We were sitting on Merrill's new love seat watching an HBO rerun of "Sex and the City" that Merrill had seen more times than I'd seen Merrill. It was not a show that I would watch alone, but then I don't watch TV much. I've got this theory that the show "Sex and the City" got its start when some screenwriters were brainstorming and one of them said, "Blow jobs are funny. Let's do a series about them." I was watching it because Merrill loves "Sex and the City," and I love Merrill. If Merrill loved me as much as she loved "Sex and the City," we would have been in a different room. The image of Popeye and Olive Oil is a not too far-fetched analogy, but not one I care to pursue.

While we were sitting there, Merrill said, "Hear that rattling noise coming from the kitchen?"  I heard it and recognized it immediately as mice.

"It's mice," I said, rather matter-of-factly, causing Merrill to look like I had just revealed that she had uterine cancer.

"Mice?" she asked, as if there had to be some misunderstanding.

"Mice," I replied.

It was the beginning of one of those dialogs that you see on sit coms but don't expect in real life. If I could have picked a skit in which to participate, it would not have been this one.

I entered the kitchen as quietly as I could, zeroing in on the scratching and gnawing sounds, while Merrill peeked around the door frame as if she were involved in a reenactment of the movie "Night of the Living Dead". The source of the sound was a top drawer next to the stove. The drawer contained a package of half gnawed peanut butter cheese crackers, some partially gnawed Reese's Peanut Butter cups, and lots of mouse poop.

Further investigation found similar evidence in other drawers and cabinets, and we began a clean-up process that required washing everything that might have been touched by a mouse whisker – which was pretty much everything. Merrill even wanted to dispose of the sponges we used. It was obvious that she was not from pioneer stock. I wasn't going to mention the Hantavirus.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) has been recognized as a disease only recently in North America. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) says that, in spite of the Hantavirus scare of the mid 90's, it's fairly uncommon and the chances of becoming infected are low. However, it is potentially deadly and immediate intensive care is essential once symptoms appear. Rodents, especially deer mice, carry it, and I was pretty sure these were deer mice.

You can become infected by exposure to their droppings, and the first signs of sickness (especially fever and muscle aches) appear 1 to 5 weeks later, followed by shortness of breath and coughing. Once this phase begins, the disease progresses rapidly, necessitating hospitalization and often ventilation within 24 hours. Half of all people infected with it die. If I had mentioned any of this to Merrill, she would have abandoned her apartment and never returned.

After cleaning up the kitchen, I said goodnight to Merrill, promising her I would buy her some live-catch mousetraps and a sonic rodent chaser. Merrill may be afraid of mice, but she is not a mouse killer and would rather be terrorized by them than kill them. It's one of the many reasons I like her.

The next day I was busy all day, but I did find time to purchase two live mousetraps and one sonic mouse chaser. Merrill was busy that evening, so I wasn't sure when I would get them to her – and it wasn't like I could just drop them off at her house since she lived 30 minutes from me and wasn't home. The solution arrived in an 11:45 p.m. email from Merrill saying, "I'm home and wide awake. Do you want to come over?"  She also mentioned more mouse evidence, so I couldn't help but wonder if it was me or the mousetraps that she was anxious to see.

Unfortunately, I didn't check my e-mail until 1:30 p.m., at which time I had several more e-mails from her. I called her and we spoke long enough for me to lose my senses and agree to get dressed and drive over to her house. I arrived with the goods shortly after 2 a.m. and promptly went to work in the kitchen. With the live traps baited and set, and the sonic rodent chaser still in its box, we retired to the living room to see what was on TV.

At 3 a.m. there is not much of interest on TV for anyone with an IQ of over 50, so we did a lot of channel surfing and ended up watching a show that was promoting pills for penis enlargement. (I was doing quite fine without the pills, but didn't mention the fact.)  About every five or ten minutes during all of this educational TV viewing I was summoned to the kitchen by sounds of live traps closing. Each time the traps were empty and had to be reset. Finally, at about 4:30 a.m., I had success – at least in the kitchen. A mouse was in one of the two traps. I moved the trap containing the mouse to the table and reset the second trap.

Several telemarketing TV shows later, at about 5:30 a.m., just as I was starting to feel self conscious that my biceps were not bulging or my stomach rippled, the second trap was able to catch a mouse and the big dilemma of the morning presented itself – what to do with the mice?  I suggested releasing them in the upstairs neighbor's apartment since she hates them, but realized that it was too close to home. Putting them outside was cruel and unusual punishment for two indoor mice since it was below freezing.  We named them Mickey and Minnie.

By six a.m. I was driving down the Pennsylvania Turnpike towards home with Mickey and Minnie on my passenger seat – still in their live traps. Once at home, I transferred them to a large garbage pail containing a dish of water, some wood shavings and a saltine cracker.  I was certain they couldn't jump out, but set an antique wicker-seat chair upside down over it for added insurance. At 6:45 I finally went to bed.

Later that day, after two and a half hours of sleep, I went to Pet Smart and purchased the appropriate supplies, which consisted of a mouse cage, bedding, water dispenser, and food, but I couldn't figure out how to transfer Mickey and Minnie to their new home. I figured that one night in the garbage can wouldn't hurt them.

When I arose the following morning there was a hole chewed in the caned seat of my antique chair, and Mickey was gone. I decided to put Minnie in the new cage before she escaped and, after many attempts at grabbing her, I managed to put her in her new home. She promptly squeezed through the bars and took off across my dining room with my dog in hot pursuit. No good deed goes unpunished, and thus I now have two wild mice living in my house instead of Merrill's house. They are both "deer mice," and I keep thinking about Hantavirus.

I've always suspected that women would be the death of me, but I never dreamed it would happen this way.

• • •