I have something really terrible to confess. It haunts me every single day.
When we were living in Cape Town, before the big move, our old place had mice. Little field mice, the type that’s as big as your palm. Harmless. But there were dozens of them. Every night I’d hear them squeak as they ran across the kitchen counters in the dark, transporting the leftover pizza from dinner. They hid behind the fridge and below the kitchen sink. That’s where they’d run to when I’d enter the kitchen at night.
I used to not mind having them around at all. At one time I counted about 15 mice. I was working on my laptop in the kitchen one night. The house was dead quiet, and then it started. One by one they appeared from behind the fridge, crawled up the microwave cable and onto the kitchen counter. That was their route. I’d watch them for hours playing on the counter, between the kettle, the toaster and the sink. I imagined them doing synchronised dancing on the counter. Until someone else walked into the kitchen, and then they’d disperse. I’d whisper to MJ or to my mum… “Just watch.” while waving my finger in front of my lips, signalling for them to be quiet. I just wanted them to see the mice the way I saw them, in their element. But both of them would probe why on Earth I was just sitting there, watching the mice. To me, it was like an episode from the Peter Rabbit series… but in real life.
I ignored the obvious fact that the mice were rodents from outside, and they were carrying all sorts of germs with them and spreading it across all the dishes and things in the kitchen. Obviously, they had to go.
When I got home one day my mum had set up mouse traps all around the kitchen. One of the mice were caught in them, but he hadn’t died yet. He was just stuck there, injured and suffering. I couldn’t watch. I hoped he would die soon because I couldn’t watch. That night, I made my way to the kitchen once more.. not turning on the light this time. The injured mouse was no longer alive. The other 14 mice were on the kitchen counter, watching him. A few of them went closer and formed a square around the mouse trap. They just stood there on their hind legs, watching the dead mouse in the mousetrap – and the mood (I swear) was very melancholic. It was like they knew that their time here was coming to an end, and they had to leave soon or face being killed.
Of course, I wanted them to leave too. But not in that way.
The next few weeks were followed by mouse traps and tricks to get them to leave. But it seemed as if they just multiplied. There were now more mice than the first 15 I counted. And the baby mice were about the size of my thumb. I didn’t know how we were going to get rid of them, but I knew they had to leave really soon. It’s not hygienic for humans to share a home with field mice.
I was in the bathroom one afternoon and I spotted one of them dash across the floor. At first, I thought it was a cockroach and I ran for the Doom insect spray. I moved the white basket and all the fresh toilet rolls came tumbling down. That’s when I spotted the fat grey mouse. I sprayed him with Doom. And I died a little inside. I sprayed him so much that his fur turned black. He didn’t die. I think the Doom just made him a little drunk. He stood there hidden between the fresh toilet rolls wiping his eyes from the Doom. I couldn’t leave him like that. I was caught between catching him and giving him a bath or just continuing to spray him so that he’d eventually die. That chase went on for a solid 10 minutes. The Doom slowed him down, so I could eventually corner him. I used the flat mop and I squashed him. It was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. Farewell my friend.
With love and solid ground