In which our hero kills a mouse in his brother's apartment while on the phone

A Good Deal

In the summer of 1987 I stayed in my brother's apartment. We went to college in the same town, but he and his roommates were gone for the summer. We made a deal: I'd stay there rent-free in exchange for tutoring him in calculus, which he had to take in the fall. A rent-free summer in exchange for tutoring? I called that a good deal.

One Small Problem

When the spring semester was over, I moved my stuff in. The guys had left the place clean, which was nice. There was one small problem, though: mice.

The kitchen was infested. I didn't realize how bad it was until I opened the lower cabinets. The shelves were covered with mouse scat. It was disgusting. I cleaned it up as best I could, and went on an anti-mouse crusade. Traps didn't work well, and I reluctantly progressed to poison. It still didn't solve the problem.

I wasn't leaving food out, so why were these mice still plaguing the apartment? Later in the summer, after the problems had died down a bit, I realized it was the downstairs neighbors. Their poor housekeeping drew mice, which then ventured upstairs. Yech.


The situation drove me a bit 'round the bend. One evening, it came to a head. I'd just returned to the apartment when the telephone in the kitchen rang. As I walked into the dim room, I vaguely saw something dash from the center of the floor to the refrigerator. It was, of course, a mouse.

The phone call was from my friend Dave, just calling to chat. As we talked, though, I was going after the mouse. I was sick of them, and wanted this one dead. Yet what could I kill it with? The only weapon handy was a fly swatter, so I grabbed it. Then the mouse and I began a game. The refrigerator was in a corner, so there were only two ways for the mouse to leave. First it would stick its nose out one exit. I'd try to whack it with the fly swatter and miss. A minute or two later, it would try the other exit. Whack. First exit. Whack. Second exit. Whack. Repeat.

Meanwhile, I'm providing a running commentary on the whole thing to Dave.

The game was driving me even crazier than the mouse infestation. I was seriously bent out of shape and just wanted this little bugger, this infestation personification, dead. Dead as a doornail, dead as a mouse in a trap. Dead dead dead.

The fly swatter was useless as a weapon. The wide swatter alerted the mouse and it would run behind the refrigerator once again. Finally I had an insight. I turned the handle of the fly swatter 90 degrees and held it above the exit the mouse was sure to try next. And it did.

WHACK! The thin edge hit the mouse on its neck, like a plastic karate chop. The mouse flopped over on its side.

Okay, now what do I do with this mouse? I want it dead, but how to do it? I wasn't about to step on it. Ah-ha! I'll let the darn thing starve to death! That would be just revenge for it driving me crazy in the kitchen! (As I said, I was a little unbalanced by this point.)

So, still on the phone, I managed to get a garbage can out of a bedroom. As I brought it over to the mouse it started twitching. I gave it a whack or two with the wide side of the fly swatter, then got it into the can.

That seemed to do it. The mouse was pretty much dead already, and never recovered. The mouse problem wasn't over, but I felt a weird elation at having used karate on its avatar.

Other Stories of That Summer

There were a few other memorable moments that summer. Among other things going on, the first two weeks were spent as an outpatient.

Another story: one Saturday I started smelling something bad in the kitchen. It got worse and worse, though I couldn't find anything rotting. I couldn't even figure out where it was coming from, though I searched and searched.

By Sunday morning, the smell was even stronger. It got so bad the smoke alarm went off. I didn't take any chances: I got out and called the fire department from the apartment of some nearby friends. They found the problem in the cellar. The landlord (who wasn't answering his phone) had apparently recently tried to fix a problem with the hot water heater. He had taped a hot water pipe in place with duct tape -- duct tape! -- which of course started melting, sending up a Bad Smell.

When the landlord arrived on Monday, he asked why there was a fire department tag on the water heater. Duh...

Yet another memorable occasion was getting locked out of a second floor apartment while not wearing shoes. (Why does this always happen to me?) A neighbor happened to have an extension ladder, so we climbed in a window. I never did make the cookies I promised them. Sorry.

The final story was one of the weirder accomplishments of my life. It was summer; I had an apartment to myself; why not throw a party?

There was just one problem: my brother. I'd scheduled the party and then found out that my brother was coming up that weekend for Army Reserve training. He needed to get up at some ridiculous hour of the morning -- five or six AM. So I could have a party, but it had to end before midnight.

The party actually turned out to be a success. It was crowded with friends and friends-of-friends, and there weren't any fights, barfing, or police. Sometime after 11 PM, I started circulating the idea of going out to see a midnight show of a Monty Python film. Believe it or not, people went for it! The party left the apartment on time, my brother got his sleep, and I ended up getting an award from a friend for this singular achievement.

This was also the summer that I learned not to back up in your brother's girlfriend's car when you're very close to your brother's roommate's father's Cadillac. Baaaaaaad move.

But I kept my part of the bargain: my brother passed his calculus class.

Last updated 3 June 2000
All contents ©1999-2002 Mark L. Irons