Thursday, July 18, 2013

Away With Pests: Mouse War

         Away With Pests!

         1. Mouse War

         I opened my eyes and sat up in bed. It was dark. The clock-radio’s glowing display read 11:50 PM. I listened intently.
         “Eeek! Eeek!”
         Yes, I heard it right. The squeaks were coming from the kitchen. I got out of bed, put on my nightrobe, and turned on the hall light.
         “Eeek! eeek! eeek!”
         “Another one,” I sighed to myself. “Gotta do it again!” I entered the shadowy kitchen and homed in on the squeaking of the doomed mouse. By its cries it summoned me.
                 *                                         *                                *
         When I told my landlady about the mice, she gave me glue traps to catch them. This bothered me. Glue traps seem so cruel; they treat mice no better than you would treat a cockroach. I agonized for days about setting them out.
         Late one evening I discussed this with Sherri. We sat on the sofa, hugging each other; mice scurried in the kitchen while we talked.
         Sherri said that glue traps are cruel, and that spring traps are fast. I agree that glue strangulation is a slow death; but it seems neither better nor worse than death by spinal fracture. We agreed that both traps kill the mice just as dead. We also agreed that I did have glue traps on hand, but no spring traps. She concluded from this that the decision was mine to make. This, of course, stung me into action.
         Sherri fled to her apartment while I set out the traps. I understood her distress and forgave her. After all, most societies consider war to be men’s work.
                 *                                         *                                *
         By its cries the doomed mouse summoned me. I homed in on its signal; and there it was, in the shadow between two cabinets.
         I stage-whispered, “I see you.”
         “Eeek! eeek! eeek! eeek! eeek! eeek!”
         Mice are stupid little vermin, but they do know a thing or two. They know when they’re in trouble. I whispered, “I see you”, and the mouse freaked out. It knew what I meant. Mice aren’t very bright, but they do have mouse sense.
         The mouse was firmly caught in the glue-trap. It lay on its side, beady mouse eyes protruding, mouth half-blocked by glue, panting. I shook my head. It couldn’t free itself; the glue was stronger than its bones. It could only get itself tangled worse. Prognosis; death within hours.
         It seemed wrong to prolong the creature’s agony; so I opened a cabinet door and got out a bucket.

                 *                                         *                                *

         I don’t like killing mice, but I don’t see any viable alternative. I’ve tried trapping them for release later, but it’s difficult and questionable. Difficult because mice are much faster than men in close quarters; and questionable because a mouse released outside will soon infest someone else’s house. Why wear myself out just to preserve a public health nuisance?
         Let’s face it; mice are innocent, but far from innocuous. They gnaw wood, plaster, and insulation; they eat food, leave droppings, carry dirt and disease. Mice have killed millions.
         My policy about animal guests is simple. If the critter is just visiting, then I help it leave; but if it wants to move in with me, then it had better earn its keep, or else.
                 *                                         *                                *
         The bucket was pink plastic, with a crack along the side repaired by duct tape. That crack made it no longer useful for heavy mopping; but it worked fine for this sort of job.
         It took just a minute to fill the bucket with water from the tub faucet. This done, I lugged it up and set it on the sink; then I got the glue-trap.
         The mouse was quiet while I brought it into the bathroom. I held the glue trap over the water and paused a moment. The mouse stared at me with those little beady mouse eyes. I composed my features (for I had them twisted into an unseemly grin) and I plunged the mouse into the water.
         The mouse struggled hard at first. Its tail thrashed; it shook like a washing machine on “spin” cycle with an unbalanced load. But soon it quieted down. The last bubble of air trickled out of its mouth. The mouse’s tail wriggled, then waved, then twitched sluggishly, then relaxed.
         I took the drowned mouse out of the water, out of the bathroom, out of my room, down the hall, and up to the mouth of the trash flue. I tossed it in, and that was that.
                 *                                         *                                *
         You may ask, “why that way?” Why drown the mouse? It was going to die soon anyhow; and I killed it no less dead; so why go to that much trouble?
         It would be hypocrisy to call it a mercy killing. My real reason was that I wanted to take responsibility for the dread deed. This way the mouse and I both knew what happened. We knew when it happened, where it happened, how it happened, who did it, and to whom. We saw each other’s faces; it was personal.
         I felt that I owed that mouse no less.
         It was a matter of honor.

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