The Most Humane Way To Kill A Mouse
When I was a teenager I saw (and later read) He Died With A Felafel In His Hand and it instantly became my favourite thing ever. Before I’d even heard anything about the film I had already collected multiple promotional postcards with Noah Taylor’s broken little face on them to stick in my school diary*.
* School diaries ARE A PLANNING TOOL! You aren’t meant to fill them with artwork and photos and poems. I learnt this the hard way, my mum eventually got called into the school for a very serious meeting where we both ended up crying over the injustice of my creative self-expression being repressed by the oppressive school rules.
I went absolutely bananas for He Died With A Felafel In His Hand. I loved the soundtrack, I loved the Australian-ness, I loved the unsatisfying love story and the horrible characters. Dad and I had struck a deal sometime during year 10—get at least a B for maths and I could move the spare tellybox into my bedroom. I bought the DVD and I watched it so many times. The only thing I couldn’t quite stomach was that the whole thing seemed a bit farfetched. For those of you who don’t know the story, it’s about a guy called Danny who drifts from shitty Australian sharehouse to shitty Australian sharehouse. Each house has its own set of disaster people and wild antics, meanwhile Danny is vaguely orchestrating some kind of credit card fraud which he is fairly ambivalent about. I think he lives in at least 48 sharehouses all together.
Firstly, 48 sharehouses seemed extremely excessive. I didn’t buy it. Secondly, the weirdness of the characters and their behaviour was just too silly, too random, too unbelievably lacking in foresight that I just couldn’t accept that adults would be so stupid.
However, I am now a wizened 31 year old with 19 sharehouses under my belt (not including sharehouses of partners or best mates where I contributed to culture of the house but wasn’t officially living there). Now I know that the outlandish characters from He Died With A Felafel In His Hand weren’t as farfetched as I had thought, I also know with certainty that for several poor souls out there, I was that weird housemate that did completely inexplicable, mental shit that they still tell their friends about over a bottle of wine. But those are different stories for a different time, this story is about a very impressive skill that I have developed during my 14 years as a housemate.
After years of trial and error, I consider myself to be a master mouse catcher.
I grew up in the Adelaide Hills, we had a big garden and heaps of chickens. One of the jobs I tried my best to avoid as a kid was ‘taking the chook bucket out’. The chook bucket was just a bucket of food scraps that sat near the kitchen sink, taking it out meant heading out to the block next door, often in the dark, to dump stinky slops into the chicken zone. Gross. Unfortunately it took about 8 or 9 sharehouses before I realised that if you don’t have chooks and you aren’t actively abiding by a composting system, having a bucket of food scraps floating around at all times isn’t a great idea. Most of my houses ended up with a ‘scraps pile’ somewhere in the back yard. As a result, most of my houses ended up with little rodent mates moving in.
My first notable mouse triumph was at Winchester Street. I shared this house with one of my best mates – Liz, her dropkick boyfriend James and our newest friend Melissa. (If you want to hear more about how shit James was please refer to this blog post.) I was taking a semester off Uni due to an unfortunate butt abscess and I had to be at home for daily visits from nurses. I had a lot of time on my hands.
I was sitting on the kitchen floor with the perpetually joint wielding Robbie and new friend/housemate Melissa, smoking and waiting for an experimental cake to bake when several of the mice who had recently moved in made a couple of very bold runs around the kitchen. We were flabbergasted and personally offended by their brazenness. Until that point we had been living peacefully alongside the mice, lazily hoping they would just go away. But this was just too insulting. I declared war and scuttled off to my room to gather the relevant supplies for my project. I could hear Robbie’s mindless giggling escalating into hysterics as the mice continued their kitchen offensive. Immediately upon re-entering the room I was regaled with an incomprehensible recount of the latest mouse antics from a feverishly excited Robbie sitting cross legged on the kitchen floor, joint intact despite all the gesturing and yelling. Melissa translated for me, ‘the mice just ran across this pillow, they’re getting too fearless’.
I proudly showed them what I had collected from my room. One shitty old blistex lip balm tube, a role of thread and a plastic bowl. I’ve never been one for killing stuff, or for remembering to buy mousetraps. If I did remember, I’d always mentally investigate possible outcomes and realise that not only was I scared of setting up mouse traps, I also didn’t fancy being the one who threw out broken little mouse bodies. So I adopted the most humane, and DIY method possible. The ole, box and stick on a string method. Here is a helpful diagram:
Basically, you balance one edge of the trapping receptacle (bowl) on the stick (blistex) and tie thread to the stick so that you can pull it away suddenly when the mouse moves into position. Considering how ruthlessly the mice were launching their kitchen missions I assumed it would be an instant success. Hours later I was still poised to tug the thread but Robbie and Melissa had to go to Uni, I stayed put, vowing to catch the mice if it was the last thing I did. I went into a kind of trance, probably aided by the weed and the pain medication I was on for my abscess. I was sitting so still, I was at one with the kitchen, melting into the floor cushions, camouflaged and hyper alert to mouse activity. It was at once so slow and so fast, before I even noticed what I was doing I ferociously yanked the thread,
“Squeak squeak squeak squeak! SQUEEEEAAAK SQUEEEEEAAAAAAAAAKKK squeak squeak!”
Shit got real super quick. By the time I had come to terms with the apparent success of my trap I noticed that mouse was actually ensnared on the OUTSIDE of the bowl. One leg was pinned down and the mouse was wildly screeching and thrashing around trying to break free. Two other mice had appeared at the nearby mouse hole and were responding to the desperate squeak screams of my victim. It was bleak. I just sat there and watched for a while trying to decide what to do. I could let the mouse go, but then the mice might learn their lesson and not fall for my trick again. I found a bigger bowl and put it over the top of the whole mouse situation so I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore.
I called my most sensible friend Danny to ask for advice. He sounded perturbed when I described my situation but he suggested that gassing the mouse on the stove would be fairly humane. I asked him how one might go about extracting a mouse from some kind of Russian doll bowl arrangement in order to gas it and he laughed a laugh that was part derisive, part amused and part clearly glad that he was nowhere near the predicament. ‘Uhhh put it in a plastic bag?’
Twenty minutes later I was power walking around Saint Peters with two bowls balanced on top of a Nancy Sinatra LP looking for a house with an enthusiastic dog I could dump the mouse on. Where were all the dogs at? Would a dog eat a mouse? Is this an ok thing to do?
Suddenly I found myself standing on a bridge overlooking the O-Bahn.
And suddenly there was a tiny mouse falling on the tracks.
And suddenly a bus was there.
And I was walking home with two bowls on my head and Moving With Nancy clutched across my chest.
‘Very good adulting’, I congratulated myself as I toddled home bubbling with pride. Upon my return I was met with my next predicament. I’d locked myself out in my haste to dispose of the mouse. Despite all our terrible qualities as tenants, we were very security conscious and every window was properly shut and locked, except one…the small bathroom window. I wasn’t much of a climber, and I wasn’t small, the window was quite high and quite small. Buoyed by my recent victory, I found a broken surfboard in the shed, a relic from housemates past and balanced it precariously atop a green bin. After a considerable struggle I managed to climb on top and reach the window. As I started to mash myself through the window, the surfboard slipped off the bin and I found myself trapped in the window, squawking and kicking, kinda like a mouse trapped under a bowl. I don’t know where I found the strength to climb through, I was seriously bung in those days but somehow I birthed myself back into the house. I felt that somehow the world was just letting me know that maybe next time I shouldn’t throw a living creature off a bridge.