Can you leave an exterminator in your house when you go to work? I’ve never had mice before.
I was running up the stairs pulling my tights up when the doorbell rang. Shit. I had to carry on up to get my skirt before I could go answer it though. The guy at the door, with his grey blue overalls, and his toolkit box in his hand, was older than I expected. Probably late sixties. “Hello love. Mice is it?” he greeted me. I hadn’t really thought what to expect, and I brought him in to the kitchen.
“Yes, I’m afraid it is.” I told him as I led him through the house. He didn’t seem to have much with him, which surprised me. I had a feeling it would be one of those things like when you tell the mechanic on the phone what’s wrong with your car, they come and have a look, agree with your diagnosis, and then go off to get what they need, instead of bringing it with them in the first place. I thought he was going to make a cursory look, to earn the callout charge, and come back later with a contraption that catches mice. But I poured him a cup of tea, pointed to where I’d seen mice, and ran up stairs to get my handbag and brush my teeth.
When I got back down to the kitchen, the mouse man was sitting at the table, with his cup of tea, and a plate of crackers. I stood in the doorway and watched as he then took out a little bit of cheese, from his toolbox. Great, so I’d selected the only exterminator in the phonebook who doesn’t even wait for you to get out the way before slacking off? Just my luck. I felt wary about leaving him in the house at all, but I didn’t really have a choice.
“My husband’s still in bed” I lied, “so don’t bother him when you go, he’ll either be sleeping or working. I’ve got to go to work now. Are you alright to get on with things?” It wasn’t even subtle.
“Yes dear, I’ll be done in about ten minutes or so,” he smiled.
I didn’t even have time to quibble with him, I wanted to get to work early, office politics required I kiss a little ass this week, but it wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t feeling so generous after all though, and I pulled him up on his method of starting the job with a break.
“Not to worry, pet, this is how I get them. I’m not skiving, this gets the mice out.”
“What?” I puzzled, not even sure if he expected me to believe that a nice-cup-of-tea-and-a-sit-down would actually rid me of tiny, paper-nibbling vermin.
“See the cheese brings them out, and then I can catch them. Simple as.” I still failed to see how mousetraps weren’t a more obvious choice.
“I know what you’re thinking, probably, crazy old fool. But the truth is, cheese and crackers look their best when someone else is eating them. Makes the mice want it, really want it. The mice see me with cheese and crackers, and they come to me. I can’t explain it better than that.”
“Does it always work?” I asked.
“Not always. Only for the last forty years or so. Couldn’t get it right at first.”
Great. So I was leaving a crazy man in my beautiful house to lure the mice while my fictional husband slept/worked upstairs, and I went off to charm people I don’t even like into promoting me over that stupid new kid from the third floor. She looks about twelve or something. There better not be any mice in my house when I get home.
I had already filled in my payment details online, when I booked my visit from the mouse man. That afternoon, I ate a quick lunch at my desk. I checked my personal email to see if I’d had any kind of report from the pest control company, about my house. There was an email, not from them, but from firstname.lastname@example.org. There was one attachment which was a jpeg, and I clicked on it and waited while I took hungry bites out of my soggy tuna salad sandwich. As it loaded from the top of the screen to the bottom, I first saw the tops of trees, then the mouse man’s bald head, then his bent back, his hanging arms, the thick wooded surroundings, the bucket he was tipping out- live mice scurrying away. He’d taken the mice, and tipped them out in the woods? Where were there even any woods like that near here? I thought about the person taking the picture, the mouse man had knocked on my door alone. Had he left his grandchild waiting for him in the van? Was there another mouse man in the area, did they meet for lunch?
I waited till I got back to my pretty little kitchen before I jumped for joy. There it was, still standing, everything as it should be, exactly as it should be; no mice. There was the little plate by the sink, with cracker crumbs on, just to prove he’d been here, and everything else was fine. That evening, sat at my computer, going back over today’s work, I clicked open my email again. I looked at Bob tipping the mice out, I looked at his old brown boots. I hit reply, and thanked him.