I’d had a mouse nest in the car before, and the chewed up paper towels were a dead giveaway. Because the scraps were emerging from the vents on the dashboard, primarily, I guessed that it was probably located somewhere in the area of the engine, a perfect place for cold little creatures to build a cozy home with easy access to all of the circuitry and cabling vital to the car’s mechanical functioning systems. It was only a matter of time before they’d sink their incisors into all of the most critical electrical wires, which would likely cause a vehicular breakdown at what was almost definitely the most inconvenient moment ever (as if there’s ever a convenient time for a car to become inoperative). This gnawing knowledge led us to raising the hood for an inspection, but there was no sign of rodents to be found. My next guess was that they were housed somewhere in the dashboard, tiny talons of teeth poised to bite through the radio wires, or perhaps the climate control. I thought of my beloved heat feature for the driver’s seat and feared the worst.
“Where is it, though?” the kids asked again and again, and I told them I really didn’t know but had looked everywhere I could think to look. Liam suggested I check in the glove compartment, but I shot down the idea immediately, claiming that there was no way they could have gotten in there. However, in classic fashion, he clung resolutely to this line of questioning, doing a deep dive into all of the ways they could possibly have found their way into the glove box. I repeatedly told him that was preposterous, but the kid kept harping on the idea until, thoroughly exasperated, I said, “Fine! I’ll prove to you it isn’t in there!” and flung open the compartment, and there, all snug and homey, was a mouse nest the size of a magnolia flower right there on top of my registration and proof of insurance card. It was made of tissue and paper towel scraps and bits of the car carpet upholstering the floor, and thankfully it contained zero actual mice. You can imagine how I ate crow, admitting to a positively triumphant Liam that he’d been right after all.
Speaking of crow, remember how this story began? Well, after I removed the mouse nest, I called my friend Jermaine, who owns a vehicle-detailing business so clutch that cars look (I swear) practically better than new when he’s finished with them. To prepare for him to come work his magic, I took everything out of the car and, in the process, found, hidden in the chamber in the trunk where the tire jack and jumper cables lived, a cache of dried cow corn, no doubt scrounged from the litter left from the crows’ front porch feast.
No, this isn’t the end of the story yet, because even though Jermaine is part stud and part sorcerer, removing the dashboard and cleaning behind it isn’t part of the service he provides. So even though all traces of the mice and the their nest had been ousted from the body of the car, remnants of their nest (quite a lot of them, I might add) were still inside the duct system in the front of the car, so for months little bits of fluff would come hurtling out at me when I turned on the defrost. And the kids continued to find great amusement at this, which turned to unabashedly wicked glee when different bits of stuff came flying out and fluttering around which we identified as paper, but not just any paper: these were pieces of a personal check, ripped to shreds and literally thrown in my face.
That’s right: the check my neighbor had written so many weeks ago had become a most expensive lining for a right penthouse of a mouse nest. There are many interpretive takeaways from this story, including the knowledge that leaving dried corncobs on the front porch is not advisable, and the longer you delay in cashing a check the more likely it is to turn into rodent bedding. It also bears mention that sometimes a kid’s idea that seems harebrained in the moment is actually right on, so as a parent sometimes we unwittingly play the fool. But if this experience can serve as a benchmark reminder with a thirty-dollar price tag of why it’s important not to drop food on the floor of the car, I’ll take it. Because, after all, we KNOW what can happen then.