has become Ground Zero in our recently renewed war with mice who, in years past, have enjoyed winding down from the holidays by chilling out in our basement.

In recent years, however, the basement has been a no-go zone for mice, because we finally bit the bullet and hired a professional exterminator, a lovely young woman with a magical gift for eradicating unwanted house guests.

Tragically, our luck changed just before Christmas when, as I was about to step onstage to portray "the Sleeping Cowboy" in Manitoba Opera's spaghetti western version of Don Pasquale, I received an alarming text message from my wife stating: "Found dead mouse in trap behind the storage room."

As required under the division-of-labour agreement in our house, I transported the expired rodent to the garbage using a pair of fireplace tongs, but since then another three furry intruders have met their fate in the hundreds of traps my wife hid downstairs out of an abundance of caution.

I was comfortable going toe to paw with the invaders in the basement -- but then they crossed our line in the sand.

A few nights ago, I was relaxing on the couch in the den watching sports highlights on TV when, suddenly and without warning, I heard a shriek of terror -- "AIEEEEEE!" -- wafting out from the kitchen.

Being a modern parent and responsible homeowner, I sensed something was wrong, so I sauntered into the kitchen, where I found my daughter, eyes as round as dinner plates, staring at the coffee maker on the counter.

"It's kind of late for coffee," I told her in my best fatherly tone.

"DO SOMETHING!" she snorted in disgust. "There's a mouse hiding behind the coffee maker."

Which is when the mouse made a break for it, dashing along the cluttered counter before coming to an abrupt stop behind a giant roll of paper towels and several half-empty bottles of diet soda.

Moments later, there I was, wearing my bathrobe and clutching a small broom, standing in the middle of the kitchen, staring with laser-like concentration at where I assumed the mouse was hiding and pondering what to do next.

A full-frontal attack with the broom was out of the question, because someone -- and I am not going to name names here -- had turned the countertop into a minefield by littering it with empty wine glasses and coffee cups.

In the end, the broom and I slunk silently out of the kitchen and went to bed, vowing to fight again another day.

What I do now, broom in hand, is burst into the kitchen every half-hour or so, shriek like an enraged jungle beast, then scan the kitchen counter, which my wife has lined with dozens of potentially deadly snap traps.

Before leaving the kitchen, without fail, I make my way over to the toaster and peer inside. Do you know why I do that? I do that because the other night my brother-in-law called to wish us a happy new year and share a terrifying story about his sister-in-law's battle with legions of mice seeking refuge from the cold.

It seems the other morning his sister-in-law had a craving for toast, but since the toaster had seen lots of use over the holidays, wisely decided to clean it first, which she did by tipping it over to dislodge the accumulated crumbs and -- if you are currently eating breakfast you may wish to pause before reading this next bit -- out popped the charred remains of an extremely unfortunate mouse.

Q: What did my family do after hearing this touching holiday tale?

A: As you have already guessed, we hung up the phone, marched into the kitchen and immediately gave our toaster the kind of internal exam you normally only receive from airport security.

You will not be surprised to hear that once again we have enlisted the services of our local exterminator, who is scheduled to arrive bright and early Thursday morning.

Until then, I am bravely continuing my campaign of surprise attacks in the kitchen, flinging open cupboards and the pantry door, screaming like a banshee and waggling a sponge mop in a menacing manner.

So any mice reading today's column have had fair warning: The exterminator is coming. Before the week is out, you are going to be toast.

And I mean that literally!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2014 A2

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