Friday, April 27, 2007

The Fate of Mice (Philly style)

I just got back to my sister's house after a visit to my dad's; my brother-in-law dropped me off at the El yesterday, which was very convenient because the train stops a block from my father's apartment. That way, I didn't have to attempt the nerve-wracking drive on new, high-volume highways in someone else's car.

My father lives in senior/disabled housing. It's a decent building, but it's pretty old, and like many older buildings in the east, it has its share of vermin. This doesn't mean that my father's a bad housekeeper or that the building's inherently dirty, just that various critters get into the walls and can't be entirely killed off. So Dad has a slew of roach motels scattered through the apartment -- they've taken care of that particular problem quite nicely -- but he also has mice.

So he has a mousetrap. It's a live mousetrap, because he's basically a kind person. He told me he's caught five mice. The first two were still alive, and when Dad called security, the guards came and released the mice in front of the building.

Dad baits the mousetrap with dark chocolate: he says the mice love it, although I don't know how he's figured out that they love the chocolate more than anything else. Maybe other kinds of bait were less successful. Anyway, I did some shopping for him today, and the first item on the list was chocolate. "Dark chocolate," he said. "Bars. Get big bars."

I teased him about his chocolate habit -- he also has chocolate pudding and chocolate cream pie in his fridge -- and he said, "The chocolate bars are mouse bait."

"Oh!" I said. "Then I won't get good chocolate."

"No," he said, "get good chocolate. I'll eat half of each bar and give the mice the other half."

So I got three big bars of dark chocolate: a Lindt, a Hershey's, and a Valor. My sister and father and I ate most of the Valor after a delicious poached salmon dinner, so there isn't much of that left for the mice. But I had to giggle, imagining how the mice must think about this. "Hey! Go to Apartment ____! That guy shares his yummy chocolate with us, and then we get a ride outside, where all the trees and grass are! And then we can come back inside and eat more chocolate and get another ride!" This has to be some version of mouse heaven, at least until the mice get so fat from the chocolate that they can't fit inside the trap anymore.

I told Dad that he should borrow one of my sister's six cats to scare the mice away, but he doesn't like cats, so he vetoed that idea. Gary said I should bring the mice back for our cats, but I'd rather imagine the mice leading a blissful existence involving chocolate.

It was nice to spend almost two days with my father; we had a good time. Unfortunately, my mother's started running a fever, which so far has peaked at about 100.5. Given her history of cellulitis in her bad arm, her doctor put her on just-in-case antibiotics, although neither the arm nor the surgery sites are particularly bothering her. But we're a little worried, hoping whatever this is won't get worse and necessitate another ER trip. And of course, everybody wants her to be feeling better now, not starting to feel lousy again.

I, meanwhile, am homesick. I love my family here, and my sister's cats, but I miss Gary and my own cats and the mountains and the dry desert climate. And my own bed: my back's been killing me since I've been here, even with exercise. It never entirely recovered from that brutal series of plane flights, and slightly-too-soft beds aren't helping.

I've gotten some nice e-mails from students and colleagues since I've been here, wishing my mother well. She just got a get-well card from the staff at her gym, who ask about her whenever I'm there. And this afternoon, I got into a conversation with the cashier at my father's grocery store; when she found out that I'd flown from Reno to Philly because my mother was having surgery, she asked how Mom was and said she'd be praying for her. Mom rolled her eyes when I told her this, but I was touched.

I'm glad I'm here, but I'm looking forward to being home!


  1. Anonymous7:40 AM

    Dear Susan,

    It's a beautiful sunny day here in Rochester, and I hope you are having some spirit-lifting sun further south in Philadelphia as well. Just a quick note to say that I'm thinking of you and your sister, your mom and your dad, your family and your friends and everyone who's keeping you company while your mother recovers from her surgery.

    I hope you can head home soon - and until that happens, I hope you keep finding places to swim, and blog, and worship, and pray, and all the other things that sustain your person while you are away.



  2. They release the mice in front of the building? Duh...

    I heard peanut better is the best bait for mice (and cheaper than good chocolate).

    I hope your mother's recovery goes well. The fever could be just from general stress and her body perceiving the surgery as injury (well it is). Hope it's nothing worse than that.

  3. Thank you so much, Jean! And thanks to you too, Tiel! I'll pass the peanut-butter tip along to my father (although I hope the mice won't be too disappointed by the lack of Lindt!).


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