It was like the opening scene of a horror film. I was playing the oblivious blonde chatting with her friend over the phone, home alone, or so I thought. The minute I end the call, I see it: a flash of movement in the dark corner of my living room. Fear flickers across my face, but I shake it off, while any sentient audience member wants to yell at the screen.
But I start to look, first casually, then frantically, for the intruder that, deep down, I know I saw. Using the flashlight of my iPhone camera, I shine a light behind every door, around every corner. I flatten myself on the floor and squeeze myself under the couch, fumbling to bring the flashlight app back up for one excruciating minute, and when it finally turns on . . .
The mouse is right in front of my face.
Don't believe me? I took a picture. The mouse was so audacious in staring me down that it stood for a portrait session.
That's a city mouse for you.
I've dealt with his kind before. Mice are a horror movie, and there's always a sequel. The original Squeak was set in my old apartment in a crummier building that sat above two restaurants. The mice there were so well established, they paid rent.
But my new apartment is better-run, so I thought I'd be protected from Squeak 2, I Know What You Ate Last Summer.
The mouse appeared the day I was leaving for Thanksgiving, so I hastily set a few wooden traps, snapping them on my finger only twice, and rushed to make my train.
At home, I was telling my mom the story at the kitchen island when one of our cats, Mimi, sprang onto the countertop.
A lightbulb went off.
I'd take this country cat back to the city with me as an all-natural, rodent-killing machine.
It seemed like a perfect plan. I love Mimi, and Mimi loves mice. What she doesn't love is living with the mini-mafia of five dogs in my mom's house. I have only one dog, Pip, and he hardly counts.
My only concern was the kitty litter smell in a small apartment. So I went to Petco to educate myself on deodorizing.
Kitty litter is way more confusing than it needs to be. Only the Sphinx could answer the riddle of kitty litter, and even she gave up and opted for plain sand.
How am I supposed to choose between Tidy Cat Instant Action and Tidy Cat 24/7 Performance? I don't want to smell cat excrement now or later. Why not combine the technology? Is this a conspiracy to make me buy both? Arm & Hammer Double Duty litter touts that it eliminates feces and urine odors. Isn't that a given? Rare is the customer who thinks, "Cat pee is the worst, but cat poop - not bad."
Overwhelmed by choice, I went overboard. I bought a covered litter box with an air filter at the taaop, scented liners, deodorizing powder, and whichever litter brand was nearest when I got tired of trying to make sense of them. Not to mention all the fun stuff I bought for my new pet, like toys, food bowls, and a little flowered collar with a personalized tag.
At checkout, I wondered if this was actually cheaper than hiring an exterminator.
Still, I was excited. Mimi was going to solve my mouse problem and be a beloved addition to my little family.
But Mimi did not rest at all during the three-hour drive back to the city. She crouched at the back of the crate with eyes the size of saucers. I started to worry the country-to-city transition wouldn't be as easy on her as I'd thought.
I made it back to my apartment dragging my suitcase, the dog on a leash, the cat carrier under my arm, and what felt like 60 pounds of deodorizing, multi-cat, extra-strength, instant, and around-the-clock kitty litter.
As soon as I opened the front door, a putrid stench struck me like an olfactory freight train.
One of my wooden traps had worked, and a while ago, by the smell of things.
I opened the cat carrier and Mimi instantly fled deep into my closet. Pip chased after her. The mouse was dead as a doornail.
The kitty litter, however, smelled fine.