Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella
… for Fred (yeah, I named him), the little black mouse who has taken up residence … in my refrigerator! Have you ever heard of such a thing?! Thanks to my relatively new, useless, absentee landlord, who DOES NOTHING FOR HER TENANTS unless threatened with calls to the city Code Dept. or, as in the case of my downstairs neighbors, withholding rent until the problem is fixed, I know my headache (an old refrigerator) will NEVER be solved by her. This clunker is on COLDEST temperature setting and it does keep my perishables cold. But it’s not cold enough for Fred the mouse. It’s not chilly enough to repel him, who, true to Darwin’s genius, “adapted” to his environment and grew his little black fur coat thicker. Dare I say, you could call it lustrous! Thanks to a steady diet of butter and cheeses! My butter! My cheeses!
Last week, I noticed Fred’s glossy thick coat when I saw him splayed out on my cheese platter on the top shelf of my refrigerator. I screamed and Fred, terrified, tried to run and hide but instead fell through the white wired shelf to the shelf directly beneath it, and then the shelf below that one, in a SPLAT, landing loudly (for a mouse) on his stomach.
“Ick!!” I screamed and slammed the refrigerator door shut, knocking on it, to scare Fred into a dark nook. Girly girl terrified, I screeched again thinking about his “splat” but, stupidly, noting his clean shiny coat. When I was in fifth grade at Lamartine Street School I had a little pet mouse “Gigi” that my mother had bought for me at the Woolworths on Front Street. Gigi was a great little pet. I had made him so tame, he’d travel around our flat in my shirt pocket. He’d climb out of it and ride on my shoulder, sniffing into my ear with his long whiskery nose. Gigi had a pale grey and white coat that was lovely – soft and glossy. She also had Ruby red eyes from where her blood flowed. I have not seen Fred’s eyes – I hope we never come face to snout – but I have seen his coat: it’s as glossy as Gigi’s was!
“Fuck!” I said to no one in particular in my fourth flour kitchen as I watched the little mouse take his tumble in the middle of my refrigerator, in the middle of one of Worcester’s slummier, mousier neighborhoods. “Another stupid problem to solve!” I said. And I rapped on the refrigerator door again and stormed into my bedroom.
To knock on my refrigerator door before opening it so I don’t have to “bump into” a mouse I named! Fred. If Fred had been nibbling on my yum yums prior to my nibbling on my yum yums I didn’t want to know. Or see him make his distraught little getaway … running atop apples, skittering over oatmeal. I didn’t want to be repelled by the sight, have my stomach do flip flops.
Lesson 2: CeCe, my beautiful, affectionate 10-month-old kitty was a total loser when it came to catching and killing rodents. She is no mouser. Some cats are born for the hunt. CeCe was born for the hug.
I had been down this mousey road before, wiped away little mice turds, smelled the mouses’ strong, urea-concentrated pee pee. That is why I adopted CeCe! But CeCe is more fun than murder…
She has had numerous encounters with Fred. I’ve seen a few by the floor where the refrigerator stands: For instance, Cece batted Fred around a few days ago with her long elegant black paw – only to let him scamper away under his beloved refrigerator. She waited for a few seconds for Fred to come out, then lost interest and joined the dogs in the living room. She padded away, as if to say: Play with you tomorrow, Cece plays with Fred, like she plays with her favorite toy, this yellow plastic kitty ball.
Every day she picks the ball up with her mouth and carries it to me, as if to say THROW, Momma! I do – I throw her yellow plastic ball across my big apartment and CeCe madly chases it. Then she picks it up with her mouth and carries it back to me. I think she would do the same with Fred.
Jett and Lilac haven’t figured out how to play FETCH.
CeCe has – she’s the family Einstein.
But I’d rate Fred the mouse #2.
See? He nibbled on my Traders Joe’s double cream BRIE cheese …
… but took a pass on the Shop Rite clearance orange cheddar cheese “food spread” I had bought on sale. Why eat crap (leave it for Rose), when you can feast on Brie?!
“Damnit!” I yelled when I saw the clean swipes Fred’s little incisors had made on my special Brie treat – the Brie I had been saving to nibble on while watching my CITIZEN KANE video for the 50th time (Orson Welles is God, to me). “Damn it!” I bellowed imperiously, like Charles Foster Kane lording it over the monkeys! 🐒🐒🐒🐒
But here, at 48 Ward St., it’s just me and a mouse. (P.S. I still ate my Brie. Cut off where Fred nibbled and an inch more and fed the hunk to my dogs – and ate the cheese from further down the triangle!)
I’d never seen anything like it. A mouse living in a cold, mostly empty! refrigerator – refusing to leave his chilly abode, no matter how tightly food is sealed, no matter how high and precariously food is placed …
A cat seemingly infatuated with the mouse. Meeting him every few nights, as if for play dates!
I know what you’re thinking: GET SOME MOUSE TRAPS, Rose!
Did that. Like I said, I’ve been down the rodent road before. About a year ago, our building seemed to be inundated with mice. I had a gaggle of skanky, scrawny little grey ones who just wouldn’t give up the fight. I told the landlord. She poo pooed the problem…to not spend a nickel on her property. I cleaned and cleaned and hid food and I let Jett and Lilac (two hunters who mean business) freely roam the apartment. Jett and Lilac were outstanding: They’d always locate the poor little mice, corner them under the parlor heater usually, and sit and wait for them to come out. Jett would be glued to the spot – for hours. No one could distract him from his job. He sat bold alert, ears pricked…Then Lilac would go in for the kill or capture… The next morning, when making my bed, I’d find a dead mouse under my bed covers – right where Lilac had buried it, her safe spot. Or her stinky little gift to me. I’d scream, wrap the mouse in a Shaw’s plastic bag and throw it all out.
Once I found one by Lilac’s bed. Lifted it up with my fingers because I thought it was one of my stuffed little tiny toy animals that Lilac had picked off the book shelf. Nope. I felt its delicate ribs, an entire rib cage. I looked closely at its matted fur, its snout and body wet from having been in Lilac’s maw! Poor guy, he looked ROUGH, as my late pal Tony Hmura would say. ROUGH. Like a street person. Like a feral cat. Like it had had a horrible life. I sceamed and dropped the body. It was still warm. But not moving. Then I did something strange: I picked it up again, hid it under the bed where the dogs couldn’t get at it and placed a white fluffy paper towel over it. If it were alive, it was in shock from being inside of Lilac’s large mouth. Or it was playing possum – faking being dead, hoping my dog would lose interest and drop him. Both scenarios broke my heart. By placing the tiny mouse under the paper towel where the dogs, I was giving the poor creature a chance, a chance to escape the torture, feel better, run away. If, after several hours, there was no change, he’d already had a nice wake, so I’d wrap him in a Shaw’s plastic bag and dispose of him.
In the end, my dogs caught and killed most of the mice – except for one or two stragglers who were smarter or luckier than their brothers. Stressed that the mice would reproduce and I’d go through the craziness all over again, I called the my landlord panicked. Several days later her father placed a bag of mouse traps on my back porch: Not the wooden ones with springs but ones I’d never seen before – sticky boxes that you set up and the mice ran into. And got stuck into, got “trapped.”
Stressed out, unthinkingly I grabbed the traps and set up three of the little tents: behind the stove, refrigerator and sink.
Then it happened: one of the stragglers, attracted to the bait, was caught. The mouse screams – small, squeaks telling of horrific pain and fear began. And lasted for TWO WHOLE DAYS. A horrible torturous drama unfolded in my pantry. The cries of the little gray mouse caught in the glue, burning from its chemicals broke my heart. I began to cry over the mouse and whisper to it, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
“Tweek! TWeek! Tweep! Meep!” cried the mouse, stuck in his poisonous hell house – his little claws, maybe belly, glued, cemented, to the floor of that little hell hole! His tender skin torn, bleeding as he tried to pull away, run away.
I had not anticipated this! With Jett and Lilac the death of a mouse was always fast and clean – like nature intended. But this killing was man-made, Rose-erected…and it was horrible. Oh, please! I begged my little mouse, Stop! stop!
But he didn’t. He screamed his little head off. Poignant mouse cries filled the apartment for hours. I had to leave my place! Took the dogs and jumped into my car and drove around the block, my face tear stained, praying! for the traumatized mouse! “Forgive me, Father!” I whispered. “I know not what I do!” I hadn’t gone to church in 25 years. Hadn’t made confession before a priest in 30! But that evening, that moment, I made confession. The REAL THING. I banged my heart with closed fist in contrition and felt the suffering I had caused another living being.
Should I take him to Tuft’s Veterinary? I asked myself, totally distraught, still driving around the block with the dogs. No! I can’t afford it! And how can his little feet be pulled from the glue without tearing his flesh?? God, help me!!
Two hours later I returned home, entered my apartment. The mouse, so bony and with fur all matted…was still screeching in his trap! Crying for help!
I ran to my bedroom. Skipped dinner. Jumped into bed, hid my head under my pillow to muffle his cries!
All night this went on. SQUEAK! SQUEAK! SQUEAK! SQUEAK! SQUEAK! I got up for a drink of water to find…the other mouse, his mouse friend, scampering around the mouse glue trap, reacting to his brother’s pain, excruciating calls…trying to save?? his little friend!
“NO!!!!” I yelled at the top of my lungs to the little mouse as I lunged at the mouse trap. “YOU’LL GET CAUGHT!!” I picked up the trap with the other mouse STILL, albeit more softly, it had been hours, crying… he was dying so slowly…and stuck it behind the stove. Away from the other mouse. I had gathered and thrown away the other traps I had set up after the first mouse got caught.
I sat at my kitchen table a broken woman, listening to my little scrawny gray mouse in his trap bleat weakly from thirst, exhaustion, pain, sadness. Prolonged agony. I would feel the same way. This vegetarian, “animal lover” had fucked up! I cried to the mouse: Forgive me! God made me! And he made you, too!
I went to bed, an emotional wreck.
The next morning I got up early to get the hell out of my house! Away from the mouse’s squeaky cries! There was no noise in the kitchen. Blessed peace. I made breakfast. Fed the dogs. Showered. But when I got out of the shower and went to my big mirror in the kitchen, by the stove, to dress and put on my make up, I heard the faintest squeaks coming from the mouse trap. Yes, my mouse, exhausted, had fallen asleep, slept for a few hours, but then he woke up, still alive, barely, still in agony.
I thought: Should I stomp on him? Put him out of his misery? I dressed, grabbed the dogs and ran out of the apartment. It was Day 2. He would HAVE TO DIE today…he had no more reservoirs of strength…he was dehydrated, dying of thirst.
I came home several hours later. No mouse squeaks. For the rest of the night. My mouse had finally expired.
So, fast forward to these past few weeks, and you can see why I’m so lenient with Fred, my mouse, why I almost thought of taming him down and making a pet of him, like sweet Gigi. Sometimes if I’m eating cake and a few crumbs fall to the floor, I don’t pick them up.
I am tired, too. Like a mouse but without the sticky trap. In my own traps. Rose stuck in different traps. I am glad CeCe is more serious but not too serious. She will never catch Fred.
Tomorrow I will go to Home Depot and buy one of those humane mouse traps, you know, the clear boxes you bait with Brie😉 cheese so the mice walk into them and the door closes and they are caught LIVE 💜💙💚! They can even eat their Brie! Then you take them to the nice woods or peaceful meadow and release them into nature … where most likely a hawk, coyote or other critter will catch them in a few minutes because their moms never taught them how to survive in nature. They have their instincts, though.
But for a few, shining moments – maybe a few hours, cuz Fred is smart and adaptable – my mouse will live!! Really live! Wash himself in the virgin sun! Lick the dew off a blade of grass! Smell the morning blowing in on the wind!
You see, I’m waiting for the snow to melt, waiting for Spring to bloom in earnest before I go to Home Depot – which, incidentally, will stop carrying sticky mouse traps, thanks to PETA enlightening the chain about the trap – …
… to buy my humane live trap ..
and I will catch Fred live and release him in some nice woodland spot on the West Side 😉 and watch him dart to the left and to the right looking for the sunny side of the …street! And I’ll say: God be with you, my little city mouse with the lovely, satiny black coat!