The ongoing story of a girl and her van on an epic journey across Canada.
Allow me to open with two stories that I believe are relevant to what happened last Friday.
My dad bought a house on one of the gulf islands a few years ago. The island is lovely and his property is a darn fine piece of land. But the house, well, let’s just say that it was built around 30 years ago by a butcher whose priority was obviously not the longevity of the structure. Nothing against butchers. They just ain’t carpenters. I wouldn’t trust a carpenter to turn a cow carcass into delicious steaks, and I now know not to trust a butcher to build a house.
I went with dad to view the house shortly after he bought it. It was his first time sleeping surrounded by those walls. Those thin, uninsulated, mouse-filled walls.
We lay camped out on the kitchen floor listening to the scritching and scratching of tiny little feet on plywood, running up and down and all around, dad trying to pretend that he hadn’t just bought his own private petting zoo. For months and months after that, any noise in the night would jolt him awake screaming, Damn you, mousie! Okay, maybe he didn’t scream. But to this day phone calls usually include an update of how many mice were caught in his various rodent-killing schemes.
I never think to buy, or apply, bug spray. I was talking to my sister Angie a few months ago, after I’d been nearly eaten to death by mosquitoes in Manitoba, and she said, Yeah, when the bugs are that bad bug spray doesn’t help at all, and I slapped my forehead and thought bug spray! Of course! Why don’t I have any of that? And then promptly didn’t buy any.
Weeks later when I was leaving the States I popped into a department store to spend up some of my US cash on sundry items. A new tooth brush, shampoo, deodorizers for my van…and I walked by a massive bug spray display. A few aisles later I clued into what I’d seen and walked back to grab some.
I came across it crammed in the back of a cupboard about a week ago, vaguely remembered buying it, and strongly remembered all the times since I could have used it. So I placed it in a spot of honor in one of my cup holders.
Day 110 (Friday, Aug 27)
I was sleeping soundly in my bed in Pistolet Bay National Park. It’s way up at the top of Newfoundland’s Northern peninsula. For the first time since I got to Newfoundland, it was cold and damp and rainy. I was snug and warm, and not happy to be woken up.
That’s got to be outside. Right?
I lay in bed trying to ignore the obvious sound of something trying to get into a chip back in my food cupboard. For those unfamiliar with my van, this cupboard is directly behind the driver seat — an important visual for later.
I got up, instantly freezing cold, and tried to arm myself. Flashlight for seeing, pot for catching, and if that failed, one litre container of engine oil for bashing. I opened the cupboard and! Nothing? Hmm…I sat still for a while and heard nothing. So I turned off the light and went back to bed.
But this time it didn’t sound like it’s in the cupboard. I beamed my flashlight at the driver seat and caught a glimpse of a little brown mouse hanging out on my foot mat. It quickly disappeared, but I couldn’t see where.
It’s possible to climb from the back of the van to the front seat, but not with any sort of grace or style, and certainly not sneakily enough to surprise a mouse. So, grumbling, I exited the van, walked around to the front, and threw the driver door open.
I poked around. There’s a piece of loose carpet that covers some fuses and wires. Is it hiding in there? No. Did it run up into the back and is now cuddled in my bed? Probably. I closed the door and got startled by that damn mouse running along my bumper. How the heck did it get there? Who cares? It’s out! I went back to bed.
I opened my food cupboard and there’s that damn mouse, perching in front of a granola bar munching away, giving me a cheeky look like yeah, I’m eating your peanut butter crunch. Whatcha gonna do about it?
Oh I’ll tell you what I’m going to do! I’m going to cry! TAKE THAT SMELLY STUPID FACE!
You know that old joke they do in films and cartoons where someone is being chased and you see them run into one room and then out of another, and then they peer out of a closet and go back in, only to emerge from a cupboard in another room, etc, etc? Well, what happened next was like one of those scenes. The mouse would be in the cupboard, then disappear, only to reappear on my driver seat, then disappear again, then he’d be in the cupboard again, then slipping under my foot mat…and on…and on.
I sat there there watching the magic act and wishing for some little traps and some of my dad’s rat poison. I was considering taking some cheese and maybe lacing it with something. But what? I now realize how silly it is that I don’t travel with poison. It’s going to the top of my next shopping list.
Then my eyes fell upon my bug spray, sitting nonchalantly in the spare cup holder. That damn mouse was currently taking a nibble off my foot mat. I grabbed the bug spray and doused him good. This sent us both scurrying out of the van at top speed: me out the side door and him using that loose carpet to make his get away. Ah, is that how he travels in and out of the cupboard? Is there an underground passage that leads him straight to my food supply? And then outside? If so, I have a stern letter to write to Volkswagen.
Once the toxic cloud had cleared enough so I could breath I ventured back into the van. I emptied all of my canned goods into a box and sprayed the cupboard too. Then I sat very still, listening.
I finally went back to bed. The next few hours were spent ignoring the lingering sent of bug spray wafting through the air and jumping at every little noise. Mouse? No….MOUSE?? No…. Karma for not being terribly sympathetic to my dad’s plight? Perhaps.
In the morning I awoke to a huge mess. Food all over the floor, pots and pans spread out all willy nilly. Gosh, it looks like someone was trying to catch a mouse in the dark!
Mouse © Dano @ Flickr. Some rights reserved.
This article was first published on Raggedy Threads in August 2010.