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Squeaky the Mouse is living in our house as the world burns down

With COVID-19 cases rising, Los Angeles on fire, and so much senseless death, it's no surprise that I want peace at home -- and that critter far away from us!

We have a mouse in our house.

He moved in about a month into COVID-19.

And we’ve been Sheltering in Place together ever since.

There are a lot of things that are my fault, but this isn’t one of them: I’ve been keeping the house super clean because I am an anxious germophobe on a good day, and then throw in a litttle COVID-19 for funsies, and I become That Woman who washes and scrubs and sanitizes the whole entire universe.

In other words, I become my mother Z”L.

But for real: I wash the floors every day, the counters too – with bleach. I clean all the tables, and the door knobs and even the light switches. Obvs the sinks and toilet, too.

Like, our house legit smells like a swimming pool.

So this really isn’t my fault.

The first time I saw the mouse, he was just a streak of grey in the kitchen. I thought maybe I hallucinated. I googled “COVID-19” and “hallucinations” and “grey streaks.”

Apparently, hallucinating grey streaks in the kitchen is not a symptom of COVID-19.

I kept telling myself there is no way we have a mouse. The house is so clean, we have a dog… the neighbors’ cats all hang out on our porch…

Then, I heard the squeaks.

(BTW “hearing squeaks” and “auditory hallucinations” are also not symptoms of COVID-19)

I managed to convince myself that I just had too much ear wax. You’re welcome for the visual.

But then, one evening, I saw the first real legit signs in a kitchen drawer. I won’t get into the details, but trust me: Mouse shit is very, very real and definitely not a hallucination and ALSO not a symptom of COVID-19 — although maybe it causes COVID-19.

I should probably google that.

I poured bleach over everything. All the surfaces.

Like, even the neighbor’s front porch.

(PSA: Do not google “Hantavirus.”)

My kids named the mouse Squeaky.

I fucking hate mice and I fucking hate Squeaky.

Rodents of any shape or size are my worst nightmare — like, I literally I have nightmares about them — I don’t mind snakes — in fact, I like them. Spiders are rad. A big huge lion could come strolling into my front yard, but that wouldn’t bother me.

But a mouse? A little grey house mouse? I cannot deal.

I fucking hate mice.

I called the landlord.

He brought over a bottle of this thing you spray into the cracks in the house.

Our house was built in 1949. It is one year younger than the State of Israel. In other words, our house is charming and quaint and has good bone structure, but there are literally cracks everywhere. I found some of them, and sprayed the foam — but then it backfired and got into my hair.

The landlord brought over another bottle.

I got more in my hair.

Have you ever seen the TV show “I Love Lucy”? I am living an episode of I Love Lucy. A two-month episode of I Love Lucy. With wall sealant in my hair. And a mouse in the house.

We got a humane trap at ACE hardware — the kind where you put a little thing of whatever on a hook, and theoretically when Squeaky takes the bait, the trap shuts, and Squeaky stays safe until we release him in the fields.

Or flush him down the toilet.

I didn’t write that. I would *never* flush Squeaky down the toilet.

Anyway: Squeaky took the bait, had himself a grand old time, and then somehow strolled out of the trap.

I fucking hate mice.

Also, I changed my mind. I *will* flush Squeaky down the toilet.

And during all of this, the numbers of folks sick with COVID-19 climbed throughout Israel and the world, the dead right along with them.

Several close friends were incapacitated for weeks — some still are.

Three of my friends lost their parents.

My family in LA — way too far away.

And it feels like there are no more grownups close by to make the mouse go away.

My GOD I miss grownups.

I stopped sleeping at night.

Then we got a kitten.

Not because we want her to kill Squeaky, but maybe a little because we want her to kill Squeaky.

We got her when she was 6 weeks old, and only marginally larger than Squeaky.

We named her Tzippy.

I think Tzippy and Squeaky met in the teeny tiny space between the oven and the kitchen counter and became best of friends, so *that* didn’t help.

So then we called an exterminator.

TRIGGER WARNING: If you have issues with killing rodents, stop reading. Also, unfriend me.

The exterminator set poison bait outside. He also set glue traps where theoretically Squeaky takes the bait and gets stuck and then dies.

Squeaky found the glue traps. And ate the bait. And then got out of the glue traps. I know this because the glue traps all have mouse shit in them, and no mouse.

And Squeaky is still alive.

I know this because I continue to see him and hear him — and not just in my nightmares, but when I’m awake, too.

I fucking hate mice.

He’s been hiding out in the kitchen. He even played dead at one point, only to scurry away when we got closer to try to get him.

The kitten is now 8 weeks old and she’s totally adorable and totally useless.

I think she’s even protecting him, which is what I guess friends are *supposed* to do, but still: Not cool. She should be on MY side.

And yesterday was the worst. I spent over two hours looking for his nest, spraying bleach in random places, trying to figure out where he goes when he goes…

It doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to figure out why yesterday was so bad.

Yesterday IS bad.

Yesterday is REALLY bad.

I’m seeing the COVID-19 numbers rise again as people get sick here in Israel because the virus never went away to begin with, and so the little forays we’ve been making out into the world are going to end for us until it feels safer, and honestly? I don’t know if it will ever feel safer.

The kids won’t be going back to school anytime soon, and the house feels like it’s shrinking, plus I keep seeing that streak of grey everywhere now, and hearing the scratches in the walls, and the place I should feel safest now feels invaded and violated.

And outside is even worse: George Floyd was murdered on camera in America, and many of my friends have Black sons and daughters and have had to have “the talk” with them about what to do if they’re arrested so that they can survive the police.

Read that sentence again:

And George Floyd was murdered on camera in America, and many of my friends have Black sons and daughters and have had to have “the talk” with them about what to do if they’re arrested so that they can survive the police.

And cities across America are seething — people are in so much pain, and my hometown of Los Angeles is burning.  We’ve ignored the pox of racism upon our house for far too long, and now it is fire.

And then Iyad Halak was gunned down in the Old City — shot at least seven times in the back — because he’s an Arab and the police thought the cell phone in his hand that he used to stay in contact with his mom and dad was a weapon, when he really was just an Autistic 32-year-old, who was scared and didn’t know he was supposed to stop when the men with guns yelled at him.

It’s like nothing is safe, and everything is infected and infested and stomach churning, and the world is falling apart and out of the cracks come this viscous liquid that is poisoning our lungs and our intestines and our thoughts and our hopes and the future and I FUCKING HATE MICE.

And the whole world as I know it is burning down — the illusions of safety, the cushions of basic human decency…. engulfed in noxious flames. A pox upon our house.

My eyes sting.

Every noise sets my teeth on edge.

Even the kids.

The world feels very, very dark – and I just want some sign – anything! – that there is light somewhere, but I can’t see it.  All I see is the darkness dropping, and the mouse in the corner, and the world burning outside the window — it’s all just too much and I lost it after dinner.

I dropped the pan on the floor, and my ears rang with the sound of metal on tile and I screamed.

“What’s wrong?” my son asked when I screamed through my teeth from the bowels of my soul.

“I FUCKING HATE MICE. THEY DISGUST ME! THEY TERRIFY ME! THEY MAKE ME WANT TO RIP MY SKIN OFF. I FUCKING HATE MICE!” I screamed, just like the responsible adult I am.

My son patted my hand.

“I understand Mom. I feel the same way about Moshiko.” (Moshiko is a boy in my son’s class. Moshiko is not his real name.)

I love my son.

Anyway. We went to Home Center to try a different kind of humane trap – It looks like a tube. I couldn’t figure out how it works, so we asked one of the guys at the store, and he didn’t know, so he asked someone else, who didn’t know, and finally they asked Abu Elias who was sitting on one of the lounge chairs in the gardening section.

Abu Elias is very senior and very respected.

But I’m not actually sure if he works at Home Center.

He showed us how to put in some peanut butter, balance it carefully and when Squeaky comes in, the trap shuts, and Squeaky gets to have his peanut butter and we get to take Squeaky out to the fields.

(Or the toilet depending on my mood.)

We set the trap.

We used Skippy.

Tzippy kept jumping on the trap to close it and protect her friend.

I locked her out of the kitchen.

We waited.

Suddenly, the trap snapped. I was thrilled. I went to see if it was for real – and I opened the top just a crack and saw something grey fluttering inside. I screamed — like a beautiful, operatic scream. Like, I think missed my calling and I should be in the Magic Flute and sing The Queen of the Night.

Aaaaah…
Meine Tochter nimmermehr.
Aaaaah…
So bist du meine Tochter nimmermehrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

My kids came running.

“We got him!” We all high-fived.

We put on our shoes and went outside.

I held the tube out from me as far away as I could.

The stars shone bright in the big black sky.

I could hear the nightbirds calling.

I felt peace descend for the first time in months — we got him. The Mouse in our House was now in the tube, and I could sort things out, and compartmentalize, and solve everything one step at a time.

We got to the fields and I could feel the wind on my face.

“Shall we let him go here?” I asked.

“Yes,” they answered.

I put down the tube.

I recoiled in horror and disgust as I lifted the door….

And out flew a moth.

Not a mouse. A moth.

A tiny grey moth.

A tiny grey moth that fluttered gently toward the stars.

So fuck my life, Squeaky is still in the house.

And George Floyd couldn’t breathe and he was murdered.

And America is burning along with the last vestiges of the safety I once felt in the world.

And Iyad Halak was shot in the back at least seven times on his way to his school for people with special needs.

And there are cracks in the walls, and in the world, and in my heart and everywhere, and nothing feels safe anymore, not even my house.

And I fucking hate mice.

But… the stars were out as we walked back from the fields, back home, to a house full of cracks… and in all this darkness, the stars shine more brightly than I’ve ever seen.

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered and the New Media Editor at Times of Israel, She was raised in Venice Beach, California on Yiddish lullabies and Civil Rights anthems. She now lives in Israel with her two kids where she climbs roofs, explores cisterns, opens secret doors and talks to strangers, and writes stories about people. Sarah also speaks before audiences left, right, and center through the Jewish Speakers Bureau, asking them to wrestle with important questions while celebrating their willingness to do so. She also loves whisky and tacos and chocolate chip cookies and old maps and foreign coins and discovering new ideas from different perspectives. Sarah is a work in progress.
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