A couple weeks ago, I walked into the kitchen and found Cady, the general of my cat army, staring at the stove as if she expected it to move. I’ve spent enough years with the cat army to realize this behavior typically means a vermin intruder has penetrated the perimeter, so I checked the previous points of entry. I didn’t see any evidence of vermin, though. What’s more, the rags I had stuffed inside holes remained there and my makeshift spackling jobs had held. Nonetheless, I moved the food from the pantry and to the oven, the refrigerator and the microwave.
We went on with our lives and, a few evenings later, I heard a scratching noise underneath the bathtub. The next evening, the cat army and I gathered around the wall between the bathroom and hallway and listened to what sounded like a rhinoceros crawling up the wall. A few nights later, I heard a ruckus that sounded like a crash of rhinos galloping throughout the house.
I didn’t want to interfere, so I returned to slumber. The next morning, I didn’t see evidence of foul play, so I assumed the cats had spent the night engaged in paw-to-paw combat with one another.
That brings us to last weekend. Whilst cleaning, I moved a box so that I could sweep. That’s when I spotted vermin droppings. They were few in number and concentrated in a small area near a corner.
I was perplexed.
I asked myself, “Self, why did the vermin only poo here? And how did it get in?” I returned to previous points of entry, but once again found nothing. But this time I also checked the cabinet above the stove, where I found a few droppings. That made sense because the cabinet was in the general location of the smell…
Oh, wait, I had forgotten to mention the smell that had been offending my nostrils for three or four days. I assumed it was coming from a rhino that had somehow lost its life in the wall behind the stove.
As I had no plans to tear down the wall, I also assumed I would have to live with the smell, which at times took my breath away. And not in a good way. Regardless, I went on with my life, cleaning the cabinet above the stove and stuffing old rags and spackle into holes.
After I cleaned my mess, I attempted to return the stove to his usual locale, but I quickly stopped, backed away from the stove and gasped. The smell overwhelmed me. Apparently, the offensive odor was coming from inside the stove. Specifically, from the top right corner of the back of the stove.
Whatever had died in there wasn’t going to get itself out, so I borrowed a tool from my neighbor and removed the stove’s back panel. When I saw a dead mouse staring at me, I backed away from the stove and gasped.
For moral support, I called to Cady, who quickly joined me in the kitchen. But she gave me a look that suggested she felt the cat army had done their job and now it was my turn.
So, I used napkins and a tool to dislodge the mouse. That’s when I noticed the trail of dried blood. I’ve watched dern-near every episode of “CSI,” so I reconstructed the scene. Apparently, the cat army had corned the mouse, which accounted for the droppings, and then chased it to its death, perhaps even fatally wounding it, on the night of the ruckus.
Either way, the cat army had done their job. So I showered them with praise and treats, and then we held a private service for the mouse.
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.
Funny you should be sharing this episode. After my mother passed away last April, my wife and I had been going to her house to clean, go through papers, prepare items for donation, etc. One day just a few weeks ago, we unlocked the door, entered, and were nearly knocked off our feet by that rancid fragrance of death. For hours we wandered the house telling each other, “Oh, I think it’s something over here.” Finally we had the source of the odor narrowed down to the kitchen, mainly by the stove. I tipped the stove up for my wife to peek beneath. Nothing. I removed all the screws securing the back panel, set the panel aside, and found a large, very-dead rat, its teeth wrapped around the terminal where the big red wire was connected. The insulation batting around the wires was likely what it was going for, as it looked as though it had been pulled at. Once this nauseating spectacle was disposed of, the house began to smell like an old house again (with the help of some candles). Luckily, we’re guessing, the visitor hadn’t commenced its eternal sleep for more than a day or two before.
Although I knew the vermin was there, when my eyes finally found it, I heard the Psycho music in my head.