Katie called me today with some disturbing news.

“Murph,” she said.  “You know how before I left you warned me about that tick you found on your dashboard today?”

“Yeah,” I responded, recalling the large eight-legged blood-sucker skittering around my volume control, nearing digging into my skin like a mole.  “The parasite was big too.  I nearly crashed into an old woman and half-a-dozen parked cars before I could kill it.”

“Right, well I got off the interstate a moment ago when I felt something crawl along my feet,” Katie told me dramatically.  “I was like ‘Oh my gosh!  A spider! I got a friggin’ wolf-spider in my car.  It’s going to bite me and I’m going to die.’  Guess what it was?”

“I don’t know . . . a tick?”  Frankly I find ticks to be much more frightening than spiders . . . well at least the normal spiders we have around here, which are nowhere near as big as some of the South American varieties.  Those monsters kill birds.  Have you ever seen a spider take down a crow?  If so, I highly recommend the Delmarva area.

“No!  A mouse!” she nearly screamed over the phone.  “A mouse.  In.  My. Car.  And then when I got to BJs to meet Mom, there was another one in the passenger seat, munching on something.  Sitting on its hind legs like it owned the joint.  Murph, my car is infested with mice . . . Stop laughing!”

“Sorry,” I say wiping the tears from my eyes.  “Just be careful on the way home though.  Mice sometimes can chew through wires and stuff.  I don’t know much about your car, but I’m sure some of that must control your brakes, accelerator or your radio, right?”

“Oh thanks, Murph,” Katie sighed.  In the background Mom asks her which brand of trash bags we need.  Kate repeats the question to me.  I tell her the largest brand they sell with handles.  “ . . . yeah, the ones with the blue handles there.  Yeah, those.  Well, you know whose to blame, right?”

“Sean, didn’t necessarily bring the mice in your car, girl.”

Say hello to my little friend . . . “But he’s been driving it for the last few weeks, leaving me with no gas and a backseat full of empty drinks and McDonalds trash.  Mouse treats.  I probably have an ant problem too.  Army ants with my luck.  Or snakes.  Ugh, snakes . . . I’m going to kill him.”

“Well, they would get rid of your mouse problem . . .”

“Uh, thanks but no thanks.  I’ll take my chances with Mickey and Minnie . . .”

Pest Propaganda

Ehrlich Pest Control just posted a new series of commericials that had the boys and me cackling on the drive to school this morning.  Taking a cue perhaps from the Grimm fairy tales or the more bloody inspirations behind many nursery rhymes, the folks at Ehrlich (or their skilled ad agency) have devised the following songs, which I reprint from memory.

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey
When along came a spider
who was dead right beside her . . .

The pest control company is mentioned then as the voice of storyteller fades away here, menacingly as if barely able to restrain her giggles.  Frankly the thought of a dead spider lying beside me as I sit down is actually much more frightening than a live one.  Does Miss Muffet continue to eat her curds and whey, shrugging off the dead arachnid?  She should at least consider the presence of toxic fumes.  Moreover, are not spiders more like Nature’s own pest control?  Is this the way Ehrlich deals with the competition  — like Al Capone in The Untouchables?

Hickory Dickory Dock
The mouse never ran up the clock
That’s because the Ehrlich-man killed him . . .

Again the frankness of that last line, perfectly executed by the storyteller — think Mr. Rogers, calm and soothing — brought us to tears, laughing and nearly rolling the SUV into the median.

The final ad was sung by a chorus of young giggling girls (perhaps daughters of the first Miss Muffet’s storyteller), which would sound creepy and unnerving regardless, but the ad compliments the tone by including their faux-innocent laughter as the song closes:

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran away from the Erlich-man
Who left them dead in the back of his van
Three blind mice . . . (music ends; girlish giggles fade into the company identification)

Shudder.  We nearly swerved into oncoming traffic on that one.  Doing away with all pretense of Disney’s happy singing mice, the ad really nails the head on what the company seeks to accomplish.  Honestly if I were any rodent I’d welcome the Erlich-man scythe as long as he kept those girls muzzled on a short leash. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the recordings on the web to humor (or unsettle) you for the rest of the day, yet I did manage to uncover this interesting gem:

Mouse and Trap

I failed to construct a better mousetrap yesterday. Wait . . . scratch that. I successfully built a Fudd-ian wabbit twap that failed to capture a tiny field mouse nibbling at my doorstep. Now this should not have surprised me as old Elmer could never really catch Bugs, but once again I allowed reason and science to usurp the omniscient truth of Loony Tune logic:

1) Traps will never catch rabbits but will always catch something: a bear, a bomb, your foot.

2) Gravity does not exist unless you acknowledge it.

3) A giant rubber band trumps rocket propulsion

4) Nothing is impossible as long as it’s funny.

Say hello to my little friend . . .

Nevertheless the assembly amused me greatly as well as provided ample excuse to ignore my assignments for another half-hour (Web surfing had grown dull). Collecting some string, a pencil, and a small bin, I constructed my simple twap and after setting some pistachio nuts underneath waited patiently in my chair like Jaws’ Quint for the beasty to take the bait.

The Trap is Set . . .

I should note here that I do not relish killing animals, lest you think I am an ignorant buffoon unaware of the various lethal traps, glue, and shotguns available to combat rodents. Buffoon perhaps, ignorant no. My mother and the vast majority of the 4-H attending siblings take great satisfaction (or at least no remorse) in killing mice, a characteristic I imagine common to children raising Ms. Piggy for prize money, fresh bacon, and the continued abundance of Slim Jims. From their standpoint mice contaminate household food; ruin livestock feed; and retain fleas, famous for biting, itching, and breeding plague every so often. Although never possessing much of a palate for disease, I nevertheless take a much more Buddhist approach towards animals and even pests – except flies or mosquitoes, for even benevolence has its limits – lest Karma strike me down or I inadvertently whack a reincarnated great-great-great-uncle simply because we share a love for the same brand of Irish cheddar.

I waited anxiously in my chair for several minutes, staring at the gap where the mouse had departed only moments before, the line tight in my hand. Beads of water began streaming down my face (I had just showered, you see). Another minute passed. Another yawn. At this point my AADS was ready to throw in the towel, when the mouse bolted from its hiding place. Ignoring the pistachio nuts and leaping past my trap, it raced across the tile seeking a haven under my desk, yet anticlimactically trapping itself there. No gap or hole through which to escape, I scooped up the little guy in a bin and dropped him outside. Game over, no foul.

Game, set, match.

Aesop once wrote a story about a lion and mouse. He believed that all kindness is eventually rewarded in some way. Aesop was both a Greek and a realist. We Irish never had Aesop; we had Murphy. And Murphy was an optimist. Murphy believed that no good deed no matter how small or insignificant goes unpunished. Thus, in case my readers should think that I might be thanked in some mouse-y way, presented with a cheese wheel or freed from a cannibal’s net, think again. Such superstitions exist only in old tales. Mice will not help you accomplish any Herculean tasks or transmute straw into gold. Moreover, kissing a mouse will not produce some fairy princess or free a beautiful ensorcelled maiden. The few fur fibers left on my swollen purple tongue are proof enough of that.

Murphey’s Law for Children Young and Old: Do not attempt to kiss any unfamiliar man, woman, mouse or toad unless it audibly asks you to.