Michael J. Fitzgerald has been a journalist for 40 years, working as a writer and editor for newspapers, magazines and web publications. In 2014 he published the novel, "The Fracking War." In 2015, he published his second novel, "Fracking Justice." He writes or contributes to five blogs. He and his wife Sylvia Fox are the owners and principal partners in *subject2change Media, a multi-media firm involved in print, video and broadcast. He writes a weekly column, "Write On" for the daily 'Finger Lakes Times' newspaper in Geneva, NY. He was a journalism professor at CSU Sacramento from 1986 to 2011 teaching Newswriting, Column Writing and Magazine Writing.
PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA, NAYARIT, MEXICO -- The telltale signs of the problem were the tiny black, pellet-like droppings around the cabin floor. Sabbatical had been scrubbed the day before so we could take a set of photos for the broker. The pellets were definitely not in residence then.
But having a mouse come aboard uninvited -- or a gecko -- is not entirely unknown. One friend down the dock struggled to get rid of a six-inch gecko who had adopted them. They eventually gave up and named the critter before heading south to Bahia Tenacatita.
As we wondered 'mouse vs. gecko' yesterday, we heard a stirring in the cabinet that holds the pots and pans. We knew right away this was no little green gecko. (I was wondering if we might have a small raccoon stuck in there.) We debated about mouse versus rat. And the more we talked, the more we realized that whether it was a mouse or a rat, if it was pregnant it was going to be an extremely long spring for me aboard the boat.
When I popped the door, the animal was gone, of course, and we went in search of a trap -- a good one.
The marina office (which supplied us with a nasty-looking trap) told us that it was unlikely the animal came from the docks. The garbage is picked up every morning. But a construction project across the channel might be displacing lots of animals, we figured. Later we found out that other boats have been having visitors.
The problem with having a mouse or rat on board (besides the obvious health issue and the "OH MY GOD IT'S ON MY FEET!" is that mice and rats just love to chew on electrical wire insulation. That chewing sometimes cures you of the rodent infestation, but also leaves you with a dead animal, often in a place you can't reach. Ugh!
So after slamming my finger twice, I managed to set the trap with a dab of peanut butter, leaving the device in the same cabinet where we heard the animal doing the samba earlier in the day. I went to sleep last night with little hope. On our last boat, we were invaded by a family of mice who lived with us until they all died of old age.
But in the pre-dawn hours, TWANG went the trap and there was a rat I've since named 'Roscoe,' slammed tight in the jaws of the trap. Why Roscoe? Well, before I buried him at sea, I needed a name. There's protocols for everything on a boat.
Vaya con dios, Roscoe. If you show up in a seance with your family, tell them Sabbatical is off limits.