To a Mousie

I live adjacent to a farm field. Each year about this time, the farmer harvests his crop. Some years, it’s corn, some years it’s soy, once in a while, it’s something more exotic – wheat, maybe. After the harvest, the field is littered with missed crop. Ears and kernels of corn scatter the field. Or soybean pods are scattered about willy nilly. Invariably, however, the field is picked clean by the next morning. It’s the mice. The strip the field clean, storing provisions for the hard winter ahead.

Once their winter dining is assured, they search about for a warm place to sleep. Someplace protected from the elements. Someplace with fluffy bedding materials, and an out-of-the-way location. Someplace where the sun will bake down, warming their days. Someplace like my attic.

The first autumn we lived in the house, we began to hear sounds coming from our vaulted ceiling. Tiny footsteps would scamper along the ceiling for a few moments, then the sound of tiny sliding feet would be heard. The mice had arrived, and turned out attic into a playground. The time had come to investigate.

The hatch to the attic was in the Master Bedroom closet. Brilliant, really. By placing it there, the architect ensured that anyone entering the attic would send a shower of blow-in fiberglass insulation onto our clothing. I draped the closet contents with old sheets and climbed up, adding this to the lengthening list of reasons I hate the architect of my home, whomever he or she may be. After prying open the attic hatch, I climbed into the darkness. My questing flashlight beam located a single lightbulb nailed to the rafter above me. I pulled the string.

A veritable mousie wonderland was revealed. The blown-in insulation had been crafted by mouse-engineers into a plethora of tunnels, their openings leering darkly at me from the yellow fluff. Here and there, scattered droppings lay. One thing was clear, I was on their turf. They hadn’t noticed me yet, but it was surely only a matter of time. I had a vision of the mice climbingturning in unison and rushing me, burying me in their furry little biting and scratching bodies. My heart beat fast as climibng back down the ladder, carefully (oh, ever so carefully) reseating the attic hatch.

Over the years since, packet upon packet of rodent poison has been applied to the attic, and the sounds of playing mice are no longer heard. Dad helped me install a drop down ladder in the bedroom so that the attic could be accessed without spilling fiberglass insulation all over our clothes. We built a platform to give us a bit of storage space, and we re-located the light to a more convenient spot. Everything was looking good - until this past weekend.

That’s when I noticed the smell. It was subtle at first, just a whiff. Had I stepped in something? Was the neighbor’s dog playing with roadkill? Did my shoes really smell that bad? No obvious source presented itself, and I dismissed it. The next day, it was worse, and I asked The Wife if she could smell it, then TheGirl. Both were unsure, thinking maybe they smelled something.
As the days passed, the odor intensified, until everyone could smell it. After two more days of the odor intensifying, the odor was undeniable. It was the smell of a carcass rotting in the wall of our bedroom closet. A mouse carcass. They'd found a way to get their revenge.

We determined that we'd have to track down the beast and cut it's wee corpse from the wall. Two days later, I still haven't done it. When the smell was at its strongest, I shuddered to think what it would be like once I cut open the tomb. I've been known to gag at the thought of spoiled milk, and this leaves that smell in the dust. But now, the smell seems to be fading. It's still there, but a fan in the closet during the day helps to disperse it, and a bit of febreeze is keeping our clothes fresh-smelling. I think this may be one of those situations where procrastination pays off. I don't have to bear the full brunt of the smell, and I don't have to handle the liquefying corpse. It's a win-win.

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