By Amy deGroot

First thing every morning when I sit down at my kitchen counter, I take a look at my to-do list. It’s a blend of easy, medium and hard jobs. Yesterday, I was feeling pretty good because I’d been on a particularly robust spring-cleaning roll. 

My sister-in-law was due to come over in an hour to borrow a belt sander. Other than the delivery man, no one has come here since the stay-at-home order. Even though we will visit six feet apart outside, a jolt of energy overtakes me like the boost I get pre-visitor, when I feel a sudden urge to clean my house. I decide to use her anticipated arrival as a motivator to address one item on my list that has been overlooked since February: “Check mouse poison.”

Last fall, I’d spent about $1,000 in repairs after a mouse chewed through a wire in my bedroom wall. Friends and family have quipped, “Get a cat,” but I’m allergic to cats and I have mice now. So I’ve resorted to poison.

I’ve got six plastic rat and mouse poison boxes circling my house and garage. They open with a key that I can’t get to work well at all. I’m over at the third box next to the bulkhead. There is a bed of leaves mounded next to one of the trap’s entry holes. A mouse nest, conveniently located by the feeding station? I swing the box clear of the leaves. To my horror, I find a snake wound in a spiral underneath the box. 

“Ahhhhhh!” I scream.

My dog is concerned. Get ahold of yourself, Amy. It’s only a baby snake and it’s practically frozen in place.

The poison needs to be replenished in this box. I return from the basement with a box of poison I found in the workshop. This should be easy. There’s one remaining plastic container. I try to pry it open to get the poison out. Damn, why is everything so hard? It reminds me of the jar of tomato sauce I couldn’t for the life of me open last week.

Finally, I read the box and realize this is something my husband had bought: individual poison traps meant to be used indoors. Great! I’ll just put it in the garage where we catch lots of mice.

I go to the garage to set it in the corner, and “Ahhhh!” Out comes another blood curdling scream. I’ve come upon a dead mouse caught in a trap.

It used to drive my husband crazy when I’d startle him with one of my screams, but I swear, I came pre-wired to scream when I see mice or snakes.  

My body feels like a jumble of metal pins and needles. I have to do my most dreaded job—empty the trap. It was always my husband’s job. Since he died, I’ve emptied about half a dozen of them, each making me so squeamish I wear a combination of gloves and plastic bags to handle the trap. I take a few deep breaths and repeat out loud, “It’s only a dead body, Amy.” I finish the job just before my sister-in-law arrives.

This morning I find myself staring at my to-do list: “Order mouse poison.” In the back of my mind I add, “Think about cat.”