- “You might know that Hungarians continually speak of
misfortune. I believe our pessimism is exaggerated, however. It is a
strategy, mind you, a need to speak of all our gloom on the chance it
may be averted. We rescue ourselves moment by moment as such. …”
— Anonymouse (er, Anonymous) Sage
It’s a glorious Sunday morning in spring, but instead of thinking
elevated thoughts out of Wallace Stevens’ sublime poetry masterpiece
called “Sunday Morning”
which begins “Complacencies of the peignor, and late / Coffee and
oranges in a sunny chair, / And the green freedom of a cockatoo /Upon a
rug mingle to dissipate / The holy hush of ancient sacrifice …” — I
am in a state of terror.
There’s this dead mouse in my kitchen, waiting for me to throw it
out, but I’m afraid to go downstairs. I heard it singing, and then it
stopped! Though I’m no Jain,
used glue-traps before
breakfast are hard news. This has to be where men
come in handy! I tried to get one at the
hardware store, but they were all out.
Next day, when I see yet another dead mouse on the sidewalk, so
peaceful in its permanent repose, still plump and pinknosed, gray
against gray, I am returning home from that same hardware store where I
have just purchased a package of so-called “humane traps”
for $9.98. These aren’t the
elegant Victorian copper-wire gizmos of my memory, but fiendishly
ingenious mouse condos — a plain sleek pair of zippy pewter-colored
plastic chambers with lids that snap down upon entry, ready to be
affixed with the recommended alluring chunk of cheese, the irresistible
dab of peanut butter, to entice the pesky creatures, so they can be
caught cleanly and then set free, unscathed but alive, to gnaw again,
Uh, busing, as it were, rather than ethnic cleansing. Er, definitely
no Mice Crematoria. Um, according to an official government spokesman.
These are the traps I want. Not the cruel ones of wood and metal that
maim and squash and strangle. And no, I don’t want to try the rather
Mengelean dehydration devices that cleverly drain the mouse of its blood
and other body fluids so you have a tidy little Kosher corpse to dispose
of. The traps I have bought, my traps, are according to their bilingual
labels, actually reusable. True Yankee ingenuity at work!
This must be mouse season. I see them everywhere. Maybe because my
overly ambitious East Coast city is always digging up some street or
other near my house. Maybe not. I have another theory: that somehow,
mice always seem to appear in life as harbingers of disasters — mice
are Bad Fairies at the Christening — or indeed, even at the most
horrific and unpleasant occasions. Mouse-fortunes, if you will. Rats
in City Hall! Mice in the White House! Hordes of NATO rodents nibbling
away at Serbia. As well as the more niggling moments of ordinary
- The day Monica Lewinsky appeared on Baba Wawa’s show to blab about
fooling around in the Oval Office, for instance, I found a mouse drowned
in the dog’s stainless-steel water bowl, which had apparently become a
tragic rodent reflecting pool, a perfect parallel to the desperately
unhappy demise of Monica’s reputation, a gesture of her own deluded
- Then, the same week the president instigated bombing in Europe, an
intrepid mouse catapulted itself up the toilet, only to fall in and
flail itself into sodden catatonia.
You get the picture. We begin to see a pattern emerging here, don’t
we? But wait — why MY house? And don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not some
twitchy city slicker. I was the one my mom used to call Nature Girl.
When I was a child, I went into the woods at the end of my small-town
street, and imagined never coming out. I learned the names of plants and
trees so I could speak to them, in secret. I loved Devil’s Paintbrush,
as much for its name, until I found Indian Pipe, waxy flowers like a
carved candle growing out of the mulched leaves at the base of oak
trees, or vice versa, and I couldn’t believe it was real. I rode my bike
past my little brother’s school, to a lake where I fished with a rod
made from a twig, some twine, some pellets of bread dough, corn kernels,
or even a few worms I dug up myself, and I watched, hypnotized, as
dragon flies whiz and dance, coming to rest on the red and white bobber.
How I was transfixed by the moving rings of glassy water, the play of
Mice were different. In your backyard, they were cute. In your house,
they were a catastrophe.
And in my old, funky former apartment above an ever-changing array of
stores — before I bought my “charming,” historically certified 1857
servant house — I had far too many mice. Their tiny droppings bombarded
my cutlery. So I ate out more and more. Mice nestled in my soft fine
woolen winter scarves on the highest shelf of the hall closet. So I
pulled my collar up, bravely walked into the wind, and came down with a
lot of sore throats. While I was reading, mice darted across the living
room floor, so speedily I can never be sure I hadn’t conjured them up —
just a blur on the horizon of my peripheral vision, a fleet fear with
fur and feet.
Mice definitely creeped me out. The way I hear it, the white-footed
mouse may even carry the deer tick which causes Lyme Disease, which I
had once, but — parenthetical note, not all bad — because that’s how I
got into using Alternative Medicine,
which is another
story. Hey, I’m definitely not as phobic about mice as one female-type
person I used to know, who holds a responsible position in a
pseudo-respectable field, vaguely related to the dissemination of
information, which I will not name. After she saw a baby mouse in her
kitchen — we are talking puny and miniscule — she jumped up on her
counter, screeching and screaming, whining and moaning, briefly went
into the bin to calm out, then never again went back inside her house —
the movers handled everything. In her new mouse-proofed existence, I
think she became a therapist.
A therapist I know suggested I get a cat. That would be simple,
logical, wouldn’t it? Except, I am allergic to them.
Oh, all these mice are really upsetting, because mistakenly I
believed I had left them behind when I finally moved away from the gross
restaurant dumpsters of Appetite Alley near my old apartment.
Several years here in my “redone” and renovated townhouse: not one
sign of mice. And then, “Uh-oh.” Looks suspiciously familiar. DO I
have mice? I ask my psychic friend, “Sforza Destino,” the real expert in
karmic afflictions. Just one, he sez; it likes you.
And yet, how this obnoxious scat offends me, marring the
turquoise-tiled perfection of my pristine kitchen floor. Then, suddenly,
this alarming plague of mice droppings accumulates in just one day.
There’s a higher math to mice, as all else, and soon, we have
mouse-induced Chaos Theory: all
mice contain the seeds of destruction within them. One mouse seen equals
50 unseen creatures gnawing your Favorite Things, your Obscure Objects
of Desire, to smithereens. Seriously, what could be more vile than
mouse-doo on your irreplaceable Guatemalan napkins?
Lately, Plagues seem lurking
everywhere, don’t they. The Millennium Thing,
probably. My friend Calabash had
termites snacking surreptitiously on his library of priceless
first-edition books. When he finally noticed what they were up to, they
had slyly devoured the entire history of civilization in three short
weeks, a veritable banquet of competing and conflicting ideas — those
sneaky gluttons. Poor Calabash nearly fainted. Such are the parlous
times in which we live. So he got out the heavy-duty artillery — hiring
an extermination company that dispatched enough lethal chemicals into
the soil to doubtlessly poison the water-table in his fair state for the
next three centuries, and perhaps, if they are lucky, banishing tourists
and all other signs of intelligent life as well. One by one, he noted
troops of termites stunned or staggering away into oblivion, their
numbers decimated beyond imagining.
All too frequently, more “humane” methods of killing pests simply
just don’t work.
Those so-called “humane” mousetraps I had such high hopes for? Alas,
they turn out to be nearly useless. As soon as I leave the house on an
errand, a snack-crazed mutt of my slight acquaintance trashed the pair
of wimpy traps, hauling them from room to room, trying to steal the
bait. I get home and find the smoking gun: peanut butter on the pooch’s
nose. Out, darned mice! Like a mantra, I keep reminding myself that in
ancient Egyptian medicine,
mice were used as poultices to ward off illnesses, speed healing, and
even conquer pain from toothache — well, anything would be a definite
improvement on dangerously expensive (or is it expensively dangerous)
drugs, I believe. Anything, that is, except mice.
And so I discard those pitifully pulverized “humane” traps, chewed
into pathetic smithereens, and await the next divagation of Fate,
whatever is lurking on the horizon ready to befall us, mouse-wise. I
think of another Wallace Stevens poem I like, “Dance of the Macabre
Mice,” in which he ponders, “…Whoever founded / A state that was
free… from mice?” Sometimes, I realize, a mouse is just a