“Mouse,” by Sonja Anderson

Aug 31st, 2022 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

It was autumn and night when I first saw it.

The dark spot darted from the refrigerator to the corner of the kitchen, where we kept a sexy basket of dirty dish towels. I approached the basket and nudged it with my foot, which caused the runner to bolt back to the refrigerator and me to screech.

I remember thinking, “oh, hm, that was a mouse.” Nobody else was home, and it wasn’t newsworthy enough to call my roommate, so I went to sleep.

The creature, itself, wasn’t frightening. At the old cabin where I spend most summers, I’m accustomed to long, fat pine snakes hiding behind the toilet and gliding over the bathroom’s pink shag carpeting. A colony of bats living in the attic. Palm-sized spiders crawling out of the bathtub drain.

Plus, we rarely saw it. It was less an infestation than a little friend who I could imagine looked like a cartoon up-close. But as winter set in, the sightings became more and more frequent. Maybe as a self-protection by denial, we only ever called it, “the mouse,” despite the obvious likelihood that we were dealing with many more than one.

Whenever one of us entered the kitchen at night and flicked the light on, we could expect to see it run across the floor, back to a hiding place. My roommate Mia, who was most squeamish about this kind of thing, began a habit of loudly stomping down the hallway to alert the mouse of her presence, like how the National Park Service recommends one avoid a bear while hiking by yelling “Hey, bear!”


The apartment had a lot of problems we had to text the landlady about. Her name was Yelena, and she had a team of Eastern European handymen who were frequently sent to our place to deal with its issues. They never gave prior notice and came at inopportune, early times. On a few occasions, when we were asleep, one just unlocked the door and let himself in.

The roof leaked, leading to a lot of ceiling problems that made it seem like an enormous, living skin: a comically recurring, encrusted, brown stain in the dining room (scab); the beams that dripped delicately from little pores (sweat); later, a large bubble of water underneath the paint in the hallway ceiling (pimple). One day, while I ate lunch, the bubble popped and spewed a powerful stream of water at a sixty-degree angle for a few minutes. The radiators were broken, the window frames rotted, the dryers out of commission, the electricity extremely sensitive to a toaster oven, the plumbing ancient. I really loved that place.

We texted Yelena about the mouse problem as it worsened (she was very adamant about not accepting phone calls) and received the same response we always did: I paged Vlad. Of course, an exterminator wouldn’t be necessary. Surely one of her universal fix-it men could take care of this for cheap. One of them came—“Hello gorls”—and set down some glue traps.

Ah, glue traps. We didn’t like the idea of them. If something gets caught, it doesn’t die. It starves to death, or has a fear-induced heart attack, or chews off its own leg. But the glue traps were free, and the mouse was not tempted in the slightest by our plastic manual traps smeared with peanut butter.

We kept seeing the mouse, and we kept texting Yelena, and she kept sending the men in denim. They brought more traps and some little boxes of poison, the latter of which never did a thing.

The mouse (mice) was (were) getting cocky. I saw it on the stovetop. Then, I saw it on the shelf under the spice rack. And then, I saw it escape into a hole in the wall above the unused toaster oven. It ran around as we had conversations at the kitchen table, unafraid. I cleaned up a collection of mouse droppings by the oil and vinegar bottles. The normal toaster was temporarily retired, because we thought the mouse was diving inside it to eat breadcrumbs.

An important note: we had gathered that the mouse either hid or lived behind the oven, because every time we turned it on, just before the preheat-ding, the mouse would dart out from underneath, escaping the heat. It also retreated behind the dishwasher.

One day, in January, a handyman came again. This one we thought was called Sven. (The others might have been Vlad and Igor. Sometimes we’d listen to them talk on the phone to each other.)

He came early in the morning. I answered the door in pajamas, having been woken up by the pounding, because my two roommates were busy attending Zoom classes. I left him to do his thing in the kitchen and returned to my room to dress. After a few minutes, there was a knock on my bedroom door. Still in my pajamas, I opened it to a fidgeting Sven. He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand and held his weight on one leg at a time.

Here’s the gist of the exchange that ensued:

“So, mouse come out at night, yes?”


“I leave, come back at six o’clock, stay night here, wait for mouse.”

I hesitated. “Uh, you want to stay the night. For the mouse?”


“Like, here, in this apartment.”

“Is good idea or no good idea.”

“Uh, where would you be?

He gestured vaguely towards the living room. “Sofa, maybe?”

I scrambled. “I’d have to check with my roommates…”

“Is good idea or not a good idea?”

“Not a good idea.”


I’m still confused about this proposition. Did the guy ask to sleep on our couch so that after dark, when the mouse came out, he would be woken up by its little toes on the kitchen floor from four rooms away, rise from his slumber, proceed to the kitchen, and shoot it?

And a six o’clock arrival? What was he to do? Have dinner with us, watch a movie, and be tucked in for an early bedtime?

The next time he came, he pulled out the dishwasher to look around, which I know because I heard him do so, and after he left, there was a protrusion in the countertop where he had re-screwed the dishwasher’s fasteners and gone too far. Before he left, he approached me to say, “You know…sometimes, mouse,” to indicate that lots of times, there’s nothing more anyone can do for a problem like this, which I honestly understood.

Except when I asked Yelena to send an actual exterminator, he looked around the kitchen for a while, then told us that our number one problem was that there was a hole sawed into the wall behind the dishwasher. A gaping, square foot hole.

Sometimes, mouse…

We told Yelena about that, and Sven came back to resentfully screw a piece of plywood over most of the hole and stuff some steel wool in another small one. I scotch-taped a spare piece of wood over the hole by the cabinets.

There was now no point of entry.


It was evening. I cooked a typical meal for myself while watching a recorded lecture. Oven-roasted broccoli, vegetarian nuggets, and tater tots. Because I cook as if I’m twelve and babysitting myself.

Sometime after, I saw the white corner of a glue trap peeking out from under the oven and figured I might as well dispose of it. So I pulled it out. On the sticky surface was a tiny, thin mouse carcass. It looked like bad taxidermy. Its little mouse mouth was open in a silent scream, and I could see each claw and whisker.

I called Mia into the room.

After she looked at it and recovered, I drew closer and realized something.

“Mia, where’s the rest of it?”


“The rest of the mouse.”

I hadn’t noticed before, but there was a reason it looked even smaller than normal. It had no hind legs. No tail. In fact, at the torso, there was a definitive, clean end where there shouldn’t have been.

Though dumbfounded, we moved on.

Convinced the amputee was trapped outside the wall when the entry points were sealed, we swallowed our sympathy and disgust and said, that was the last one. It’s dead. It’s horrible but it’s dead. Then we spent the next two hours deep cleaning the kitchen. We scrubbed the floors, the shelves, the walls.

When we got around to cleaning the oven, I pulled out the bottom drawer, engraved with not for storage, where we kept spare pans. And there, in the bottom right corner, standing upright and at attention, was the ass.

Lodged in a small ventilation hole at the corner of the drawer.

It can be deduced that the mouse was hiding inside the drawer, having a normal day, when I turned the oven to 350 degrees to cook a hot dinner. The mouse sensed the heat, decided to book it, and went for its normal escape hole in the corner of the drawer. But on the other side, where it expected the hardwood floor, there instead was a glue trap. With its front parts stuck to the trap, it was unable to finish the getaway, and so stayed, half in, half out, with the thin metal edges of the ventilation hole pressed around its torso and heating up with the rest of the oven.

The mouse was cooked in half.

When I first tried to remove the burnt rump from the drawer, I used tongs to grab the tail, which promptly popped out of its socket.

The oven received a thorough, chemically-enhanced scrub.

Afterward, we ordered McDonalds and sat in my room watching clips from “Kitchen Nightmares,” which I only now see the irony of. We were riding high. No more mice. Clean kitchen. It was over.

Before bed, I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, and when I turned on the light, a spritely, dark mouse ran from the center of the floor to the pantry.


Later in the spring, we’d pretty much accepted the problem, but the glue traps were back out, thanks to more Sven and Vlad visits. One night, Mia and I walked to a Chinese place for takeout and brought it home, and were greeted by our roommate Mary in the kitchen doorway saying she’d caught one.

Sure enough, there was a mouse squirming on a glue trap in the corner of the kitchen. I used the tongs to grab the trap. We’ve talked about this.

Over the eight months we shared with the mice, I frequently spoke to my father about it. He wasn’t a big fan of glue traps either. The exterminator told us: if you catch one on the glue trap, put the whole trap in a grocery bag and throw it in the dumpster. This method inflicts the least immediate injury, but it also leaves the mouse to starve and chew itself to death inside a bag in the trash. It seemed a slow, torturous death. My father said: if you catch one on the glue trap, fill a bucket with water and hold the trap under the surface until the mouse stops moving. This is a somewhat quick death, though still painful. But if I must kill it, the bucket seemed to be the gentlest method. What else? Crush it with an object? Use a blade to decapitate it?

It was known that I would be the one to do this. Mary didn’t like to get her hands dirty, and Mia once had a meltdown after she killed a beetle and then found out from the internet that its species eats cloves.

So I put on the pink rubber gloves, and I filled the black plastic bucket, and I drowned the mouse without looking at it. When I came back in the house, Mia was sobbing in the living room, and Mary had posted images of the murder on the worldwide web.

I quietly ate my vegetable lo mein.


They never left us. They gained strength. Migrated to the bathroom by late spring. I once urinated with my feet on top of the overturned black bucket, because I was afraid a brave one would scurry over my insteps.

At the end of the summer, we moved out and surrendered our home to two young professionals who would be using one of the bedrooms as an office. I didn’t know where to go, but I didn’t want to go to my hometown, and my brother had offered the spare room in his apartment. He’d never seen any rodents in his place, and his girlfriend had an ancient but very loud cat.

About a week after I arrived, it was late at night, and I was sitting on my bed, tired after a diner shift. The cat was next to me, resting its chin on the edge of the mattress. We both faced the open doorway.

Then, as if conjured by memory, with an effortless mix of bounciness and commanding swagger, a little brown mouse walked past the doorway.

Stunned, I made no movements, except to glance at the cat, who I trusted would pounce at any moment to give chase.

Her sides rose and fell with calm breath. She’d fallen asleep moments before.


Sonja Anderson is a 22-year-old person residing in Chicago, where she makes money by installing coin-operated locks on little free libraries.

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