I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a scream quite like it.
It was a mix of giggling, shrieking and yelping for help that sounded kinda like this: “Eeeyyaaauuugghhhheewlp!”
There stood my 15-year-old on the orange leather dining chair, far from the kitchen where she kept pointing with trembling index finger. It looked as though she might pee in her pajamas any moment. What’s more, they were MY pajamas!
“It’s in there Mom! It’s in the bowl!” Nell managed, jumping up and down on the chair.
I had no idea what she was talking about. What was in the bowl? Rotten cheese? Was it on fire? Anything was now possible since her sister proved capable of setting spaghetti noodles on fire the week before. What’s more, they were IN a pot of water.
“What is it? What’s in the bowl?” I asked, grabbing her leg, afraid of the kitchen now too. “Come with me, Nell. I am not going in there alone!”
I know I am supposed to be the adult here, but sometimes my inner teenage girl comes out. This was one of those times. I had no idea what I was afraid of, but whatever it was now had me standing on Nell’s chair, squealing and jumping up and down along side of her.
“Oh my God! Tell me what it is!” I begged, clutching her arm.
“It’s another vole! And it’s alive! And it’s in the white bowl!” she said, calling for me to “Get it, Mom.”
The first time we encountered one in the house, it was dead. Well sorta pretty much dead. It committed suicide. Then I hurled it across the street with barbeque tongs and a red car came along and ran it over. All I can say is thank God for red cars and barbeque tongs.
She was home alone watching television when she saw something furry fly through the air then land with a splat at her feet. That’s how she described it.
“It’s dead and, and it’s on the floor,” she cried into the phone. “It almost hit me, Mom. It came that close. It’s sooooooo gross. I think I’m gonna puke right now.”
I can’t help but scream when I see anything with four paws and a tail and little beady black eyes inside my house, only now I don’t have that luxury of letting someone else handle it. It was time to man up! Grab a rope from the back of the car! I had a rodent to kill!
I got home and calm as a fireman, asked Nell to show me where it splatted.
She pointed to the furry body just inches from my nice white couch.
“There. It’s right there Mom!” Nell was now digging into my arm with actual tears in her eyes.
Of course its gross little leg shot up in the air and began twitching the moment we got close enough to touch it with a 10-foot pole. It was that perfect moment of terror you feel just before the roller coaster makes its dip as your cheeks fill with saliva and your heart begins really pounding.
“Call 911, Mom!” Nell called out to me, now standing on the kitchen counter.
“We can’t call the police on a rodent,” I told her, trembling.
“Use this!” she cried, tossing me a green hand towel. “You can pick it up and throw it in the garbage!”
Step by step, inch by inch I got just close enough to its almost dead little body to grab it, but then couldn’t go through with it.
“It’s only a mouse. You can do this, Laura,” I said out loud to myself. “Grow up. It’s not like it’s going to attack you or pee on you or anything. It’s dead. And you can’t leave it there on the floor. What if the dog eats it?”
The thought of that happening did the trick. So what if I had to replace a kitchen towel? It was way better than using a paper napkin.
Just then, as I was about to pick it up, its lips twitched. It was almost a hiss.
Screaming for help, Nell held me as I fought tears. I am not sure I’ve ever been so afraid of anything in my life.
“Mom, you gotta do this,” Nell commanded, looking right into my eyes. “You are the adult. I am the kid. It’s your job.”
I hated that she was right.
Clutching each other, we tiptoed back to the body, this time armed with barbeque tongs. That way, I could simply hurl it across the street without touching it.
“Shhh,” I whispered to Nell, tip toeing forward while she hid behind the coat rack. “I think I’ve got it this time.”
I carefully extended the trembling tongs, afraid that any sudden movements would wake the sleeping giant.
It felt like playing the board game Operation where the surgeon gets one chance and one chance only to remove a part from Cavity Sam without setting off the alarm. One slip of the tong and it would be game over. With steely stability, I gently slid one side of the metal tong just along the shadow of its back and with mounting precision, positioned the exact angle necessary to quickly snap it up.
That’s when I noticed its nose was too long to be a mouse and it was too little to be a rat.
“What is it then?” Nell demanded, ruling out an escaped neighborhood hamster. “Pepper looked nothing like this gross pointy thing. Look at its teeth. Oh God, it has teeth Mom!”
Pepper was her favorite hamster and like all kids’ favorite hamsters do, it died and broke her little heart. She was 10 at the time and had never loved anything more in her whole, entire life. She insisted on burying it in a hand painted blue wooden box that her godfather Billy brought her from one of his many trips to Africa. I tired to talk her out of it, knowing how much she treasured that box, but her mind was made up.
“Pepper is the ‘most best’ hamster in the world, Mom,” I remember her telling me through giant tears as she tucked it into a bed of tissue and closed the box.
We dug the hole and held a family service.
Mark was the priest, calling us to gather here today in memory of Pepper, Nell’s favorite hamster. He went on to say how Pepper loved running on her wheel and chewing on toilet paper rolls as he held Nell’s hand and wiped her eyes with a handkerchief. Dads are good for stuff like that. He then shoveled dirt over the box and took us out for ice cream. Peppermint.
Turns out, it was not a mouse, mole or rat. What we had on our hands here was a vole, according to Google images. What’s even more disgusting is voles are in the muskrat and lemur (monkey) family! And they have molars that continue to grow their entire life. That’s why its twitching teeth were so big and ugly and yellow.
I didn’t forget about the vole, I just didn’t exactly remember it until now, almost a year later.
I’m not sure which is worse, a vole that’s twitching on the verge of death or one that’s alive in a bowl licking cake icing off its paw. I decided alive was worse when we heard its tiny little toenails scratching the bowl as it tried to escape.
It’s a noise you are not likely to forget.
Should we pour water in the bowl, cover our ears and come back in 15 minutes? Seal the bowl with plastic wrap until it smothers or starves to death? How about name it Cake Mix and just keep it as a pet?
There was really only one humane option.
I put on a pair of thick ski gloves and grabbed the hammer in case I had to club it to death.
Feeling confident I had it down this time, I very maturely, very carefully and very quietly walked the bowl outside to the back deck, telling Nell that it’s ridiculous to carry on about a tiny little rodent, long yellow teeth or not.
“That was so last year,” I said. Somehow, I had convinced myself it wasn’t scary at all and actually thought the little voley vole was rather cute. Just as I was about to let it go, its tail touched my exposed wrist, sending the bowl and the vole flying across the yard and me screaming, “Oh my God, Nell. It touched me! The vole touched my wrist! I am going to puke! I am going to die! Oh my god, it was sooo disgusting! Call 911! You have to come here right now! Please Nell I am begging you! Come outside and help me!”
Only she refused and ran upstairs.
That was two weeks ago and the white bowl is exactly where it landed over by the tree. Neither of us can touch it. A friend said he’d not only pick it up for me next time he comes over, but that he’d also wash it.
I now say thank God for barbeque tongs, red cars and men.