The ceiling fan light was off but the stove hood light was on, dim and yellow, and as I went around the island to pull the pullchain, I kicked something that felt like a hat. I backed up and peered through the glow from the stove hood and found one of the several gluetraps distributed around the house to catch our ugly, hulking brown spiders--but this one contained a mouse.
Right about that time, my sister comes stumbling out of the dark dining room. "Hey, look at that," I told her, pointing at the gluetrap. The mouse had dragged it out from wherever we'd hidden it. Also caught in the glue was a scorpion and I think a cricket.
I turned on the light and knelt to examine the unfortunate creature. It was a larger mouse than I was used to, and somehow had transitioned to lying on its back in a sort of anthropomorphic Roman repose, belly-up but turned so that it had both forelegs caught as well. Its exposed hind ankles looked red and raw, the hair gone to the skin. There was no hair in the glue around it, which led me to believe that it had chewed away the hair and started on the ankles--intending to chew its feet off to get away--but had lost its nerve. That might or might not have been true, but that's how my writer-mind works. The animal world around me is a constant offshoot of Redwall, of Runaway Ralph and Stuart Little.
It was vermin, but still, I was crestfallen. I didn't know what to do. My sister immediately left the room and I picked up the gluetrap, taking it through the French back doors and out onto the deck. Holding it up in the porch light, I apologized to the mouse. "There's nothing I can do, little guy. I don't have anything that'll break this stuff. I'm sorry."
Its little whiskers twitched and it struggled, jerking back and forth in the glue, staring at me with those black little bulging eyes. I could feel it through the plastic. Standing there with the mouse held up to eye level, I took a moment to watch it, wishing I could free it. I could put it in a bucket until I could find a good aquarium to put it in. I couldn't just let it go, because it'd go right back into the house, but it'd make a cool pet, I guess. You know, outside of the risk of rabies and bubonic plague and whatnot.
"I'm sorry," I said again. I considered filling a bucket with water and drowning it. The only other alternative I could think of to avoid prolonging its misery was smacking it with a hammer, and there was no part of me capable of doing that. And on further consideration, there was no part of me capable of drowning it, either.
This wasn't the first time I'd found a rodent stuck in a glue trap. Several years earlier, I had been living in an apartment complex in Jacksonville, Alabama. I worked for my landlord, doing all the daily fix-it stuff that he couldn't be bothered with (he also worked in two other complexes in two other counties), and part of those responsibilities was taking care of the swimming pool.
One day I finished with the pool and went down into the little cellar underneath the pool terrace to check the skimmer inside the pump. In the shadows by the stairs was a gluetrap identical to the one with the mouse in it, but this one had a chipmunk in it. Yep, tiny little tail, white racing-stripes, the works. I picked it up and took it outside, every bit as heartbroken as I was now and more--how could I, a lifelong fan of Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers, leave a goddam chipmunk to die?
I deposited the chipmunk on the sidewalk outside the pump room and paced back and forth, pausing every now and then to squat down and look at the animal. It had well and truly lodged itself in the glue, sprawled out on its belly, its chin stuck and all. "I'll save you, little guy." I found a pair of gloves to mitigate biting while I pried and pulled and sprayed him with water.
The water didn't do much, but I eventually got him out, even if he was missing a few patches of hair. He laid there on the sidewalk for a moment, soaking wet and weak, then walked stiffly away into the treeline without looking back and disappeared.
I told my boss. He was pissed. "That fucking chipmunk was the whole reason I put out that gluetrap in the first place. It was chewing shit up in the pump house."
Oh well. Maybe it learned its lesson.
I put the mouse down on the back deck and stepped away. What do I do now? I knew if I freed this one, it would just come right back into the house. Mice in our house were de rigueur at this point; when I used to live in the basement I would hear them scuttling back and forth on top of the HVAC ductwork strapped to the ceiling. This was probably one of many. But to be honest, I'd rather have the mice than get a cat. I can't stand cats. I like other peoples' cats. But I don't like having them in my house. Between the hair and the toxoplasmosis and having to clean litter boxes, mice are cleaner than cats any day, at least where the day-to-day having-to-deal-with-them is concerned.
The mouse struggled a few more times, watching me as I stood over it, fretting and thinking. I'm not a killer.
"I found a mouse caught in a gluetrap," I messaged my girlfriend a few minutes later on Facebook. She is very animal-centric.
I walked into the kitchen earlier and kicked something
What was it?
I turned the light on and it was a mouse in a gluetrap
it had dragged the gluetrap out to the middle of the floor
It was still fighting to get out
I felt so bad.
uhm. Did you ..er. Put it down?
and then wash your foot?
Well I was wearing shoes
I took it outside and washed my hands
I thought you were running around in stocking feet like I do.
Well it was flipflops
Those don't count as shoes.
It's been too hot for socks
So. No glue shit on you?
Yeah it's a wonder I didn't get my foot stuck
If that happened to me I would so freak the hell out.
That would be my luck to get my foot stuck in the trap with the mouse and the mouse is biting my fucking foot
AND THEN YOU WOULD HAVE TOGET RABIES SHOTS
I left it outside. I think part of me hoped the ravens that come around in the mornings would handle it, but I hoped that they wouldn't get caught in the gluetrap too. That'd be my luck, the raven would get caught in it and unable to fly, and then a fox would come along and get caught trying to catch the raven, and then there's a fucking Katamari made of wildlife rolling around in my back yard, barking and squawking.
Before I went to bed, I flicked on the back porch light and checked on it, looking through the back door. It had started to chew through the plastic trap tray.
When I got up this morning, I went to the back door to see what was what. The mouse and gluetrap were still where I'd left them, untouched--I guess the ravens hadn't noticed it. It had dragged itself a few inches across the deck. At first I thought it was dead, but as I knelt to look at it, its whiskers twitched again.
How do people feed these things to their pet snakes? I couldn't handle it, I'd have to leave the room while the snake handled its bidness.
I went outside to apologize again and the thing had tears in its eyes. The fucking mouse was crying. I'm going to Hell.
At this point I'm inwardly disconsolate. I'm rational and cool on the outside but a mess on the inside. I pick up the trap. The mouse is flaccid but still twitching. This is vermin, I tell myself, carrying it out front. Maybe a cat will happen by and find it--there are stray cats and dogs that wander into the yard all the time--but I get that mental image of a Katamari of animals rolling around the premises again.
I put it on the retaining wall next to the garbage. What a horrible way to die, but I still can't bring myself to smack it with a hammer. Besides, I'll get the hammer stuck. As I walk away, though, I realize that I always see our desert spiny lizards chilling on that same wall and I really don't want those guys getting stuck because they eat spiders and such, so I put the gluetrap in an empty washtub sitting next to the garbage.
I feel even worse. You're not garbage, little guy. I'm so sorry.
The mouse is still in that washtub as I type this and I still can't bring myself to hammer it.
This isn't the first time I've put a mouse in a bucket. Back during my first marriage, my ex and I moved into her stepfather's old house, a tiny brick ranch-style in a subdivision of Rome, Georgia, on the outskirts of the Bad Part of Town. The house was filthy when we moved into it, and had a pantry that was basically just a linen closet--you open the door and bam, shelves, flush up against the doorjamb. Also, bam, every time you opened the door a mouse would jump off the top shelf, hit the floor, and scuttle underneath the bottom shelf.
I got the idea to jerk open the door and thrust the bucket into the mouse's trajectory. It worked. As soon as I opened the pantry door, the mouse jumped right into the bucket with a thump.
I filled a saucer with some water and put it in the bucket with the mouse. It took a few sips and looked up at me.
"Hi little guy," I said, crouching next to the bucket.
The mouse leapt at the side of the bucket and almost over the rim, two feet off the floor. I recoiled in surprise and took out the saucer, then picked the bucket up, carrying it outside. The street was dark, spotlighted by the occasional blue arc lamp. The mouse and I took a stroll down the road a bit--two hundred, three hundred yards maybe--and I poured the mouse into the weeds. "Be free, you little shit. Be free!"
There's no saving this one. I still don't know what to do. I am racked with guilt and it's too beautiful a day to die.
I think maybe the penance I've chosen to pay today is to write this blog post and let you know that I am horrible and I should feel horrible. Maybe I've built up a little karma by saving the chipmunk and the other mouse. Maybe I've offset my cosmic footprint with all the birdseed I've bought and the dogfood I've bought for a dog that doesn't even belong to me, and protecting that nest of babies a pair of cardinals built in the bushes right up against the front porch earlier this summer.
This is me, having an existential crisis over a fucking field mouse.
gandhi is my gun