The Crisis of the Mices

In the dim matinee of my new apartment, mouse #1 idled up to my bed. He was a little unblinking babe with adorable Dumbo ears. What is a casual mouse to me? A Kramer, perhaps, popping in to remind me of my Taoist harmony with nature. I hissed and growled my territorial superiority at the youngin’, who replied politely as though he botched airplane seating arrangements. Ah, my psychic commune with the wide eyed little scamp reminded me all was fair in the jungle. Move along little friend and peace be with you, as is the way of nature. I wish no harm to you so long as you make yourself invisibly scarce. The other side of the wall is yours so long as this side remains mine.

One particular night following a long particular day, my head hit the pillow, begging to be rendered lucid and leave the past workday as far behind as yesterday can. My hair moved independently, which never happened before. I sprung up in near darkness and skinned sheets from bedding to see the gray streak shoot to shadow–the culprit of my riotous hair. Mortified by the verminization of my brittle shag, the savagery accosting me would not go unpunished.

I did not sleep that night, as each time my eyelids fluttered closed, the “all clear” rose to a pestilence of gnawing and scraping beyond the drywall. Obviously, mouse #1 cared little about treaties. Him and his brethren rattled walls like childhood monsters. Contrary to popular belief, church mice are not quiet. Instead of sleep, I waited for them to scurry this scalp again, taunting and besting me with psychological warfare. I’m not afraid of mice. I just don’t want to sleep with them.

In the morning, I bought a poorly manufactured and generally ineffective poison. Mouse #2–the death cheater–miscalculated and failed to defeat my bathtub’s slick walls. I decided to starve him out being a passive pacifist or a malicious sissy. Eventually, he faked his death so I’d put him in the Garbage, where he did not rot and ate heartily to leap out to his escape. I realized that my harmony with nature was all wrong: so the war began.

I rose the following day to the bathroom, where #1 waited behind the toilet. I could only stare at him, knowing if I went left, he’d dodge right and vice versa. Large is almost always slower than small. This disadvantage left me and Mouse #1 at a standstill. He watched me from his corner behind the toilet. We sat there, together, waiting awhile. A beast’s liberation is beyond reason and I suddenly recognized this attribute in some humans I knew. I was jealous of their romps in plastic bag playgrounds during my sleepless vigil.

I pretended #2 never escaped the garbage and died poisoned. Victories must start somewhere, even if we have to make them up for a second win. #1 had the eyes of Oliver Twist and I felt like a reasonable gangster. Mice bleed and I won’t shed another’s blood without provocation. I just don’t want to clean up murder. I wasn’t going to let a patient mouse make me late for work. I stepped aside and he scurried past. As #1 scampered the tile, #3 joined in from behind my little wastebasket. One mouse is cute. Two mice is a pandemic. The war escalated and I had to go to work, leaving my kingdom in the hands of gypsies. Upon returning from work, They had set up a carnival and a Ferris wheel at the foot of my bed. They didn’t like the movie “Reds” for some reason, so I maxed the volume and let the flicker spook. I tried waiting them out for a day off to counterattack, but the relentless sounds of the circus and carnival rides frayed my last sleepless nerve. I heard the carnival barker at the hole behind my stove welcoming one and all. And if I ever stood in their way, they’d just run through my hair again and let me go irreversibly insane.

Sleep deprivation was easier to deal with ten years ago, but my calm demeanor eroded into an obsession fit for “Apocalypse Now.” I was too tired to cry. I roared and I stomped while throwing objects in reach while ancient rage consumed me like a Jungian father-beast archetype. War War War. From mercy to wrath lies a quickly crossed line. I became the hunter I never was. On the third day, I felt too exhausted not to move. At 3 p.m., I broke, flinging bedding off for the first clothes found. Like any war, swift victory is best.

The after school grocery rush was in full swing and waiting in line with arms full of every rodent-killing product available only accentuated this living, breathing, sleepless hell. The only recourse was total warfare and extermination. Poisons and glue were my forte, knowing a rodent’s loose affections for limbs. Spring traps might take a limb, and mice are okay with that. Subtle creatures are caught with subtlety. I would not sleep while they threatened to scurry through my blankets. If I wasn’t sleeping, I might as well kill. The Grocery Store Muzak played, “Had a bad day”. Somebody pulling the strings thought this scene was riotously hilarious.  I never bring myself to get angry at someone who pulls these clever strings.

My hands shuddered after two sleepless nights. I muttered to myself incoherently. My conscience become George C. Scott in the opening scene of “Patton.” My studio apartment became a war zone worthy of a gear-up montage. I covered the floor with poison pellets, laying glue mines along their traffic zones. I needed to buy enough time for a nap until I could get to the hardware store and go apeshit gangbusters.

Arriving home with Death’s sickle in hand, I closed the door like a serial killer. Within a half hour, I caught #4, Mr. Short Order, in a glue trap. As he struggled, I thought, “Now what?” So much for foresight. I wasn’t going to just toss it into the garbage. Mice were far more resourceful and clever than I ever gave them credit for. They are adaptive survivors, thriving by being underestimated. Mouse #4 struggled. Now what?

I pulled out an 8×11 manila envelopes used for sending manuscripts to publishers. Hell, they were already pre-stamped for delivery. I scooped up the squeaking gray breathing thing into the envelope with the usual futility I have when sending off a manuscript. Ah #4, with these envelopes we share defeat. I tossed him into the outside dumpster. Two down and a bold-faced kill in my favor. At that moment, I understood both nature and war. In sleepless delirium, I reminded myself not to understand too much more of either. I rested, waiting for #5–Mr. Bad Sequel–to sound the alarm of his capture. #5 amazed me with his persistence and predictability.

Having nothing to live for except for staying alive is a perspective few humans are blessed with. Now that Darwin only applies to animals, now what?

Another manila envelope.

I was sure they’d seek vengeance the moment I slept. I call this “Mouse Madness.” I always believe in the power of the many over the power of the singularity, and this time I preferred not to. Don’t tell the mice, but if they performed some kind of spooky mass raid on me, it wouldn’t take much to send me hysterically into the streets.

My brain plays CCR’s “Run Through the Jungle”. Every rustle stirred the tiger in me.  I scanned the room, ready to pounce. Yellow poison pellets scattered from under their small pink paws as I chased them. They knew better than to eat what reads “eat me”. A rustle in the bathroom garbage. Wild eyed, I stalk as a wraith of vengeance, justice, and law.

I dumped the wastebasket it into the bathtub, trapping two instantly: #5 (the terrified Daughter), and #6 (the courageously doomed teenage brother). I sprayed the terrified daughter with an athlete’s foot spray, blinding her. Being harsh and cold on my megalithic fungus-infected feet could not compare to the dusty blast she received on her wide, innocent eyes. The brother nearly cleared the bathtub and I knew the players of this tragedy needed a swift end. The daughter hid in a plastic bag and waited to fake, accept, or cheat death. She was the first to be enveloped. The courageous brother bounded for the ledge, slipping only centimeters between death and liberation. He tried to escape with an ambition too respectable to be stupid, though it came close. I herded him clumsily onto a glue trap. Another one enveloped. The bottom of the dumpster became a veritable family reunion. I honored them as fellow soldiers by not having them die alone–though dying painfully is fine.

I mourned the befouling of my bathtub and started cleaning it as I noticed #7, the Drunk, who somehow trapped himself in a beer bottle. I sympathized before adding him to the reunion.

After the victorious Battle of Glue, I went to work. Someone left, abandoned, or forgot (I shit you not) a stuffed toy of Mickey Mouse. Again, not my sense of humor.

I sleep easier with my six kills and glue trap landmines, though the adversaries plot in my walls. The ceaseless construction by vermin brings me to tears in uninterrogated torture.

Sunday, I finally get to the hardware store. The Handymen wished me luck, knowing the battle I faced. I am, for the first time in ages, vibrating with a single mindedness of pure determination as I return to the battlefield and fortify: A layer of poison pellets following steel wool under a mountain of spray foam blocked their hole behind my stove. Around this monument of impenetrability, I set a moat of glue traps. There is only winning, with no hope of ignoring the problem out of existence. No duality exists between victory and failure because I refuse to recognize failure. A rodent’s persistence is as admirable as their foolishness is pitiable.

One night while reading, I hear #2, the death cheater, scratching passionately from the other side of the fortification. The tiny claws and teeth start up every five minutes. I wondered why my apartment was so urgent. Were they working in shifts? It didn’t matter, as I had all my WMD’s–weapons of mouse destruction (and a groan is just lazy laughter) lined up for them on the other side.

“Welp, time to sweep the poison,” I thought, noticing poop everywhere. I anticipated getting a cat named Marv to continue the peacekeeping mission and wanted the area free of friendly fire. I found the reason for the ravenous clawing: Cute little #1 with the Oliver Twist eyes was trapped on this side, hiding and waiting for the escape route. Smart idea, since this little bugger wouldn’t have the time to dodge me and dig. I let him run as I had once before to that hole behind the stove. He didn’t even slow down before hitting the glue. His flailing took out three traps, each connected to his soft grey body. Into the envelope and into the dumpster, I tried not to think about the three heavy traps breaking him with gravity.

I came back inside and the scraping inside the wall stopped forever.

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