My favourite items to receive in my loot bag on Halloween were Wagon Wheels. I make no bones about this. I hand them out to the kids who come to our door now, always saving one for myself. My least favourite items – enemies, even – were bulk-bin orange-and-black wrappered toffees doled out by thrifty-pantsed clueless types who obviously had lost touch with their own childhoods. But I digress.
Mice. I suspect they are even searching for cracks in our house as I recant this tale. I know they are after me. A dusting of early fall snow last year revealed tracks around and about our weathered foundation.
Halloween 1985, 10 years old, and I return home from a valiant night of trick-or-treating, an old pillowcase slung over one tired shoulder, straining under the weight of a champion Halloween stockpiling. Within days all chocolate had been purged. By mid-November chips and raisin boxes were consumed. Not long thereafter, Rockets, Sweet-Tarts and suckers were subsequently taken down.
What remained were the toffees. Countless toffees. In said old pillowcase. In my closet, left in spite. It was no coincidence that with winter came the mice. They invaded the confines of our dark unfinished basement and, to no one's surprise but my own, my bedroom closet. My mom scolded me over the abandoned loot bag and set out little stacks of death-bringing poison pellets. And then – no more mice.
I grew older and out of Halloween traditions, and my bedroom evolved into an everyday teenager haunt. Despite my best efforts to keep the place clean, I was teen-aged – and as such did not smell the rotting mouse corpse deep underneath the Billy bookshelf units.
We moved from that house in the summer of '92. As I made disappear long-obscured dust bunnies and dirtpiles with the family's never-quit 1960s-era Hoover, I made a discovery. A tiny, curled, sleeping mouse skeleton inside an orderly ring of brown-grey fur and dried insect shells. The grisly scene rattled into the vacuum hose, and was quickly gone. I did not tell a soul.
Halloween 2002, and the onset of a cruel winter. I was then living in a small but decent apartment in a ramshackle building for four years, but had not seen mice until this time. Watching Battlebots on a late Friday night, I detected a darting form from the corner of my eye.
Mouse. I knew it to be true, and I was on the case instantly. With a can of compressed air I flushed it from hiding time and time again, looking to corner and trap the beastie. It escaped my hockey stick-wielding clutches.
I set about mouse-proofing my pad, but to no avail; the apartment was made of holes. That winter many mice invaded my space, yet none would munch on my munchables nor take bait from the standard traps placed about the suite. They did not even make poop. They seemed interested only in passing through, announcing their skittery presence with a squeak or two, then vanishing – likely to filthier apartments within the building.
I had to strike at them with the last resort of any mouse-hunter: the dread sticky trap. All my resident mice did were walk; I had to strike at them where they walked. Thus began a wintertime opus of 4:00am piercing peals for mercy. What ensued: a quick tipping of the gooey plastic tray and its squirming contents into a Nike shoe-box, a closing of the lid, then a boxer-shorts-and-parka death march to the dumpster outside. One mouse out of the house, the shoe-box cocked and ready for the next transport. Five times this ritual occurred in total before the hordes were extirpated from my home.
Five celestial rodents now await me in the afterlife. Six, I guess – with one giant plastic tray of gooey spread toffee for my own personal Han Solo carbonite treatment. But they are waiting.