My Descent Into Becoming Lord of the Mouse Choir

We have a mouse.

I know this seems commonplace in Brooklyn, but I’ve never noticed one before. Over a year ago my cat Conan O’Brien, statuesque in front of our stove, alerted me to the sound. Scratches. Small, faint, almost imperceptible, but when you quiet the house and listen with the cat, they were definitely there. “Well we haven’t seen it. There are no signs!” These are comforts you and your partner will tell each other. Suspended disbelief is wonderful in that way. You can ignore it and it will indeed go away. Months later, one night while Melissa is putting some clothes away and I’m watching TV on the couch, we hear it. An actual squeak. The kind only made by a mouse. One that is recognizable even if you’ve never in your life heard a mouse. Melissa comes shooting around the corner, “was that you?” “No” I reply. Conan, at full attention darts into the kitchen. I follow. Moments pass and nothing. Then just as I’m about to give up, I see it in the top of the stove. A tail flashes by, another squeak and it disappears as quick as it appeared. “We have a mouse.”

That night I go to buy a mouse trap, I know we have a cat, but having him present me with a bloody gift when I wake up wasn’t on the top of my list. I go to the restaurant on the corner. The owners are friends of ours and I figured they may have something to deal with mice. They do, but it isn’t pleasant. It’s the old standby, the glue trap. I bring it home and sheepishly show Melissa. She’s upset and rightly so. This thing is practically torture. Mice get stuck on them, freak out. I’ve heard stories of them chewing their legs off. The only fix is to crumple the glue trap and end their misery. It isn’t pleasant and I wasn’t looking forward to it either. I also knew we weren’t going to just live with the mouse. I launch into cleaning mode, pull the stove, sweep and disinfect everything. I honestly don’t see a lot of signs of mice, but there’s a part under the cabinet that I can’t get to, my hunch says that’s where they are entering and exiting. I put down a glue trap, Melissa continues to cry.

The night passes and the next day when I get home from work, no sign of a mouse. I pick up the glue trap and throw it out. I don’t want to live with a mouse, but I also don’t want Melissa to be the one to discover the mouse. Also, truth be told, I don’t want to have to crush a mouse to put it out of it’s misery either. I decide to keep the house clean and see if we can avoid the problem. After that, mostly silence from our friend. Occasional night time noise, but no signs of them near our food, all in plastic containers, or on the floor. I think to myself maybe a clean house and a cat is enough and move on with life.

Conan O’Brien, decidedly not in hunter mode.

A month goes by and I come home one night with plans to head out to my improv theater and hang out before going to see Mike Birbiglia perform his new special at BAM. I’m really excited about this night. I walk in the house getting ready to move Conan out of the way, since he always meets me at the door, and yet he’s not there. I look and Conan is in full on hunter mode in front of our coffee table. Hunched and staring, 100% of his concentration aimed at the coffee table. “Conan?” No movement. “Cone Bone? What are you doing?” No movement. I walk over and watch him for a minute, then on the opposite of the table I see the rug move. At least, that’s what I thought. Barely comprehending what I’m looking at, I stare at the rug for a second wondering, “when did we install moving carpet.” Then synapse connects to synapse and I realize there is a mouse slowly crawling out from the table and towards the couch. Conan snaps into action and flies after the mouse, it darts back under the coffee table and proceeds to circle it. Conan following and swatting at him the whole time. I’m standing like an idiot completely unaware of what to do or grab. There’s nothing around me for me to catch a mouse. As I’m standing there thinking I see the mouse run from one side of the coffee table and under the ottoman. Conan leaps across the room and dives towards the ottoman but it’s too low for him to get under. He swats at the mouse trying to play with his new, very fun toy to no avail. I quickly grab a small bowl from the kitchen and try to figure out how to lift an ottoman by myself and simultaneously drop a bowl on the mouse. As I’m doing the math in my head I see it move from the ottoman to the couch. That’s it, game over. There is no way for me to lift the couch in any useful way by myself, while also catching the mouse. I move Conan to the bedroom and setup an elaborate trap with a towel and peanut butter and wait.

And wait. Hours go by and this guy hasn’t made any moves. I begin to give up, assuming he had some other way back into a hiding place. I decide, completely grossed out, that I guess I’ll skip Birbiglia. I have to clean and catch this mouse. Melissa, via text, and seemingly unaware of how disgusting I felt this was, continued to urge me to go to the show. I order dinner and tell her I’m probably not going to go but we’ll see.

At 9:15pm. The last possible moment that I could catch this guy and still make the show, he makes his appearance. Slowly crawling from the couch to the ottoman. Fifteen minutes later he wanders out. I silently, bowl in hand, stand there waiting for him to get close enough for me to capture him. Sure enough, he wanders towards me and I strike. He’s wandering, exhausted, most likely terrified of the 17lb cat that has been probably playing with him for hours at this point. The moment the bowl lands on him he realizes he’s trapped and tries to escape. I slip a record underneath him and flip him over, throw a lid on and take him down to the industrial area of my neighborhood and drop him off. I get home and it’s 9:40pm. Melissa texts urging me one last time to go see Birbiglia and I do.

Melissa was late that night, we got in and took our seats and Birbiglia was doing a bit about his wife being so late to a yoga class that she just didn’t show up. I struggle to laugh at the shockingly accurate depiction of my life at that moment, but by the end am giving into laughter when he closes with a bit about dealing with a mouse in his house. Sometimes art imitates life.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m sitting in my living room. Now fully convinced that we have multiple mice, as the saying goes, when you see one… I’m watching TV and I hear it. A chirping squeak coming from the area near my TV. I mute everything and there it is. I walk up to my TV, my ceiling fan, what is it? I start to get out the flash light and search everywhere. My cat seems wholly unamused by any of this. “Lazy cat.” I think to myself. I’m clearly the only one concerned about this infestation we must surely have. After minutes of searching I give up. I have no idea what it is.

The next day, as I sit watching some TV with Melissa, I hear it again. I mute the TV, “See! It’s a mouse!” I say. “I’ve had mice growing up as pets, I’ve never heard a mouse like that.” She replies. There is no way I’m wrong. I’ve found the nest! I know it. I begin to google “mice chirping”. A youtube video. It’s the sound mice make when they are mating. I begin to lose my mind. I play the video for Melissa, somehow celebrating that I AM RIGHT. WE HAVE AN INFESTATION. Somehow, I consider this a victory. I begin to tear apart our entertainment center. Looking for mice droppings and holes. Our cat has gone into hunter mode in front of our TV before, sure it was months ago, but he’s done it! I’m convinced we have a whole hoard of mice making baby mice behind the wall of my TV.

Days go by and no physical signs. No scratching behind the wall, no droppings, no sightings. Every day I google to find more evidence that I’m right. We call the landlord to have an exterminator show up. They give me a date and I tell my boss I need to work from home. I’m finally going to get rid of this chirping, if it’s the last damn thing I do. The landlord last minute switches the time that the exterminator is coming and I miss the window. I stay home the next day to see if he’ll show. As I begin to work on my laptop, it starts. The damn chirping. “It’s the heat kicking on! It got cold out recently and this is the first we’ve had it on!” I mute everything and turn our radiators off. The chirping starts to fade, then stops. “A HA! I figured it out!” Then 30 minutes later it starts again. I check our thermostat, the heat isn’t running. What the hell? I start to have thoughts of cutting into the drywall. See what’s there. Even if it’s 1000 mice and they flood out of the wall when I open it up, at least then I will know where this chirping sound is coming from. I’ve been sitting in silence for days. One by one trying to eliminate the sound. Finally, I decide it must be my receiver for my speakers. I leave it on for 30 minutes with nothing else. There’s no sound. MY TV?!? I turn it on with nothing else for 30 minutes. No sound. MY XBOX?!?!?!? I leave it on for 30 minutes. No sound. I give up, it’s mice. We’re infested and this is my new life. Welcome me, Matt, Lord of the chirping mouse choir.

I turn on my tv and throw on Hulu to distract myself. Ten minutes into watching it starts again. Furious I fly over to where the TV is and put my ear near my receiver. Nothing. My TV. Nothing. My XBox. EUREKA! I go back to my computer and google “chirping xbox”. A hundred results turn up. One after the other “it’s the fan in the xbox, it only kicks on when the system is trying to cool itself. Clean it out and it’ll go away.” That explains it! It only turns on when the Xbox is playing video or something, not just sitting there patiently waiting. I immediately write Melissa “I FOUND IT!” We celebrate via text as only one person who was slowly going mad could with a person who was quietly watching it happen. Myself relieved that I am indeed not only NOT crazy, but that we have no infestation. Melissa, that her husband may finally give up his mad crusade and calm down.

I’m happy to say that the combination of cat and clean house appears to be working. We have had no signs of mice in over a month or so. I’ve even somewhat gained my sanity back and stopped pausing the TV every time I hear something move in the house. We live in Brooklyn, we may never truly be free of mice, but hopefully I won’t be opening any holes up in the wall anytime soon to solve it.