01 June 2010

Maduka and the Mouse

No, I am not writing a children's book, although that would make a good title. The story would be a realistic, if not particularly child-friendly, tale of dealing with rodents.

I do not fear many things. I don't fear heights or snakes or spiders. I slightly fear tightly enclosed spaces. I have an overwhelming, undignified fear of rodents, especially rats and mice. I know this is irrational, and I have had loads of people tell me how rodents are more afraid of me than I am of them (I'm skeptical). Regardless, I've been thanking God that I haven't seen any mice around my house, probably because there are about eight cats that patrol the grounds.

Edit: I HADN'T seen any mice, until two weeks ago.

It was a Sunday night, and I was asleep. I woke up to hear the small bag of garbage on the floor in my room rustling. Since this post is obviously about a mouse, I'm sure you've guessed what was in the bag, but I was thinking it might be a cockroach, since we do have plenty of those around, some the size of Matchbox cars. I turned on my flashlight and pointed it at the rustling bag, which immediately stopped moving. Suspicion started to burgeon in the back of my mind, so I got a long nail file from my bedside table and poked the bag gently. I might have screamed a bit when a grey tail flicked into sight then disappeared again.

The distance between my bed and the door had never seemed so long, and before visions of the mouse running out of the bag over or, worse, under my feet could become too real, I jumped for the door. I had one thought in my head: "Maduka".

Maduka is our watchman. He's a member of our church, and has been really faithful and helpful at the house. He not only keeps watch, but also burns our garbage for us, sweeps the compound daily, and trims the bushes when needed. He has helped us with countless small tasks, and I knew he was my only hope of dealing with that mouse. I ran down the hallway, turning on lights as I went with complete disregard for my sleeping roommates. I paused in the living room to look up the word "mouse" in our English-Swahili dictionary, then ran out to the front porch where Maduka sits. He looked up in alarm at my abrupt appearance, and I gasped out "Naona panya! Ninaogopa sana!" (I see a mouse! I am fearing much!)

He followed me into my bedroom, where I stayed in the doorway and pointed to the corner where I had seen the mouse. He started moving the furniture looking for the mouse, which failed to appear. He probably was starting to think I had been dreaming when I saw the mouse run from under my bed. I yelled and pointed to the corner where it had run, and he moved the trunk it was hiding behind. It started running around the room, so I leaped onto my bed pointing and making girly noises of fear. Maduka had taken off his shoe, and was chasing behind the mouse trying to whack it with his shoe. We must have made quite a picture.

Finally the mouse ran out the door of my bedroom with Maduka right behind him. There were two doors the mouse might have disappeared through: the empty bedroom we use as a storeroom for the program and Leah's bedroom. Maduka thought the mouse had gone into the storeroom behind a bunch of mattresses, but there's no electricity in that room, so we couldn't check. I decided to use the power of elimination and check out Leah's bedroom. By this time our temporary roommate Rachel was out of her bed and watching as I opened the door of Leah's room. She looked up at me in sleepy confusion while I explained that there might be a mouse in her room. I explained it twice, from the doorway, then asked her to move her curtains to make sure the mouse wasn't hiding behind them. (I was NOT going in that room until I knew for sure the mouse wasn't there. It wasn't.) I told her I would put something across the bottom of her door so the mouse couldn't get in, and she went back to sleep. Maduka moved all my furniture back, and Rachel and I both laid clothes across the cracks at the bottom of our doors and went to sleep.

The next day, Monday, was our Sabbath. We ran some errands in town, then came back to the house and played cards, but the whole time my mind was on that mouse in the storeroom. Finally, I devised a plan, and Rachel and Leah bravely helped me put it into effect. We moved all of the mattresses into the hallway, then I blocked the doorway with a mat so that the mouse couldn't run out. Leah had the broom and Rachel had a plastic basin we use for washing clothes. Methodically they worked their way through the hospital kits on the floor of that room, expecting at any moment for the mouse to run out. Finally it did, and hid under a stacked bed frame in the corner. After we all screamed and danced around a bit, Leah started try to scare the mouse to run out in a certain direction, which it did, and Rachel was ready to trap it with the basin. We jumped up and down screaming, from triumph and delight instead of surprise and/or terror this time, then put a box of paper on top of the basin, just in case.

When Maduka arrived that evening, I triumphantly led him to the storeroom and pointed at the basin, announcing "Panya!" (Mouse!) He looked astonished that we had caught the mouse, then we told him we wanted him to kill it. He took the box of paper off, and started scooting the basin toward the living room, planning to kill it on the front porch. He ran into a problem when he couldn't move the basin over the lip of the front door lintel without losing the mouse, so he slid the basin back and forth several times, hoping to daze the mouse. I realized what he was going to do, and jumped onto the couch, just in case. He lifted the edge of the basin, and when the mouse started to make a break for freedom, he brought the basin down on its back, killing it instantly. He flicked the dead mouse outside while we thanked him profusely.

As I said, not exactly a child-friendly tale, but we have proudly repeated it to almost everyone we know because we caught a mouse, and that makes us feel pretty bad-ass (even though I mostly just stood around squealing while other people did the work).

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