Dead Mouse Hunting

We hoped that it was a mouse. A larger creature might require an entire kitchen renovation, right down to tearing down walls, and my husband held out hope that a small creature, like a mouse, would decompose too rapidly for that to be necessary.

Since Friday, we had been dealing with a really awful smell in our house. We’re all too familiar with this particular odor, having had a cat who was a terrific hunter, and who loved to bring the catch of the day inside to share it. There have been times when the trophy went unnoticed until the smell announced it. Since the cat has been gone since July, we knew that it was not one of his victims. We’ve never had to deal with a mouse dying of natural causes somewhere in the house; and we were daunted by the knowledge that a mouse, left to its own devices, could fit into innumerable tiny crevices in a house.

I had it narrowed down to the kitchen when I left Friday night for a girls’ weekend. My husband, Chris, was charged with finding the culprit and disposing of it. He planned on having friends over for a boys’ weekend, and he was sure that three brave men could handle a pesky little chore like finding a dead mouse. He met me at the door when I came home Sunday morning, and so did the odor. It seemed to have reached a crescendo of smells and become an entity: Smellzilla.

“We looked everywhere,” he said. “We moved out appliances, vacuumed and mopped and we can’t find the darned thing.” He raised his arms in surrender, a man defeated by a whale of a stink.

I consulted the Internet for answers. I typed in “can I get sick from smelling a dead mouse?” and was shocked that the question showed over 12,000 hits. The synopsis of answers established that “vomiting is optional, but wouldn’t it be better to just find the mouse?”

Tuesday evening, as I was lighting candles and sending out urgent prayers for an exorcist to save us from the effluvium in the kitchen, it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually seen the area behind the dishwasher, so I asked Chris if he had checked there.

“Well, we pulled out the stove enough to see behind there, but we didn’t pull it all the way out from the wall,” he said.

“Maybe we should just check that one more time,” I told him. He pulled the stove out into the middle of the kitchen, and there was definite evidence of a mouse having spent a little time behind the dishwasher, but no body. Chris sniffed at a vent in the back of the stove and said “Phew, I think I found it.” He went for tools and I went for a bucket and sponge to tackle the floor, noting that we should move the stove out more often than just when we get a new one. After he removed the back panel, we could see a brown mouse corpse impaled or electrocuted on the cord junction.

Chris was delighted that yet another crisis could be solved with the proper tools, and I was delighted that we’d found the dead mouse before his mourners gathered in the kitchen for a wake. As we took the clothespins off our noses, we agreed that dead mouse hunting ranks immeasurably low on our list of quality time spent together.