my apartment is trying to kill me

Author’s note: While combatting a mouse problem in my current apartment, I was reminded of this ~vintage blog post~ I wrote in college about the same problem, in a different apartment. Since it’s still pretty funny, I think, I am syndicating it here for you.

As a nominally healthy 21-year-old girl, you can probably guess how often I 1. like to bake food and 2. worry about dying in my sleep. However, as a tenant in a cardboard deathtrap of an apartment, I must tell you that your guess is wrong, at least as of last night.

But let’s back up. My charming coldwater flat has mice. Or perhaps it’s just mouse; I’ve only ever seen the little vermin in a singular state. It’s always when I’m in the kitchen, innocently chopping up an onion or something, and I hear that telltale squeaking scurry of little feet. I freeze, holding my knife like the Farmer’s Wife from the nursery rhyme, waiting. And then! The damn critter scurries out from under the radiator and into another hidey-hole before I even have a chance to cut off its tail.

Despite my best attempts at cleaning, after spending pretty much every waking hour in the kitchen mixing, kneading, sautéeing, and swearing when I burn myself, there are inevitable chunks of food, scraps of pie dough, and other culinary effluvia that escape my notice and probably provide adequate sustenance for a tiny creature.

Yesterday, after whiling away the afternoon dicing apples and working a pound of butter/lard into flour*, I ignored the sounds of scurrying and plugged into my laptop to bang out another thousand words of miserable drivel for my novel-in-progress. For the literal and metaphorical fruits of my labor, I decided that I would bake one of the tiny pies I had constructed as a bribe-cum-reward. I set the cantankerous oven to 400 (it runs cool), popped in a pie on one of those awesome nonstick sheet things, and went back to pepper my story with a few more adverbs.

Not twenty minutes later, I smelled something, and it was not pie. It was distinctly gassy. Panic set in instantly, as per my special talent for Freaking Out, and I sprinted back to the kitchen, which was suspiciously devoid of mice. There were flames in the oven, which I figured was a good sign that things weren’t about to combust, but also a strong odor of Not Good. I shut off the oven, put the pie in the toaster oven, and proceded to fling open every last window in the apartment. The temperature that could charitably be called “rustic” now plunged all the way to “Little Match Girl,” and I huddled in a blanket under the ceiling fan, breathing slowly and wondering if the fatigue setting in was normal end-of-day exhaustion or the gradual effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Two hours later, I’d finished dessert, called my mom twice, and summoned my upstairs neighbor-dudes to see if it really smelled like gas. “Maybe?” they said, sniffing up and down the hallway. I diligently Googled the signs of CO exposure: a hypochondriac’s nightmare of the nonspecific headache, fatigue, nausea. I looked up CO detectors: legally required, so naturally our building doesn’t have any, and unfortunately not even obtainable by Amazon Prime. At long last, I went to sleep, knowing full well that it could be the last time I ever closed my eyes. I wondered how long it would take anyone to find my corpse. “She died doing what she loved,” they would say, “having a panic attack while eating pie.”

I was never so glad to hear my alarm go off at seven this morning. Or, at least, I thought I would be. Actually, I felt groggy from staying up late worrying and freezing from the window letting in all the cold air in Chicago. As I stumbled to the kitchen to make some coffee, I heard the scrambling noise of rodents heading for the hills, and had a brief moment of symbiosis. Mice can only survive if there is breathable air, I assume. They could be the canaries in the coal mine that is my apartment! We could get along and eventually they would walk on their hind legs and sew me a dress like in Cinderella!

Until we get the oven fixed, anyway. Then I break out the snap traps.

*It makes the best pie crust and you’re wrong if you disagree

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