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The scream was so loud, so shrill, and so sudden, I thought it might split my noggin in two. Based on the sheer terror embodied in that high-pitched shriek, it suggested that someone in earshot had unexpectedly stumbled upon the trifecta of sinister horror flick characters: Pennywise, Chuckie, and the Grady Twins.

It was one of those sounds that suggests you should run far away, as fast as your adrenaline-fueled legs will carry you.

While I pondered what could possibly be the source of this ghastly noise, I felt a little sorry for whoever was going to have to deal with it.

But as I walked from the kitchen into the living room, I discovered it was MY problem. Because the sound was coming from my basement.

Just when I thought the situation couldn’t get any worse, I heard footsteps. They were running up the stairs.

Suddenly, the basement door flew open. The Husband burst through it as if he was being chased by a knife-wielding Norman Bates. His face was ashen, his eyes were wild with fear, and he was breathing like he just crossed the finish line of a 10k as he made a beeline for the front door.

“What is happening?” I yelled at the blur racing past me.

Since our 1870s house has a super-creepy, Silence of the Lambs-inspired basement, it’s quite possible that he really had seen a ghost.

The Husband said nothing as he sprinted by me and out the front door, which slammed shut behind him. When I looked out the window, I saw him sitting in his car with his head resting on the steering wheel.

At that moment, I did the only thing I could possibly do: I started laughing. And I couldn’t stop. Because I knew this oddball behavior could only be the product of only one thing.

He hadn’t encountered a poltergeist in the cobwebbed corners of the basement. The Husband had spotted a mouse.

Since our drafty 150-year-old house has enough cracks in the foundation to make Flex Seal’s Phil Swift blow a gasket, there’s little doubt that a creature weighing less than an ounce has a year-round, red-carpet invitation to infiltrate the premises and turn my spouse into a screaming Usain Bolt.

But this wasn’t my first rodent rodeo.

Twenty years ago, The Husband and I were living in low-rent, drafty, grad-student housing with our two preschoolers. That’s where I, along with everyone else on campus, first heard his Terrified Cry of the Rodent. Thinking that he had accidentally severed a limb, I came running. But I was completely unprepared for what I was about to witness.

He was standing on a kitchen chair screaming like a grizzly bear was gnawing off his kneecap. Our toddlers, who momentarily stopped pelting one another with Cheerios to stare at their father, looked as puzzled as I did.

From his perch, The Husband pointed under the cabinet. In between the earsplitting staccato bursts, he finally managed to utter one word – mouse.

Right on cue, a tiny rodent emerged that looked as terrified as The Husband. It was adorable enough to be the inspiration for any mouse-themed retail product at Disneyland. Of course being a sympathetic and sensitive spouse, there was only one thing I could do – laugh myself silly.

Over the years, his Achilles Heel has served me well as a marital bargaining chip. Because all I need to do is suggest a trip to the Magic Kingdom to meet ol’ Mickey himself and I get whatever I want.

The Husband would be laughing at Denise Malloy if there were spiders involved. She can be reached at

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