Last week the laundry situation got out of control. Code-red out of control. Dirties shot out of the hamper like a pan that’s been loaded with too much popcorn. The wicker lid clung to the top of the clothes for dear life.
Something had to be done.
I pulled together a load of darks, tossed them in the wash and plopped on the couch with the October issue of GQ.
It included such vital pointers as, “There is no need to match your umbrella to your outfit.”
And “remember: a tie bar will amp up any suit.”
I committed the information to long-term memory in the event that my suits ever need additional amping.
A half hour later, the laundry was done. I flipped open the lid, pulled fistfuls of damp clothes from the tangle and tossed them into the dryer. I frowned, understanding for the first time that none of my dress shirts had the proper collar style for a peaked lapel suit.
As I gathered the last of the stragglers, something in the bottom of the washer caught my eye.
The blood rushed from my face before I could finish the sentence.
Because it was.
It lay there on the bottom of the washing machine. Crumpled against a navy blue dress sock.
A dead mouse.
I’ve always liked to think that I’d be the courage-under-fire type. That, when presented with adversity, I’d stay composed. I’d calmly assess the situation. Then, take quick and precise action. Saving the kittens from the burning building. Foiling the bank robbery. Returning to the dogfight to save Iceman’s life, despite being heavily outnumbered by Russian MiGs.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, I’m not that type at all.
Apparently, upon being presented with something gross and decidedly not threatening, I’m the type that screams like a girl and does a ridiculous dance around the kitchen.
It went something like this.
I scrunched my face, flapped my hands and hopped up and down.
To anyone passing by the window, I looked like a spastic penguin desperately trying to fly.
Thrilled by the excitement, Natty wagged her tail and jumped, nipping at my shirt as I flailed about the room.
This carried on for the next twenty minutes.
To my credit, I didn’t jump up on a chair. That would’ve been SO clichéd.
Nor did I pee my pants, for whatever that’s worth.
After regaining my composure, I washed my hands fifteen times and took a seat on the kitchen chair to assess the situation.
“There’s a dead mouse in the washing machine.” I recapped.
Visibly shaken, Natty licked her genitals.
“We’ve gotta get it out of here.”
By “we,” of course, I meant “I.” “We” just sounded like a more formidable force.
“I” would have to go toe-to-toe with the mouse. But as a “we,” the dead mouse was outnumbered.
I glared through the doorway at the washing machine, noting that I’ve never glared at an appliance before.
Tugging a string on my shirtsleeve, I decided that we needed a plan of action. I liked the words. They sounded strong and definitive. The kind of words that could get a dead mouse out of my washing machine.
I said them out loud.
“Natty, we need a plan of action.”
She squeaked her plush hippo against my thigh.
I considered sealing off the laundry room for all eternity. But that seemed irrational. Brick masons are extremely expensive. Plus, it would mean that I’d have to do my wash at the Laundromat. So that was out.
I yanked the string on my cuff. It came loose in my fingers and a button fell to the floor. I watched, as it rolled concentric circles around the kitchen. Natty watched it too. Then she ate it.
I patted her head.
“I’ve got it!” I said, stabbing my finger in the air as you’re supposed to do when saying I’ve got it.
“We’ll get an new washing machine.”
I reached for the newspaper, hoping to find a Sears circular.
But as I leafed through the pages, I realized that this too would never work. It was much too risky. I’d probably get a hernia trying to haul the old one to the curb. Or, worse, the lid could bounce open, exposing the dead mouse to my line of vision.
I grabbed a pen and shaded in the letters on my ADT Home Security envelope. Reality was setting in. I was going to have to remove the dead mouse from the washing machine myself. I frowned and traced the word “Security.”
I scanned the kitchen for potential mouse removal tools. Spatula. Too unstable. Kitchen Fork. Too gross. Tongs! That’d work. Not only could I avoid skewering the dead mouse, there’d be a ten-inch buffer of steel between us.
I lifted the tongs from the hook and squeezed the spring-loaded handle. The steel tips clacked together. This made me sad. I love my tongs. I fingered the ridges, thinking of all the great food we’ve flipped together.
I couldn’t do it.
I replaced the tongs on the hook, sorry that I’d even considered such a sacrifice. It was bad enough that I was going to have to torch an entire load of darks. I wasn’t about to burn my tongs too.
I washed my hands again and glanced at Natty, gnawing on the leg of the kitchen table.
That’s when inspiration struck.
“Natty, you’re a genius!”
She wagged her tail and continued chewing the table.
I reached into the cabinet and pulled out a wadded plastic Safeway bag. I inverted it over my hand like a glove and slowly approached the laundry room.
I’m not sure why I felt the need to sneak up on the washing machine. It just seemed like the right thing to do under the circumstances.
I clutched the bag like a revolver and peeked over the lip of the washer. Half hoping that an owl had swooped in and carried the mouse away while I wasn’t looking.
But I had no such luck.
The dead mouse was curled in a fetal position. Eyes closed. Fur damp. Its tail traced the curve of the washing machine basin.
It was very clean. The gunmetal fur didn’t fade a bit. A sure testament to Purex Mountain Breeze with Bleach Alternative.
The mouse didn’t look like Mickey or Minnie, Feival or Jerry, Danger Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Pinky or the Brain.
Suddenly, I felt deeply misled.
This mouse wasn’t clever or cunning, courageous or cuddly. It wasn’t even wearing shorts. It was just dead.
I felt sad.
In my head, Peabo Bryson started to sing.
“Somewhere out there someone’s saying a prayer.
That we’ll find one another in that big somewhere out there.”
I frowned and wondered if Peabo Bryson has ever killed a mouse in the spin cycle.
“Cowboy up.” I thought.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and wondered what exactly “cowboy up” means.
Pulling the bag tight around my hand, I reached into the washing machine basin, and grabbed the mouse.
Then, I cringed.
“It’s just poop. It’s just poop. It’s just poop.” I reassured myself.
But it wasn’t just poop. It was cold and wet. It had a shape. Through the bag, I could feel the tail curl against the pressure of my fingers.
I repeated this mantra until the mouse was safely outside in the garbage can. Lid closed and secured. Back door slammed, locked and dead-bolted.
I rushed to the sink, hands held like a surgeon waiting to scrub in.
I washed them. I dried them. I washed them again. I dried them again. Then I looked at the towel. I wrinkled my nose and threw it in the hamper. I began washing my hands again.
Then decided, “Fuck it.”
I stripped naked, tossed my clothes in a heap on the floor and ran to the shower.
I stood under the water for a long time. I lathered, rinsed and repeated. I breathed the steam and watched as the hot water rinsed all of the gross down the drain. I lathered again, just to be safe. As I spun the bar of Lever 2000 Antibacterial soap in my pruney fingers, I came to an important decision.
I’m never doing laundry again.