By Evelyn Richardson

Some things you simply cannot do anything about but wait it out. I speak knowledgeably of a dead mouse in the heating system ductwork.

A seasonal change into cool weather is a prime time for the little rascals to hunt for a warm place. Routine inspections of the system ensure a tight seal at every joint so heat will not escape. But somehow those little bodies find a flaw that lets them wriggle in.

At first, I get a slight whiff of an unpleasant odor. Then it grows stronger by the day and I go looking for a source: Is the sewer backing up? Did I forget to take out the garbage? I should be able to identify the stink right off, because it has happened before, and it is unique.

I remove the air return filter and peer inside that duct with the help of a flashlight, just in case he happens to be in sight and I can rake him out. Never such luck.

I spray inside the opening generously with deodorizer because that seems a logical thing to do before I replace the filter. I burn candles in the house, but their fragrance mixed with the smell makes an even more sickening combination.

The smell is destined to get worse before it gets better, that's its nature. If the weather is suitable--or if it's not--I open the windows and let the breeze blow through.

No company is invited until the problem has run its course. If someone stops in, ahead of "Hello" I rush to explain that there is a dead mouse on the premises.

When I think the odor might be subsiding, another potent surge comes through. Each invasion seems to linger longer than the last. I'm tempted to go on a trip and stay away for a while.

When I become worn out with the offensive intruder's taking over my space, and angry because there's no action I can take to rid myself of it, I try to concentrate on the fact that conditions could be worse. I bring back the strong memory of the time when a skunk sprayed the heat pump at the very moment the fan clicked on and sucked up the surrounding air and pushed it through the system to fill the house--for an extended period of time.