I’m holed up at the coffee shop with my laptop and a chocolate chai latte, not because I’m feeling particularly inspired to write, but because I can’t go home.
I repeat: I can’t go home.
This is because I got a text from my dad an hour ago informing me that an intruder had arrived at Casa Richter—the sort of intruder that only comes this time of year and wrecks havoc for the entire duration of his stay.
He may be small, but he’s a menace and quite frankly, his arrival has me thinking I’d rather live out in the sticks with my brother than go through this again.
Because, yes, I’ve been through the before.
The last time it happened, I arrived home from The School and issued my customary “Yo Yo!” from the foyer (which is how I make sure my parents aren’t like… you know… getting jiggy in the living room or something).
Usually, because we like to think we’re gangsta rappers, one or both of my parents will yell “Yo yo!” right back, at which point I’ll know it’s safe to go upstairs.
But last year, there was no “Yo Yo!”
And the reason for this was not that my parents were otherwise engaged. The reason was that they were buried beneath the contents of the entire pantry. I’m talking cereal boxes, canned goods, pasta, hot chocolate mix, granola bars—everything.
“She found out,” my dad whispered.
“How?” I demanded.
“She saw him.”
“I knew we should have told her right away!” I hissed. “I knew it was a bad idea to keep this from her.”
It was at this point that my mother emerged from beneath the pile with an empty Tupperware in one hand and a roll of plastic bags in the other. “I’m not mad at you two for keeping it from me,” she said trying to keep her voice as calm as possible. “I know why you kept it from me. What I don’t know is why you two don’t understand that we live in a CITY and when you live in a city you CANNOT LEAVE FOOD OUT!!!”
Now would be a good time for me to point out that we’re not talking about some long lost relative or an unfortunate cousin who nobody likes. We’re talking about a mouse. A tiny, helpless little mouse in need of a place to stay over the winter.
(At least that’s how I tried to pitch it to my mother; she, however, would have none of my charity.)
When my dad first noticed the mouse scurrying beneath the kitchen counter, he said nothing. Instead, he went to the drug store, bought some traps and set them up where my mother wouldn’t find them. When I saw the mouse for the first time a few days later, I went straight to my dad.
“I think I saw a mouse.” I said.
“Me too,” he replied. “Don’t tell your mom.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
My mom is… well, there’s no way to sugarcoat it: she is crazy when it comes to rodents. Wrap-unopened-cereal-boxes-in-plastic-bags-and-then-lock-them-in-Tupperware-crazy about rodents.
She once explained that her fear stemmed from a PSA that aired in the Bronx when she was a child as part of the “Starve a Rat Today” campaign. Evidently, the ad featured a toddler in a crib petting a “cat” while cooing “Here, kitty kitty.” Except the cat was not a cat. It was a rat. In the baby’s crib.
I guess I’d be permanently scared too if I had grown up watching that on TV.
Which is why I can’t go home. Not until the scourge is over.
Note: The scourge is now over. I actually wrote this post several months ago and held off on publishing it until I could secure my mother’s approval and report, with both joy and sorrow, that the mouse is dead. I guess I can go home now.