A Visit From Pepino

We didn’t get a photo of our New Year’s mouse. The one shown here invaded the family room in October. We didn’t have a catch-and-release trap at the time, we ended up comically chasing it around the room for a while, and then finally caught it in a trap, where it met its demise.

It was 4 a.m. New Year’s morning. I’d gotten to bed about 3, and was just about to drift off to sleep. My husband, who’d sacked out shortly after midnight, was fast asleep beside me. Suddenly I heard a voice outside our door.

“Is anyone awake in there?”

It was our 18-year-old. He’s not prone to waking us in the middle of the night, so I asked what was wrong, as Bob began to stir beside me.

“There’s a mouse in my room.”

I followed him downstairs to his room on the ground floor, and Bob managed to rouse himself enough to join us a minute or two later. Jon said he thought he’d heard a mouse in his room several times recently. He’d mentioned it a day or two earlier, but I’d thought the noise was coming from outside.

He had just seen a mouse under his desk chair, but it scurried away and we couldn’t find it. We emptied his trash can of junk food wrappers and removed all candy and cookies from his room. (College freshmen home for winter break are not known for their healthy eating habits.) None of the snack food and wrappers showed signs of having been discovered by the mouse. In fact, there was no sign of the mouse at all. Usually they leave a lot of droppings around, but we couldn’t find any in Jon’s room.

We’re not new to mice. About a year ago we had one in the kitchen and trapped it. Then in October, when the weather got cold for a few days, we saw and trapped two mice in the family room, a few days apart. But that seemed to be it. We lined the inside of the heating grates in the family room with mesh, in case the little critters were using the ductwork as a highway. Since then, we hadn’t seen another mouse or any evidence of mice, though we’d left a humane catch-and-release trap in the family room, just in case.

So early New Year’s morning, we rebaited the trap with more peanut butter and set it in Jon’s room. Late that afternoon, I thought — but wasn’t sure — that I saw the mouse scrambling across the kitchen floor. It could easily have slipped behind the stove or dishwasher, but I couldn’t say for certain where it went, or if I’d seen it at all. So we moved the trap from Jon’s room to the kitchen.

My son is now under strict orders not to eat in his bedroom. We removed the Christmas stocking chocolates from under the tree. And now we wait, to see if the peanut butter in the trap attracts the little guy. Or guys. I’m pretty sure we don’t have a large infestation; we’d certainly be finding droppings or some sign that they’ve been into the food. But the weather turned cold again this week, and more will certainly come into the house until we figure out where they’re getting in and block their access. There’s an opening behind the stove that makes us suspicious, but it’s a gas stove and can’t easily be pulled out without help from someone who knows a lot more about it than I do. Bob plans to hire a friend who’s a handyman to help him get back there to block up the space.

In the meantime, here’s a song I remember fondly from my childhood, Pepino the Italian Mouse, by Lou Monte, about a man singing to the mouse that is plaguing him: “You scare my girl, you eat my cheese, you even drink my wine. I try so hard to catch you but you trick me all the time.” Both man and mouse sing in Italian (specifically, Calabrese). Nobody except Italian-Americans seem to remember this one, but in my family, it’s a favorite.

Pepino tells the story of a man plagued by a mouse in his house. Some of it is in English, but the man (and the mouse) also sing some lines in Italian (actually, Calabrese). The narrator sings: “You scare my girl, you eat my cheese, you even drink my wine. I try so hard to catch you but you trick me all the time.” The flip side, “What Did Washington Say When He Crossed the Delaware?” is also a classic. Did you know that Washington sang in Italian. On his way across the river to attack the British, he was mostly worried about getting the boats back to the rental place by 6 o’clock. But he also sang about pizza.

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