Scary Stuff

My father was afraid of nothing, nothing except mice. He was a brave man in every other respect but let a mouse enter his line of vision and he’d scream and jump on top of the nearest table. My mother, on the other hand, was a strong armed mouse whacker who dealt with them with quick dispatch. No traps or chemicals needed.

I was reminded of vermin, rodents and assorted other living creatures this Shabbat afternoon as our Israeli family had our typical leisurely lunch where we shared todays and yesterdays. I don’t know how the topic changed to the most unpleasant residents of our houses and apartments but it did. Hence we concluded a delicious meal with talk about roaches, mice, bats and other creatures who share our planet.

I remembered an incident at our home in Clark, New Jersey. My husband had gone to Europe for business, leaving me alone with the four little kids and our dog. And a mouse in the garage. I recall opening the garage door and seeing the slithery guy racing to some astute hiding place. I’m sure he was as terrified as I was, although that’s hard to believe. I had no idea of what to do but I knew I’d have to either evacuate the house, kids and all, or get the racing rodent expelled, evacuated or executed. So I did what any neighbor of Terry Ward would do. I called Terry Ward. She was the next door neighbor of my dreams come true. She surfaced whenever there was a need and always knew exactly how to proceed. She also sewed, baked dreamy chocolate chip cookies,and, get this, babysat!

Terry came over with no weapons in sight. Not a mousetrap or a toxic chemical. She asked for a broom. That’s all. I left her alone in the garage and shortly thereafter she emerged victorious. The mouse was never seen again. There was no evidence of a homicide (I know that’s a human but how does one say a mouse murder,rodenticide???) so I conclude that she was able to humanely teach the mouse a lesson, scaring him away from my garage forever. He never came back.

I suppose our Shabbat discussion started when my sister related her story this week about her neighbor’s juke. A juke is an Israeli version of a New York cockroach, but it’s usually immense, flies, and is totally terrifying. This particular neighbor has been very kind to my sister who is a widow. The neighbor and her husband have helped my sister with various events throughout the years, car related and minor apartment repair related. So when the neighbor woman frantically appeared at the door, practically speechless and panicked, my sister knew this was payback time. She would have to help with whatever the problem was.

The problem turned out to be a juke the size of a bird. Not an eagle for sure and not even a chicken but maybe a sparrow. The poor woman, and who can’t relate to this, was absolutely terrified. My sister was too but she has the right aura. She seems to be always calm and in control, just the type you’d want to get rid of an enormous flying juke. So, armed with some toxic spray, she entered the apartment where the perpetrator calmly flew around, relaxed and self confident.

Spray turns out to be only moderately effective. It causes a slowdown on the juke engine but clearly doesn’t put it out of commission. So the neighbor implores my sister, who wants to be almost anywhere else, to please dispense with the obnoxious creature. The juke is seriously suffering but very much still among the living when my sister decides a paper towel would do the trick. Israel is not known for the strength of its paper towels. Confronting a moribund juke is a big gamble with a paper towel as your weapon. So juke meets towel and towel squishes to disintegration with wriggling, squirming juke fighting it off. Crunching sounds are heard. Heavy breathing is coming from the two ladies. After a seemingly endless struggle, juke gives up and succumbs. My sister escapes as fast as humanly possible. The neighbor is grateful.

Israelis don’t believe, largely, in screens. I read an autobiography of Golda Meir years ago where she, who had grown up in Milwaukee, couldn’t understand why there were no screens in Israel. Gradually things are changing but it’s going to take a while. Israelis, with all their high-tech savvy, believe that screens impede the airflow, making the house stuffy. So, those nasty jukes can just fly in and make themselves at home. So easy.

A young friend of mine had his own juke experience in the nearby town of Givat Shmuel. His bedroom was on the top floor with its own attached roof.  The roof was a nice place to sit out on cool evenings and a really pleasant spot to have a party.  The roof was also recently the site of an invasion.  Of jukes.  It started with a couple each day which were dispensed of with a quick spray.  But as the population increased, as cockroaches generally do, he decided he needed to take more drastic measures.  Diligently he located what he thought was the home base of the creatures.  He treated them to a product designed to fool the jukes into thinking they were being served  a delicious meal. Said  meal was actually a nasty poison.  And so, thinking he’d just get rid of his uninvited guests in one fell swoop, my friend slathered the area with the gook.  This would do it!

Oy va voy.  The jukes, seemingly from around the world, got the message that someone was throwing a roof party with plenty of free juke food.  They told their friends.  Hundreds of them showed up. Maybe thousands. It was a bad scene.  Very bad.  He couldn’t sleep in his room for a while.  He learned to read the directions before doing the dastardly deed.

Eventually they all were executed and the room became his home again.  It took a while.  Score now:  friend 1.  jukes 0.  But they will no doubt resurface. They always do.

The last creatures of today’s tale are one of nature’s most maligned. Bats. The front of our Herzliya building is home to a thriving colony of bats.  Yeah. I know.  Bats are good guys.  They are positives for the environment.  They don’t hurt anybody.  They’re not vampires.  They’re innocuous unless they have rabies.  Nonetheless I’m not a fan.  I do believe in global warming.  I’m an environmentalist.I recycle. But I’m also afraid of bats. So, at night, we always walk around our building to the other entrance.  One day I’ll overcome this fear.  But it won’t be soon.

Night and day.  Scary things.


About the Author
Rosanne Skopp is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of fourteen, and great-grandmother of three. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and travels back and forth between homes in New Jersey and Israel. She is currently writing a family history.