Archived Story

Watch for peanut butter on the front steps

Published 5:58pm Saturday, October 26, 2013

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

Ever hear of a haunted sauna? No, and you’re not going to either. Why tell a fiction when I can offer you real, bona fide, no hocus pocus horror?

I made up a ghost story to tell you, but it doesn’t seem so scary compared to the evil that lurks in my laundry room. Maybe if I release the burden of my tale I’ll be able to sleep again. Perhaps I’ll get the lingering stench of rot out of my nose.

Friends, I bear the mark of the hamster. When I was in first grade we had a class hamster, an absurdly useless exercise if you asked a 6-year-old Kloster. Everyone had to take a turn cleaning its cage, so when my number came up I bravely did my duty.

The classroom was eerily quiet that morning as I stood on the tips of my moon boots and stuck my mittened, jacketed arm into the creature’s lair. I wore the closest thing I had to a suit of armor. As I reached into the cage I exposed one bit of bare defenseless wrist. The rodent lunged and sunk five tiny claws into my skin. The holes turned to hard lumps. I was afraid the doctor would want to cut my arm off, so I dug them out myself with a knife, which, if you ask me, is pretty hard-core for a first-grader.

To this day I am branded with the shape a hamster’s paw and a bad case of musophobia, sometimes called murophobia or suriphobia. It’s an irrational, hysterical fear of rodents. I call it common sense.

As far as I’m concerned, when I saw a mouse scurry across my laundry room a few weeks ago, I had a completely normal reaction. I screamed, slammed the door, admonished my lazy Yorkshire terrier for not remembering the purpose for which he was bred down to a ridiculously small size and called my sister and my husband.

My sister’s advice was to put a plate of peanut butter outside my front door, leave it open and lure the mouse back into the wild. “Do you think mice work on the honor system? You want me to be that lady who leaves a bowl of full-size candy bars on her porch at Halloween?” I asked. “Kids grab a handful and go tell their friends. Pretty soon the whole neighborhood is pounding on her door screaming, ‘Give us our giant Snickers!’ I’m not going to be that lady. That lady’s a chump.”

My husband told me to call the exterminator, a plan I found far more effective than inviting the mouse community to a peanut butter block party.

“You’re all clear. The mice will take the bait from the traps we set, go back outside and find a comfortable place to die,” the young man in the reassuring uniform told me.

“That’s a nice story,” I said, writing him a check for any amount he wanted.

The next day we left for Michigan. When we returned I set about the chore of doing my laundry with impunity, until I smelled an odor I can only describe as really really gross. I shouldn’t have believed that fairy tale. Right in front of me, with a rigor mortis grimace on its face, was a dead mouse. Again, I screamed and ran. Was he my victim? Was I his? It didn’t matter because neither of us was doing very well at that moment.

My husband, Graham, began a search and recover mission, all the while mumbling, “As God is my witness I thought that smell was the dog.”

I stood at the top of the stairs directing him. “Did you check all the shelves? All the drawers? How about my basket of wrapping paper?”

An eternity passed.

“Uhh, you don’t have a basket of wrapping paper anymore.”

I gagged a little.

After a while Graham gave me the all clear. I tiptoed into the tomb.

“What about back by the furnace and water heater?”

“I stopped looking where the linoleum stops.”

“Because mice are too dainty to walk on cement?” I spun around. Not good enough.

Eons ticked by.

Then Graham walked up to me and said calmly, “I want you to go upstairs and not come down until I tell you it’s all clear.”

“All clear! All clear? I’ve had two men, MEN! — nothing brings out chauvinism like a crisis — tell me it’s all clear only for it not to be all clear!” I stomped up the stairs.

Presumably Graham removed whatever it was he felt I needed protection from, and the exterminator’s been back twice, but my soul stirs with a storm that will not be calmed.

I am certain mice are hiding in my walls, coming out at night to run up my clocks all hickory dickory horrifying. I douse myself with perfume before bed, but that putrid odor lingers. I am tortured. I am doomed. I am totally creeped out.

So on this happy Halloween, my advice is to grab as many full-size candy bars as you can, but if you pass a house with an open front door and a plate of peanut butter on the porch, keep walking.

 

Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.